Do your friends and acquaintances know about your hobby?

     It wasn’t long after I discovered gaming that I realized there was a certain stigma attached to it.  Even in my early teens, it was clear that allowing certain people to know too much about my hobby would open me up to all sorts of ridicule.  In the early 80’s, this often took one of three different forms.

     First, you had the classic high school peers:

“He reads books?  He must be a nerd!”

     The religious relative angle:

“Oh, don’t let him play those games.  Those games are the work of the devil.”

     Finally, the overly concerned neighbor who happened to watch Mazes & Monsters

“Is that the game that causes children to want to murder their parents and commit suicide?”

     If it’s true that ignorance is bliss, then I reckon that the 80’s were a very happy decade for folks.

     Luckily for me, I was born to parents who didn’t have their heads firmly planted up their asses.  My parents actually took the time to engage me and see what my interests were.  When I had my first brush with Dungeons and Dragons, they looked into it.  While I can’t say that they totally understood it, they were quite comfortable that it would foster my love of reading, wasn’t urging me to summon demons, and in no way suggested that I kill my family members.  As such, I got the green light and was a happy young gamer.

     I’ve never thought of myself as much of a conformist but I will admit to largely keeping my hobby to myself while at high school.  It just wasn’t worth all the nonsense to me.  For example, one day I saw a fellow gamer roll into home room with a Monster Manual in tow.  This prompted a look of horror from the teacher and students which would have been what I would have expected if he’d produced a severed head from a bowling bag.  Yeah, I didn’t need that kind of attention.

     As I got around to dating age, I experienced this even more.  I loved gaming but teenage hormones clearly won that battle.  It was fairly clear to me that talking about paladins and clerics was going to do little for my dating career.  Typically, I would keep my hobby to myself until I had been with someone for a while.  I would then kind of casually bring it up as I became certain that they wouldn’t run screaming from the building.

     In my professional life, I was often too busy for the subject to come up.  I’ve noticed, over the years, that gamers often operate as if part of some secret society.  On many occasions, a coworker will make an obscure reference and then wait.   If someone happens to pick up on it, then it’s suddenly “oh, you’re one of us”.

     At this point in my life, most of my acquaintances know about my hobby.  There are some who don’t but largely, that’s because we’re not all that close.  I’m not terribly proud of the fact that I spent such a large part of my life remaining relatively quiet about something I enjoyed.  However, it certainly made for a smooth ride and I don’t feel that I missed out on anything due to it.

     My question is, did any of you folks experience similar situations with your hobby?  Have you always shouted your love of gaming from the highest rooftops or have you had a more cloak & dagger experience?  Please leave a comment and let me hear your stories.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Do your friends and acquaintances know about your hobby?

  1. Well being in high school still I am having a similar experience to you. Like you most people that I consider close to me know about it, and I’m confortable with it that way.

    • I have a feeling (though there’s no way to quantify it) that things may be a bit better for younger gamers these days. However I base this largely on the acceptantace which seems to exist for console and PC RPGs these days.

      As a current high schooler, would you say that your peers are more accepting of something like World of Warcraft than tabletop RPGs or does everyone just kind of get lumped into the same crowd?

      • You know its really hard to tell, because I don’t know a lot of people in my school who are into tabletop rpg’s , although I have to imagine that because WoW is such a huge thing that kids are more accepting of it even if they don’t understand it.
        I think a large amount of the stigma exists because people just don’t have a concept of what it is. They hear D&D(and you say D&D because no one knows anything else) and they think about guys sitting and being weird in their parents basement.( a tradition I uphold)

        But I think you are correct in thinking that things are better now then they were back when D&D was being panned by crazy moms.

  2. mikemonaco

    My friends all know, and while I don’t go out of my way to bring it up, some of my acquaintances know. I’m in a profession where it’s not a terribly unusual hobby (librarian). In high school I knew a few other gamers and we were never picked on, although we were probably regarded as nerds.

    • I was lucky as I was never really picked on either. I do imagine I would have been ostracized quite a bit, had I been more up front about the hobby.

      It’s a tough call really. I just went through this with my girlfriend’s 16 year-old son. He got a World of Warcraft t-shirt for his birthday and of course, proceeded to wear it for his first day back to school.

      My first thought, was “oh god, don’t let him wear that, they’ll eat him alive”. However, I decided that wasn’t a very good lesson to send because the kid should be able to wear what he wants and not worry about what others think.

      While I totally believe that you shouldn’t have to conform in situations like that, I have seen situations where people have completely “gone down the rabbit hole” after a bad experience. Often then, the person completely drops what they enjoy to simply avoid the nonsense.

  3. Sometimes I don’t share about my hobby, but it’s not so much the stigma as it is that people tend to not have a good idea of what a role-playing game actually is (or they mistake it for a computer RPG), so there’s always that awkward conversation about what it is that I like to do.

    And often times when they ask for an example, I’ll say “Well, the most popular is Dungeons & Dragons” which often comes with its own preconceived notions. I’ve found the best way to handle that is by hanging a lantern on the problem and saying “it’s really not as nerdy as people think.”

    • That’s a good point. As an adult, I find that my own personality now commands enough understanding to kind of pave the way. I’ve actually found quite a few folks who are genuinely interested in it (but had never been exposed) as a result.

      I also agree of people not entirely following what I mean about a “role-playing game”. Like you say, it seems that they’ll immediately think of console or PC games.

      Also with younger folks, I hear a lot about some type of freeform RPing via chat clients on the Internet. I’ve only loosely picked up on this because of my girlfriend’s children but there seems to be a rather large community out there. Looks to be manga inspired and with no real rules for conflict resolution.

  4. Never had that issue luckily, but I have to admit that all my friends are gamers themselves. I do not make it a secret at all but I am not running around advertising it either. Most of my colleagues know I am a gamer and I tend to stick to what they know (Computer or boardgames) and only go into explanations regarding PnP with people I know better. Simply because it is easier to explain to someone you know a bit better so you can choose examples and references he can relate to. There where even job interviews where I mentioned it and explained what it was all about as an example on conflict solving, creativity and problem abstraction etc. It is nothing you need to hide nowadays but it is still difficult to get across. I wish someone would fine the ultimate elevator pitch to explain it to someone who is absolutely not a geek or nerd or gamer in any form.

  5. You know, you’re really the first gamer I’ve spoken to from Germany. However, during the 80’s I corresponded with quite a few from the UK.

    Between speaking with them and reading various articles at the time, it almost seemed as if gaming was seen in an entirely different light over there. The Games Workshop stores and events really seemed to be received well as a whole.

    It’s funny that you mention the job interview. I’ve experienced that as well and truly, I think it’s valid. There are so many parts of my life that I feel have been enriched by the experiences I’ve had through gaming.

    • There really must be a difference. i mean if we had a fantasy LARP we would walz into Burgerking or the local supermarket full dressed in Fantasy gear and partly armor. Only in a Bank when a “bloodspattered” warrior wanted to withdraw some cash it got a bit hairy but luckily police was advised of our event ant took it cool. Overall we got looks but next to no comments. Of course ven we have our right wing religious nutjobs that will claim we worship the devil. In general they just get laughed at pretty loudly. It might be that we are a bit closerto “fantasy” as a culture due to our history in fairy tales (like Grimms) After all they all happened where we actually live and signs of a a time long ago where noble knights and princesses existed are also all around.

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