"My daughter’s fiancé is worthless. All he does is play Madden all day."
These words escaped the mouth of a fellow airline passenger on a flight from Long Island to Philadelphia a few weeks ago. He was not speaking to me of course, I am not the chatty-type when flying. Nevertheless, I was a little offended by his statement.
Perhaps I should not have been offended since the fiancé could very well be worthless in ways that do not relate to sports video games. Maybe he does not have a job, or maybe he does not take proper care of the man’s daughter. Still, I could not ignore the connotation when he mentioned EA Sports’ hallowed football franchise.
Cut to another scene. I am in my company’s main office conversing with a co-worker over lunch. As the conversation steered towards sports, I happened to mention my affiliation with Operation Sports, and my love for sports gaming. My co-worker gave me a funny look. "What, are you some kind of gaming nerd or something?" He still jibes me to this day.
As a tight community here at Operation Sports, we often forget how our infatuation with sports video games is interpreted by the "outside" world. Now, I am not claiming that we are oppressed and there is no reason to be overly dramatic about the situation. But still, for those who are either a generation too old or simply do not share our affinity, we fall into a collection of negative stereotypes.
Generally, there is some sort of basis for these unfair classifications, but that does not make them fair, accurate or right. In addition, they end up being overused and exaggerated by both people and the media.
Here are a couple of these unjust labels that often fall upon our heads.
This unfortunate label is generally bestowed upon us by our parents’ generation -- let's put the average parent age at 45 to be on the safe and friendly side of things. My father, for one, despised video games, and would rarely tolerate four-hour NHL Breakaway freak-out sessions when there was yard work or really anything else to be done. For many in our parents’ generation, sports video games and ALL other video games are a waste of time. Video games became synonymous with worthlessness, as that guy on the Philly flight so amply pointed out.
I understand the stereotype, of course. As sports gamers, we are apt to play for long periods of time on occasion. And at times, this causes us to neglect certain things that should be higher up on the priority totem pole. However, this does not happen all the time. When it comes to most of us, something like this only occurs when something special takes place, such as when a new game is released.
But there are a precious few of us who do this all the time -- outside of the college environment. Seeing as how college is mostly a fantasy world anyhow, college students are unfairly lumped into the same equation, and likely a key component in the formulation of the stereotype. Most of my collegiate career, undergraduate and graduate, consisted of 15 hours of classes a week at maximum and ended with three- or four-day weekends. That is a lot of free time and it has to be filled with something. There are worse alternatives than 10 seasons in an NCAA dynasty, that is for certain.
The truth is, most gamers who are in the post-college stage of their lives are no different than any other folks. They have jobs, they have families, they have responsibilities. Some are simply more motivated than others.
So, sorry old-timers, you are mostly wrong on this one.
Ok, so maybe we are a little bit obsessive, sometimes.
While the slacker stereotype may hold some merit on a case-by-case basis, the nerd stereotype is completely off-base. It is often applied to us by our peers who, for whatever reason, never got into video games. It seems hard to believe, but it happens.
These people have a tendency to believe that all gamers are the same. What outsiders do not get is that while the fighting-game crowd, the RPG crowd, the sports crowd and the fantasy crowd are all gamers -- and we all love our hobby and stand together -- we still have different styles.
Now, not to say the nerd stereotype is fairly placed upon other-genre gamers by any means because the stereotype is still unjust. However, the nerd stereotype itself probably came from an outsider’s critical view of the subject matter, which they probably connected to something like Dungeons & Dragons. Things like ancient warriors and sorcery are easily mocked by those who refrain from making hobbies of such fantasy. Let me make it clear once again, though, and say that it does not make it fair to use such a stereotype.
And the thing that is so irksome about this particular stereotype is that it seems even crazier when it comes to sports gamers. While I am certain several of us, myself included, enjoy our fair share of The Legend of Zelda or Halo games, we make our living on the field, the hardwood or the ice.
Our ties to sports games are deeply rooted in our fanaticism of actual sports, which is something that is obviously more accepted by most people. I know I can hardly make it an hour without checking the headlines on ESPN.com or CBS Sportsline. My daily commutes are accompanied by Rivals Radio or XM Homeplate.
The major flaw in the stereotype is that those who believe in it separate sports gamers from sports fans. The truth is that ALL sports gamers are sports fans, and SOME sports gamers are fans of other genres of games. We do not often hear sports fans being accused of geekiness, do we?
It Is What I Do
Many figures in the sports world use the cliché, "It’s what I do, it’s not who I am," in reference to sports careers. The same is true of sports gamers.
Do not be dragged down by those who do not understand us or view us with misplaced contempt. We are who we are, we just happen to love sports games. And I, for one, will never shy away from it.