Tackling Gamer Stereotypes

December 12th, 2007

video game stereotypes

It goes without explanation really that as gamers society has formed certain stereotypes about the type of people that we are. Sometimes these stereotypes can be a little hard to swallow because of the pure nature of type casting. So lets take a look at gamer stereotypes and break them down, so that we can understand how they are formed and why they are right or wrong.

What I am going to do is tackle one stereotype at a time. Look at what the requirements are, why people might think this and what the truth really is. Chances are that you’ve been labeled as one or more of these. I know that I sure have. So it should be good to understand both sides of the story.

Gamers are Antisocial

The premises is that people who play video games don’t have much of a social life. The reason being because they are too busy playing games to go out and meet people. They might have a ‘social life’ online through the internet or the games themselves but this isn’t a ‘real’ social life. The main point here is that: gamers would rather play video games than spend time with their mates.

Why Someone Might Think This

Its not hard to see why someone could easily get this impression. When we play games we are shutting ourselves out from the world and concentrating just on what is happening on screen. We are purposely trying to block out any distractions that might be around us.

children playing videogames

Furthermore a good deal of gamers play their games for long periods of time with only a few breaks. It is easy for us to forget our worries and just play a game until we are satisfied. MMORPG players fit into this group very well. So all of this time that we game is time we are not interacting or socializing with anyone else.

Is This True?

I don’t believe that this is the case for the majority of gamers. Much like any other form of entertainment some people obsessively take advantage of video games while others play in moderation. It really depends on the individual person. But in theory gamers are no more antisocial than people that watch TV, go to the movies or listen to music as its all entertainment. I say in theory because video games are a much more engrossing medium than other forms of entertainment.
dr mario
Just recently infact, my brother and I encouraged our Mum (who hasn’t properly played a game for maybe 10 years) to play some Dr Mario as we had the NES hooked up and she use to enjoy that game. Now it didn’t take long for an addiction to form and for a few days she was always eager to play Dr Mario.

You might have hear the expression: ‘To get lost in a good book’. Well its much easier to lose yourself and become addicted to a good video game.

All forms of entertainment can be enjoyed socially, you can go to a music gig, watch a movie with friends etc. This is no different to video games, infact video games have always been about soial enjoyment. Take the very first game ‘Tennis for Two’, this was a multiplayer game, the late 1970 and early 1980 consoles and arcades all had multiplayer. Even when advertised the games were being enjoyed socially.

Almost every game on the market includes some form of multiplayer which means that gamers are more social than ever before. Online gaming has also made gaming more social. Although I believe that this makes general gameplay much more social (as you can never play alone), personally I don’t think that this type of gaming (or any form of online communication) should be used to substitute actual real life socializing.

Overall video games aren’t antisocial. Think of the example that guns are not the problem but its the people use them. Its a similar deal. Multiplayer almost destroys the antisocial debate. Consider this: When you compare a group of people watching a movie to a group of people playing a video game, you tell me which one is more social.

Gamers are Unproductive

Basically the idea here is that you play games to fill in time and hence its a waste of time and unproductive. Especially when you could be doing much more productive tings with your time.

Why Someone Might Think This

They might think this because as far as they see things, all that a gamer does is stare at a screen all day.

Is This True?

Well yes it is true, generally speaking video games aren’t intended to be about productivity but just like the other forms of entertainment they are there for entertainment’s sake. Also, I find it interesting how ‘staring at a screen all day’ is bad for you but its okay to ‘stare at a book all day’. :)

If you compare video games with other mediums of entertainment then its not hard to see that video games are much more productive due to the higher level of interactivity involved. People who play video games develop skills in a variety of different fields depending on the games that they play. Skills can range from problem solving, micro management, reflex tests, dexterity, straight out brainwork and even socializing.

brain training nintendo ds

The previously mentioned skills are general skills that can be developed when playing most video games. Players can also improve on specific ‘life skills’ if they play games designed for this. So games like Brain Training, My Life Coach, Talkman and even any sort of dating simulator are all designed to teach people a particular set of skills. Games that teach language are also great games to further develop fluency in that language.

One could say similar things about TV or movies but the lack of interactivity ensures that video games will always be the most productive entertainment medium.

Gamers are Violent

This view is generally shared with parents and politicians, its that because video games are the most interactive form of entertainment therefore violent video games breed violent people as it allows children to interact with the violence.

Why Someone Might Think This

There are a few scenarios which could influence something into believing this.

First one being that the general public seem to still have this perception that video games are a medium designed for children. So when these people walk into a game store and see violent games on the shelf or see that gamers are playing games not designed for children they are alarmed and immediately assume that gamers are violent people.

The second scenario would be that some people might see aggressive/competitive gamers play off against each other which might result in some violent behavior.

The third option is that people see young children playing mature rated video games and straight away blame the game’s developers for creating such content.

manhunt 2 wii psp ps2

The fourth one is a mix between all three options. This whole video game violence issue is quite popular in the media which have this opinion that gamers are murderous killers. They successfully coble all of the above ideas into their reports about video game violence which is then fed to the general public.

Is This True?

No, No No! Lets address each problem one by one.

It is sad that video games are still seen as an activity for children by many, especially when the average gamer age is hovering just under 30 years old. As the typical gamer is an adult, why wouldn’t/shouldn’t there be games on the market to suit them? Thats just common sense. Also if you think that violent video games are harming our kids then when was the last time you walked into a video store? Every time I’ve been to a movie store in the past few years (not very often) I’m always alarmed that 60%(and no, I am not kidding) of the videos in the new release section are all about death, murder, horror, torture and gore.

The second point is true for almost any competitive activity and video games are no different. Just like in sport you get aggressive, passionate players whom might want to get into a bit of a tussle if they lose.
esrb rating icons
Although the third point has an easy fix the debate over censoring video game content has been raging for years. The easy fix is that game stores don’t sell mature rated games to minors and that parents don’t allow their children to play mature rated games. Simple right? Well no, unfortunately not. Around the world each country has a different set of ratings for video games and almost all restrict any 18+ or just plain controversial games (even if the content really is nothing more than what you’d see in an M 15+ rated movie). It truly is sad that game developers are restricted on their creative freedom just because parents can’t look after their children properly.

For the final point, the media is just up to its same old manipulative, single sided tricks here. Numerous studies have been done on video game violence and most of the time the science proves that violent video games don’t breed violent people. Just like violent movies and music. Unfortunately because video games are the most interactive entertainment medium it gets the most attention on the ‘entertainment creates murders’ front. The real problem is that the media seem to conveniently forget the real facts in exchange for their own spin.

Gamers are Backwards

This idea is that gamers (particularly enthusiasts) aren’t up to the same standard of everyone else. This is how the stereotype use to go but now that gaming is more mainstream it has shifted towards the types of games that people play rather than people just playing video games.

madden i a cool videogame

Examples of the gamers that might be considered ‘backwards’

Why Someone Might Think This

Much like anything, if someone knows very little about something or if it is different, it is approached with skepticism. Think of a group of school children where one of the children is of a difference race, religon etc.

The same applies for video games, anything out of the ordinary isn’t seen as positively as something ‘normal’. Here is an example of two lists of normal and not so normal games:

cool and cool video games

Is This True?

No, not its not. These gamers are just like anyone else except they just have a a particular interest in those types of games for their own reasons. Some people might think that I am strange because I am currently playing games like Super Mario Galaxy as well as a bunch of 20 year old games. But I do this because I grew up on Mario games and I have an interest in retro gaming.

Conclusion

Its hard being a gamer when people think that you’re a backwards, antisocial, violent, unproductive freak. Its a tough job trying to convince people otherwise. But as the gaming population continues to increase, people will start to understand and eventually accept that video games are just as good as any other form of entertainment, if not better. You see, this is the real issue here, video games aren’t accepted as much as other forms of electronic entertainment. I want to follow up this article with another that looks into why video games are seen as the lesser form of entertainment and how the industry can fix this image.

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  • Doomer

    thx for this article! im a big gamer and my family says im antisocial and i do nothing with my life, my father wants me to read more books and watch more TV, but it would be less sociable than playing a video game online. its not that i would rather play a video game than read a book or watch TV, they are all entertaining for me. but now i have something to say to people who tell me that gaming is antisocial and useless.