Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ashamed of being a gamer?

For obvious reasons Blizzard thinks that video games are a great thing, which might have contributed to their surprise when so many people people loudly protested against being "outed" as gamers through RealID. So, are we all ashamed of being gamers? There have been quite a lot of comments on the RealID threads in which people said they wouldn't want others, especially future employers, to be able to identify them as gamers through Google. You can always claim that you are only on Facebook to connect to old friends, but being highly visible on lets say the World of Warcraft forums pretty clearly attaches a "gamer" tag on your back.

One aspect of that is that video games, especially MMORPGs got a lot of bad press in the past. Those who don't know much about video games mostly think that games are for children, while the half-informed think of video game addiction and other bad headlines. Thus few people are willing to put video games as hobbies on their CV. That might be worrying a bit too much, I used to have "role-playing games" on my CV (that was before MMORPGs), and still got a good job, and can even make an interesting talking point during an interview. There are skills you can pick up in games that are actually job-relevant, for example team-work and leadership.

A more justified concern is if you want your real name to be visible in Google for professional reasons. Maybe you have a small business under your real name, or you publish scientific papers like me. Then of course you might want to keep your professional activities on top of a Google search, and not your epic discussion thread on why paladins should be nerfed. If I had done this blog under my real name, I would have completely crowded out my scientific publications from a Google search.

But that points us towards a more general reason for not wanting to be publicly known as gamer: Most of us consider some parts of our lives as private. There are subjects like politics, religion, or sexual preferences, which some people are proudly displaying, while many others avoid talking about them. That doesn't mean you are ashamed of them, but they might simply want to keep their convictions and private activities to themselves, instead of discussing them with everybody. Not all of us are extroverts. Some subjects are known to require a lot of explanation, or to provoke a lot of heated discussion, and so many people prefer simply to keep mum about them.

There is a lot of room between being ashamed of being a gamer, and wanting to shout it from every rooftop. I suspect that most of the people who were against RealID fell somewhere in that middle ground, and just wanted to keep their private lives private. And I do believe that Blizzard got the message. While some cynics commented that an integration of World of Warcraft and Facebook would still go ahead regardless of protests, I do believe that the details of such an integration are certainly under review. A lot can be done to address privacy concerns by using the correct opt-in and opt-out choices, and by tuning the thing in a way that game activities don't show up on Google. There is a reason why a Google search for you name doesn't lead to a page showing how many hours you spent playing Farmville.

So, how about you? Are you proud, neutral, or ashamed of being a gamer? Is it something you don't mind other people to know, or do you consider it a private activity you'd like to keep out of view?

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