Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Negative Connotations That Come With Being a "Gamer"

These images and news reports have become synonymous with video games in the last decade. When one person does a horrible deed that results in multiple lives lost, the first questions asked are never what was his state of mental wellness or how did he get his hands on these weapons of mass destruction, it is always how many video games are sitting in his home miles away? Scapegoats have been around for hundreds of years, people blame things that millions of people enjoy and that one person enjoyed and then happened to commit a crime. First it was books, movies, music, and now video games. And although millions of people game around the world, we are still stuck with this mantra of being socially awkward shut ins. In my experience, when someone finds out I love video games they are incredibly surprised, mostly because when most people think of "gamers" they picture something like this...
Ah yes, the South Park WOW guy. And while I'm sure there may be somebody out there right now baring a striking resembelence, living off pizza and Rockstar energy drinks, (or Doritos and Mt. Dew according to Microsoft) going into their 10th straight hour of ____ game, bottom line is this isn't an accurate depiction of the gaming culture anymore. Unfortunately, the only depiction the gaming industry gets in the mainstream media is mass murderers, children yelling obscenities and threats online on Call of Duty, and death threats against game developers in the recent stories of #GamerGate.

I am in a sorority, meaning that every Fall I must endure the mental and physical exhaustion that is sorority recruitment. Basically, it is 3 days of non-stop talking, or rather yelling, because when 100 women are in one room together it is physically impossible for us to talk at a normal volume. So I am in a room, yelling in some poor girls face, question after question, desperately trying to remember her name, and the conversation eventually turns into what is my major and what do I plan on doing with it. Every sorority always says, "Be yourself." For the most part, people appreciate you being honest and being yourself...for the most part. However, when I go on to tell them I'm a journalism major with plans of writing about and reviewing video games, I get a look that closely resembles this...
I then introduce her to another one of my sorority sisters and hope to god my personal hobby hasn't scared her away from the amazing group of women I call my sisters.

So how did we get to this point? Maybe it was the 80's and 90's movies and TV shows that portray us as awkward zit-faced teenagers un-ironically wearing suspenders and taped glasses. Or maybe it's the mainstream media like Fox News desperately trying to find a link between violence and video games. However, if there truly was a direct link between violence and video games the world would look a little bit like the movie The Purge, considering games sell millions of copies, particularly games like Grand Theft Auto V which has sold 32 million copies and counting. 

I hate that my personal hobby and something that I'm truly passionate about is never shown in a positive light outside of the gaming community. I hate feeling ashamed of playing video games because people then see me as "weird." I hate telling people my aspirations of working in the gaming industry and then being looked down upon in my journalism classes and asked, "Why are you even getting a degree?" 

Maybe one day video games will be looked at as an art form outside of the industry. Maybe one day the mainstream media will recognize the incredible stories, the incredible satire saturated commentary, and the incredible originality that come in games like The Last of Us, the Grand Theft Auto series, and Journey. Maybe one day video games will be recognized as equal in the ranks of movies, music, and television shows when it comes to popular culture. Maybe one day the media will stop comparing a huge community of normal people with a video game hobby to one deranged killer. And maybe one day I can tell someone my aspirations of working within the video game industry without getting a look of concern and judgement. Just maybe.

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