Monday, June 28, 2010
Image of a Gamer, Weird vs. Dorky - Food for Thought
102 degrees. That was the temperature outside last Thursday.
I was relaxing in my summer tan, Lucky brand jeans and Guess print T, enjoying an iced coffee in the local Games Workshop. I was cordially bs'ing about Warhammer Fantasy 8th Edition with GW's North American Manager of the Year (at least for last year); picture a well-groomed, happily married father and incredibly affable fella with diverse hobbies that include rock climbing and other sorts of normal things alongside his love of miniature wargaming. Nearby, an easy-going retired career serviceman sat in a simple polo shirt and jeans, painting away and enjoying the conversation around him.
You see where I'm going with this? Our subject matter is what it is, but the picture of normality around the painting station on this particularly hot summer day was ... well, normal. If some random 20-something fella or gal walked in to that store, and took a glance at the midday crowd, nothing about it would be strange or off-putting. I actually had this thought. Our hobby isn't as terrifyingly bizarre as some would imply ... it really, really isn't. It's glorified, overcomplicated risk with modeling added in. Whatever. Love it or hate it, it doesn't by design carry a social stigma of epic proportions (no offense, but "not like dungeons and dragons"). I can tell you from what feels like a freaking career of dating ... it's really no big deal.
In walks a change of pace.
Tall, stringy, pale as hell, scraggly unkempt hair/facial hair in a long sleeve thermal, heavy cargo pants, ugly ass old sneakers, and A LEATHER PATCHED FULL LENGTH COAT.
IT'S ONE HUNDRED AND TWO DEGREES OUTSIDE, MAN.
We all could not help but point out the irony of his attire. He was belligerently defensive of it (and ok, fine, most people get defensive when you go at them a little ... whatever).
It got me thinking about what our hobby is, and who we are. Everyone has a right to be different, they really do. There should be no dress code, no required way of behaving. That said, I genuinely believe there are a large number of people in our style of hobby ... gamers, and other types ... in our generation and ones adjacent to it ... that "feel" ostracized by the fading impressions of the past. Motivated by this feeling, they sometimes spiral into a world of whackassery that's downright unhealthy and weird.
My point, though, is a simple one. There's "dorky hobbies," and then there's just being weird. It's not different, or "normal within your peer group," or even healthy to wear a massive jacket in triple digit weather, or to not put on deodorant and wear greasy dirty big shirts and gross old pants that haven't been washed in a year, or to eat like crazy and become way overweight and not exercise or take care of yourself. Too many of us still use our hobby as an excuse to be unhealthy, socially awkward, and ... frankly, just plain weird.
Nobody should be "picked on" or insulted, or beat up, or treated like they aren't human. That said, if someone wishes to hang out with you as a peer, take the time to be honest with them about their health, hygiene and behavior. The fact that you're playing with little toy soldiers that you paint does not excuse someone's unwillingness to smell tolerable ... or eat and live in a healthy fashion ... or dress with even an ounce of common sense.
There's nothing wrong with "dorky," in my mind. Frankly, it's just being passionate about what you do. Can we please, however, all do something to change the stereotype people have about gamers? It's not based upon the GAME YOU PLAY AT ALL. It's based upon the people who pursue visibly unhealthy and awkward behavioral approaches that also play these games. I've never been on a date where my hobby weirded a girl out. I've seen plenty of girls weirded out by guys wearing heavy jackets in hot summer weather, or eating themselves into an early grave, or not putting on deodorant and showering daily.
I don't like my hobbies being stigmatized by people who don't give a shit about themselves. Start caring more about yourself. This isn't about "appearances." I have no problem with cross dressers, for instance ... whatever floats your boat. BUT if I see a cross dresser wearing full Juicy sweats and an ankle-length fur coat in the drop dead heat of summer? THAT would be freaking weird.
Bit of a rant, I guess ... but I'm curious about what others think. Am I being judgmental and condescending, or is it understandable to want to motivate for change in the behavior of our peers ... not to be a different person, but to be a HEALTHY person. Eating yourself obese, not taking care of proper hygiene, wearing heavy clothes in the heat ... these things are not just "weird" and stigmatizing to the hobby, but they're unhealthy to boot.
PS - If you have a thyroid problem, ultra thin skin that leads to hypothermia when the temperature is not 98 degrees or higher, or are allergic to deodorant ... I am not talking about you