Feature Article
Snapping the Sports-Gamer Stereotypes

"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.

The Slacker

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.

The Nerd

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.

Member Comments
# 1 Computalover @ 03/13/09 10:30 AM
Agreed.. I hate that!! Its a hobby, just like any other.. and if you dont undertand that.. oh well.. I do sports gaming to relax.. to get away.. i enjoy it.. and my LAST gurlfriend made me choose.. and now im single again.. lmao!! now i can get that 73 inch 1080p monster tv... SWEEEEEET!!!
# 2 jsquigg @ 03/13/09 12:06 PM
Just face it, we are all nerds. It's not enough that we play sports games, we go online to our "support group" at OSN to adjust to the right sliders and gain advice on how to be a better sports gamer. We are stereotyped, but there are more important things to worry about, like how can I find the right sliders to make NBA 2k play like real life?
# 3 The Gird @ 03/13/09 12:11 PM
I agree with this article. I just really don't think the stero-type is all the present anymore. I recently read an artcile on espn.com, about NBA All-Star Weekend. The article stated that the hobby for almost every All-Star was video games. Kevin Durant and Dereke Rose burned out the PS3 there playing the show. Nate Robinson has a COD clan and does a miltary salute to them in some games. So nerds......no way.

Successful people play games. I'm 25, I went to college, have a 4 year degree, have a good job, I work out 3-4 times a week. Am engaged to a beautiful girl. No nerd here. I LOVE SPORTS GAMES. I find time to play whenever I can, so ususally my game sessions are at the end of the night and on week-ends. My freinds all play games too, and for the most part are very successful as well. There are worse things that you could do with free time that could be way more harmful. Play games is a harmless passtime.

I think the generation gap is the biggest reason for that perception. When I was younger, I played Tecmo Bowl for Nintendo with my Dad. Also played Madden 94 and NHL 94 with my Dad. However when the games got to the Playstation level my Dad threw in the towel, things were getting to complicated in his mind, and I never played him on PS1.

I will continue to play sports games for the foreseeable future. Why not?
# 4 bh446066 @ 03/13/09 01:29 PM
In a time that discretionary income is shrinking for most people, these video games are a very good return on the dollar for entertainment. I would think that most of us in this community get our gaming time in when all other responsibilities have been met. In other words, you get up, go to work, go to the gym, go home, cook dinner, have some family time, put the kid/s to bed, visit with the wife/whatever with the wife (wink wink), then get the gaming in later in the night. Well, at least that's me.
# 5 Mjphillips @ 03/13/09 04:08 PM
Great article. People look at me funny when i say that i love video games, but I don't care. I love my sports video games. I get the same look when i say that i love baseball over all other sports so i am used to it by now.
# 6 phootball @ 03/13/09 04:37 PM
I never even gave it a second thought. It's simply fun to play.

I remember when I was a little kid I used to play Earl Weaver Baseball. I hated baseball but I loved that game. I wrote a letter to EA and asked them to please make a football version of that game, I even suggested the name, Tom Landry Football.

Eventually, Madden came out, I'm sure without any connection to my letter. But still, I cared enough to write a letter. It was fun to play those games.

Now after all these years, college, grad school, job, home, wife, baby, it's still fun. And I still like to make suggestions to EA or whoever else happens to be listening. Its fun to play. That's all that matters.

Good article.
# 7 Hellisan @ 03/13/09 05:14 PM
Good article Will!

Much of the pressure for me comes from my wife. She loves t.v. and watches a ton of stupid reality television shows. But my gaming is childish to her. She openly wonders when I'll "finally stop playing."

I told her that will never happen. Period. People who were raised on watchiing television, by and large, watch television for amusement and probably will not grow out of that.

People who grew up playing video games for amusement will not grow out of certain genres provided the games are well done and they don't become consumed by making lots of money (truly a full-time occupation) or give in to peer pressure provided by their significant other.
# 8 Matt Diesel @ 03/13/09 08:20 PM
Good read. I always find it good to relate my hobby to other hobbies to put things in perspective. I could be fueling a massive 1k a week coke habit. But no. I am sitting at home, with the fam, trying to take the pirates to the world series.

Hellisan, I say come right back at your old lady and ask her how grown up it is to watch reality tv. If you are 40(not speaking of your wife here) and watch American Idol, you have no room to jones on us. At least, there are achievable goals with our hobby.
# 9 stlstudios189 @ 03/13/09 08:34 PM
I agree mddst34 my friend and I are video gamers and comic book fans. Our wives give us a hard time about it but, as we tell them, we could get drunk and beat you. plus I only spend $$ on a new baseball, football, basketball game each year plus a few used ones here and there.
# 10 statum71 @ 03/13/09 08:51 PM
I'm with Sim God....

Yeah its my hobby, but at least I'm home. And my girlfriend is completely okay with it. At least I'm not some guy that she has to wonder where I am.

Besides that, I work 2 jobs, work out, and am a lot busier than the average person.

Bottom line...these games are really just now starting to take off. The Show is the bomb, Madden, NCAA, Fight Night and Live are looking up, so this is no time to quit. To h*ll with what people say.
# 11 statum71 @ 03/13/09 08:55 PM
By the way Hellisan...tell your wife games are catered to grow-ups now days. Hello.
# 12 LingeringRegime @ 03/13/09 09:28 PM
Great article. We are a bizarre little group aren't we?
# 13 jczar78 @ 03/14/09 02:11 AM
It's a generational thing, I grew up playing video games and I'm never going to stop . This coming from a teacher, my gaming habits have changed a bit because I'm older and I have a family. I either play before my wife and daughter get up for work or school or after they have gone to sleep. So its rare that they see me play.

Not that my wife would tell me anything but I value my family time especially with my daughter, so I sacrifice some sleep in order to get my gaming in. But to say I'm going to stop gaming, never.
# 14 tril @ 03/14/09 08:04 AM
good article,
talking about sports gaming is foreign to 99% of my co-workers and outside world. Thats why I need my daily dose of Operation Sports.
# 15 StillFunkyB @ 03/14/09 08:10 AM
I'm an IT person, so pretty much everyone EXPECTS me to be a gamer.

Good article, thanks for the read!
# 16 rockchisler @ 03/14/09 11:28 AM
Older folks just don't understand, they are a different Generation I tried to explain to my grandfather but he really doesn't understand, I think he thinks I'm watching and not manipulating the players on the screen.
# 17 CreatineKasey @ 03/14/09 01:48 PM
I think it's a particularly healthy, affordable hobby. I would have to waste far more money doing things that are considered common to many of my peers. The separating thing about sports games is that they are competitive. I see playing online matches being analogous to playing chess or another strategy game of some sort. You use similar principles and theories to succeed, and that's what we strive for.

Everyone sees the world just a bit different, and I've been a hard partier at one point on my life so I don't hold shame upon them. I also will not revert to that lifestyle ever again. I actually take weight training very seriously and aspire to compete on an amateur stage someday. Sounds pretty nerdy.
# 18 JohnnyRu31 @ 03/14/09 09:09 PM
Ah yes. So true. Good article. I'm 29, I build elevators for a living. I get up at 5 am. every day and bust my ace at work. I go to the gym 4X a week and go through huge spurts of time where I play absolutely too much PS3. I am in one of those spurts right now with the Show. And I'm proud of it. Nothing wrong with it in my mind. Like some of you guys said before me, there are way worse things I could be doing with my time.
My best friend in the world tries to bust my balls about playing video games. But he uses his spare time watching shows geared towards 14 year old girls on MTV. So who's really the loser?
# 19 tril @ 03/14/09 11:49 PM
# 20 tril @ 03/14/09 11:50 PM

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