Nerd. Lazy. Lame. These are all stereotypes associated with gamers.
According to Michael Lam, a third-year Western University electrical engineering student, the stigma around video game culture makes people who enjoy gaming hesitant to gather and participate in local area network parties. LAN parties give video-game enthusiasts a space to game together.
“I definitely feel that there's a stigma surrounding the label of a gamer, particularly stuff like being a basement dweller, being nerdy or being a slacker,” says Lam.
However, he believes the long-standing stigma has been changing for the better in recent years. The improvement largely comes from the popularization of video game culture.
“People are offering us college and university scholarships, for doing well in video games; you have cross university collegiate teams competing against each other, so I think it’s really grown”, says Reva Ly, vice-president of the Western Electronic Gaming Association. These opportunities have helped legitimize the status of eSport.
Western student Jordan He is one example of a student seeing serious results from playing video games. In December, He's competing in the CrossFire World Championships in China vying for a $630,000 grand prize.
With games like League of Legends and Overwatch millions of players each month, and with the countless popular personalities creating content through sites such as YouTube and TwitchTV, people are able to see different aspects of gaming.
“[Streaming and YouTubers] have changed the image of what gamers can be”, says Daria Filimonova, a second-year criminology student who believes the popularity of these sites has helped gaming become more socially acceptable. “I think the stereotypes are dying off.”
Despite the popularity of video games, some gamers like Lam still have trouble connecting with others. He's found more success meeting others through online platforms, such as Facebook or Discord, in addition to joining gaming clubs on campus such as WEGA.
With a focus on specific video games, these online communities have made it much easier for gamers such as Lam to navigate and express their gaming interests to peers.
For example, Discord, an online text and voice communications platform, features designated servers, divided into game channels, for users to anonymously hangout in.
WEGA offers their very own server, with dedicated channels for various games such as League of Legends and Hearthstone students to hangout and meet others who play the same games. It’s an alternative, more discreet option for students who may not feel comfortable publicly identifying as a gamer.
In the past, WEGA has held live Super Smash Bros., League of Legends and Hearthstone tournaments with cash prizes at the University Community Centre and plan to host similar events this year.
As gaming clubs and online communities continue to eliminate stereotypes surrounding gaming culture, perhaps gamers will feel more comfortable getting involved in Western’s gaming scene.
Look forward to WEGA’s upcoming annual LAN kickoff event on Oct. 21.