Addressing the stigmas surrounding gaming
By Qawekazi Mpahlwa
For so long, video games have been labelled a distraction and a form of procrastination for the socially awkward beings of society. These misunderstandings have led to stereotypes that portray an inaccurate and unfair portrait of the gaming community. There are different types of gamers, who may or may not exhibit these stereotypes. Casual gamers play to relax, they want to enjoy what they are playing. Professional gamers are paid to play and take part in tournaments and compete for money.
I would like to challenge these stereotypes. Therefore, I went on quest with the gaming community at UCKAR (Rhodes). I spoke to some gamers at UCKAR and asked them to address some of the most common stereotypes around gaming and its' culture. This is what they had to say:
1. Most gamers are males: Most gamers agree that males are the dominant gender in the gaming community. Bianca Taylor, head of Game Soc at UCKAR, attributes this to different interests. She believes that the society we live in results in gaming culture mainly appealing to men. Liam Searle, a member of GameSoc, says that society’s ideas of what gender roles males and females should adopt contribute to the dominance of males in the gaming world.
2. Games (specifically video games) influence the behaviour of people, so they’re not good for you: This is true, but only to an extent. Emily Stander, who is doing a masters degree in Media Studies, says that video games also offer spaces for people to make new friends and feel safe where they otherwise wouldn't in spaces that exist offline. Video games can be seen as an interactive medium and therefore can affect people and the way they behave. However, that doesn’t mean they are bad for people.
3. Gaming is a pointless hobby: Just like any other hobby, video games exist to entertain and give their audience enjoyment. They allow their audience to bond with others who have shared the same game's experience.
4. Gamers are nerds: Anyone can be a gamer and anyone can be a nerd. Sometimes gamers happen to be the studious and knowledgeable in one particular area, usually academics. The term nerd is also quite relative. A car enthusiast may be able to tell you all about engines, but you may not share the same enthusiasm. Hence, they’ll be seen as a nerd about that particular field.
5. Gamers are not good at socialising: Gamers socialise well amongst themselves, but people are different. Some gamers struggle to socialise offline or with other people. Gamer Liam Searle says this idea exists because gaming is a hobby that does not require a great deal of social skills. Hence, those who actually struggle with socialising can find solace in gaming.
Gaming is a great way to develop skills such as decision making, information gathering, lateral thinking and problem solving. A study by Kyriazis & Kiourti (2018) also showed that exposure to positive stress in video games can help mental functions and prevent age-related mental degeneracy over time.
People should perceive gaming as they would any other hobby. Anyone can play video games and have fun. Gamers are no better or worse than the rest of society and the games that they play are not solely reserved for people labelled as geeks, nerds or socially awkward beings with ‘no life’. Gaming is for everyone, and it's relatively accessible to anyone who has the technology.