Sunday, July 24, 2016

Coming Out of the (Gaming) Closet

It's an issue that pervades this hobby of ours. Do you tell your family and friends that you buy, build, paint and play with what are basically toy soldiers? Why do we let it bother us?

When my wife was still my girlfriend, I was pretty open about all of my many geeky/nerdy leanings. At the time we met I was massively involved in an MMORPG called EVE Online. When I added 40K to the mix I don't think she really batted an eyelid. I eventually gave up on EVE as my then girlfriend was getting pretty fed up of hearing "sorry I'm late but I needed to dock/safespot before I could log off". Apparently 40K hasn't put her off marrying me though.

My family thinks I'm daft for playing toy soldiers at the age of 32. I remember my Mum not being thrilled with the hobby when I was in my early teens. She read some of the background and didn't think it was particularly age appropriate. Frankly she was probably right. She's either forgotten what the background is like or, more likely, think's it's more Kirsty's problem now we're married! Either way none of my family are really bothered that I play. My Dad winds me up sometimes about it but he's always been pretty impressed when I've shown him figures I've painted (obviously when such a rare thing actually happens). I still think that they're thinking at some point that I'll "grow out of it". I think the current most likely scenario in their heads is that when and if we have a second child, that'll be end of the hobby. I think Kirsty knows me well enough to know that isn't likely.

One of my friends from school is my most frequent opponent. Matt and I got back into 40K following a game "just to see what it's like now" before selling our stuff on eBay. I'd spent most of school trying to avoid telling people I played 40K since I thought it wouldn't help my already limited chances of getting a girlfriend. Mind you, I think me giving up in my teens had more to do with my friends all deciding it wasn't "cool" to play anymore than anything else. Still, it took me something like 10 years to get back into 40K again after my teenage opponents deserted me. The guys I'm still friends with from school are all fully aware that Matt and I play with toy soldiers but, apart from the odd dig, they really couldn't care less. We've even managed to get a couple of them interesting in X-wing at least. They see 40K as too much of a time and money sink (pretty spot on assessment really!).

So those closest to me generally couldn't care less about my hobby. It's strange then that until recently I didn't tell anyone I worked with. When I'm talking about coming out of the gaming closet this is what I mean. Until just after Double Trouble I hadn't liked anything on Facebook or joined any FB groups that had any relation to 40K. I didn't want any of my colleagues or wider circle of friends to know. When people at work asked about my plans for the weekend, I'd say something like "I'm going to see some friends in Nottingham/Stockport". Not a lie really but I really don't know why I felt I had to keep a massive part of my life a secret from them.

It's funny really. I'm pretty sure if they did a ranking of people at work who were the most geeky/nerdy I'd be pretty comfortably at the top. A physics degree, affinity for computers and general excitement about geeky stuff was enough to paint a picture for them. Why then did I not want them to know I played tabletop wargames? Perhaps it has a lot to do with what I perceive as the typical wargamer. Lacking social skills, unwashed, greasy, long hair and probably a beard. What load of crap! The vast majority of wargamers I've met over the years are totally "normal". I know some truly brilliant people thanks to this hobby. Most of whom come to my tournaments! I'm not going to pretend I haven't met some more errr interesting people over the years too but these represent the minority.

Well, recently I took the plunge and started to tell people more about my hobby. I don't think they were surprised for a second. What surprised me though was how many of them actually used to play or might even consider doing so now. I'm not daft enough to expect any of them to actually get into the hobby but they've been interested in some of the easier access games I've talked about e.g. Zombicide, X-wing, that sort of thing.

It's quite a good feeling really. Having everything out in the open. I'm not ashamed of my hobby. I never really have been. If there are any people out there who are still firmly in the closet I'd encourage you to break out and tell a few people. You never know, your next opponent might be sat next to you at work!

I'd love to hear everyone else's experiences of telling people about the hobby. Perhaps the rest of you haven't been so coy about it?


  1. Yeah I've not been coy about it at all. As you say I would comfortably come near the top of the geeky/nerdy list (just behind the guy whose replica gonzo muppet sat in the front row at his wedding while the guests sang monty python's 'all things dull and ugly'.

    That being said, I'd not been there six months when I started keeping my old forge world stormvermin bust on my desk. More recently since my own marriage and children came along I've started painting in my lunch breaks, so everyone in my office now knows what I'm into as a hobby. I have discovered one ex player in our midst who I'm hoping to tempt into necromunda when it's released once more.

  2. I think I became comfortable with it about 18 months to 2 years ago. I suddenly realised that what I create is worth showing off because I'm creating something and if folk who know what it is think it's good then those that don't know what it is should potentially be even more surprised/impressed [I suppose that could go the other way too though...]. Not that it's about validation it's just sharing cool things and we all do that.

    Bottom line this hobby hurts no one, sure it's nature is toy soldiers and it suggests we can't give up on our childhood but its preferrable to drinking our disposable income away. Technically it's no worse than going to watch a couple of dozen millionaires kick a football round a park with 40,000 other like-minded folk, how is that not trying to hold onto your childhood - 'jumpers for goal posts'?

    I saw this on facebook the other day, it made me even more comfortable in my own skin:

  3. For me, I started playing just after my 10th birthday, having begged for nothing but money for my presents (and Christmas presents, as they are only a few days apart) so I could save up to buy the 3rd Ed starter box. Back then I was so amazed and I wanted everyone to have a god at playing this fun game (even if their Dark Eldar were almost always going to lose!) The more I got in to the fluff and the model making, the more I wanted to share it with people. I guess I never grew out of that idea of wanting to share things I found exciting, whether that was Warhammer, or airplanes, or internet websites (I remember them being a thing a lot of people around me didn't seem to understand) or whatever. I didn't always convince people to try a game, and the older I got the less I tried to do that, but I never stopped showing the game off.

    I never stopped playing, even through going to uni. Something about the crafting side kept me coming back, something about the fluff kepts me reading more novels a week than the English students I shared a flat with, on top of my Engineering text books! Most people I met at uni had either played it when they were younger, or had a brother or a friend who did, or bought the models to paint, or had always wanted to but felt their friends would mock them if they did.

    When I got to the wonderful world of work, my bosses already knew; I put it on my CV; relating to interpersonal skill, understanding and making the most from systems, analysis and processing large amounts of data (both mathematical and of a literary nature), not to mention physical skills and patience gained from model making and painting that are really handy for making prototypes. I never tried to hide it because it's always been an asset.

    And now? Well there would be no point trying to hide it; whenever I use the 3D printer in the office, people always want to know what I'm making. The fact that half the time it's something hobby related would make it pretty hard to disguise! And when I bring in models to test fit 3D printed pieces, or paint on my lunch break or for any reason, I always seem to get a small crowd around my desk.

    I think if you have genuine passion for a hobby, whether it's toy soldiers, or taking pretty pictures, or even supporting entertainers and atheletes, it shows, and people are drawn to that. For the most part they seem to respect it, particularly as 90% of the time they've got their own thing; just as geeky in it's own way, or at least as non-mainstream. They wouldn't want you to mock that, so why mock your thing? And for those who don't have that particular type of passion or hobby in their life, well what right do they have to mock it when their best use of their free time is watching the TV and waiting for the next working day to come around?

    1. I almost forgot; my housemate for 2nd and 3rd year of uni was the opposite. He was fine around us, but playing hockey and lacrosse for both the Engineers and for the Uni, he was so secretive about it outside of our friendship group.

      The irony was that at a houseparty in the fourth year, someone accidentaly wandered in to his room where he still had some of his models he was working on out on his desk... long story short, almost everyone at the party (big burly lacrosse players mostly) ended up in their marvelling at his work and asking him about the game. They couldn't understand why he'd felt he'd need to hide it. I think he got mocked more for that than for actually playing!

    2. Ha! That's wonderful!

      I mostly only have friends who know me pretty well, and are also geeky in some way, so of course they know, or really casual acquaintances who it rarely comes up with. When it has come up, tho, I've found most people think it's pretty cool, particularly the modeling and painting aspects.

  4. I've gone through various phases of my 40k hobbying.

    When I first started in high school, we never kept it a secret. We would even bring stuff in to play games on the last days of school. When I got to uni, I kept it more quiet. I had the perception that it wasn't "cool" to be playing with them (even though I loved it).

    Now, I don't really care that much. Most of my friends and family know that I still play 40k. I don't talk about it too much as they are not too interested, it's just one of those things that I do. My mum and dad still phone me occasionally to say that they have a weird piece of polystyrene packing material and would I like it to make something with it!

    My partner is well aware of my love of 40k and encouraged me to start blogging about it (she was a very keen blogger herself when we met). The only thing that got her mad was when she stumbled onto the "hobby costs" section of my blog..........

  5. As a member of multiple scenes, not just the 40k hobby scene, I am open about my lifestyles as much as possible. I don't see any reason to be coy about it... if they don't like it, then they won't be good friends anyway. Even less so if they are judgmental about it.

    Sometimes there are reasons to omit it... sometimes it simply isn't the business of my boss how I choose to spend my downtime. Or how to spend my earnings. Does my ex-wife need to know how much my models are worth? No way.

    With any lifestyle choice, you have to first determine, then carefully weigh, the pros and cons of coming out to others about it. What good does telling others do? What harm can come from being open about it? It also varies depending on who you are telling.

    To be clear, I am not advocating dishonesty. But careful discretion, rather.

    A thought-provoking post, though! Kudos.


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