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The Videogame Shame Generation

It’s just past one in the morning. I stand in a small apartment belonging to a friend of a friend. Groups of people surround me, discussing television shows, how drunk they are, their latest flings. Myself, however – I stand mouth agape, bewildered by the openness with which a group of younger guys discuss a topic I thought was reserved for behind closed doors, in dampened basements, or online. “My, how the times have changed,” I conclude.

At 23, I’ve finally reached the age where it’s not unusual for me to frequent parties and bars with people who are several years younger than me. While I understand the arrogance that comes with my suggestion that eighteen-year-olds are vastly different than myself, I’ve noticed a marked divergence that can, if I may use the term loosely, be chalked up to a “generation gap.” The discrepancy to which I speak is an openness, or in my case, a deep-rooted shame, in discussing videogames.

“The new Xbox looks fucking gay,” one of them articulates. “Their DRM policy is a load of shit.” Another agrees, before turning towards an attractive girl in tights and a tube dress. “Pass me a beer, honey.”

Clearly, the five year age gap has produced remarkably different outlooks on such a – at least I thought – taboo subject. Growing up, an interest in videogames was reserved for nerds. It was to be hidden, kept away, and when prodded, fervently denied. In the early 2000s, while I was in high school, gaming became slightly more acceptable, but for some peculiar reason, only in retro form. In hindsight, this was no doubt tied to the blooming of what we today call the hipster, but back then, it seemed inconsistent and frustrating that while I had to hide my obsession with Counter-Strike, more popular kids were allowed to carry around Gameboy Colors, or invite girls over to play Tetris on the SNES. The inconsistencies continued on. When prompted as to the negative elements of gaming, people would note that it consumed lives, was anti-social, lazy, addictive. Proudly, these same people would return home, only to marathon six hours of Gilmore Girls.

Turning to me, likely noticing my isolated puzzlement, one asks, “You’re totally in the PS4 camp, right? I mean, have you seen the trailer for the new Tom Clancy game?!” Of course I had.

It’s an embarrassment that myself and friends my age carry with us today. A stigma that, despite any rational, we simply cannot shake. Mere weeks ago – and this is one-hundred percent true – we forced my friend’s girlfriend to rent a videogame for us while we waited outside, too ashamed to wander the shortened shelves ourselves. To admit that, “you know, they say the average gamer today is thirty-five,” is to us, to admit defeat. It is perhaps that gaming represents the ultimate in leisure. At my age, everyone appears obsessed with maintaining a sense of productivity: working on “projects,” and “doing lunch.” A day at the beach is now ruined with jogging and sport. Drinking to oblivion now replaced with a necessity for “networking.” Fun, it seems, is out. And with it, gaming.

“Sorry,” I respond, as if only just tuning in. “I’m not really into videogames.”

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