Videogames and Life-Balance Stereotype: A Defense

I find myself constantly feeling like I have to defend myself. It seems like so many people in my life don’t understand that not all people who play videogames are couch potatoes, homebodies, jobless, and overweight. This is actually a stereotype about a huge group of people interested in a range of genres, like every other art form. Does the person who enjoys music instantly come to mind as a punk or goth? Or maybe someone in a cutoff shirt with “horns up” in their hands? No. You know that music has so many genres, and all kinds of people like different music. You can’t really successfully stereotype based on that.

Mountain Dew and Doritos XBox Promotion: Getting ready!
Mountain Dew and Doritos XBox Promotion: Getting ready!

Just like gamers. While there are people out there who game who should probably get out more and do things, there are people who also need to do that with any other hobby—like the people who go to the gym every day of the week for four hours, but never go hiking or swimming. Gamers can lead balanced lives with other things like relationships, jobs, friendships, career advancement, maintaining a home, maintaining finances, and enjoying other hobbies; the list goes on. I am not a perfect example of this, as I do not really believe that life balance is really a thing, but I come pretty close. I wasn’t always that way though.

Gaming became a big social aspect of my life. When I finally got to college I had doors opened for me towards this geek world through my employment and my other hobbies. I was a theatre tech who could never be out of the theatre world for more than a few months. I met my best friend in school trying to build sets for college credits. When we’d hang out he’d offer to play videogames with me, or talk about Mortal Kombat for hours. Previous to my college time, I had only played Game Boy, and for a short period of time, Play Station 2. I hadn’t been exposed to the public and community aspect of gaming—and the wonderful people in that world.

After working a long summer as a temporary employee, I bought myself an Xbox 360 Slim, and I’m glad I did. It enabled me to carry on several friendships when we all went home from school, and it gave me something to care about. My whole life I had heard people say, “You don’t want to be like that guy, he doesn’t leave the house nor have a job.” I had always been a bit of a nature girl, and I maintain this today. But at the time I had assumed that that was true. That he didn’t have a job, nor did he leave home much.

Playing with people enabled me to see that like any other hobby there are all kinds of people that play and you can’t assume the stereotype is true. While it must have got there somehow, there are plenty of gamers out there who are able to do multiple things and keep other hobbies. It also helped me make friends when I wasn’t so great at it, and it gave me a good thing to get excited for.

Friendship with other gamers creates social bonds, communication, shared hobbies, and fun gatherings
Friendship with other gamers creates social bonds, communication, shared hobbies, and fun gatherings

In college, gaming became such a social aspect of my life. Not that I played online with people all the time, but I was able to talk about the beautiful world of Skyrim, or to talk about the funny jokes in Borderlands, and how great the Deadpool game was to me, even though it got mixed reviews.

It was also an outlet for escaping the stress of the balance I lived in for a few hours. That’s right! I had a job, kept my health in check, did all my homework, studied hard, and hung out with friends. I even went outside a lot!

Gaming gave me the opportunity to maybe pretend to be a hunter in the world of Skyrim, and have some good laughs about glitches. This is a healthy use of imagination, and a time that I gave myself free reign. I kept this in check by making sure I wasn’t playing too late, or playing when other priorities had to be addressed like several  twenty page papers due for final exams. I also managed to not play games for weeks when I had other things to do or when it was summer time—because I love being outside!

Outdorrsy and kayaking
Outdoorsy and kayaking

Outside of college, when I went full-time at a job, and maintained a long term relationship while being a bridesmaid at my sister’s wedding, committing to community service, and going hiking at least once a month, I again maintained a “balance” with my other priorities and relationships. I usually play two to three times a week, once or twice with friends. Of course, if a new games comes out and it’s a franchise that I follow closely, like Bungie’s Destiny, 343’s Halo, or any and all Bethesda games, then yes, I get really excited and might play a little more. Sometimes I manage to stay up until 11P.M. defeating Fallen and Hive with my fireteam. But that’s the extent of my disciplined gaming time.

When I talk about balance I mean this: geeks especially move from one thing to be passionate about to the next. The Star Wars movie will be coming out soon. But we also care about Marvel’s Deadpool and Avengers. And can I mention how awesome Jurassic World was? Oh, and we just started playing a tabletop called Star Wars Armada, and I’ve gotten back into chess, and I’ve wanted to explore indie tabletop gaming. See? Other nerdy stuff. But this is true for any human that has hobbies. You go in and out of balances. Sometimes your work needs you more, sometimes family, sometimes you just need some time on the beach away from technology. There’s no real balance, just interchanging of important parts of your life. As long as you can keep some structure and understand where your boundaries lie, that to me is balance.

Ryan Reynolds Shared a Fan Made Deadpool Movie Poster. Collider.com. Golderberg. April 2015.  http://collider.com/deadpool-poster-fan-art-negasonic-teenage-warhead/
Something to be geeky about: Ryan Reynolds Shared a Fan Made Deadpool Movie Poster.
Collider.com. Golderberg. April 2015.
http://collider.com/deadpool-poster-fan-art-negasonic-teenage-warhead/

So before you say all gamers are homebodies who don’t leave the couch, think twice. Gamers span far and wide. I work with fairly successful people who go home and attend some League of Legends matches or play sports games (forgive me for not naming a title, that’s not my area of expertise). They also hit the gym most days of the week, eat pretty well, and clearly we work together so they have a job.

I shouldn’t have to defend a hobby like this. I shouldn’t have to say “Well, that’s not me.” Gamers tend to have interchangeable hobbies that they will give their attention to. They can also keep jobs and friendships pretty closely and disciplined. Like anything else, too much of anything is bad for you. While you might say this about gaming, you can also say it about going to the gym too much, working too much, socializing too much. No one is perfect, and no one has a perfect balance, but there is plenty of opportunity to look into gaming while doing other things, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Warhammer 40K Tabletop Mega Battle Hosted by BattleGrounds Games and Hobbies. Jan. 2014.
Warhammer 40K Tabletop Mega Battle Hosted by BattleGrounds Games and Hobbies. Jan. 2014.

If you’re not playing too much, or believing that you’re actually the character, I think it’s okay to delve into the imagination part of your mind for a few hours and enjoy a good game (you know, if the game is good and well done by the creators). We do this with movies, books, and day-dreaming; it’s okay to do it with gaming too, occasionally. A gentle reminder: If you like board games, sudoku, or if you play games on your phone, you’re also a form of a gamer in some capacity. Maybe not a full-on hobbyist of gaming, but you do play games to pass time.

Please reconsider when you say things about gamers that could otherwise be rendered offensive or diminishing to your character. You should not say hurtful things; it says more about you than the subject of your words. Not to mention the golden rule, and honestly stereotyping is outdated.

Part of my goal in life is to make people understand that being shallow-minded leads to a shallow life. Please be nice to your gamers.

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About Jenn Kilgallon

I am a millennial professional seeking out good, healthy habits while still committing to my geek life. I am a proud life optimizer, and a spiritual person of many practices. I want to share that with you! "Always maintain the attitude of a student. If you think you've done learning, bitterness sets in, but if you have more to achieve every day, in any arena, that makes each morning's awakening full of potential and cheery portent."-Nick Offerman Geek. Writer. Artist. Genius. Tea Drinker.

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