I’ve been working in the IT department for the same company for over a decade now, and having a number of different roles has given me the opportunity to see technology from different perspectives. Video games were taboo back when I first joined, something only spoken about in hushed tones around the water-cooler and certainly not in conversation with ‘a girl’; but things are now changing and gaming is discussed more widely in the office.
This is a big step forward but a number of negatives still remain. Being the only female in the room and my role as a manager give me enough distance to be able to sit back and watch what’s going on around me, and it’s sad to see the attitudes of some – both gamers and non-gamers alike – still reinforcing the tired old stereotypes. Below are the personalities I’ve come across in my workplace over the years and tips on how to spot them.
The triple-A gamer
Positives: knows about upcoming big-budget releases
Negatives: knows nothing about indie projects
Signs to look out for: This gamer only plays big-budget franchises such as Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto – anything well-know and featuring masses of weapons and explosions – and never mentions indie releases. He turns conversations towards the subjects of achievements or difficult boss battles in order to provide his credibility; and understands that women play games but also thinks they could never be as interested in them as a man is.
My experience: I remember having a conversation with one such person several years ago shortly after the announcements about the next generation consoles and, even though I told him I’d watched the presentations for myself, he still proceeded to explain everything that happened. Maybe a trip to an expo might broaden his horizons by allowing him to see the number of females in attendance and indie games on show; but until then, he’ll keep sneaking in an hour of gaming whenever his girlfriend isn’t around so he has another achievement to brag about.
The male-bonding gamer
Positives: happy to start conversations about video games
Negatives: doesn’t actually enjoy playing video games
Signs to look out for: This one regards gaming purely as a male-bonding exercise and it’s almost as if he uses it to increase his social-standing among colleagues. He’s happy to draw those around him into a discussion about the title he’s currently playing; but when the conversation progresses into too much detail and he no longer has adequate knowledge of what’s being spoken about, he quickly makes an excuse to duck out. He’s always the one that sticks the kettle on.
My experience: My own conversations with such a person have revealed that the majority of his knowledge seems to come from YouTube videos – ones he’s enjoyed watching more than actually playing himself. I get the impression he isn’t a fan of video games and only participates in them so he has something in common with others in the office. I’ve written before that there’s no point in spending your free time on a game you’re not enjoying, and the same can be said for gaming in general: why take up a hobby you don’t look forward to?
The sexist gamer
Positives: long-time gamer with knowledge of retro titles
Negatives: refuses to believe women could ever be gamers
Signs to look out for: Whereas the triple-A gamer above understands that both sexes play video games, this one refuses to accept females into the community. He can be quite elitist also: his primary concerns are things like performance and frame-rate when it comes to video games, and most of his experience seems to lie within the realms of classic titles. He doesn’t often participate fully in conversations about gaming and instead prefers to listen, using knowing looks and curt laughs in order to get his point across.
My experience: Back when The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released someone happened to mention to him that I was playing too. His sneering look and derisive response hasn’t exactly endeared me to him since: “You? You play Skyrim?” There’s just no place for such attitudes in the gaming world today. Such players need to accept that everyone, regardless of their sex or age or any other defining-characteristic for that matter, is an equal member of the community and should be treated as such.
The ‘I take an interest for my son’ gamer
Positives: uses video games to bond with his young son
Negatives: buys his son really inappropriate games
Signs to look out for This person isn’t a gamer as such but takes an interest in gaming in order to bond with his young son. He knows all about Minecraft and Roblox despite them not being things he’d usually pay any attention to, and is happy to watch streams and videos in order to find out more about what his kid is asking to play. However, all that earned knowledge doesn’t stop him from buying his child some titles which are way too violent and should really be left for teenage years.
My experience: Last week when I was in the office, I overheard someone ask this person whether his ten-year old son was still playing Minecraft and his response was: “No, he’s now moved on to Call of Duty.” It turned out that he’d bought the game for his kid as his school-friends were playing it and he didn’t want him to be left out. I’ve written before about the challenges of parenting when it comes to gaming, particularly in connection with being a step-parent, and it’s no excuse: giving a young child a PEGI 18 game featuring ‘depictions of gross violence’ just isn’t appropriate.
The quiet gamer
Positives: has plenty of knowledge others could learn from
Negatives: is too quiet to share that knowledge
Signs to look out for: This gamer is one of the quietest in the office and his silence hides his experience of a wide range of titles, both big-budget and indie. He’s happy to share his knowledge when asked directly but rarely starts a conversation himself; those discussions he does have are usually with one other person only and it’s rare for him to challenge an opinion he sees holes in as he doesn’t like confrontation. It’s almost a case of ‘speak only when you’re spoken to’.
My experience: Someone like this works on my team and it’s such a shame he’s so quiet because he’s hugely intelligent and has some really interesting ideas. If he came out of his shell a little he might have a shot at getting the triple-A and sexist gamers to change their views on video games and the community, convincing them that it’s a good thing to try something different every once in a while. I’d love to have a proper conversation with him about gaming to see how far his knowledge extends, but I know this would make him feel extremely uncomfortable and I don’t want to put him under such pressure!
The inclusive gamer
Positives: a healthy attitude when it comes to gaming
Negatives: not enough gamers in the office like him
Signs to look out for: This is the one that gives me the most hope for the future of gaming. He may not have the most experience, or be the best player, or know a huge amount about the independent scene; but he’s willing to listen and have a proper two-way discussion on the subject, regardless of sex or age. He understands that all types of people play video games nowadays and the hobby isn’t reserved solely for white males; and although he hasn’t touched many indie titles himself, he’s interested to hear about them.
My experience: This gamer had heard from others that I liked video games and so bought his new Switch into the office recently – he thought I might like to have a go in case my stepson wanted the console. We ended up talking for ages and moved in subject from Nintendo, to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild versus Horizon Zero Dawn, to younger generations wanting to game as a career. These are the conversations I like to be a part of: ones between people who are simply ‘gamers’ regardless of any characteristics that define them, where opinions are shared and discussed.
The secret gamer
There are several reasons why I don’t discuss video games in the office on a regular basis, the first being down to the levels of management above me. Let me give you an example: a while back I had to go away for a managers’ conference and stay overnight in a hotel. Someone started a party-game after dinner which required each person to write the name of a well-known figure on a piece of paper and place it into a hat; and the response to ‘Peter Molyneux’ was ‘Which geek put that in?’ Obviously it was an extremely worthwhile event when it came to team-building and getting to know your colleagues…
In addition, I don’t want to have to justify myself as a gamer. The triple-A gamer couldn’t accept that I’d watched and understood the PlayStation 4 announcement; I’ve had a team-member ask me if I play Candy Crush, their implication being that it’s a ‘title for girls’; and during an after-work pub quiz, my team were shocked at the fact that I knew the names of all the Pac-Man ghosts.
So I guess that makes me ‘the secret gamer’ for the purpose of this post. Maybe there are other secret gamers out there too: are you one of them?