Nerdly Musings – 7: Fighting the ‘video games are low-brow’ stigma

It’s 2018. The gaming industry is a multi-billion pound economy, and there have never been as many game developers, gaming jobs, and gamers in general. We’re at a point now where people are genuinely debating whether e-sports should be allowed into the Olympics. So why is there this stigma of ‘ugh, only kids play video games’ hovering over the industry, being wielded by those who have never picked up a controller?

I want to share a conversation I had at work the other day. I’m required to work closely with two baby boomers, and we more or less make up a three-person team, all at the same level. We have a quick meeting/discussion every morning where we talk about our workloads and if any of us requires additional help from the others, though recently these huddles have begun to descend into five minutes of work-talk, twenty-five minutes of personal life talk. As I’m a guy in my late twenties, naturally we don’t have many shared interests, and they have nearly everything in common with each other. But whenever they discuss wildlife, or current TV shows, or the evils of carbs (God, SO MANY carb conversations…), I’m always polite and allow them to talk, pitching in occasionally with the odd question, until the topic changes to something we can all relate to.

The other day there were two more people at our huddle. A woman the same age as myself who’s a fellow card-carrying gamer, and we’ve had many enjoyable gaming conversations in the past. There was also a bloke from a different department in his late forties. Over the course of the conversation it came out that this bloke is a secret gamer, and none of us realized! Of course, me and my fellow gamer immediately started asking questions about his platforms and the types of game he enjoys. But it really surprised me when the two baby boomers started being really rude: calling the three of us nerds (not in a good way), pretending to fall asleep from boredom and making derisive statements like “Oh God, here we go”. They started interrupting with questions not to learn new information, but to try and break up the flow of the conversation to try and get it to end. When it did, after all of thirty unsatisfying seconds, I sat dumbfounded. I know gaming has this stupid misplaced stigma of not being particularly intellectual, meant for kids etc, but I never expected this. I’ve talked about my interests that they don’t share before, and they too were polite and asked follow-up questions. So why were video games a massive no-no for them?

I’m really struggling to understand. Is it a generational thing? Maybe, but the gamer in his late forties is close to their age and normally gets on well with them. I’m just at an absolute loss to describe their behaviour towards video games. Has anyone else experienced this kind of thing in the workplace? Does anybody have any ideas on how best to handle situations like the one I found myself in and how to tackle the problem as a whole? Please let me know in the comments, I’d really love to know!

Z

(P.S. – Apologies if this seemed a bit ranty in nature but it felt good getting it off my chest!)

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5 thoughts on “Nerdly Musings – 7: Fighting the ‘video games are low-brow’ stigma

  1. What I think is really tragic about those baby boomers dismissing games in such a fashion is that there’s a good chance they faced the same stigma when they latched onto the first wave of rock music and the best films of the New Hollywood era. When given the chance to recognize the younger generation is going through the same phase with video games, their usual reaction tends to be “Oh, that’s completely different from what we went through”. It’s a reaction that doesn’t denote a lot of self-awareness (or arguably empathy).

    While I do think the fanbase can make gaming enthusiasts seem immature, deservedly or not, I also have to say they’re remarkably ahead of the curve in certain aspects. Among causal film enthusiasts, there’s something of a stigma against animation and foreign films – not helped by such films having practically no chance of winning “Picture of the Year”. Though the gaming critical circle has, among other things, a bad habit of overlooking independent efforts (indeed, I can buy that Undertale became a hit without their help), they also regularly have internationally produced games win “Game of the Year” awards. And it often doesn’t matter what kind of look they’re going for either – realistic looking games fight on even ground with highly stylized ones. So though video game fans may have a bit of growing up to do, the fact of the matter is that fans in other mediums really could learn a lot from them.

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    1. You raise a lot of good points. It’s interesting; immaturity is something the older generation points to, and it’s true that some gamers give everyone else a bad rep. It never occurred to me that this could be the equivalent of their parents’ laments of “rock music rots your brain, it’s the work of the devil” of 30-40 years ago. Interesting take 🙂

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      1. As I said, there’s not much self-awareness or irony appreciation present in the older generations that condemn the medium. Then again, I would expect Ray Bradbury to condemn video games considering he wasn’t on board with television either. That’s what Fahrenheit 451 was supposed to be about – television destroying interest in literature; it totally wasn’t about censorship at all. For a sci-fi writer, that’s amazingly close-minded – which is another way of saying he would probably have gotten along with current ones like a house on fire.

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      2. People panned books, then newspapers, then magazines, TV etc because it detracted from what came before. Maybe the cycle just continues. Suppose it makes you wonder what the millennials are going to moan about in 30 years time!

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