On my identity as a gamer throughout my life. #Bullied #Threatened #Gamer
My name is Peter van Groning, and I’m a gamer.
I’m a gamer, a comicbook-reader, a movie-fan, I watch a lot of tv-series, I read books, I listen to all sorts of music and I’m a geek who loves to build his own game-system. Plus many more titles in the foreseeable future, if steps can be made.
I’m also a victim of bullying.
The last few weeks have been hectic in the gaming community. It somehow reminded me of all the years I’ve been called names, been shut out by classmates, got into fights and was threatened. Death threats, yes.
Not a happy time.
Right now I’m still dealing with numerous after-effects, and not the good kind of After Effects, unfortunately.
By the way, be prepared for a very long read.
For years I always thought I was alone. I didn’t really fit in because I was a gamer. I started playing on the Philips Videopac, then we managed to get our hands on a Master System, next up was the MegaDrive (with rented MegaCD expansion at times) and in the meanwhile we started dabbling in the art of PC gaming. The Captain Cosmic game was one of my favourite platformers, although I started to lean more towards well-built RPGs at the time.
I was always into stories, ever since I can remember I acted out my own stories with the use of Transformers or G.I. Joe action figures, even threw in some Turtles. I had some people I could play with at times, and even considered them a friend, but in the end I always found out I was never truly a friend to them. Mostly due to peer-pressure or them wanting something from me.
I was different, they felt it, I knew it. I had my own way of dealing with life and some argued years later that I was too mature for my age. Having nearly died from a severe accident might do that to you, especially when you’re young. One of my first memories is of me waking up in a hospital, I was four and can’t recount anything from before that. Not even going to school or meeting my classmates.
In class, I hardly did anything. I was more content looking outside, writing something or drawing my own battles between two mutant species. One side had round heads, one side had an angular look. It was silly, but it was one of my first created worlds, and many would follow.
I didn’t concern myself with football (soccer, for you US readers), I would rather play outside or do any of the above, and that was another reason to be targeted I guess. I also found out I was able to learn pretty fast. I would see something for a few seconds, or read it over once and I could recount it to the T. I had no idea that would become yet another reason for people to despise me.
Case in point: One day, while doing something in class one of my teachers was explaining things, he looked at me, wanted to get my attention and decided to test me. I repeated every single thing he had said. He was pleasantly surprised, and I later heard from my mom and dad that he found himself to be a sucker for falling for that every single time. My classmates though, were never amused by it somehow, as was repeatedly told by them.
I was able to speak in English when I was ten, even going so far as to have entire discussions with a teacher from the state of Pennsylvania. She was a friend of one our regular teachers, and she was very much surprised by my American accent. Watching a lot of cartoons on BBC, Children’s Channel and Sky Channel without subtitles kind of forces you to pay very good attention.
Unfortunately, other than those moments, my schooldays are pretty much filled with being cornered against a fence while being subjected to name-calling, being kicked against the shins, get an earful from a teacher because you started hitting your classmates after repeatedly asking them to stop - for well over twenty minutes - get thrown out of class because you had the audacity to correct the teacher, or just because.
After school, it was somewhat better at times. There were days I could actually have fun with one of my classmates, playing with Star Wars toys, or having fun playing a boardgame, but ultimately I was all alone in class. As soon as two or three got together, I started to fear for what was to come, both inside and outside of school.
People said they saw my entire demeanour change as soon as that happened. I became quiet, almost skitterish. I was never particularly small, but even now at 1.87m I can still feel myself become the tiniest little person in the world at times.
I was the main target during dodgeball, the classmates who were on football-teams kicked extra hard when the ball was very close by me, I was tripped many times when we were playing basketball or any other sport. I was the butt of the joke in class.
Even people who I thought I could trust in class ultimately turned on me. Being friends with me equalled with you been targeted as well.
Some days I wanted to run away, to nowhere. Or disappear into nothingness, since I actually believed nobody would miss me and I would never amount to anything. These days, I feel like I’ve actually proven them right.
I’ve never understood the concept of friendship, until I finally met some real friends when I was 18. They’ve become a major part of my life. Through a Dutch website that was concerning itself with games I finally met some like minded people. They enjoyed the same things I did, sometimes had similar tastes in music, or cartoons, or books. Some of them are married now, and I was asked to be their best man, or even help setting up the wedding.
I’ve always seen myself as a gamer ever since I was little, it’s not just some corporate buzzword to me. I had a way to get away from all the pain and sorrow ruling my life. I could lose myself in the wonderful world of Suikoden as I meant something in that world, I was the one who united people and created an army to fight against oppression. To fight against evil that would try to destroy my world, destroy me, just like those people in the real world.
I get that there are people out there who feel the same way. I get that they’re feeling attacked by outsiders. But resorting to death and rape-threats is the lowest of the low. I hope that those who did and still do will be held accountable for their actions.
But I myself have always been about inclusion, even though the people who bullied me until I was nothing but an empty shell at one point never wanted to include me. I always welcomed people with open arms if they showed an interest in gaming, be they men or women. If anything, I grew up with the games created by Jane Jensen, Roberta Williams, and Corey and Lori Ann Cole. I don’t know any better than that there are women in the game industry, they’ve always been there for me.
I also get what women are going through, any form of harrassment is horrific and should be properly dealt with. And unlike some people who claim to be feminist, but would shut a man down because “he doesn’t get it”, men can be a victim as well.
I received my fair share of death threats, of people following me to see if I was going home. Granted, I may not have been sexually threatened, I did fear for my life quite a few times. Everytime I was thrown or pushed to the ground, everytime I was pinned against a wall, everytime my legs were sweeped from under me, or had my head smahed into a lamppost, I hoped I was still able to see tomorrow.
Today, I know that because I was different, had my own viewpoints and was sticking to my guns I was the victim of people who did not have it in their hearts to accept people who were different. They found me annoying, not worth their time and sometimes were even afraid of me and decided to gang up on me. I never gave anyone a reason to be afraid of me, I wouldn’t hurt the proverbial fly so to speak, but they claimed they did.
I’m still fighting a quiet but raging battle within me. I’m still struggling with the problems I once faced, but I will never give up. I will not let the depression I’m in right now get the better of me.
The biggest problem I see now is the lack of respect people have for each other. That bothers me the most. I’ve always been respectful towards people who deserved my respect, I would still treat you with the utmost respect even if you are starting to become hostile at a certain point. I prefer to keep a level head even though that is sometimes extremely hard to do.
The “gamer” isn’t “dead”, it’s not on the decline, but the identity of the gamer needs to be reaffimed by the people who really do care about one of their favourite passtimes (the more quiet, moderate and bigger group of gamers). It should not be hijacked by people with a closeminded agenda. Just like the geeks and the nerds managed to take those names for themselves and wear it proudly, so should a gamer be able to do the same.
You play games? You’re a gamer.
I’m also deeply saddened by the fact that there are now people leaving the industry altogether. Be they writers or developers or whatever part they played within the game industry. I always thought, since I was an outcast in the 80s and 90s (before being a gamer was “accepted”) that us gamers would become one of the most inclusive groups in the future.
Suddenly you have to “choose a side”, although this time it’s something bigger than being a SEGA or Nintendo-fan in the 90s (I played both yo!), this time people are actually receiving death and rape-threats because people can’t do civil discourse anymore.
Where did we go wrong?
PS: I’m currently undergoing treatment for depression and anxieties. I might start posting about some parts of that process too as I finally found out that writing is extremely therapeutic. I will not post everything of course.