Wednesday, May 11, 2011

This Thing of Ours...

The title of this post is a reference to the euphemism the mobsters in the Sopranos used to refer to their, er, occupation. It makes me think of another group of people that might have members unwilling to share the truth of what they do: gamers. I think you'll agree that many of us downplay or outright hide or penchant for roleplaying from most of the people we know in our lives.

There are, of course, degrees of this reticence. Some gamers might talk openly with just a few good friends about the entirety of their love for the hobby, but never breathe a word to anyone else. Some might be alright with letting anyone they know get just a hint of what they're into. And there are so many other variations on this theme.

I personally talk to my wife and a few old friends openly, and there may be occasional acquaintances that I might let a hint or two slip out, but otherwise I keep things on the down low. Except for the occasional reading of RPG products in public, which I like to do sometimes in the off chance of meeting another gamer...and to challenge myself to let go of worrying about the roleplaying stigma that pop culture has bestowed upon the larger public.

The one newbie gamer I know in my group absolutely does not want anyone beyond our group to know any hint of his recent gaming efforts. Not even his wife. Especially not his wife.

So here's the question of the day: how do you fly your roleplaying flag, if at all? Who do you trust with the truth? Do you shout it proud for all to hear? Or is it a dirty little secret? Or something entirely different?


  1. There was an awkward moment with the group I've just put together in which one of the new players (an experienced gamer) got a call from his father and straight up lied to him about where he was and what he was doing.

    I can't imagine hiding my interests that deeply. At the same time, I'm not super in-your-face about my hobby. I've done a lot of work over the past five years to let go of my own "self-hating geek" tendencies. Then there's just the natural process of getting older and increasingly giving less of a shit about what other people think.

    I've even got a couple gamer-related shirts in my closet that I'll wear out and about as part of my regular rotation. I figure if someone sees my shirt with polyhedral dice on it or my "Kill Bargle" shirt and gets it, then that's okay since they're probably a gamer as well. Of course, that could backfire if that fellow gamer was a Cat Piss Man or other such mouth-breather, but that's a risk I'm willing to take.

  2. I've never had an issue with this. I don't do gamer shame and don't give a damn if someone looks down on me, because of my hobby. I'm not going to have anything to do with that sort of someone, anyway and have too much self-respect to let them dictate how I feel about myself, or gaming.

  3. The funny thing about gamer shame in my own experience is that it's almost entirely self-expressed. It's not like I developed an issue with shame after someone gave me crap for playing D&D. In fact, I don't think anyone ever has. I've had second-hand shamings occur (a girlfriend's friends telling her she should ditch me because I was into RPGs and, thus, clearly a loser--and this was years after I started playing, so it wasn't particularly traumatizing other than reinforcing my own self-hating tendencies at the time). As the OP put it, it's more of a cultural thing that can just seep into one's mentality. It's weird.

  4. I think we as gamers have seen how pop culture only depicts roleplaying and roleplayers in the same way they see Trekkies, comic book readers, sci-fi and fantasy novel readers, etc. Indeed, pop culture references to D&D have been largely negative, with the possible exception to the recent Community episode (which, it might be argued, was actually a cleverly disguised dig on roleplaying). It' unfortunate that most non-gamer's exposure to RPGs is through stereotyping, but there you go.

    My point is, I think that gamers of every stripe constantly have the knowledge that this stigma exists on their minds. And I find it really unfortunate. When given the rare opportunity to talk to a non-gamer about the importance of roleplaying (I did this for my wife and pretty much won over her acceptance a while ago), I feel like I make a pretty good argument.

    As you guys have pointed out, the older you get the less you care about what other people think. Still, there are some of us out there that might still be pretty affected by the stigma that's lurking out there. Some things will never change, I guess.

    Thanks for the well-thought responses and taking the time to write them here!

  5. Drance, your "stance" pretty much mirrors mine. My wife actually played in my campaign for a few years until our baby was born, and she now watches her while I game, so I chat with her about my games very openly. I was very upfront with her when we first met by telling her straight-up that I was a geek. I read comics, watch Star Trek (back then, DS9 was still on the air), paint miniatures, play D&D... I figured it was better that she know right away versus getting to know me but have me "hide" something. She thought it was very refreshing to meet someone who didn't try to keep this side of himself away from her.

    But, at work, I found that I didn't talk about it much, only because, unfortunately, people do judge. People who don't understand, and who were above me in the chain-of-command, could potentially stifle my growth at the company because they thought I was a nerd, and instead promote the good-looking guy who likes sports.

    When challenged on the subject, I will defend it vigorously by using my age-old argument: "Why is it acceptable for a guy to put on a football Jersey, paint his face, and sit in the stands and scream at players and a referee that he's never met and rattle off a list of meaningless stats to games that were played before he was born, but it's not acceptable for me to get together with my friends and talk about an imaginary world that we all create collaboratively? Which one seems less socially acceptable?"

    Smart people will back down at that argument, but it's just annoying to even have to make it in the first place.