My thing with gaming

by Dries De Roeck on December 10, 2019

I’m writing this while being partially ill. Although I’m supposed to be writing up my PhD, I tend to be coughing and blowing my nose more than hitting keys on my keyboard. So I’m briefly writing up some thoughts about games and gaming, which requires a little less mental effort compared to writing academic articles … it seems to be more compatible with my mucus filled sinuses at the moment. </justification>

So, what is the deal with games and gaming? I think this post will be an interlude to a longer piece on the adoption of e-sports which I’ve been crunching on for a while. Recently I’ve been experiencing some odd issues about the perception of gaming in my social circles. There are 3 things I’d like to touch upon:

  1. The word ‘game’
  2. The social aspect of gaming
  3. Games and story


First of all, I love games. I love boardgames, computer games, outdoor games, … anything really. Over the last months, it struck me how culturally loaded the word ‘game’, ‘games’ or ‘gaming’ is in Belgium. Over here, we mostly use the word ‘game’ to talk about a digital game. This can be a PC game or a console game. When we talk about a non-digital game, like an outdoor game or a boardgame, people are more likely to use the Dutch word for game (spel, bordspel). This quickly leads to assumptions that ‘games’ are things for nerds, mindlessly hitting buttons on controllers deep into the night. I always feel like I need to justify for playing computer games, often resulting in very awkward discussions. I’m sure that people like Ian Bogost or Bob De Schutter have plenty of research to back this up. We should stop assuming that games are linked to nerds, everybody games. #homoludens
Example: I recently received an invitation to join an open area VR game with headsets and fake guns. The invitation stated : “you don’t need to be good at gaming”. While the intention is not bad at all, the wording gives me the creeps as it’s indirectly judging ‘gaming’.


A common misconception is computer games being perceived as anti-social because you’re just starting at a screen. In contrast, for example, boardgames are social because you spend time with real people in the same room. Statements like this drive me mad. I have been in super social contexts when playing computer games, either whilst playing the game itself as well as outside of the game. Computer games are super social, just differently social than what we’ve been used to. The popularity of platforms like Twitch is just a confirmation thereof, people enjoy being part of a community … which in this case is virtual. As with everything, it needs to be taken into moderation. We should stop calling out people playing games for being anti-social.
Example: I meet up with friends every monday night in-game. Instead of going to the pub, we talk over discord about the same things you’d talk about in a pub, it’s just the activity that we’re doing is endeavouring in dungeons together. Yet, when I tell this to people who don’t play computer games, I’m regarded as anti-social and weird.


Lastly, something I love to get to when having a discussion on games is all about narrative. When I played Firewatch, I didn’t have the idea I was ‘playing’ a game at all. I was experiencing a story, a progression of events in which I could steer what happens. I wanted to know the ending of the story … I didn’t want to complete the game. I’ve been a long time supporter of initiatives like the, gone but not forgotten, house of indie (screenshake in particular) and AMAZE festival. It are these places which, I believe, show the richness of the gaming medium. Where boardgames get mashed up with open area games and blended with screen based games. We should stop refrain from thinking games are blunt entertainment. People I enjoy following in this domain are JoonSokpopKlondikeDevillé.
Example: Talking about series and movies over lunch is perfectly fine and tends to be socially accepted. Try to do the same about your first time playing through Firewatch or the experience you had when playing No Man’s Sky. Frowns and odd looks guaranteed. Same goes for talking about sports, debating football scores is ok, talking about yesterday’s overwatch game is odd.

Some final points:

  • Refrain from using words like ‘gaming’ and ‘gamer’ just to refer to playing computer games. Be conscious about terminology.
  • Computer games form an enormously rich cultural medium and go beyond being an entertainment thing. Explore like any other form of art.
  • It is not because physical interaction is not happening in the same room, games should be called out to be anti-social. Things are not what they seem.

To close, I don’t want to offend anyone here – I merely want to put forward some points on why I love games and how I would like people to engage with and talk about them. As with everything, there are types of games I like and dislike … whether they involve a computer screen or not. Just like I like or dislike movies, series, paintings, music,…

In a next post on the gaming topic, I want to dive into the tipping point of e-sports and how I’ve experienced this over the years. It starts from the same frustration regarding gaming prejudice as the ranty stuff above, but I want to show that e-sports is the type of thing which is super huge in a very invisible way.

To be continued!

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