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Fair Game: Gamer vs. Non-Gamer

Column By Lisa Jonte on May 17, 2013

You’ve heard it all before, the complaints, the concerns, the dismissal of your preferred pastime as a pointless waste of time. Despite the rise on casual gaming, both online and via consoles, there are still plenty of people out there who are convinced that gaming is at best, childish, and at worst, a rabbit hole from which you might never escape. The fact that many of those detractors are friends and family just makes it that much harder.

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Convinced that you’ll end up a desiccated husk, fermenting in your own filth and helplessly strung-out on pixels and take-out, they sigh, they wheedle, they cajole and sometimes even threaten you to get you to give up the hobby you love. Sadly, it’s not difficult to figure out why. We’ve all seen the sensational news stories about people who became so consumed by a particular game (forum, fan site, etc.) that they lost perspective, lost their jobs, maybe even let their kids starve, or simply forgot to live themselves. But as tragic (and ratings-boosting) as those stories are, we know they don’t reflect the reality of most gamers.

But what to do? Well, I’m glad you asked…

1. Stay cool. It’s easy to feel persecuted when someone you care about is unjustly attacking something you love. But no one is going to respond well, or feel unjustified in their suspicions, if you get defensive or argumentative. Justified or not, they’re afraid, and responding to that fear with aggression will only convince them that they’re right.

2. Pinpoint what the real worry is. You can’t counter an argument if you don’t know what’s really being argued.  Is Grandma terrified by all those news stories?  Does your boyfriend resent the hours you spend defeating evil when he’d rather have you cuddling with him on the couch?  Is your best friend convinced that spending real money on a virtual experience is a waste? Whatever the concern is, assuming it’s reasonable, it can be addressed.

3. Draw familiar parallels. Gaming is a hobby like any other, but in the grand scheme of things it’s still rather new. Like any new pop-cultural phenomenon, it’s going to take some time before gaming online is so commonplace that people forget it and find another new thing to get worked up about. Again, you can help that process along by not getting defensive:

“But I’m an Epic Level Imperial Spoinkomancer!  Do you have any idea how awesome that is?”

No, they don’t, and arguing from that angle isn’t likely to convince them of anything, except perhaps that you’re an epic level fruitcake. However, you can compare gaming as a hobby to other hobbies:

“It’s like reading a really good book, except that I get to be the main character.”

“I love the strategy involved, think of it as playing chess, but more immersive, like a great movie.”

“Tickets to a football game cost far more than my new Snargaluff mount, and a football game only lasts an afternoon. Percy will be there for as long as I play Cybernetic Cephalopods.”

See, now you’re getting somewhere. That said, don’t expect a single statement to change minds, it’s just a place to start.  If you can continue the discussion in the same way, they still may not agree, but they’ll probably see that you’re being rational; true addicts are rarely rational about their addictions.

4. Address concerns with consideration. Just because Dad doesn’t know the difference between Sudoku and DDO, doesn’t mean he’s stupid. Conversely, knowing that difference doesn’t mean you’re especially clever, so don’t be an ass. Gently remind him that news stories are meant to be sensational, that you appreciate his concern, and that you are being careful not to overindulge.

5. Use your head. If you can organize a raid with military precision, you can handle one or two ill-informed family members. Misconceptions can be debunked. You’re on the Internet, use it. Snopes is your friend. Moreover, remind older doubters that when they were your age there were plenty of benign things they loved that the news shrieked dire warnings about. Find out what those were, compare notes and you’ve got some common ground.

6. Honestly examine your habits. Your boyfriend might be feeling left out for a reason.  Remember, you don’t have to be an actual addict to be spending too much time in your favorite fantasy landscape.  Your physical presence in the same room  doesn’t count as spending time together, especially if your contribution to the evening is screaming, “Where’s the damn healer?” into your headset.  Sometimes, it’s good to walk away from the keyboard and experience a little real life “laying on of hands”, if you know what I mean.

7. Put on your tour guide hat. Do you have an understanding guild? Is your preferred pixel-crush free to play? Why not extend an invite to that doubting friend of yours.  Who knows, she might fall in love with the whole experience and become a bigger power-leveler than you are.  And even if she doesn’t, at least she has a better idea of what online gaming is all about.

8. Pick your battles. Not every argument is worth having and not everyone is worth persuading. If the game-hater in question is someone you don’t see often, let it go. Why ruin the family barbecue with yet another round of point-counterpoint if you don’t have too? Let auntie Rita grumble over her sangria all she likes, she’ll be gone soon enough. Discretion is the better part of valor, so have some more potato salad and shut the hell up.

9. If all else fails… Even if you can’t convince them that you’re not addicted, (or in imminent danger of being so) you can point out that your “addiction” is far less dangerous than many others.  For example, in one month, smoking a pack of cigarettes a day can cost upwards of twice what a WoW subscription costs in a year; the added bonus being that, with the game, you don’t also get lung cancer. Besides, if you’re home gaming all the time, you’re not out getting into trouble, now are you?

10.  What to do if they just won’t listen. If the problem is a much bigger issue than what I’ve talked about here, try not to argue. Really, it won’t help and things are likely to get worse, maybe even driving a wedge between you. The best advice I can give in that case is to get the help of a counselor, if not for the both of you, then at least for you. Talking to someone professional and objective can help you sort out how to deal with the other’s distress.

But if you can talk it out, who knows?  You may just have yourself a whole new gaming partner!  And just think how much easier it will be to defeat those flocks of carnivorous glitter-pixies, when Grandma is there too, armed with a few well-timed buffs and a fresh hot batch of homemade pwnage.  Ah, thanks Grandma!  You’re the best!

And now, a few responses to last column’s comment thread:

Bill4747 said:  “I think Neutral Good fits 'Do Gooder' Paladins betetr than Lawful Good.”

Sometimes, but I think that would depend on one’s definition (or portrayal) of a particular alignment.

Logan400k said:  “Where is the incentive to re-imagine the Paladin? I agree, the characters can be as well rounded and human as any character, but why would a game developer / designer want to take the time to stand sterotypes on their head for an audience that only wants to get to the end game?”

I think you may be tarring gamers with to broad a brush. While yes, there is a vocal contingent that sees every MMO as a race to the endgame, that’s not all of us. I’d say there’s plenty of incentive to innovate, if game company execs would only pull their heads out of their own assumptions.

Lobotomist said:  “Lawful Good means the character will always uphold the laws no mather what and without compromise. Even doing evil things if they are in order of law.”

I disagree. To me, upholding the law above all else would be Lawful Neutral.

OSF8759 said:  “Christianity's anti-sex stance predates the Victorian era by some centuries.”

First, Christianity’s stance on sex has always been rather flexible, depending upon the era and to whom it was applied. Second, who says all paladins are Christian? Or that they should be presented in that narrow mode?

Until next time, may your escort missions be few and your drops plentiful.

Image attribution:
“bird pic” By Chiltepinster (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
“old ladies” from Library of Congress

“Polish football fans” copyright free via Wikimedia Commons

Lisa Jonte / Mother, writer, artist, editor. One time (print and web) comics creator, and former editor of the fem-centric GirlAMatic.com; now a secretive and hermit-like prose writer, (and not so secretive nor hermit-like blogger.) A gamer since way back, (no, seriously, waaaay back) her collection of gaming paraphernalia is older than most game store clerks.

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