Social Stigmatization and Culture

October 24th, 2008

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It’s 11:30pm on a week night and I’m starting to get a little worried. My list of ready-made blog articles are beginning to shrink and I desperately need some more ideas to fight the tide. There are plenty of hand-wavy ideas in the slosh but I need something to jump out at me, so I load up Google Reader and read until something clicks. It doesn’t take long for someone else’s work to remind me of one of those endearing ideas that I’d left on the wayside a few months back, and then without even thinking I’ve found a way to segue it into culture. Wow too good, more procrastination.

Social Stigma of Games

As someone apt enough to be reading this blog, I suspect that social stigma in relation to video games should be a familiar topic. I certainly am familiar with it. Fortunately the transition from high school to university (and the catching up in maturity levels) has eased the stigma a little. Transforming the perception of social inadequate over to fruitful, interesting…maybe even sophisticated if I lie to them and say that I “do” games criticism.

Despite the change, there is no doubt that being a consumer of this medium brings with it a lot of social baggage. You can see it in their faces, when you let it slip that you spent last weekend hunched in a dark room, glorifying over the onscreen fireworks display instead of having a night out with some friends, beverages and maybe a funny story or two.

Why though? Why does playing games automatically place us on the bottom rung of the social ladder? There are many good reasons, all more or less due to a lack of understanding, you can read some of them here.

Oh yeah…Culture!

How could I write an article without including the flavour of the month? Ignore the sarcasm because I have no plans on shoehorning this in for the sake of it.

When I think of the social heirachy dictating Western culture, I often come up with a phrase much the same as the following; “we all seek security in the flaws of others”. In such situations, depending on the exchange at hand, games can be seen as a crack in our social construct, one which can be exploited by others for personal leverage, ie. face. Unfortunate isn’t it?

That’s just amateur anthropology mussings though. Let me make this relevant again by introducing games and culture. Imagine culture as a pointer that deviates social typography, don’t think too hard about it, otherwise it becomes needlessly confusing – this is the messiness of culture. Now let’s step out of western culture for a second and see what happens.

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What happens is very intriguing because different cultures place games in slightly different positions in their social mindset. Two weeks ago, I was attempting to explain to my Chinese friend how it is that I am socially decredited for playing games. Even after explaining this a few times in both English and Chinese, my friend still did not understand the justification.

She responded saying that some of her friends (also friend’s of mine) are avid game fans and despite this they were the most popular people in their university classes. And that basically, my explanations make no sense because this mindset (ie. playing games as a social weakness) doesn’t exist in China.

With this idea in hand, think of what this means for people who play games in China. It promotes a much healthier image about games. As pathetically true as this sounds, you can play games and not be worried about what your friends may think of you.

This reflects on the demographic as well, I’ve seen plenty of females, older people and couples playing games in internet cafes over here. It’s interesting. Even my friend’s mother plays games via the QQ Instant Messaging service (quite popular that).

This is purely one example of how cultural diversity can affect player demographic and then pretty much everything else.