It’s a look I get often. A look of disdain and misunderstanding. I see it when I mention to most people that I play video games. Be it someone I’ve known years or just met. Their eyes gloss over, mind made up. Their perception of me is almost pre-drawn and near impossible to change.
Although it has taken me years to understand why this is; why something as normal and natural to me as any of my other hobbies provokes such a reaction. But now I know – they think I’m selfish.
Difficult to deal with
This gets to the heart of the issue I think. But for some reason gaming has developed the perception of being a selfish pastime. A solo effort. Something done alone, ignoring every other person and by association joy and social interaction in life. By admitting I enjoy games I am admitting to spending vast amounts of my time alone, ignoring my responsibilities and ambitions, and shunning the company of others.
The thing I find hardest to articulate after that look that makes me shudder, is that my hobby does not relate to any of these things. People who have this perception of gaming find it hard to tease it from a dislike of the outdoors, or a waste of time. They ignore the obvious comparisons between game playing and TV watching or reading because the benefits of other hobbies are more obvious and often more immediate.
Nothing other than the pleasure that gaming brings is speedy. Culturally and artistically, it is a passion of slow burn. We need to spend years waiting for a game, hours mastering it. All for what is in reality a tiny proportion of our waking hours. As gamers we live for the moments of pleasure we work hard for like every other normal person.
Not selfish in the least
Years of pushing gamers to the margins of society has made it harder to meet like-minded individuals. We are often split-up by distance and thus resort to other looked down upon mediums (such as the internet) just to maintain the sorts of day-to-day conversations about our love that most other people take for granted.
It is the immediacy of pleasure that gaming affords that perpetuates the selfishness of the hobby. We are all apparently people that slink away from our real lives in order to indulge in virtual ones. Nothing is mentioned of the vast array of things that gaming has taught us, or the enlightenment offered by it’s music, heritage or artistic content. It’s profoundly social elements are largely ignored, the chatter around a screen that brings people together, the accessibility that its social ability affords. The vast array between pick up and play and unbridled complexity petered down in one quick and initial assumption.
The mass market of family-friendly, beautifully scripted (and expertly designed) gaming output is continuously undermined by the mainstream flogging of the same issues, particularly violence (to note one tired example). Of which comparable movies and TV programmes which flaunt similar populist content (which all mediums can be easily boiled down to if we’re honest) continue to limbo quite happily under the public consciousness in an enviable manner that I still don’t quite understand.
I’m tired of that look. Despite seeing it thousands of times gaming has helped make me the person I am – a comparatively normal person by any stretch of the imagination, with a full-time job, worries, concerns and passions. One of them just happens to be gaming, and that fact alone out of the multitude of things I am capable of shouldn’t be the basis of anyone’s disdain or pity.
The only problem is, as hobbies go, we have the hard sell. The up-hill struggle to convince anyone that things are nearly always the polar opposite of what they expect. Video games have been and always will be profoundly social hobby filled with friendship, camaraderie and competition, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of, despite those disheartening looks, I am still remarkably and quietly proud of what I am part of.