Originally published in SWINE Student Magazine Issue Nine (May)
Every time I see someone wearing, let’s say, a Legend of Zelda-themed t-shirt, there’s always a voice in my head going, “Oh my god, what if someone sees that?”
I never liked calling myself a ‘gamer’. I prefer “person who plays a lot of video games, but not too much, because he also has a life”, which I feel rolls off the tongue more. I’m a brown, gay immigrant; there’s already enough labels thrown at me letting people know I’m a weirdo, so I don’t see the point of going out of my way to get some new ones.
Don’t get me wrong, video games are a major part of my life: even as I write this, I keep taking breaks to resume a run of Final Fantasy 13-2. I’ve played the whole thing before. I have two assignments due next week.
Gaming is – still is – my comfort zone. It’s what I usually turn to when I need to take a break from the world and relax for an hour or two. Or four. Or, when I was younger and had more stamina, nine.
It’s also a great social tool. I recently finished Diablo 3 with two buddies from high school. I don’t get to see them very often, so we played the game on-and-off for almost two years. While our characters were exploring fields and slaying demons together, we chatted IRL, and laughed at how something described as a “suit of armour” would be, on my female character, a metal bra with wrist guards.
But I tend to avoid talking about games around people, even close friends. Part of it is the shame of being a grown man indulging in what was, for a long time, seen as toys for children, coupled with the resentment that, honestly, I could be doing more productive things with my time.
But hey, it’s a guilty pleasure. Everyone’s got those. What really makes me ashamed of mine is the gaming community itself. There’s a common stereotype of “gamers” as entitled jerks who sit at their computers all day, judging books by covers and anonymously threatening women online.
But when there seems to be a new report every week of a prominent woman in the industry being the target of a harassment campaign, or of mass outcry at a new game including a single transgender character, it’s hard to think of them as just a stereotype. They are real, they are out there, and they are hurting people. Online movements like GamerGate have become so prominent that they’ve been editorialised in The New York Times. Y’know, the real news, that even has a dedicated weather section.
These are people who sincerely believe ‘gamers’ are an oppressed minority, and are fighting in the name of ‘ethics in games journalism’ to defend the poor, endangered rights of men and white people worldwide.
And that’s the real reason I hate video games: because I don’t want anyone to think I’m one of those people.
I know there’s a good side to the gaming community. I know there are spaces where people can get together and talk shop without being horrible to each other, and I know that good side is the biggest part, but the bad part is so loud, I don’t care about any of it anymore. Gaming is still my comfort zone, but it’s a private one, and when I’m done with it, I go back to the real world.
And back in the real world, it’s not a big deal. It really only affects how I speak when I meet new people. They ask me if I have any hobbies. I hesitate.
‘I, uh, write.’
‘Oh yeah, what do you write about?’
Words by Akalanka Pedro Cooray