I don’t wear a tie to the office every day, but it doesn’t make any difference. I’m still a suit. We may leave our collars unbuttoned, but we can’t pretend to work for some ultracool technostartup. I play a professional in the office, a role I’ve played for some years now.

The trouble is the longer you play this role, the more it becomes you. You pat yourself on the back, telling yourself you’ve simply grown up, but it’s like the Princess and the Pea: despite all the comforts afforded, you still feel an unnerving dissatisfaction that something is not right. Whenever I travel back in time to meet myself, as is customary every Christmas Eve, HM-past is always shocked at how average I am, he became. But this sharing and comparing goes both ways. I can’t believe how immature HM-past is, to the point of embarrassment.

Tap Repeatedly drags out a BBC report on gamers lining up overnight for Halo: Reach. Unwittingly, these Halo enthusiasts have run into the open talons of a media that likes to cast them as sadcases who think some new game is more inspiring than something that you can really get worked up about like, say, entry to a Wimbledon game. If only the BBC had found some cosplay folks to jeer at, the drag queens of the gaming community, helping to typecast our special underclass. Don’t worry, the television tells you, you’re not as sad as your average WOO! WOO! gamer.

Part of me shakes my head in disdain. I’m a professional who plays games, not one of those people. At work, I rarely mention PC gaming in case it undermines my professional façade. Even the company firewall hates my secret pastime, blocking me from Rock Paper Shotgun, Eurogamer and numerous other gaming sites. And so it gets worse; watching the BBC footage I feel like I’ve been co-opted into bashing other gamers who are just excited about a game. Losers. How dare they make gamers look bad. How am I ever going to step out of the closet if these guys allow the cameras to misuse them?

Someone at my workplace took a day off work to pick up a copy of GTA IV on its launch date. He didn’t hide the fact. There was certainly some shaking of heads but nothing untoward happened. He wasn’t fired over it. He kept doing his job. His salary was unaffected. The sun rose in the morning as usual, I checked that. But still, I’ve been running Electron Dance for 5 months, yet this significant undertaking is not something I feel like sharing with co-workers.

So I’m the problem after all. Gaming is more ubiquitous than it has ever been. Kent Sutherland’s grandma plays Dr. Mario 64. iPhones everywhere carry games. Wii turned home gaming into a mini-workout. Games now bring in more money than God. And not to forget, more than the Devil too.

Who cares what a few people do on the TV? Alan Titchmarsh didn’t bring about the end of games as we know it with his disgraceful performance. Neither will a few happy people queuing up for a game, who come off a lot better in comparison.

But my unbuttoned collar still feels a little too tight.

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15 thoughts on “Schutzmannschaft

  1. I ended up here from the Tap Repeatedly site. I have to admit I don’t really know who you are or what this site is about, but you echo my thoughts on this. I appreciate your viewpoint in not going along with making fun of kids (and those were kids lined up there) for being excited about a product they love. People line up for silly sales, movies, gadgets, and so on all the time. It’s just something we do when we really like something, and I think many understand and enjoy the silliness of the activity.

    Instead of hating on our fellow gamers for whatever reason, we should show some support. We all love games, why not use that to bind together instead of arguing over the value of one game over another, or what it means to line up to buy a game at launch.

    PS: You seem to be a semi-regular commenter on Tap Repeatedly. I sort of know who you are now. : )

  2. Hi Armand, thanks for stopping by. I stalked Gregg B back to Tap after he made a few appearances on Tom Jubert’s blog so I post a comment now and then on Tap when I’m in the mood.

    As I swing towards middle age and life seems to be hardening into something too routine and constant, my attitudes are tending towards intolerance. I don’t want to grow into one of those “tsk! those darn kids!” kind of adults that always got caught out at the end of a Scooby Doo episode. Shaking my head at “silly gamers” just felt like that kind of thing.

  3. I think being aware of it is what will keep you from falling into that trap. Same for any old-folks habit you scoffed at when you were younger, I’d imagine.

    If anything, this should be the post you use to introduce your co-workers to ED.

  4. Heh, I think I’m the opposite of you HM. I’m embarrassed to put up game posters or other nerd paraphernalia where I live, so I take all that stuff to my cubicle at work. It’s wallpapered with posters and I’ve got a Big Daddy figure sitting on my monitor protecting the computer from hackers. I work in a place with a weird culture, though, we talk about StarCraft 2 at meetings when we should be talking about insurance.

  5. @BeamSplashX – The kind of people I’ve worked with for over a decade have not been gamers. I’m not exactly sure why this is the case. I did meet someone who played Everquest to death and tried to get me hooked on it. (I refused to even try.) And one guy who described Freespace to me at a client site, and used lots of explosion noises and hand movements to show fleets swooping around. I wasn’t sure what the client thought about this (they were paying a LOT of cash to our company for services rendered) and slowly put some distance between myself and his game conversations… you have to show some reserve in front of clients. And there endeth the relationship with one gamer at work.

    @Switchbreak – Probably if you break into indie game development big time, you’ll end up talking to everyone at PAX about insurance.

  6. I don’t mind fans showing their love, but in the same week Arcen and Frictional Games report less than satisfactory sales (Arcen markedly so) I just can’t stomach a queue of dribbling Master Chief fans lining up for yet another Halo game. I’m in no position to judge the Halo games having only played each one for less than an hour but I just can’t fathom how something so generic can pull in such a fervent crowd.

    I think my biggest peeve is with the media coverage of such events. You’d be forgiven for thinking that people who don’t play games know nothing of the indie scene and more niche titles. Gaming has such a risible image because of the popularity of the same old ‘all combat’ shit — Halo, CoD, GTA, WoW. What I’d do to see some major coverage of games like Portal or Braid or Grim Fandango. I don’t think we’d be quite so repressed if the perception of gamers was broadened beyond Wii jiggling and combat games.

    I have a very well read friend who rolled her eyes whenever I mentioned games but once I explained to her that there was an entire subset of vibrant and progressive games which go largely unnoticed by the masses she was far less dismissive. I told her about games like Braid, Passage and Facade and I think I might have mentioned Planescape: Torment as well but she was noticeably more interested in the medium after merely telling her about these games, never mind showing them to her. I don’t want to seem like an elitist prick but I certainly don’t want to appear as if I spend every moment with my favourite past time shooting people in the face and blowing shit up, and certainly not queuing up at midnight for such pleasures.

  7. Hi Gregg. I am plenty upset about media coverage of gamers (it’s equivalent to the whole “trekkie” thing damning anyone who is into serious science fiction to live out a nomadic existence), and I have such a strong reaction that it makes me resent these gamers queuing up for their game. But it’s not their fault.

    But media, yeah. Once News Corp takes over Sky and gets the green light from the coalition to throw away impartiality for firework opinion shows that camouflage themselves as news, then I’m sure we can get fair and balanced coverage of gamers being serial killas in the making.

    That whole Arcen thing is a painful dose of reality for those of us who thought indies and good new games were thriving.

  8. Hello HM,

    Just read that piece and it is weird to be torn between wanting mock these people and wanting to defend them. In contrast, working amongst nothing but gamers it is hard to get a perspective on what the ‘outside’ now looks like considering that everyone I know plays them.

    The only people I know are a couple of friends’ girlfriends who have grown to accept their shortcomings and my parents who have grown to accept mine (seeing as it now revolves around my job).

    All the same, these people who are being derided while the rest of you (I am part of those unclean masses even if I don’t play Halo) hide your secrets are the ones having all the fun as they don’t seem to care if people look down on them.

    I would say that you should ‘come out’ to your co-workers, let them see what ‘normal’ gamers are like. Then again, like I said, it is easier for me as I live in my bubble.

  9. Hi BC, nice to see you here.

    Maybe I’ll tell my boss I’m a gamer after paternity leave ends. Maybe he’ll ask if I’m seeking help as I’m a bit more hardcore than playing Wii with the family.

    Is your job game-centric or is it just lucky happenstance that everyone you know at work is a gamer?

  10. Hey HM,

    Hahaha, I am imagining that scenario in my head:
    You – Hello, we need to talk
    Boss – (look of concern) Is everything okay?
    You – Well Yes and no, you see I am a gamer.
    Boss – Oh, well
    You – Wow that is a relief to get off my chest-
    Boss (interrupting) – Perhaps you should take a day off or two, I mean, don’t get me wrong I’ve got nothing against gamers per se, as long as they keep to themselves. I mean, some of my best friends are gamers (etc with as many cliches as I can muster)

    As for my job, it is very game centric, it is considered weird if you don’t play games. so much so that people are constantly complaining because the recruitment team don’t play games so they don’t know how to interview staff and wouldn’t know the difference between World of Warcraft and Gears of War.

  11. I would love to work at a place it was considered weird not to play games. And had shorter hours. And had free cake, which wasn’t a lie. You know, the simple things.

  12. Incidentally, I am linking this post in my article on Wednesday, hope you don’t mind. It was something I wrote about 4 or 5 months ago but this article you wrote struck a chord and urged me to rejig what I had written and put it up.

    If you me to remove the link let me know.

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