Friday, April 9, 2010

A gamer loud and proud?

Baldrake asked a very intereting question in the open Sunday thread:
"You are clearly a very committed gamer, spending most of your leisure time on this activity. Do you find it's a hobby to be publicly proud of, or in your milieu, is gaming still a nerdy, somewhat embarrassing pastime? When people ask you what you've been up to lately, do you tell them your latest accomplishments in WoW, or mumble something else? Does your family know you run this very successful blog? Do people at work know about your hobby, the same way they would if you were into skiing or gourmet cooking?"
That is not an easy question to answer. In my case my family knows both about my gaming hobby and my blog, but the people at work are only vaguely aware that I am into games. But I don't think that is because gaming is a "somewhat embarrassing pastime". Rather I think it is a question of whether other people can connect to what you are doing.

For example I do discuss World of Warcraft at work with people where I know that they played it. But talking to somebody about lets say the Cataclysm expansion only works if that person has some basic knowledge about MMORPGs and expansions and an interest in them. Not so many people do. Just look at the numbers: North America and Europe together have a population of 1.2 billion, but only about 6 million players of MMORPGs, less than half of a percent. Even if you include everybody who at least has a general idea of what a MMORPG is about, you don't get more than a few percent. Compare that to 100% percent of the population who know what cooking is about, and you see why it is easier to have a conversation about cooking than about playing MMORPGs.

Gaming is a difficult hobby to discuss because it is so fragmented. People cooking different sorts of food will find a common ground easier than two "gamers", one of which is into first person shooters, while the other plays with a Wii Fit. Conversations at a lunch table about movies or TV series work because people are likely to have watched the same movie or TV series, or at least heard about it, at the same time. If you only watched the Discovery Channel and found that none of your colleagues do, there wouldn't be much common ground for discussion either. And that is independant of whether you are proud or embarrassed about watching Discovery Channel.

Thus if people ask me what I've been up to lately, I might or might not mention computer games, but unless I know the other person is a gamer too, I wouldn't mention some World of Warcraft achievement. Not because that is embarrassing, but because "I dinged 80 with my mage" is an achievement most people simply wouldn't understand at all.

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