On my desk at work I have a menagerie of crap. There’s a vinyl chibi figure of Sylvestor McCoys Doctor Who, there’s a Narwhal soft toy, there’s a couple of Lego figures and Godzilla figures, then there’s a Mario, and Halo figures, and a plush Zangief doll created by my girlfriend. My day job is a tedious affair, it’s monotony at its worst and it inspires no creativity or interest, that’s why I started PixelBedlam, mainly because I wanted a place to vent but also to give myself and others a creative output where maybe their day-to-day life doesn’t allow.
Having this collection of crud on my desk is noticeable, most of my colleagues have pictures of their families in a frame or maybe they just have a single mug with a funny picture or phrase on it. A couple of people have pictures of their cats or a nice little award they won at an away day, my desk stands out next to these other cubicles of monotony. The reason I have this stuff lying here is as a reminder of the fun I can have, that my job isn’t everything and it’s only a there for me to be able to pay for fun outside of the office.
The problem is having this stuff, advertising it if you will, brings questions. Especially when it comes to Zangief. “Who’s that?”, “why do you have all these kids toys on your desk?”, “your desk looks like a nursery”, all things that I don’t really have a response to. I hear myself when I reply “oh, he’s Zangief, he’s my favourite character in a fighting game”. The crickets rub their legs together as a helpful gentleman steps in a rolls a tumbleweed across the room for me. I’m hyper aware of my words, and now comes the ultimate decision, do I own this? Or do I mumble my way through an explanation. Often it’s the latter.
But why? Why, when called on it by someone not into gaming, do I become ashamed of my hobby? I suddenly become aware of people’s attitudes to gaming. If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen it yourself. That look that just cuts you, makes you second guess yourself and question whether people are right when they say it’s a hobby for children. It could be said I bring it on myself, wearing gaming T-shirts, having these figures on my desk. But then let’s compare this to the most popular hobby in the UK, watching Football, personally I never got it, sports was something that just skipped me by as a child, as did most physical activities. But there’s people in offices who have flags of their teams and at every opportunity bring up all their sports interests to even those like me who don’t care. Why is it we allow this unbalance, why is it we allow all of this talk about “the Blues” and just smile and nod our way through it? If I started bringing up my favourite fighters from Soul Calibur I’d get the look that is normally reserved for adults from babies when you unsuccessfully try to be funny with them.
I recently joined adulthood, at the age of 30 I now own a house. Or rather I have paid for 10% of the house and I’m now the bitch of the bank for the next 30 years. Either way, it’s my space, to fill and decorate as I like. My girlfriend is wonderfully understanding of my interest in gaming, she joins me in co-op sessions and shows genuine interest. As such when buying a house she openly said she was happy for me to have a games room. A fortress of solitude where I can run to and play on my consoles and arcade machine. I’ve decorated it, furnished it and on the most part unpacked my games and memorabilia to their appropriate locations. The problem comes with the outsiders, as this is our first house together we’re getting a lot of visitors to see it and a lot of people asking about it. My girlfriend will often talk about how I have my game room and how happy I am with it, and then I’m returned to that feeling where someone looks at my childish little desk. It’s the hobby I should have grown out of, it’s like when you see a grown up who’s good at something like a yo-yo, you just think “Why? What’s up with you?”.
There is no happy end to this train of thought, it’s just a confession that as much as I love games, I don’t tell most people about PixelBedlam, I don’t often talk about games unless it’s with my closest friends and even then if we’re in public or at work I’ll keep hushed tones like I’m talking about an impending rebellion. The real question is how long can I keep this up. I can’t see me stopping when I hit 31, but what will be the breaking point? I can’t justify being someone in their 50’s who has a games room, that is the kind of thing that makes people wonder if you should be on a register or list somewhere. I often wonder if having a child will change things, I’m already at a stage in adulthood where I can’t splurge my money on as many games as I used to and I certainly don’t have as much time as I once did to be even able to game. I guess this is my Road to Damascus, the point where it could all change and I follow a new belief. For now I’m proud of what I’ve achieved at PixelBedlam, I’m proud of the amount of games I’ve played and I am weirdly proud of how much my gaming collection is worth, but I’m not proud enough to tell anyone, for now I guess I’ll just sheepishly look at the ground and shuffle slightly whenever anyone spots my Zangief.