My Frustration at Non-Gamers’ Perception of Gaming

It’s been a while since I had a rant, how about a little one today about non-gamers’ perceptions of gamers young and old? Inspired by an experience at work and a chat with my gamer dad.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget the view that the rest of the world has on gaming. My boyfriend is a gamer, my sister and dad are gamers, a lot of my friends are gamers (and if they’re not they’re pretty geeky about other stuff instead), I’m involved in this awesome blogger gaming community… It’s a huge part of my life. It gets to be so normal for me to quote a game or talk about them (or anything else like books, movies, the whole geeky spectrum) that when I talk to someone that isn’t a part of that world sometimes I’ll start to panic-babble on about something because I run out of small talk and realise that I have no idea what to say. Now, I wouldn’t consider myself anti-social or introverted, but I wouldn’t say I’m a social butterfly either. This is most prominent at work because I don’t have much in common with some of the people on my team and it’s got to the point where, if trapped in the kitchen with one/some of them while making a cup of tea in awkward silence, I’ll practically run out of the room ASAP. They seem to bond over talking a lot while saying nothing at all, if that makes sense, and just saying that makes me feel horribly snobby. If someone has a shared interest with me though (geeky or otherwise) then I can talk forever but unfortunately work is mostly small talk. It’s at work where I’m most reminded of the ‘outside’ view of gaming.

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Me running from awkward social interactions at work

Let me set the scene for my latest non-gamer encounter: I was on my lunch break watching one of my favourite Game Grumps series (Mario Maker). Mario’s hopping about on the screen (not full screen the YouTube branding is all there and everything), as I have my headphones on, I’m sat back in my chair, both hands occupied as I eat my lunch… Suddenly one of my co-workers, who I didn’t realise was standing behind me, makes me jump by exclaiming “oh my god! You’re playing a game?!” without thinking I sarcastically answer “yup, mind controlled YouTube gaming is all the rage now.” Then I felt bad as she just looked at me really confused and I realised she’s probably never touched a game in her life so I said “no, just joking, it’s a Let’s Play”. That made her face temporarily twist into an even more confused look before she clearly decided she didn’t care enough to find out what a Let’s Play is, waved it aside, and proceeded to tell me what she’d come over to ask me about. Fair enough that she’s not a gamer, that’s fine. It was more that I was surprised at her lack of knowledge, I was obviously not playing a game and just watching one but now I’m kind of worried I’m going to end up in an uncomfortable meeting explaining what a Let’s Play is and that I wasn’t playing games at work. Even if you don’t play games it’s pretty obvious I wasn’t actually playing… Video Games have been around for years and yet I find that non-gamers make these weird, totally counter intuitive assumptions when seeing a video game being played (for example: “is that your character?” “No, I’m the one in the centre of the screen” “Oh ok… Is that your character?” “No, I’m still the one in the centre” “Right… Are you controlling everyone else as well?” “… No…”) It’s a hobby that’s popular enough to be considered pretty mainstream but at the same time it seems to be a whole different stream to the rest of the mainstream.

Image result for mario maker start screen

Another thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of the people I work with that do play games don’t talk about it that much (with a couple of exceptions), and if they do they don’t seem quite as enthusiastic about the topic as I am, it’s almost like it’s a semi-taboo subject. No one ever says that it’s weird or stupid (at least not to my face) but you can see it on their face as they struggle to hide the momentary panic/confusion/surprise of having unknown subject matter thrown at them after they compliment my Overwatch desktop wallpaper without realising it’s from a game for example. “That’s a cute background” “Oh thanks, it’s from a game.” “Oh, OK… Which game?” “Overwatch.” “Oh… Ok…” Queue the awkward silence before a change in subject.

Winter wallpaper
The adorable current wallpaper in question. Credit to artist B-Jiu.

I’ve even had occasional thoughtless comments from non-gamer friends in the past which, while I couldn’t admit it at the time because they wouldn’t perceive what they said as bad and would therefore dismiss my complaint as me being petty, did sting a little. People don’t seem to view it as the equivalent of their personal favourite hobby. If I was a little meaner I would have just walked in on them watching TV and said “You’re never still watching Netflix?! I can’t believe you’re still in the same spot as you were hours ago. Have you even moved?!” It wouldn’t have mattered though, they’d have proudly answered “Yep!” because for some reason binge watching Netflix is perceived as a totally normal and acceptable thing to do while playing a game for the same amount of time is considered ‘lazy’ and ‘a waste of time’.

Image result for tv vs gaming lazy meme

From another point of view, I visited my dad recently and, while introducing me to his new vampire girlfriend companion in Skyrim, he mentioned that people are always surprised that he plays video games. His best friend will often say “I can’t believe you still play games” to him and if he ever mentions it to anyone they always seem surprised. I find this super weird because he was part of the generation that played video games in arcades when they first became a thing, so if anyone should be expected to be a gamer then logically you’d have thought it would be that generation. Yet people are always surprised when I mention he plays games. Gamers tend to think it’s cool (which he’s secretly pleased about) but he said that people his age are always baffled and they always ask him “why?” What do they mean “why?” It’s like asking someone why they watch movies or read books. He told me that he was on a plane with his Nintendo Switch recently playing Skyrim and the guy in the seat next to him was asking him lots of questions about it, “what’s that? Is that a game?! What do you have to do? Why do you need to do that? What is that thing?” before eventually running out of questions. I’m sure that, if you’ve played games around someone that doesn’t usually play them before, you know what I’m talking about. People like to watch the screen with a sort bemused but curious look on their face and ask you lots of questions about what’s happening, so much so that you think they’re taking a huge interest and might want to have a go, but as soon as they’re offered a turn they kind of retreat muttering excuses like “oh no, it’s not for me. I don’t play games. I wouldn’t be any good at it.” My dad then said something that had never even crossed my mind before: “it’s because they’re scared”.

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My dad’s new lady friend, in case you were wondering (sorry Lydia)

Why would someone be scared of playing a game? Unless it’s a horror game, which is totally understandable. It makes sense though. As we were talking about it we came up with a few reasons we thought might fit (this is total conjecture by the way, not based on anything but our own thoughts):

  • They don’t want to fail and be perceived as bad at it. I find that often when a non gamer tries a game and die/lose they’ll almost immediately give up. They don’t see it as a learning curve, they see it as immediate failure and proof that they’re terrible.
  • It’s stepping into a whole new ‘world’ and community that they know nothing about.
  • You’re not passively observing a story any more like you would when you watch a movie/TV or read a book, you’re controlling the protagonist of the story and that’s something that a lot of people are unused to doing (a lot of the games that ‘casual gamers’ generally play are things without a protagonist like Candy Crush or Racing/Sports games).
  • The media is always going on about how bad video games are for you in some way or another. They cause depression! You’ll be anti-social! You’ll become aggressive! Just look at Trump blaming the most recent school shooting on video game violence. Bullshit.
  • “What are all these buttons?!”
  • “It’s not for adults.”

For the most part I personally think it’s mostly a fear of the unknown and failure, because of this fear people shun the activity itself. Or to put it more eloquently: “People fear what they don’t understand and hate what they can’t conquer.” (quote by a guy called Andrew Smith which I came across while Googling stuff for this post.)

Image result for screams loudly out of fear of the unknown

Whatever the reason it’s hard to imagine games being more inviting to non-gamers than they are right now what with the simplicity of Nintendo consoles and games, the sheer amount of different games belonging to a huge selection of genres available to play, or the success of Pokémon Go that one wonderful summer where almost the whole world came together and you couldn’t walk a metre down the street without someone shouting “LOOK! IT’S A PID-GEY!!!”. Despite this there’s still a ways to go.

I’m not saying I want everyone in the world to become a gamer all of a sudden, and I’m definitely not saying that it should be acceptable to sit on your butt all day, every day. It would just be nice if gaming was granted the normality that watching TV or any other ‘normal’ activity seems to have. You know what? It would be nice if everyone could treat any hobby with respect, whether they’ve tried it or not (unless that hobby is something nasty, like murder). Something that really annoys me is when people judge something that they’ve never tried. I’m guilty of doing it in the past myself and I regret those moments (public apology to my sister for not learning more about Anime back in the day, some of them aren’t bad, but still not my thing). If you don’t know anything about a subject other than what you’ve seen on the surface but feel some strange need to hate on it, give the thing a go first and if your feelings are truly unchanged then fine, you’re entitled to your now well-founded, educated opinion, but you might surprise yourself.

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45 thoughts on “My Frustration at Non-Gamers’ Perception of Gaming

  1. So true! Maybe one day non-gamers will understand. Until then, I guess we keep doing what we’re doing and try to ignore the negative comments.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I guess you’re right most of non gamer seem to hate or criticizes gaming a lot. However, most non gamer are moms or dads even grannies. Those who are born way way back our time. I think they hate gaming because they’ve never experience how fun it was.

    Some seem to quit easily when they lose or fail on a game, I think it’s not because they hate it but maybe of their personality. They can’t accept that they’ve been defeated or something and then they feel bad and that they are not fit to play and feel terrible about it. Lots of reasons I guess. But I think it’s not about the game itself.


  3. This article makes me want to bring my 3DS or Switch to work and play it on my lunch break, while staring down anyone who looks at me funny… I could get so much more gaming done! And so much more staring O.O

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Yes, it’s a regular thing. Even a lot of my friends often say “I don’t understand why people watch other people play video games” before happily switching on the latest football match…
    Given time I suspect that mindset will become less prevalent though.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I guess I am lucky that I tend to work around other PhD students in the sciences and in general we all tend to be nerds. During my masters I had countless conversations all about “So I started playing this game… and damn its glorious..” or “guess what game I finally finished” or “so what have you been playing lately” and when appropriate (8 hours of waiting for cells to grow it gets boring so watch LPs, competitive pokemon battles pull out my 3DS and start playing show off how much I love this game.. and so on.
    So when I walk into my lab I can say “I have been playing pokemon red and it is the best thing since sliced bread it’s a bit of learning curve as I am so used to abilities.. genders… and I have no idea about movesets” I am understood and we can talk about just how pure we feel the first gen games are

    But I do agree there is so much stigma around gaming, how can you sit around and be so lazy? You study too much you need to get out of the house… you need to go out but when I have worked all week and I decide I need an evening to relax and not think about school dressing up making plans (around the free time I didn’t have until I decided it) and so on just doesn’t sound fun when your tired. I don’t know about everyone else but when I am tired I wanna just relax and wear sweat pants and video games are the best way to relax and not think about school or science or whatever. But when I am told I am wasting my time I tell them if it wasn’t for the mental breaks my brain wouldn’t move my science problems to the subconscious and when they are there my brain is sorting through it. Then I am able to figure out the problem, or the game helps me look at the problem in a new way. I also say they stop me from being a big ball of stress, and when they say video games are violent I tell them the plot line to final fantasy crisis core and how it makes me cry.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know what you mean, whenever I need to relax gaming really does help me to take my mind off things, more so than watching TV because my mind is more focused on it.

      I work in a marketing company so it’s not a very nerdy environment, it’s nice that you can work with people that have the same mindset as you!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I enjoyed reading this and thank you for introducing me to Dad’s new lady friend. I might not challenge her – she looks heavily armed. I’ll have a word with him this weekend instead 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This was very interesting to read and very relatable. I’m in a similar situation where I’ll say something at work relating to games without even realising and people will just look gone out at me. I hate that people don’t take it seriously as a hobby either.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it!
      I really don’t like the vacant expression people get when I mention something game related and yet if I mention any of my other hobbies (like sewing or aerial hoop) they tend to take more of an interest. At least we have game related blogs and friends outside of work!


  8. Thanks for ranting about this! I’ve found, over time, that I’ve slowly gravitated away from friends who feel that way but it’s impossible to escape it entirely. My in-laws, while amazing people, are almost entirely non-gamers. In marrying my husband I’ve turned him into as much of a gamer as I am (my family ALL play games, including my parents) and my brother in law recently graduated with a game design and theory masters. But the rest are very anti-gaming. After several years of throwing research at their faces my husbands sister’s family (this is getting complex) finally told us gamers that “they’ve realized it’s not as bad as they thought and it’s now okay if their kids play video games”. How are we supposed to overcome those kinds of negative views?! It’s exhausting and one success over years still doesn’t make it better when, after explaining BotW to another sister, they say “wow! That sounds amazing. Oh… give it a try? No. I’ve grown out of gaming” like it’s some kind of shameful thing only children participate in.

    So after ranting myself I guess I’m just glad someone else feels the same way! Thanks for sharing and generally being awesome!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve never really come across much “anti-gamer” sentiment over the years — at least not directly; the Internet is another matter of course, but that is a different situation! I’ve always made a point of thinking about the media I consume (primarily games) and being able to talk about why it’s important to me, why it resonated with me and suchlike.

    It’s one of the reasons I set up my website: I’ve had so many amazing experiences with games over the years that I really enjoy committing those experiences to paper in one way or another — perhaps someone else will discover something I enjoyed and also get something out of it as a result! And even if they don’t, it’s nice to have a record of the experiences I’ve had over the years.

    All hobbies are weird to one degree of another. But gaming has been part of my life since I was old enough to be aware of what was going on and how to hold an Atari joystick, so that’s not going to change one bit even as I get older!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It is so freaking awkward. The fear thing I sort of get, but I readily admit I’m not that great at certain games, but I did grow up playing them so it’s s but different from a first timer. I can deal with the confusion, but the judgment irks the hell out of me. Watching a sports game is totally fine but watching a video game isn’t psh.

    I hate the awkwardness of explaining stuff like “Oh where did your cat’s name come from?” (It’s Princess Garnet.) I got that question at the vet. She’d never heard of Final Fantasy. I forget that non-gamers of a certain age won’t have a clue about that. Younger non-gamers at least know the big franchises because of internet.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. It’s so true ! When my mother see me playing games she usually says things like “don’t you have something better to do?”. But she never tells me anything like that if I read a book or watch a movie… ! For some reason it seems gaming isn’t a valid hobby .. !
    Also the last picture made me laugh so much hahaha !!!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I don’t really have guy friends, and all my female friends are non gamers, but they don’t have a problem with my hobby. Video game, as a medium is still considered relatively new. but is now making it into the mainstream society. I can see why some people have a hard time accepting it as a normal pasttime. They are just not used to it.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Firstly, you 100% sound like me at work and other social situations with non-geeky people. “They seem to bond over talking a lot while saying nothing at all”, as bad as it sounds it’s so true. I can’t do or have any interest in small talk. I just don’t know how to talk to ‘normal’ people!
    And the rest of your blog is spot on, not just video games but tabletop board games and especially D&D style RPGs. There’s such a huge stigma around these things. Me and my bf have this conversation a lot actually (his work colleagues are particularly judgemental about his geeky interests). But we don’t get angry about it anymore, we actually find it quite funny now. My boyfriend deliberately talks about his latest Star Wars Lego model or board game just to see their reaction!
    It’s so weird isn’t when people ask about your weekend and you tell them I was doing this geeky activity and they judge you and then they come back with ‘oh I did nothing, just did some cleaning’. I mean it’s obvious who’s winning here. The geeks who are enjoying their spare time and actually living life to the full on their own way, instead of ‘doing nothing’.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Glad you could relate! Maybe I should start talking about more nerdy stuff to see how people react 😆 that sounds funny.
      I really hate it when someone judges me for gaming all weekend, it started making me feel like I was wasting all my spare time but eventually I realised I’m just enjoying myself so it didn’t matter.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Definitely try it, D&D always gets the confused not sure what to say look from my work colleagues even though they are nice! And you might find someone who is geeky that you didn’t realise. One of my work colleagues loves Star Wars and I had no idea because she didn’t seem like someone who would!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. To be honest Non gamers should never judge gamers because they don’t understand why we are gamers. Its not just because we are lazy. we may have certain issues that gamers can only deal with through gaming. If anyone is interested i have a blog full of gaming news and reviews i’m only just starting out but i will be updating regularly so i would appreciate if anyone could check it out and maybe even follow me aswell Thanks in advance

    Liked by 2 people

  16. When I was a kid, my mom asked me once, “What on earth would you even learn from games?” before promptly saying, “You’re just playing around!!”
    It was especially annoying since I was playing Devil Survivor-a strategy game that legit helped me think faster on my feet and pull up my self-esteem. -_-

    Liked by 2 people

  17. I’ve recently noticed that people who criticize the most about gaming in general are those who don’t have a passionate hobby of their own. How else can they relate to someone who spends a sizable portion of their life to something they love?
    Oh wait. They can’t. 😛
    Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

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