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My (Non)Gamer Shame

I was never allowed to have video games growing up. Let that sink in for a minute.  A geek with no access to video games.  Rough right?

My mom was a firm believer in the “go outside and play” method of child rearing, and in most ways this was a great thing. I was usually right there with her. I mean who wants to stay inside and play with dolls when there is a perfectly good tree outside waiting to be climbed?

Empty Space

But the one thing that always seemed so unfair to me as a kid was her absolute refusal to let me have video games. (Turns out this was great practice for my teenage years when EVERYTHING would be unfair.) I didn’t have Nintendo. No Gameboy either, despite being as annoying as humanly possible on road trips in the hope that she’d buy me one to shut me up. There were a few computer games eventually, but they were educational so we all know that doesn’t really count. The only time I ever got to play video games was when I went to the babysitter’s after school.  Occasionally the boys would get distracted by something else for a few minutes and I’d get to play Duck Hunt.


I always told myself that when I was a grownup I’d play games all the time to make up for this incredibly unfair gap in my childhood. Unfortunately, it turns out that it is really REALLY hard to learn how to play video games as an adult. I don’t understand what the buttons do. I don’t know how to make my character do what I want it to do. And now that the games (and the graphics) have gotten so fantastically complex, I am way out of my league.  (My very basic MarioKart skills acquired in the dorms at Purdue can’t help me much with Grand Theft Auto.)  I didn’t get to grow up along with the games like so many of my friends did.  I’ve had people try to teach me, but I can’t blame them when their patience quickly wears thin and they just want to get on with their game.

Despite my complete incompetence as a gamer, I still love them.  I can watch someone else play for hours.  To me, watching a game can be a lot like watching a movie that makes a little more sense.  I think we all have our movie watching moments (usually in horror movies of course) when we can’t believe that any idiot would ever actually open that door.  In a gaming experience, we’re the idiot, so we don’t open the door. (Or if we must, we do so with a weapon ready to bash the crap out of whatever is hiding there.)  It’s refreshing to able to influence a story and have it end the way you think it should.

Deep down, I know there are many very happy and well-adjusted people that aren’t gamers.  And this would all be fine if I wasn’t a total geek in all other aspects of my life.  I can go to a Con and hang in just about any conversation about movies or TV or comic books or graphic novels.  And then, just when I finally feel like I’ve impressed my new friend and convinced them that I’m more than just another chick looking for an excuse to dress like a slutty character for the weekend, the conversation inevitably shifts to video games and I’m lost.  Suddenly they are looking at me like I’m one of the girls that just spent hours in line for the Twilight panel.  The shame!


So you see, though I WANT to be a gamer, I’m afraid it’s too late for me.  There’s no escape from the state the cruel and unusual punishment of my childhood has left me in. I will spend the rest of my life smiling and nodding and pretending to understand why this new Xbox is such a big deal.

So readers, anyone else have a hole in your geekdom that you’re ashamed of?  Maybe you can’t keep your Marvel and DC heroes straight?  Or there’s a classic movie that you never admit you haven’t seen (or didn’t like)?  Please tell me I’m not alone in my shame!