In the gay community, we very commonly describe coming out as a process that you don't only do once. During my day-to-day life, I might meet a new person, have someone from work ask if I'm dating anyone, friend someone from high school on Facebook, or write an article about coming out as a gamer for WoW Insider. Regardless of which situation fits you best, all of these are fairly regular situations that result in needing to come out again.
Being gay and being a gamer -- not as different as you'd think
I think the experiences of coming out as a gamer and coming out as gay have a few very important similarities. In both cases, they're secrets we tend to guard that aren't outwardly visual. Despite stereotypes, you can't actually know whether someone is gay unless they tell you. Likewise, you can't tell that the woman you just bumped into on the side of the road is actually a three-time Gladiator warrior unless you get into a conversation about it.
We also tend to guard these secrets well and are very selective about who we tell them to. Society as a whole tends to have low expectations and opinions of gamers, particularly the ones who label themselves hardcore. There's a casual mental evaluation of people you meet to decide whether you want to out yourself to them. You listen for keywords, waiting for them to drop even the slightest mention that they play Call of Duty, before you can break into the conversation with your own gaming experiences.
Finally, both being gay and being a gamer are things that we might be proud of within a circle of our own friends but that we tend to be petrified of people finding out in the professional sphere. It's one thing to tell your best friends that you can't hang out on Wednesday nights after 9:00 because you have to raid, but is your boss ever going to understand that? You're valuing a commitment to 24 other people, but that doesn't preclude your boss from adding a value judgment to what you're doing.
Can being a professional and being a gamer really coexist?
This topic is something that I'm really interested in, particularly due to the fact that I work for WoW Insider. I'm a 24-year-old whose previous work experiences include working at the same nonprofit organization for eight years in a row and who is currently in the process of applying for a lot of full-time jobs, particularly in fields that require writing. I simply don't have the luxury of excluding WoW Insider from my resume, and I'm proud enough of my work here that I wouldn't if I could.
I've since discovered a lot of tricks to making my WI work sound good. I talk about the importance of social media in regards to professional blogging. I speak on the importance of writing regularly and that WI gives me a great outlet to do that. I've talked about the use of mathematics, simulations, and spreadsheets and their vital importance to understanding game mechanics, and I've talked about how my job is to help teach that understanding to others. And since I mainly work with kids, I use my job as video game blogger to emphasize my relatability with kids, and I talk about how I can use my story to inspire kids to focus in school. Because, really, despite the overarching societal view of gamers, every single 8- to 13-year-old kid I've ever worked with has wanted my job, even if they've never heard of World of Warcraft.
There are many other talking points for the benefit of video games that you could use in a professional setting. There are a variety of TED Talks out there that talk about video games, particularly as a teaching tool. There's the discussion of time management that allow hardcore raiders to raid and have a real life. There are even talking points like the discussion of WoW as social media, the effects of anonymity on how rude people are to one another, and whether it's the job of video games to force us to be good people.
Is it up to us to force the conversation?
The truth is that WoW (and gaming in general) does actually open up a wealth of intelligent discussion ideas. The sad thing is that social stigma relegates that discussion to blogs, podcasts, and forum posts. Very similarly to the Mattachine Society of the '50s, we tend to keep our important discussions in our own very close-knit groups of people who already accept us. Our reasoning for doing that is very valid; we still exist in a world that tells gamers over the age of 18 to grow up and accept the real world, while we're off exploring and learning in a "fake" one.
At the same time, is anyone willing to risk their job or even risk lowering their employer's opinion of them for something as inconsequential as a national dialogue about gaming? And, if they are, is that the right decision?
Brace yourselves for what could be some of most exciting updates to the game recently with patch 4.3. Review the official patch notes, and then dig into what's ahead: new item storage options, cross-realm raiding, cosmetic armor skinning and your chance to battle the mighty Deathwing -- from astride his back!