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
Posted by Mike Brandt; mvbrandt@gmail at 6:46 AM
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There's nothing wrong with thinking what you were thinking. Wearing that stuff in our abysmally humid, hot VA summer weather is just plain idiotic. That said, some people just don't have social/hygiene skills, whether it's because they're not raised properly (bad parenting and inept parents are a serious problem; ask any teacher) or are just lack common sense. Maybe no one on their peer group thinks anything is wrong, and won't tell them either. Whatever the reason, they either A) don't know the proper thing to do or B) don't care.ReplyDelete
Is it our place to tell them so? For that matter, would it do any go to do so, considering they'll either ignore you or tell you to fuck off? Society used to have a sense of shame about being smelly/scruffy/disheveled, because being clean, well-groomed, and polite made for a polite society. That doesn't seem to be the case any more, sadly.( I blame the '70s) Not that we should go back to woolen topcoats, cravats, and bowlers, but at a certain point things have to correct towards a happy medium, which in a sense is already happening.
Not fast enough for that damn kid to start using some deodorant, though...
"I was relaxing in my summer tan, Lucky brand jeans and Guess print T, enjoying an iced coffee"ReplyDelete
Are you doing what I think your doing? On your blog of all places?
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
I don't like iced coffee. It's not really coffee. Just have coffee ice-cream.ReplyDelete
Uh. You're thinking Frappacino. That's like coffee ice-cream. Iced Coffe is just coffee ... over ice.ReplyDelete
Gaming tends to attract a bit more than its share of weirdos because it's sort of a societal refuge for outcasts of all sorts. However, even "normal" hobbies like sewing have their cadres of die-hard fanatics that make everyone else feel kind of awkward.ReplyDelete
The other half of this, of course, is the Geek Social Fallacies (http://www.plausiblydeniable.com/opinion/gsf.html), which influence a lot of the way people behave and allow the never-showers-before-a-tournament guy to get away with what he does. While a certain amount of tact is a boon, at some point it becomes necessary to simply come out and tell people they have a problem.
Gaming remains a haven for people on the fringe of society for a few reasons.ReplyDelete
-When "gaming" as we recognize it now --- D&D, computer games, etc. --- got off the ground in the late 70's it really was nerd culture, and it wasn't cool to be a nerd. While a fair number of brainiac (engineer) nerds were attracted to it, "nerd" was a big umbrella back then, encompassing virtually and socially-awkward person (most of whom were the classic "brainy underachiever" sort (read--lazy)).
--That isn't the case any more. The symbiotic relationship man has developed with computers has launched the affluent and capable nerds into the social mainstream. Almost everyone has a videogame system, and there' no stigma to it. Jocks aren't the king any more. It's the stylishly-dressed guy with his iphone and fast internet. I was out with the missus at an outdoor cafe a few weeks back, and we were surrounded by what would have been nerds twenty years ago. But now they were the cool kids, with their gadgets distressed clothing and generally unearned airs of superiority.
---Gaming remains a refuge for the less mainstream because the infrastructure for it was originally BUILT by those people. It's no mistake that gaming sites use "handles" to preserve anonymity, or why Blizzard Entertainment has generated 50,000 complaints in about 3 days over their decision to make posters on their boards use their real names. Basically, gaming still supports a fairly anonymous framework that less socially-adept people, or people who are ugly, or fat, or have low self-esteems, or have skin conditions and don't want to explain them to everyone, can buffer themselves with. The gaming store is a refuge for them, just as is the internet. The entry fee to gaming is an imagination and enough coin to get started in whatever genre you like.
Now, just because you are in the club doesn't mean you are a charter member or anything. Gaming has heavily mainstreamed in the twenty years or so. Weird, geeky dress and behavior is viewed as...weird, geeky dress or behavior. One of my hopes is that given the anonymous nature of electronic player-matching and whatnot, perhaps some of these shyer/less secure geeks can come out of their shells a bit more. Coming out in person to play a 40k game might have been a big step for the roasting geek at the GW store. If he was dressed like he was described any day, let alone a murderously hot (and it was murderously hot that day) day, well that tells me something else was at work there than style sense. What it was, I dunno. Some need to be noticed, or a need to cover a flaw with outlandish clothing, shrug. He probably wouldn't have told the truth about it if asked. But if he wasn't hurting anyone, does it really matter?