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The Secret Society

March 8, 2011

Dear Reader,

I really, really need to get better about making notes on where I see a post that makes me think of a particular subject.  This is already the third or fourth time I’ve been inspired by another’s post, and yet I cannot for the life of me find who it was.  Their topic was on having to hide what they do during their leisure hours from their coworkers.  If anyone can provide me with a link, I’d be very grateful to add it to this post.  No more of this unflattering begging from me, though.  On to the topic at hand.

That blogger was right on the money.  I’ve worked for years and years to hide what I do in my free time from my coworkers.  It’s worse for me than just playing computer games (WoW mostly nowadays), of course; I also play (gasp) pen and paper (PnP) role playing games (RPGs).  The combination of these two ultra-nerdy activities has brought me much grief throughout my life, and I have no desire to either continue being griefed or feeling the need to defend my free-time activities to people I work with who otherwise respect me.

Once, in New York City, a fellow teacher (the “moody” art teacher archetype) mentioned to me (since I ran the chess and scrabble club) that some of our students wanted to start an RPG club.  I strongly advised her against it, as sometimes things that come out during games can, out of context (or even in context sometimes) be very inappropriate material for a classroom.  I didn’t think it would be a good idea for any teacher to open themselves up to the type of professional danger that might occur if, for example, a student thought it would be clever to murder, maim, or rape another character in the game (none of those would fly in any of the games I played in, by the way).  Luckily, she took my advice, but during the conversation it became obvious that I played PnP RPGs (see why I showed you the abbreviations up there?) myself.

Before the end of the day, everyone in the school knew about my hobby (it was admittedly a very small school of only about 14 or 16 teachers).  Then everyone was asking me questions about it which I had no desire to answer.  No one was rude, condescending, or judgmental, at least overtly.  It was, however, extremely annoying to have to constantly answer the most basic questions about playing games to a group of people that had played games as kids and seemingly forgotten why they did it.  It occurred to me then that playing these kinds of games, games that are not fully socially acceptable, was like being in a secret society, and that news of it should never get out.

I think defining WoW playing as a secret society is not much of an exaggeration.  For one, we have our own secret cant (a set of vocabulary associated with a particular activity).  We can casually drop “aggro,” “dps,” “lolz,” flasked up,” “farm,” and words like that into non-WoW situations (“Oh man, I just aggro’d my boss.”)  We have secret clubhouses (vent servers).  We have meetings at hard-to-reach locations where we practice ritual movements (raid encounters).  We have subgroups (guilds), each having their own traditions, be they /gkicking, naked dungeons, hogger raids (RIP), RPing guild parties (I went to a guild wedding – the TOONS got married…), or whatever else is out there.

So I enjoy my free time activity at home and keep it totally hidden at work.

Some will disagree with this decision, and they should.  Different players from different backgrounds have had wildly different experiences with being “outted” as a “game-player.”  Also, society becomes more and more accepting of these games, so it becomes easier to talk about them in “mixed” company.  That said, I’ve stayed tight-lipped and super-secret ever since that one occasion in New York.

It’s not that I’m ashamed that I play them; I’m not.  I discuss them freely when people are genuinely interested.  However, the zoo-like exhibit of a “gamer” feels like uncomfortable scrutiny, even judgment, and, frankly, I’m judged enough without having this extra heap added.  Or maybe I am ashamed; perhaps some part of my pseudo-Christian upbringing and the hellish time I had in school with my peers marked me deeper than I can see.  Who knows?

At any rate, enjoy the game as you see fit.  But remember, for me, the first rule of WoW is that there is no WoW.  The second rule of WoW… well you get the message.



10 Comments leave one →
  1. March 8, 2011 11:55 am

    Oh yeah, I remember reading about that subject, I even did a comment on it! Can’t remember what blog it was either though. I have the same trouble, when a post gives me an idea and I start writing about it, I have totally forgotten what blog gave me the idea. Nowadays I write it down asap! I’ll check around and get back to you if I find that post ^^

  2. Sigera permalink
    March 10, 2011 10:07 am

    I’ve always found it amusing the thinly veiled condescension that I’ve been the target of by my colleagues, especially considering the secret society nerdiness you describe is often applied to my profession (piano rebuilding).

    Spot on post.

  3. Katherine permalink
    March 10, 2011 4:07 pm

    But if more people were ‘out’ about their game-playing hobbies, perhaps non-gamers would treat you less like a zoo exibit? For me, when I bring up that I play WoW, the reaction is usually “oh, my friend X plays that as well, I should introduce you” or sometimes “oh wow I didn’t know normal people played that” (usually after I butt in to correct some people who are badmouthing gamers ;))

    • March 11, 2011 11:47 am

      You’re absolutely right. Unfortunately, I am also a terrible coward about certain things (and a complete jerk about others), so I haven’t gotten around to convincing myself this is something worth “taking a stand” for. I sincerely applaud, you, though, for your efforts on this front.

      Let me add as an overweight, bespectacled, middle age, shut-in, reads a lot English teacher, I too closely fit the “gamer” stereotype to be able to say to people “normal people play games, too.” In fact, my saying so would probably convince them of the opposite.

  4. March 11, 2011 2:09 pm

    I tend to get nervous when it comes to ‘admitting’ to the hobby, too, but I still do it. Back in the day I used to be mad about Pokémon, however as a teenage girl I was supposed to be interested in music, make up and film stars. I did everything possible and impossible to keep my peers from finding out about it, because they’d give me hell.
    However, at one point I switched to a different school. I was sixteen then, and still mad about Pokémon, but I took an oath to myself to be honest about it this time. I sure got weird looks when asked about my hobbies, and was teased when I sat down with my game boy during the break. It was very hard for me, but I pulled it through and due to me handling the topic like it wasn’t anything to be ashamed of, people started to just shrug and forget about it. Today, I’m the same with WoW. When asked about my hobbies, I always include ‘video games’, and when they ask further I tell them about WoW. Because I know I don’t need to be ashamed, and if they don’t, well, what do I care.
    However I’m not sure I’d be this open with it if I was in your position. As a university student it surely is something completely different than as a teacher — although the media do their best to make it hard for everyone.

    • March 13, 2011 12:39 pm

      Yes, it was those types of hobbies for which I, too, was made to suffer when younger. Rather than Pokemon, though, and being a girl (which to guys makes most things okay), I was playing Magic the Gathering and am male, which makes hitting and punching far more socially acceptable. That, though, is for another time.

  5. jamin1993 permalink
    March 13, 2011 9:25 am

    I have a feeling the answer to your question lies here –

    Which is a coincidence as I am planning to write a follow up for myself too!


    You also back-up your point about a secret society quite well. To an extent I too agree with you. However, with the astronomical growth of the Gaming Market over the past, say 4 years, with XBOX/PS3 and all the likes, including the big titles, Gaming has become a hell of a lot more widely accepted. This commercial and mainstream increase in gaming has taken away some of the shadow and ‘Nerd-Factor’ from the industry. Now a vast majority of boys/girls and adults alike have a console platform. Though, even though it is quite a silly concept, the stereotype of ‘PC-Gamers’ still exists. To some length it can be seen that the PC side can be considered more ‘hardcore’ at times. Though I see the consoles pretty much on the same level now, especially with the amount of hours people spend on them. But. That Mist still shrouds us, and it’s still an area which still hasn’t been accepted as such into mainstream society.

    (The above will probably be included in my related posts – however composed slightly better)

    So without ‘Comment-turned-to-post’ as I now call it, I will finish by saying I am with you on your last few points as well.

    Look forward to expanding on my own experiences in the future.

    – Jamin

    • March 13, 2011 12:42 pm

      There’s an interesting dichotomy between people who play games and gamers. I’m sure many sports athletes would admit to playing sports games, first person shooters, and maybe even fantasy football, but I strongly doubt they’d refer to themselves as gamers. Fantasy Football is in and of itself a mystery, as plenty of people who play it would easily condescend to people playing D&D or WoW.

    • jamin1993 permalink
      March 15, 2011 8:38 am

      Thanks for the inspiration!

      Check out –

      My own post on WoW and the secret society.

      – Jamin


  1. The Secret Guilty Pleasure « Killing your time until the servers restart.

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