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Office politics: gamers in the workplace

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?

33 thoughts on “Office politics: gamers in the workplace

  1. Weirdly ,people in the office probably know me more as a boardgamer than a videogamer. I’m certainly on the secret side of things, rarely do I mention gaming whilst in the office, I did once have a conversation with one of the lecturers about Portal as I was wearing a Portal (albeit a subtle one) t-shirt one day.

    I have yet to meet anyone in materials science research who is openly a gamer…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve got several t-shirts based on images from indie titles that I sometimes wear into the office and so far nobody has openly realised they’re from a video game. I like to think of it as subliminal messaging.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I’m a bit of a secret gamer, I used to be really open about it but none of my colleagues play video games, or if they do they keep it quiet, if I ever do talk about it I find that most people’s experiences stop at COD or GTA or their eyes glaze over and they just don’t care. One day I overheard some of them talking about someone on a different floor who plays D&D and they were all taking the piss and I decided just not to bring anything nerdy up unless directly asked about it. Shame that I feel like I have to do that, would be nice if gaming was considered a “normal” hobby. I still get to have a good chat with the IT guys about it though usually!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s strange to think how far the community has come over the past few years and yet we’re still uncomfortable openly talking about gaming. Comments such as your D&D example, or the Peter Molyneux one I gave above, just make it even harder.

      I’m the same as you in that I don’t tend to discuss anything nerdy unless somebody directly asks me a question. The guys in my office are discussing E3 at the moment and it’s easier to just listen in rather than participate! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I didn’t dare tell them I’d dressed up for Comic Con! I probably would have got the same treatment as the D&D guy, or worse.
        It is very weird that it’s still an uncomfortable topic, I was reading another post the other day about how people don’t often game in public, like with a Nintendo DS, on their commute or something. I do and I could count on one hand the amount of people I’ve seen doing the same on my commute, despite it being so busy.

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        1. Now you come to mention it, I wouldn’t tell anyone that I’m going to Kitacon and doing a bit of cosplay myself. I can only imagine the reactions – I might get the opportunity to have a gaming conversation every once in a while but I really doubt my colleagues would understand ‘dressing up’.

          I get into work extremely early to avoid rush-hour, which means I spend most of my commute with manual labourers who are on their way into London. It’s amazing how many of them I’ve seen playing Candy Crush – good for them!

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          1. Yeah Candy crush seems to be acceptable! One step at a time!

            Cosplay is something I’m a bit wary of, luckily this wasn’t my office but my friend was on his office group whatsapp and they’d found a picture of one if their colleagues in a Link cosplay and they sent it round the group, which he isn’t in, with the caption “protecting my virginity” and once I was told that story I was like “nope let’s just keep that quiet”. Buzzfeed have done a few articles about cosplay trying to make it look more mainstream though so that’s good.

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            1. That’s horrible; it’s tantramount to bullying. Things like that just shouldn’t happen nowadays. 😦

              I went to a really small convention a couple of years ago where there was a stand for iCosplay, an organisation championing an anti-bullying campaign (http://i-cosplay.org/). I’ll have to get in touch with them and see how they’re getting on – I haven’t heard about them since and it was such a great idea.

              Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post! I remember being a triple A gamer in a sense. I would only play large titles (still love them) but I started broadening my horizons and trying different games that peaked my interest. Now I’m probably an inclusive gamer. I love talking about games and getting to know others who game. Though in have a long way to go, I’ve been interested and playing more indie games as well. Thank you for sharing Kim!

    -Luna 😁

    Like

    1. Hey Luna, thanks for stopping by! I’m trying to broaden my horizons this year too – I’m attempting to not resort to adventure games all the time and go for something different every once in a while.

      Saying that though… the next game I’ve got ready to go is Life is Strange… hmm. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this because it’s so true! The sexist attitude towards female gamers is ever prevalent and it stinks! I think in games we need more powerful as well as believable female heroines to help the minds of bigoted gamers expand a little….

    Anyway, I agree with these types in the office – in mine, I am the only guy in a small office with 4 other women. I am also the youngest, so find it difficult to discuss hobbies I am interested in… Recently, I have decided it is my duty to educate them on different gaming matters – namely, sending emails out whenever I am counting down the days to certain releases, or generally annoying them with “Gamer Talk” 😛

    I think it’s extremely unfair some of the comments made to you (“Which geek put that in”) as it’s a broad sweep of not only the gamers / “geeks” of the group but also suggesting that singling out a person because of their interest and using it as a derogatory term is unacceptable!

    But great article – really enjoyed reading it.

    Like

    1. I love the thought of you attempting to educate your colleagues. I’d love to do something like that when I overhear a gaming conversation in the office where the facts are incorrect! He he he

      How have your attempts been received so far? 🙂

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  5. This was hilarious and so true. I have found at my laboratory that I get along so much better with the chemists than I do the microbiologists because they are all male, all game and watch Star Wars, and don’t judge me because of I’m the same. It’s rough out there and the stigma about gaming isn’t getting any better. But I loved your depictions of these stereotypes! They were fantastically accurate.

    Like

    1. Aw, thanks for the kind words. 🙂

      I’ve been at my place of work for so long that it’s easy to forget there’s a whole other world out there. It’s nice to hear there are offices where gaming conversations can take place without secrecy!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Nice article! At least in the offices I’ve worked in, people are very secretive about gaming, or speaking about gaming. I work in entertainment and run a website that features games, so it’s not weird at all. I’m just still “in the closet” about it because I like to put fourth a certain exterior, which is not conducive to geeking about about Zelda, even though I could do that all day. I’m a proponent of not laying all your cards out – they know I ride motorcycles and little else. That’s all they need to know!

    Although the guy next to me and I have been shooting the shit about E3 lately, I’m sure I’ll go back into the closet 100% as soon as it’s over. No regrets – I talk to the fine people on WordPress when I want to talk gaming, yourself included, of course! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There have been a lot of conversations in my office about E3 this week and so far I’ve managed to avoid the temptation of joining in. I’ve almost faltered upon overhearing several incorrect ‘facts’ but I’m trying to stay strong!

      I agree with you about not laying all your cards on the table. It’s good to keep something outside of work for yourself – and I know that some colleagues wouldn’t look at my 100-hours with Horizon Zero Dawn favourably. 😉

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  7. I’m probably a mix of Quiet, Inclusive, and Secret while at work. That probably sounds like a weird mix but most people at my work don’t know I game, despite my not hiding it. For that matter most people don’t know I exist (and I’ve been here for 12 years – so I guess I might be something of a secret employee). There are a select group that know I’m a gamer but I generally don’t offer my input without being asked but I’m not afraid to offer my input even if it may produce conflict and I can talk on nearly everything to some degree or other.

    Like

    1. A lot of people at my place know I volunteer for SpecialEffect so I’m assuming by extension they realise I’m a gamer; but it’s very rare that anyone asks me about it directly. In some ways I’m kind of glad about that because it means I don’t have to put effort into justifying myself.

      Still, the inclusive gamer gives me hope. If that’s the future then it’s looking bright!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Although I’d say I’ve had experience with all of those descriptions above, I’m not sure if I openly fit a category here, maybe because of the people I am around, rather than myself. I’m very open about being a gamer, largely on Playstation but I do dabble, so I tend to mention it every now and then – but I just get glazed over eyes staring back at me as if I rattled of Pi to them…
    Just came across your blog today, but look forward to reading more!

    Like

    1. This post was written to be a bit tongue-in-cheek, but hopefully gaming will be so accepted in the near future that there won’t be any need for such gamer categories. Thanks for visiting! 🙂

      Like

  9. cool article! I work in IT to so i see some of the same patterns now that I read through it. I think the most i see is the AAA gamer. Most people are into the real big games. One of the guys bought a PS4 for star wars battlefront alone. I’ve suggested tons of other wicked games for him to try out but he’s never done so.

    I think i see myself somewhere between the inclusive and quiet gamer. I’m not quiet because I am shy or reserved, just simply because I’m naturally into many other games besides AAA games, and particularly love nintendo games. But usually people never know what I’m talking about when i say i’m playing xenoblade chronicles X, or why i’m hyped metroid prime 4 is finally coming.

    There are a few who i’ve talked with in length about breath of the wild, which was pretty refreshing.

    Like

    1. The triple-A gamer does seem to be pretty prevalent in IT, which is a little weird when you consider the profession and how much exposure we have to a wide range of technology. The introduction of VR in my particular industry seems to be having an impact though and it’s causing some gamers in the office to start broadening their horizons to include indie games.

      If someone has bought a PS for Battlefront alone they’re missing out on so much – Life is Strange, Firewatch, Inside for starters – the list is extensive!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The older I get, the harder I find it is to tell non-gamers I play. It’s strange that so many people still think it’s a ‘pastime for children’ when there’s such a wide range of both games and gamers out there.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly, couldn’t agree more, we shouldn’t have to be ashamed about playing! I’ve writtena blog post on when I played CIV 5 and intend to write a few more about gaming, I would appreciate it if you could get out my blog and follow? :)x

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Interesting read. Haven’t encountered many of these personalities at any of my jobs. Unfortunately, I haven’t worked with many gamers :(. The only ones I tend to find are the AAA gamers. I try to make a point to educate them on all the great indies they are missing out on, but I feel my words just go in one ear and out the other.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I overheard the triple-A gamer who inspired this post talking to one of the others yesterday. He asked whether the latest Mass Effect continued the story from the last one – not so triple-A as he thought. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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