I am an active participant in multiple FaceBook groups. Many topics are discussed where gaming and mental health are a primary interest of mine. There are stigmas and stereotypes related to different subcultures, and sometimes we may internalize them, or feel uncomfortable talking about being part of a culture with these greater messages implicitly affecting us.
I asked my FaceBook friends how they'd respond if someone (non-gamer) asked about video games. The responses were insightful. I remember wanting so badly to share my loves, sometimes my obsessions with a game, and yet I felt uncomfortable. I didn't want to share with someone who wasn't interested, and I didn't want to share too much. In relation to mental health, relationships, and therapy, here are some responses to why a gamer would not share about gaming.
1. Being seen as a child
Gaming is not accepted everywhere in the adult world, and it can be paired with being childlike. In order to separate oneself from these assumptions, a gamer may not respond when someone asks them about their interests. It might be admitting to being like a child, which can be embarrassing or shameful. The tone of the person asking may also indicate a bias they (may or may not) be aware of.
Take note of your tone when speaking with a gamer. They might be able to pick up a subtle tone that appears mocking or condescending. If that is not the intention, please explore the possiblity of misinterpretations.
2. They were made fun of for their interests in gaming
Our histories shape us and can permeate our present filters of the world, as well as our exchanges with others. If a gamer were bullied or made fun of for playing, it can make it difficult to share when someone genuinely wants to know. The past can appear very real and very present with many of us, so it can take time before a gamer can trust again to share their stories.
Time and patience can help develop a stronger rapport. Maybe showing up and accepting a gamer, without the pressure to speak, can help prove that kindness is real, and that some people actually want to know about their worlds. Watching a gamer play can also be a nonverbal way of connecting and building trust.
3. Associating games with violence and the problems of the world
This is a common practice especially when a tragedy occurs. Instead of individual and contextual responsibility, an entire subculture gets blamed for the violence of others. To witness this repeated correlation of blame and the pairing of negative traits like high aggression and violence, gamers may not openly express their interests in gaming. To do so would indirectly acknowledge a possible inclination towards these negative traits.
Sharing about current events, and how studies can and do skew data can help strengthen the relationship. Focusing on the positive aspects of games can also show how you are an ally and curious about the culture.
4. No one wanted to listen before, so they question whether anyone wants to listen now.
Growing up, some of us may have a more difficult time connecting with and making friends who share similar interests. This difficulty, whether it was in the home or at school, can lead to a lack of practice sharing about one's interests. So when we do find someone who wants to listen or knows about stuff you like, you might not believe it. Instead of sharing, a gamer could deny that someone is expressing genuine interest and stop themselves from connecting.
Be present with the gamer. Having to enjoy your hobbies, interests, and play with online friends or away from IRL people can make it a slow adjustment to believe someone, a non-gamer (even another gamer), wants to hear about their life and stories.
5. They've scared people away when sharing "too much"
Considering how a gamer might not have a steady flow of interactions with others IRL where they can share their interests, it can come out in bursts when they do find someone who wants to understand and listen. Perhaps this burst of sharing is overwhelming and the opportunity to share again is no longer present, or the gamer is self-conscious about how they shared too much the first time.
Self-compassion. It's important to slowly honor our quirks and how unique our experiences are. A gamer may not always have access to community or opportunities to share, *really* share about their gaming. Not everyone wants to know, or they can't keep up with all the terminology. It can be discouraging. Checking in with being overwhelmed with information can help pause or spread the dialogue over time. This can give each person a chance to digest new information and know that a future conversation is possible, so it does not have to be shared at once. It's okay to review another time, or clarify what you didn't cover the next time you meet.