"Knock it off" Shows and Writers Still Perpetuating Negative RPG Gamer Stereotypes, Even in Webisodes
I have enjoyed a number of web-based (and other media) shows with humorous depictions of role-playing gamers in various circumstances as much as the next person. I have very much enjoyed the web series The Guild (MMORPG) by Felicia Day, The Gamers, and Gamers II: Dorkness Rising (and I will even have a tiny role as a pirate in the upcoming ZoeCon and Gamers III: Hands of Fate) by Dead Gentlemen Productions & Zombie Orpheus Entertainment, and the earlier years of Big Bang Theory on television.
BUT, I keep thinking as I watch, how much these shows, claimed to be written lovingly by fans of RPGs, are continuing to perpetuate the public's negative stereotypes about role-playing gamers, to the social detriment of other gamers and the RPG (especially tabletop and LARP) industry and community as a whole.
Even Mike Rugnetta, host of the PBS Idea Channel is asked a few weeks ago for the writers of Big Bang Theory to stop propagating the "[negative] stereotypes supported by popular media", "in which case it is your fault. Knock it off."
I've watched a number of mockumentaries, movies, television shows, web-based series, and other media, and have not seen (as far as I know) a single depiction of role-playing gamers as "successful", "well-adjusted", happy, healthy, contributing members of society. And yet, _most_ of those I grew up gaming with in the 70's and 80's (and still have any idea what they are up to these decades later) went on to become happy and successful people.
In an effort to further the RPG Research Project research about public representations of role-playing gaming, I have been attempting to track down all the video depictions I can find on the web, DVD, TV, and movies. I recently watched Gamer Chick and Pretty in Geek, this past week. I am always looking for more to check out, so feel free to make suggestions, I will attempt to post a complete list of what I've seen so far, with brief commentary on each, if folks are interested.
Just to be clear, I am talking about actual depictions of role-playing gaming and gamers, not necessarily gaming-related shows. For example, though Journey Quest is produced by the same people that made The Gamers series, or the Standard Action series, it doesn't actually depict a story about role-playing gamers, though they may include many RPG-related references, the foibles of the characters represented do not necessarily directly impact the perpetuation of the stereotypes about role-playing gamers (though it is possible there are indirect associations)
Now I realize of course, that for interesting writing and viewing, it is easier and entertaining for many to follow the usual expected stereotypes established in a culture (look how long "Blackface" was perpetuated as acceptable main stream humor) as a sure-fire method of humor and keeping an audience as wide as possible for the lowest common denominator.
Wouldn't it be refreshing, and indeed much more interesting (and challenging?), if writers depicted "normal" people in whatever setting the story was about, using the usual conflict/resolution scenarios of writing, and oh, the characters just happen to have gaming as a recreational activity they engage in once per week?
Depict snippets of gaming with the players focused on a tense moment, and the group reaction upon the resolution of that moment, depicting the shared narrative experience in the more positive light that it really is. This could still be written in ways that are engaging and interesting for the audience, without someone throwing a tantrum or other immature stereotypical behavior depicted by all the other depictions I've seen so far.
There was a brief hint of this in Stephen Spielberg's "E.T.", when early in the movie the teenagers are hanging out having an evening role-playing game session (could have easily been a poker game, monopoly, or other similar activity), and it just looks like a fun party, though it does depict typical teenager behavior, sibling rivalry, caste treatment, etc. But those come across more as just typical social interactions, rather than a focus on anything "wrong" with it being an RPG. Enjoyable little philosophical dialog too, with the question from their mother asking "So how do you win at this game anyway?" and they respond, "There's no winning, it's like life, you don't win at life..." "money helps".
Why the aversion by so many writers to showing a more accurate, and healthy, representation of this cooperatively played, shared narrative, & recreational activity?
Is the false stereotype that all role-playing gamers are losers, freaks, geeks, immature, maladjusted, antisocial, Caucasian, youth, males, living in their parents basement with no successes in their life, now so strongly engrained into the popular culture that writers can't even begin to conceive of compelling settings involving role-playing gamers who are not like the stereotypes?
If anyone is aware of depictions to the contrary in media, please share.
If there is no such depiction, how about writers accepting the following challenge:
Pick up the gauntlet, and create a show with depictions of "otherwise normal", reasonably well-adjusted role-playing gamers, that are still interestingly engaging characters in a compelling storyline.
And if you think it silly to challenge folk to change their perpetuation of negative stereotypes, that "only" affect millions of participants, please think about the real world impact it has on people, and how out of hand it gets even recently as detailed here:
Personalities and Alientation of Dungeons & Dragons Game Players - http://www.rpgr.org/documents/rpg-research-documents/RPGR-A005-Personalities-and-Alienation-of-Dungeons-and-Dragons-Game-Players-long-commentary-version-Ver-2-20111209c.pdf/view
Meanwhile, if you're a role-playing gamer, spread the word about how great role-playing gaming can be, and keep those dice a'rollin'!