Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A Hobby To Be Mildy Ashamed Of

I'm a gamer. No, not a rapacious player of Monopoly and Scattergories; not a chess player or someone who plays contract bridge with 67 year-old retired storm-door repairmen with fond memories of Nixon.

I'm the other sort.

There can't be another hobby that garners as much disdain and derision as video-gaming. If I spent my afternoons staring at small pictures printed on non-resusable stickers sold by major governments at OUTRAGEOUS prices, I'd be considered 'bookish'. Not weird. If I whiled away the weekends in the garage with an engineer's cap faithfully re-creating a 100 year old oak from plasticized brocolli and making sure the 6:45 Stony Creek runs on time; people would smile at my sense of child-like wonderment. But if I spend my evenings yelling at 16 year-olds over the internet to "Just cap the goddamn point", or "Do you even know what cover fire means" suddenly I'm puerile and 'need to grow up'.


There are many ways to think of video-gaming in layman's terms. Or, if you will, lay-grownup's terms.

Some of the more strategic games are like chess. You have a mental picture of chess in your mind? Now imagine that nobody takes turns. Now imagine instead of a rook, pawn, bishop, knight, queen and king, you have about 3 more hierarchies of classes. Try not to imagine the sort of person who would find this entertaining.

For the more bloodthirsty sorts of games, imagine playing darts in teams, and everyone goes at once.

These are helpful analogies, I think. Many of the older generation still think of Pac-Man when they hear video games, or if they are really hip with the times, Doom. The younger generation will probably not have to talk in low tones about their gaming hobbies (apparently 97% of them game), or shrug and look bewildered as other adults discuss sports or reality TV.

And, if I may put forward an odd and wildly unpopular viewpoint, there isn't that much to be ashamed of.

Gaming is still gaming. Whether it's Monopoly or Team Fortress 2, it's still people getting together, forming teams, and trying to beat the other side following some arbitrary rule-set. It's still, I know this is crazy, social. And, if you're not playing online, at least it's still a mentally active hobby. You are engaged, you're thinking, you're trying to frag that goddamn 13-year-old who you swear never ever logs off, don't kids get any exercise these days?

It also fulfills a deep cultural and evolutionary need. Just as TV, movies, and books fill the need for story, gaming fills the need for the tribal activity. Whether that's hunting mastodons across the steppes, digging through rotting logs for grubs, or carrying a pigskin ovoid across painted lines in the astro-turf, humans are pack animals. We evolved working together, towards a common goal . We crave problems to solve and objectives.

And gaming all too well fulfills that need for the nerdier of us. Or if you are part of the youth, fulfills that need for almost all of you.

But, if cornered in a cocktail party, I'm still going to say I go antiquing.


chundo said...

It is a weird stigma. It's more social than most of my other hobbies, and yet it gets smirks and snickers if I happen to mention it in public, especially if you confess to actual friendships resulting from it (none of my friends IRL game at all.)

Every once in awhile I'll find myself passing along a story or joke or song that I was introduced to by our TF2 crew, and there's often an awkward moment when I'm asked, "Wow, where'd you hear that from?"

"Oh, uh, some guy I know in California."

Anonymous said...

Right, Chund, I even had that yesterday. My "friend" had an opportunist boss..."

MsAnonymousmonk ridicules headset to a degree that I wish I'd told her something easier to spin. Like: I'm a stalker.

Monkfish said...

Headset do look ridiculous. I guess it all comes down to how you view socializing. To me face to face socializing is of an infinitely higher quality.

Gemmy said...

It really can be pretty awkward to admit that you are a gamer - and much more into it than the type of stay-at-home mom who plays Bejewleled on Yahoo or something. Add to that being a girl gamer, and you get a LOT of stereotyping and condescension from people.

I find, though, that most people under about 50 or so have at least some sympathy for gamers - they have something to relate to, and have at least some grasp of what games are like today. Anything over about 50 or so, though, and it's very much a stigma.

I get a lot out of it, still, both entertainment and socializing with a much larger group of people than I'm usually comfortable with. Even if it's not face to face socializing, it's much more interactive and social than most people think. I don't have the energy to drive to friends houses every day, but it's easy to log on to TF2 for an hour or three.

Good post!