Breaking The Stereotype: Videogames Are Not Just For Nerds

Marissa Smail, age 14, playing her Wii, which she enjoys on a regular basis (Photo by Kayla Smail)

By Andrew S. Randas

We are going to call him Joe. Joe plays video games. This makes Joe a nerd, therefore, Joe is anti-social and hides himself in his basement with the only friends he has, empty pizza boxes and energy drinks. He is overweight with acne covering his entire face, and he’s pale. Or if you want, Joe can be tall and lanky who is pale with acne. Either one will work. Let’s not forget that Joe doesn’t have a girlfriend. Oh, and he must wear glasses.

This is a common stereotype of video game players, especially guys. This perception has been running for as long as I’ve been alive. Honestly, I have only witnessed this stereotype as true a few times in my life. The problem is that this perception of video gamers is still very much alive even after 30 years.

What’s ironic is that video games today are a social phenomena. With the creation of online gaming and the new technology of video game consoles, developers encourage people to play with others. Very few games today encourage a gamer to play alone.

On the website, http://www.thegamereviews.com, staff writer Stew Shearer wrote an article on five stereotypes of gamers that need to change:

1. Gaming is for Children

2. Gaming is for Guys

3. Gamers are Anti-social

4. Gamers Don’t Get Dates

5. Gamers Are a Powder Keg

What is interesting to point out is that three out of the five stereotypes mentioned by Shearer are related to my stereotype I mention in the beginning of this article. Shearer states that gaming is not only for guys but girls are increasingly becoming more involved with gaming. He says that the image of gamers being anti-social is highly stereotyped and is nothing what people think it to be.

“Nonetheless, the image of the gamer/nerd is one of a pasty skinned, pen protector-toting fellow living in his parent’s basement, emerging only for snacks and the occasional bathroom run. The gamer of today is typically no longer the type that might have emerged from a Revenge of the Nerds casting call; they run a wide spectrum,” says Shearer.

The last stereotype Shearer mentions is that “Gamers Don’t Get Dates.” I myself will vouch by saying that most regulars that shop at GameStop have girlfriends or wives, and all but one of my co-workers at GameStop has a wife, fiancé, or girlfriend/boyfriend.

Another source that discusses this matter is http://www.psxextreme.com. An article entitled “How to Kill Video Game Stereotypes” talks about how the perceived stereotypes today can no longer apply to the “nerd” image. Writer Ben Dutka states, “You’re well aware of the list of ignorant and archaic beliefs held by the masses (just say the word “nerd” and everything else is implied), but I know for a fact that millions of gamers out there aren’t pale, friendless virgins who hunker down in their bedrooms on Saturday nights to avoid the outside world.”

Dutka’s article explains that somehow people who are not involved in the gaming world still think all gamers look the same, and this is completely wrong. This is a perception that has to change because it has been endured for too long.

Online gaming is huge, and it continues to grow. There are many games today that are only created for online play and some have been known for online content rather than the offline counter-part. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 is a good example. As a retailer in video games, I can say that a majority of gamers who play Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 are over the age of 20. I can also say that almost none of them meet the stereotype that I mention above.

Another great example is the Nintendo Wii. Developers at Nintendo created a system that not only targets current gamers but encourages non-gamers to play too. I greet many customers daily over the age of 50 asking about the Wii and what it is all about. The most common response I get is, “I am new to this video game thing. I don’t know anything about the Wii. Tell me what I should know.”

(Photo by Kayla Smail)

These people don’t meet the stereotype either. We are talking about people older than my parents and people who are as old as my grandparents. These people want to play games.

But why do people still have this negative outlook on gaming and gamers? I was able to talk to a local GameStop Assistant Manager, Josh Brokaw, for his input on the matter.

As a video game retail worker and a gamer, Brokaw has watched video games change from an anti-social pastime to a social phenomena. He believes that there are two main factors that have made video games social: the prevalence of the Internet and Nintendo.

The internet makes it quicker and easier for anyone to play a game anywhere, whether it is on a phone or the computer, and you can be connected with millions of people at once. Nintendo has changed the perception of gaming into something that can be enjoyed as a family activity.

“I have never, ever seen my grandmother pick up a video game controller in my life, but last holiday season there she was, cursing at the screen, Wii remote in hand, because she just bowled a 7-10 split,” describes Brokaw.

Even through these changes, however, the “anti-social nerd” stereotype doesn’t seem to have been broken. According to Brokaw, the main stream gamers don’t believe that they are gamers. People can play Bejeweled at work, Tiger Woods on their Wii and Farmville on Facebook every day, but they still don’t believe that they are part of the gamer world. But Brokaw believes that, “slowly, people will realize that they are just as much of a gamer as the 16 year-old boy with glasses who just stood in line for an hour at the midnight release of Final Fantasy XIII.

I think Brokaw has a point. People new to gaming that play “casual” games, whether it’s something on the computer as measly as Solitaire, or something that involves exercising on the Wii, don’t consider themselves “gamers” because they might not consider them actual games to those who play Call of Duty or Halo.

Gamers come in every shape and form. There are millions of gamers out there to prove it. Gaming is not only for kids but adults and grandparents too. Gaming is becoming more socially accepted as time moves on. The problem is the gaming stereotype still lingers.

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One response to “Breaking The Stereotype: Videogames Are Not Just For Nerds

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