Stereotypical Gamers – Debunking the Myths

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on April 22, 2013

a-to-z-letters-sWhen I tell people I play Dungeons & Dragons or that I’m a gamer I know that the first thing that pops into their minds is not a flattering image. People still cling to some of the worst gaming stereotypes. It makes it difficult to have a serious conversation with non-gamers and it makes it a lot hard to convince new people to try our hobby.

In order for us to move beyond these stereotypes is to addresses them and fix them. We need to debunk them and create new stereotypes; positive stereotypes that encourage people to see gamers in a more positive light.

Throughout April Dungeon’s Master is participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge is to write a new article ever day in April, excluding Sundays. That’s 26 articles over the course of the month. To make things even more interesting the title of each article will begin with a different letter of the alphabet. We do our part to shine a positive light on gamers in today’s post in which the “S” is for Stereotypes, good and bad.

The Best of the Worst

So what are the worst gamer stereotypes? What are the things you’ve heard, seen or been guilty of yourself that shed a negative light on gaming and D&D? Once we identify them we can take steps to correct and debunk them.

  • Fat & smelly
    It’s a common misconception that all gamers are overweight and that they have issues with personal hygiene. I’ll admit that I’ve seen (and smelled) my fare share of fat, smelly gamers but in my experience this is the exception rather than the norm. I think the stereotype persists because the only place a lot of non-gamers ever see us is at conventions. During cons a lot of gamers try so hard to jam pack as much fun into the few days they’ve got they go without food, sleep, a change of clothes or a daily shower.
  • Virgins
    If you play D&D you’ll never get a girlfriend, let alone have sex. Considering how many gamers I know with kids I think we can safely debunk this myth. That’s not to say that every gamer is getting some, but in my experience the reason some gamers don’t have a significant other has nothing to do with their gaming hobby.
  • Socially Awkward
    I guess this goes hand in hand with the virgin stereotype above. After all, if you can’t talk to people how are you ever going to talk to girls? It’s true that a lot of shy people play D&D, but I’ve found that they do so to overcome their shyness. D&D and RPGs in general allow people who aren’t good socially to come out of their shell by playing a character.
  • Basement Dwellers
    If you’re a fat, smelly virgin with no social skills then you must live in your parent’s basement, right? Somewhere along the way people assumed that D&D was played in the deepest recesses of people’s basement, as if exposing a gaming table to sunlight would destroy it (or the players). The only reason I ever played in the basement was because there was more room there than at the dining room table and I could be as loud as the game deemed appropriate, even long into the night when others were sleeping.
  • D&D = LARPing
    For the uneducated LARP is Live Action Role Playing. It’s a whole subset of D&D-like RPGs where people dress up as their character and physically act out their character’s actions, including combat and magic. People who LARP take it very seriously. But LARPing is not D&D. We do not dress up, we do not engage physically with other players. Our game takes place in our imaginations.
  • Devil Worshippers
    In the 80s there was a lot of controversy around D&D being linked to Satanism and Devil worship. This was a case of a few bad apples spoiling the bunch. Religious groups used D&D as a scapegoat for the actins of a few misguided teenagers to smear the whole RPG community. Over time the fear and misunderstanding has declined, but some still hear D&D and associate it with Satanism.

Positive Stereotypes

Now that we’ve identified the most common negative stereotypes let’s flip the coin. Let’s look at what gamers are really like and try to establish some new stereotypes. Hopefully we can contradict and debunk some of the negative ones listed above in the process.

  • Educated
    Most gamers I know are very well educated. In my gaming group there are seven of us. We all have college/university educations. I have the fewest years of higher education with five in which I earned one degree and one diploma. Many of the younger gamers I play with at my FLGS are currently enrolled in college or have recently graduated. I’ve found that D&D tends to attract a certain kind of person and it’s usually someone with an aptitude for learning. I will admit that most educated gamers fall into one of two categories: the artsy-fartsies who studied the liberal arts including drama, music, and creative writing; and the herd-core scientists who studied math, computers and medicine.
  • Creative
    D&D is a game played in your imagination. It’s not like a videogame where you just enter an existing world. Everything in D&D is the fabrication of the players’ and DM’s imaginations. They create and control everything from the characters to the colour of the sky. Just like athletes improve as they practice their game, so to do role-players. It’s a skill just like anything else and the more you do it the better you get at it. Those who lack a certain level of creativity don’t usually enjoy their experiences and stop playing; those who do keep at it and get better. I’ve never met a creative person who wasn’t a gamer.
  • Rich
    I’m not talking Richie Rich rich, but gamers tend to have successful careers that pay well. We have to. I mean, look at all the books you need to play this game. Add on dice and a DDI subscription and you see that D&D is not a cheap hobby. Obviously newer and younger gamers don’t fall into the rich stereotype but if you go to any gaming con you’ll realize that everyone there has spent some serious coin to be there. I shudder to think of how much money I’ve sunk into my gaming over the years. If you include novels, dice, minis, modules, boxed sets, hard covers, DDI subscriptions, and con expenses I think $25,000 would be on the low side. Hey, I’ve been doing this for over 25 years.
  • Good Careers
    I guess if you need to have money to take up this hobby then you’d better have a good job. To do that you need a solid education (which wouldn’t you know it, most of us have). Those gamers who are not students generally have pretty good jobs. Again, looking to my gaming group we have two teachers, two writers with big corporate companies, a computer guy, a banker (currently back in school full time) and a student. I know that among the folks at my FLGS there are a few other people in the financial industry as well as some who work in communications for big businesses. The gamers I know who are students all have their heads on straight and I’m sure will have no problem landing a solid career after they graduate.

Changing Times

Now that we’ve addresses some of the worst gamers stereotypes and offered a few positive ones to replace them, it’s up to all of us to act the part. As gamers we have a social responsibility to ensure we don’t perpetuate any of the negative stereotypes that cause people to misjudge or mock us for playing D&D. We want non-gamers to be curious about RPGs. We want them to try the games and judge them based on their merits and not on the incorrect stereotypes they’ve heard from the uneducated masses.

The stereotypes I’ve presented here are just the tip of the iceberg. What other gamer stereotypes (good and bad) do you think should be added to the list? How can we stop the negative ones and reinforce the positive ones?

For a great article on gaming stereotypes check out Stabbifying the Stereotypes – Looking at the Stereotypes of D&D that Andy/GGG wrote at Geek’s Dream Girl.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tommie April 22, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Well, there are STRONG reasons that these stereotypes stick around. Gencon is 80% of the negative ones that you talk about. Looks like it should be a fat camp not a gaming convention. I have never seen so many morbidly obese people in one place…sad and disgusting.

2 Calemor April 22, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Yay, I don’t fit any of the bad sterotypes! And I’m at least half of the good ones. I would like to point out that LARPing also carries its stereotypes, such as you mention, it’s players “take it very seriously.” You don’t have to be serious about dressing up and hitting your friends with foam swords while sneaking around the woods!

3 Mike April 22, 2013 at 10:35 pm

In my D&D experience, social awkwardness and being shy are two very different stereotypes. There are shy people that don’t say anything while you are playing and while they don’t really contribute in the roll playing aspect of the game, they aren’t really distracting. The true socially awkward people are the people that dont really know how to properly interact with others, they talk constantly, like a stream of babbling consciousness. They talk when its their turn, they talk when the dm is trying to explain things, they talk when other people are trying to talk. That is the true social awkwardness to avoid in D&D.

4 Mariah April 23, 2013 at 2:19 am

I am absolutely none of those stereotypes.. but i get the opposite problem. Other DnD players don’t take me seriously, until they play with me.. They think she’s a pretty girl, there is no way she can be a gamer, but let me tell you, there is nothing I like better than a good day of DnD :)

5 Tyrean April 23, 2013 at 10:49 am

I spent a little bit of time as a gamer in high school, and I don’t think any of those negative stereotypes fit any gamer that I knew. The positive ones definitely fit . . . well, except we weren’t rich high school kids with great careers . . . but most of the gamers I knew went on to do well in life, and some still game, and some don’t.

6 Tim Martin April 23, 2013 at 1:04 pm

“If you play D&D you’ll never get a girlfriend, let alone have sex.”
“After all, if you can’t talk to people how are you ever going to talk to girls?”

So every gamer is a male, then?

7 Ameron (Derek Myers) April 23, 2013 at 10:38 pm

@Tim Martin
Here at Dungeon’s Master we always use the male pronoun. It was a stylistic choice we made when we launched our site in order to ensure consistency and to make the articles easier to read and understand. Of course, we always mean he/she, him/her, his/hers when we refer to someone generically in our articles.

To your point specifically, all gamers are certainly not male (which I assume was your point). However, the stereotype would certainly lead you to believe that they are. So that’s certainly one to add to our list. Thanks for the comment.

8 Tim Martin April 24, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Hm, I actually hadn’t noticed a constant use of the male pronoun in articles on the site. I’ve read a lot of the D&D Encounters, in which you refer to female players/characters (not sure which) as “she.”

Anyway, I can’t really comment on that since I haven’t observed it. My point from above was this… Members of traditionally male-dominated groups or pursuits (as I assume D&D is) often try to go out of their way to be inclusive of female players, as there can be social barriers that keep them out of the fold. I’m sure you do the same. But reading your sentences above put me in the mindset that this was a post written by a man for other men. This wasn’t just about pronoun choice, but about ideas regarding the sorts of problems members of this community can be expected to have. Problems about – not how to get a significant other – but how to get girls. You might want to be careful about that.

Cheers on the blog, by the way. I’m a newb to D&D, but I’ve really enjoyed some of the articles and recaps I’ve read.

9 Jim Tigwell April 25, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Great post! I’ve met (and been) a lot of these stereotypes over the years, though I think the negative ones are fading (except at GenCon, which is a hive of scum and villainy).

10 Joe April 29, 2013 at 8:08 am

Looking back at all the years I have been gaming (roughly around 22 years or so) I have seen a few of the stereotypical gamers. I myself do not fit into any of the negatives, except I am a few pounds over weight, nothing too bad though. I have known a few that were morbidly obese, as well as some that made your eyes water from the smell.

One of the more common positives I have seen is that more and more miltary personnel have been getting into gaming. I am former Infantryman with the US Army, in my current games I have a Staff Sergeant, a former airmen, myself, and a ex-navy corpsman. I know a few people who, while over seas in Afganistan and Iraq took their gaming stuff with them and played. Just another observation.

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