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.