I have been a longterm member and mod over at a videogame forum that is rather big where I live. It’s a very active place where gamers of every flavour, but also people professionally involved in the business are posting and there’s yearly gamenights and other events being organized for the “community” to meet. Over the past 10 years that I’ve been there, I have made a few friends and met a lot of people. During my student years it even got me some marketing jobs for our national Nintendo publisher.
Yet the one thing that still makes me cringe after all this time is that even though you’d like to think that ‘gamers’ are a community of sorts, they really aren’t. I’ve had so many experiences and keep having them, that remind me how delusional this is.
On our board you’ll find all sorts of ‘special groups’ and segregation wherever you turn: there’s the mainstream gamers, the platform fanboys, the anime/manga fans, the retro fanatics, the RPGers etc. and they all make sure not to get confused with one another. And right down at bottom there’s the MMO players. Oh beware to be one of those, even if we got a whole subforum dedicated to this genre, you’re bound to listen to false stereotyping and trolling. Because really, even if the others play Xbox live every night over voice-comm with their buddies and buy a new game every 2 weeks, at least they aren’t playing MMORPGs. They’re not that asocial – they do ‘stuff on weekends’ and have a girlfriend!
I actually had to deal with a guy once writing down an entire list (with bullets) of the things he did every week besides gaming (it included things like playing tennis and drinking in bars), trying to point out how sad we all were for playing WoW. I have probably never been more embarrassed on somebody else’s behalf in my life. The funny thing is that a lot of these gamers are actually secretly jealous of you; I had one or two admitting to me that they would actually like to play WoW but couldn’t, because they’d get “too addicted” or their girlfriend “wouldn’t approve”.
Then there was that other post once where a guy stated how upset he got when a co-worker at his workplace referred to him as “our gamer” and how insulted he felt over it. Because to him gamers were real life losers and sociopaths. All of this coming from someone ‘within the community’ who is active on the same online gamers board for years and attending gamenights. I had a thing or two to say to him in that topic, for what its worth.
Even though I know this is how things really are, it makes me sad every time I note them; be it ingame or via forums or blogs. I guess it’s that naive part in me, thinking that gamers as a whole get enough stigma already from people outside their interest group that they wouldn’t need to continue the segregation amongst themselves. It’s probably human that we reach out and long to be part of a community we’d somehow like to identify with. But the truth is that this doesn’t exist, just because we play games doesn’t mean we have anything in common. If you’d like to feel at home among a group of people, you will have to keep picking the gems out of the pile of trash.
When we log on to World of Warcraft, we think that we enter some sort of fantasy. But unlike any other games, the content in MMOs is highly player generated – the whole point of them requiring social interaction and longterm teamplay is created by the people playing them. And all of these people bring their load of personal beliefs, attitude and prejudice with them – they don’t leave them at the door when they put on their mage robes or paladin armor. You got your judgmental and biased trolls, your sexists, homophobes, racists, fascists and any other flavour of social superiorists – in fact the internet is kinda big for trolls creeping out of their caves that usually would never find an audience in real life. And no matter how hard you stick to your own folks, you’ll get your share of bullshit whether you like it or not, right there in your pink fantasy dream. Even if you manage to steer free of most, you still get your casual gamers vs. hardcores, your “I’m better than you because I play less when I’m really just jealous”-people, your drama queens and psychotic real life-compensators (or both).
And I don’t actually dig ‘-isms’ at all. I don’t think we have an issue with ‘-isms’, we can spare ourselves the fancy terminology: the world has an issue with idiots. It has issues with lack of common sense all across the board. If we cannot even share our fantasy worlds, I foresee a dark future for the real version.
So we do ingame what we do elsewhere – we retreat to our own small circle of friends or guilds and play the game from inside our social bubbles. Just because we play the same game doesn’t mean we have anything in common with the rest.
World of Warcraft is an exact mirror of the real world – just with better furniture and background music.