Top 5 Gaming Stereotypes that Need to Change

Gaming has crept into all corners of our culture. In Canada, surveys recently found that Mario is more recognizable than their own Prime Minister. Gaming as an industry has become so profitable that it dwarfs both the film and music industries. That said, the public’s view of video games, and the people who play them, still tend to be grounded in stereotypes older than Mario himself. Why these cliches persist is a mystery to many, the reasons made up of a hodge podge of backwards coverage and perception by media, parents, and society at large. Perhaps it has to do with gaming’s lack of a unified face to guide the public to the truth. Perhaps it’s all part of some elaborate alien conspiracy aimed at dominating the Earth. Whatever the reasons, these stereotypes are easily dispelled under a little directed scrutiny.

5. Gaming is for Children

"Silly adults, games are for kids!"

If ever there was ever a doozy of a gaming stereotype, it is this one. On a basic level, it’s understandable why so many believe this. When gaming first became popular, a good portion of the people playing it were children, but that demographic has grown up since Super Mario first started gamers stomping on goombas. Where adult gamers might have once been viewed as immature or even unnatural, presently they are not just the norm, but the majority. The average gamer is actually around 35 years old and in no ways a child.

This said, looking at the way many media and morality groups treat video games, you would think they were stuck back in the 1980s. While she might have recanted her statements later on, its hard not to remember the words of Cooper Lawrence in reference to Mass Effect.

"If you look at the statistics, who is playing video games? Adolescent males, not their dads."

One must wonder what research she was thinking of, because the majority of surveys and statistics point to a gaming populace that is growing quickly older. Images of senior citizens playing Wiis in their nursing homes should only be more indicative the landscape we’re on and how it is ever changing.

The ever-growing availability of adult-oriented games should be more than enough proof of the way that games are evolving. Looking at the controversy around games like Mass Effect or Grand Theft Auto, there is always a Helen Lovejoy in the crowd screaming, "Won’t someone please think of the children!" They did; there is plenty for children to enjoy in the world of video games. It’s just not a world for kids exclusively and the sooner people figure that out, the better. In 2004, Hillary Clinton said:

"Probably one of the biggest complaints I’ve heard is about some of the video games, particularly Grand Theft Auto, which has so many demeaning messages about women and so encourages violent imagination and activities and it scares parents."

It should scare parents, because it was made for adults.

 

4. Gaming is for Guys

"Girls have long been in on the action."

No one questions that there are girls in gaming. Why, there’s Lara Croft, and the Dead or Alive girls. Nariko is pretty hot — red heads are a turn on — and don’t even get me started on Rachel from Ninja Gaiden. There’s more than enough meat in her chest alone to make three or four more moderately sized girls.

A long-standing stereotype is the idea that only men play video games. The games themselves make quite the case for this. One would be hard pressed to look at boob-laden games like Tomb Raider and Soul Calibur and argue that the demographic they’re aiming for is a female one. The very fact that things like realistic jiggle physics are even a priority to some developers suggests a more than substantial male influence in gaming. That being said, female gamers are an ever-growing demographic. Girl gamers currently make up a solid 40% of the gaming crowd, a statistic that is continually growing. Also, female gamers over the age of 18 are actually greater in number than those adolescent males that often are seen a mascot for gaming.

The increasing presence of girls in gaming hasn’t exactly resulted in acceptance of women in many circles. Amongst hardcore gamers especially, many women are often still stigmatized and marginalized as casual for no other reason than their gender. Commented one gamer at Shrub.com:

"It just not feminine to be a gamer at all, let alone a hardcore one. And we keep getting told, usually by male gamers, that the hardcore female gamer doesn’t exist, that you’re the only one."

Even so, the numbers don’t lie: female gamers are on the rise.

 

3. Gamers are Antisocial

"Pocket protectors no longer required."

It’s notable that since the days of Pong, a good portion of gaming consoles have had at least two controller slots. An almost undeniable fact about gaming is that it’s more fun when you do it with other people. 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.
 
The modern gamer runs the gamut from the overexposed cliche that needed a shower in high school to sports fans who buy each new annual edition of Madden with ritualistic fervor. Tales of gaming as a poor social influence and even as an addiction akin to alcoholism have abounded in the media, but focused research shows that indeed most gamers don’t exhibit anti-social behavior.

Dan Loton, a graduate student at Victoria University, published in his thesis that only 15% of gamers exhibit what can be described as problem behavior, playing 50 or more hours a week. Of that group, he also concluded that only 1% exhibited an underdeveloped set of social skills. Loton said of the study:

"I think it’s an evolution of social and cultural stereotypes that suggest only nerds and geeks play computer games. The reality is that nowadays everyone is playing video games."

Just looking at video games and their continuing progression an increasingly social aspect is discernible. The Nintendo Wii, which has sold at almost insane rates since its release, has been in many circles labeled as a party platform. Many of its games invite group participation. Outside of that, the advent of online multiplayer has revolutionized the way many player’s socialize.

In Loton’s research, anti-social behavior seemed to gravitate more around MMOs, but one can’t deny the social aspect that they are built on. Similarly, the introduction of the internet has allowed many traditional gamers to network and meet in ways they could never have done before. Gaming is about as far from a loner’s sport as one can get. Critics would probably have more luck looking at things like reading and cross country running if what they’re afraid of is a loner mentality.

 

2. Gamers Don’t Get Dates

"The coolest wedding I’ve ever seen."

While this could easily be filed under the anti-social section, one of the most prominent and longest-standing stereotypes that follow gamers is the idea that they never get the girl, or in the case of the female gamer population, the guy. This perception is understandable in a way; all one has to do is look at the stereotypes already listed to see why some people might not find the gaming demographic appealing. In the eyes of many, video game fans are immature, anti-social basement dwellers. Would you want to date that? The previous stereotypes dispelled, however, one can say with confidence that plenty of gamers date.

Gaming has even helped some people find Mr. or Mrs. Right. Take the example of two World of Warcraft players who found each other through the game. Players Delora and Rhovan met while questing and actually married each other in May of 2006. More recently, there was a case of a romantically inclined gamer hacking into his girlfriend’s video game to insert a wedding proposal. Bejeweled makers PopCap were so impressed by the effort that they even offered to pay for a portion of the wedding. Said spokesperson Garth Chouteau:

"It won him a woman. As a bunch of geeks we have to say, ’Bernie, hats off to you.’"

Gaming has even been found to positively influence sex. A perhaps slightly less than scientific survey performed by the GameTart, a UK based rental service found that female gamers have sex on average 4.3 times a week compared to non-gaming girls who tallied a mean of 3.4 times a week. Further testing would probably be a good idea, but it would be nice to believe this.

The fact of the matter is that with gamers diversifying and growing as an overall group, we were bound to start pairing off eventually.

 

1. Gamers are Powder Keg

"Good ol’ fashioned fun, or monster maker?"

Perhaps the most frustrating and angering stereotypes is the idea that we’re all going to turn into murderers on account of the commonplace nature of violent content in the industry. The reasons are understandable; the Columbine massacre was a genuine tragedy, and the shooters in that case actually did "train" themselves using video games like Doom. But one must wonder about how little emphasis is put on the word "train." If you were to listen to critics of game violence and those people who partake in it, you would likely be under the impression that violent gaming was a sure-fire method of producing violent killers. As Jack Thompson said, "Nobody shoots anybody in the face unless you’re a hitman or a video gamer."

This being said, with that portion of the population that indulges in gaming growing faster than a beanstalk on steroids, it begs the question of why aren’t more people turning into violent killers? After all, if games are as effective at molding the minds of gamers as suggested, certainly there would be more gunmen raging across the world? I mean, there is enough research to support the idea. A 2007 study actually states:

"Participants who were angry tended to be more aggressive if they were exposed to violent video games."

Hmm, I do say, Watson, we’re on to something here! There’s more:

"Perhaps other traits such as hostility, psychoticism, or neuroticism will also play a part in the relation between violent video games and aggression."

That would almost suggest that while there can be links to violent video games and aggression, that in general whether or not it influences someone to go bonkers is dependent on whether or not they’re already a slight unbalanced. In other words, sure video games can desensitize you and even make you shoot straighter, but you’re most likely not going to kill someone unless already wanted to. The honest truth of things is that most gamers who play violent games do it for the same reason people watch action films or indulge in the occasional Conan story: it’s entertaining. Might the fact that humans enjoy gratuitous, albeit fictional, violence suggest a slightly less than endearing quality of our race? Perhaps. But it most certainly doesn’t mean that every person who loads up Doom is destined to run to the local gun shop to stock up for a visit to the local clock tower.

In general, most civilized societies frown on stereotypes. They are the bane of race relations, foreign diplomacy, and understanding in general. Why is it, then, that some seem acceptable? Why do we still think it okay to brand each other? Gamers are becoming less of a joke and more of the norm, and while every entertainment medium, be it novels, film, or even simple music has undergone a period of scrutiny, wouldn’t it be nice if society could just once learn from what it’s done in the past, instead of having to constantly repeat it’s mistakes?

 

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