Reprinted with permission from IndustryGamers {link no longer active}

I recently had a father-son moment that strikes me as particularly relevant to this month’s column. It probably won’ t shock you to know that the apple hasn’t fallen too far from the tree; my son is a gamer. He devours content and as I believe I’ve alluded to in a previous story is entirely platform agnostic, as appears typical of his generation. He is also a bookworm, which means that if a gaming device of some sort isn’t immediately available or he has expended his daily allotment of screen time, his go-to is usually a hearty book. (On a side note, I’m exceedingly proud that his next read is Game Over: Press Start to Continue.)

He’s at that age where kids become judgmental, a fault that unfortunately stays with most of us for the rest of our lives. But we’ve done our best to raise him to accept people on the merits of their actions. The conversation went something like:

“Hey, Dad. Mom said you wanted to talk with me? ”

“Yeah. Why was it that you decided to say nothing when that defenseman from the other team keep taunting you today at lacrosse?”

(Shrugs his shoulders and appears ambivalent.)

“Didn’t it bother you that, when you didn’t smack-talk back, the other two defensemen joined in?”


“Why not?!”

“You’ve always told me that the only opinion that matters about who I am is my own,” he says confidently.

Taken aback, and trying not to show my inner glee, I said, “That’s true. But what other people think does impact your life. If you choose to ignore a bully, that’s still a conscious choice you’re making. And by doing so, you’re choosing a strategy, a tact.”

(He looks at me confused. Probably thinking something like: de-nerd-ify that a bit for me, please.)

“Look, I m not advocating that you check (lacrosse term for physically hit with your body or the stick) him or anything. In fact, I care more about you thinking that other people’s perception doesn’t mean anything, when in fact it does. ”

He’s now really confused and I’m probably keeping him from leveling up or crushing his sister, hopefully the former.

“OK. Let s look at it objectively: first, one defenseman did a bit of smack-talking and poke checked you. As an attackman, that’s pretty normal.” He nods along. “When you didn’t react this time, it gave the other defensemen permission to join in, thinking that you were going to permit it.” He keeps nodding. “And your teammates were looking to you for direction to see how they should react like if they should jump in if you were upset. But because you didn’t react defensively, they assumed that you were OK and said and did nothing.” His eyes widen a bit.

“Knowing who you are and being confident in yourself is truly important, but what you say and don’t say and what you do or don’t do informs how people will treat you. You’re making decisions by your action, or in this case inaction, that empowers other people and gives them an impression of you that’s probably not accurate.”

Eyes wide and nodding affirmative, he’s getting it, so I continue, “What you did was the right thing, initially. But when it continues and the few instances add up to reinforce an opinion or impression, you need to own that at least partly yourself, because you are making a conscious choice. The next time something like that happens, on the field or off, feel free to stand up for yourself. Your teammates have your back. You’re all in the same boat. And you can still be confident in knowing who you are.” And he got it.

I have to admit that it was touch and go there for a while, but it’s an important lesson. Negative stereotypes are perpetuated by inaction to counter them. And oftentimes, the folks that propagate those defamatory impressions don’t realize that they’re doing as much harm as they do. That doesn’t mean however, that those on the receiving end are off the hook or doomed to martyrdom. They have a voice. And they can choose to take a stand. By doing nothing they have also made a choice; they have chosen to permit it, and as such are at least as guilty as the offenders.

Combating the negative stereotypes {link no longer active} the gaming industry and gamers themselves face is becoming a daunting task. We’ve allowed people to equate gaming with everything from laziness to isolationism and antisocial behavior, when so clearly it’s the opposite. Because we ve permitted everyone from anti-games advocates {link no longer active} (disbarred attorneys included) to the President {link no longer active} of the United States of America to perpetuate those fallacies and said and done nothing, we need to take ownership of at least part of that blame; until and unless we speak up and do something about it. It’s time.

[Article and discussion at IndustryGamers] {link no longer active}