Editor's note: Michael has got some fun and helpful guidance for those you looking to become better game-advocate emissaries. My advice? Do read this article. -James
You love games. They’re a part of your identity — a part of your personality. You grew up stomping turtles, throwing fireballs, and toppling mad scientists. Now, you’re an adult — or soon to be one. It’s time to be a responsible and productive member of society.
Thankfully, that doesn’t mean giving up who you are. It was OK to be a gamer growing up, and it’s OK to be one now. Regardless of the fact that video games are now more socially acceptable and prevalent in our society than ever before, we have a right to express our love of games in public. We don’t have to hide who we are.
Unfortunately, some gamers get carried away and alienate themselves from the rest of the world in the process. Dialing that behavior back doesn’t mean giving up your heritage or conforming in any way. You can still be a gamer publicly and show off your pedigree without making things awkward for you and the people around you.
Here are some tips — for those that need them — to make being a publicly proud gamer just a little bit easier.
Do feel free to wear game-related t-shirts in public. Your attire should always be an expression of who you are, so wear what feels natural. The trick is to remain appropriate and presentable. Wear clean, wrinkle-free, tasteful shirts. Simple designs and abstract game imagery generally work best, though you can’t go wrong with retro shirts. Best of all, they act as great conversation starters!
As a side note, it may be a good idea to invest in some quality slacks and a blazer that complements your shirt selection. I’m no fashionista, and you don’t have to be either. But being able to break free of the “t-shirt and jeans” look will diversify your style and make your apparel suitable for all but the most formal occasions.
Don’t wear greasy, dirty, or faded game shirts in public. Save those for hot days at home or for house painting. You want to take pride in your appearance no matter your personal style, and that old Metal Gear Solid pre-order shirt just isn’t going to look flattering. In fact, game shirts with massive logos often look gaudy, so avoid them altogether if you can.
Make sure that whatever you wear fits well. If you’re a slimmer gamer, stay away from the L and XL shirts that most game stores and expo workers throw at you. If you happen to be a little larger, be aware that Japanese shirts often wear one size smaller than the American equivalent. Always order one size bigger.
Talking About Games
Do talk about games in public. You don't need to work them into casual conversations with strangers, but if the topic comes up or someone asks about your interests, sally forth! Answer honestly, speak passionately, and be comfortable with how you choose to spend your time. If you show any nervousness or awkwardness, you’ll only transfer those emotions to other people.
Most people have played a game at some point in their lives, so conversations will arise naturally. As an added bonus, talking freely about games acts as a great social litmus test. When people approach me, they generally know within five minutes that I’m a serious gamer. If my lifestyle bothers them, then I immediately save time, as we wouldn’t have gotten along anyway.
Don’t get carried away. Polite interest in your gaming habits is not carte blanche to describe your last Icecrown Citadel guild run in painstaking detail. Talking about games is like talking about anything else: The key is to not get too excitable or opinionated and not to dwell when the topic changes.
Talk intelligently and passionately, but don’t be pretentious. If somebody makes an inaccurate claim (Ninja Gaiden started on the original Xbox) or something you disagree with (Final Fantasy 9 was the best RPG ever), don’t be too quick to correct. Pick your battles. If you do disagree, do so politely, and allow the other party to save face whenever possible. You don’t want to sound like your entire social education took place on a GameFAQS message board. This goes double if you work behind the counter at GameStop.
Do listen to video game music, chiptunes, and whatever else you’re into. If somebody asks what’s on your playlist, tell them. They just might be familiar with that OC Remix of Snake Man’s level that you’re into.
If you’re going to a party, bring a mix of songs, just in case you end up taking turns hooking your iPod up to the speaker system. It’s a fun way to show everybody what you’re about. Everyone loves a good Mario or Tetris cover, but avoid less mainstream selections like Final Fantasy composer Uematsu. He’s hard to get down to no matter how moving his tracks may be.
Don’t sing along unless you’re playing Rock Band, and don’t force other people to hear your music. It’s not cool for that guy on the bus to scream Skid Row lyrics; it’s similarly uncool for you to belt out Eyes On Me on the way to work. Be respectful of the people around you, and save the singing for the shower.
Or PAX. Anything goes at PAX.
Do surround yourself with like-minded gamers, but also with a variety of other kinds of people. Gaming buddies are fantastic to have, but you’ll find that people from other backgrounds who have different interests can offer a lot as well. Share your passion with them, and take part in theirs from time to time. It’s good to feel comfortable in your element, but pushing the boundaries of that comfort zone will really help you grow as a person. Believe it or not, a lot of really worthwhile people out there aren’t into games!
Don’t spend all of your time playing games. I’m a huge advocate of games as a critical part of North American pop culture, but it’s important to explore other interests. It should go without saying, but venture outdoors once in awhile. The Day Star is your friend. There are a lot of things to see and do out there, and you’ll still have time for games later. You might even find that spending time away from games will make you appreciate them even more! Absence does make the heart grow fonder, after all.
Do be yourself. If you’re comfortable wearing a moogle suit in public, and that’s how you want the world to see you, then kupo to you. You shouldn’t have to change who you are for anybody, and being comfortable with yourself is an important part of being an adult.
We’re not going to change how society views gamers. And really, that shouldn’t be our goal — nor should it be our goal to compromise who we are just to fit in. But any small effort we can make to help people look past social stigmas to see the mature, passionate individuals beneath the fandom is worthwhile in my opinion.
Do you have any tips or experiences that you’d like to share? Leave a comment.