The Comic Book Guy

edited January 2010 in Story Games
Reading through this thread I found several references to the gamer stereotype of the big, fat, bearded guy.

This is not the first time.

Here at Story-Games I have seen several discussions about gamer stereotypes and stuff. And I'm kept wondering.

That old What are you wearing thread made me smile. I was kind of expecting the responses it got.

Now, I can't help but be curious. I feel it is more of a cultural (as in "country") stuff.

You see, I live in Mexico. I have met a big bunch of role players in my many years playing. And yet I have only met less than a handful of people who would fill the stereotype.

In fact my playing groups have only had a few of overweighted guys. And I'm talking "a couple of dozens of extra pounds", not "morbidly obese" or anything of the like. And we are talking about maybe around 3 out of 30. And I have the feeling that the percentage of overweight in gamers is about equivalent to the general population's overweightness in Mexico.

So my question is: Does the stereotype actually represents the majority in our hobby? Is it a cultural thing? Does it actually relates to the "jocks vs. nerds" stuff it seems prevalent in American media? How does it work in other (non USA) countries?

Comments

  • Oh, I'd say that it's definitely cultural. In the US the hobby selection process favours overweight seclusives (which are, note, already a much more common thing in the US than they are elsewhere), so that's what they mostly get. And because the US gamers represent the majority of roleplaying media and probably the majority of players as well, that US-specific thing gets interpreted as the picture of the hobby itself. I don't think I've ever seen this thing here in Finland as anything but a thin cultural loan from the US - the bitching about stereotypical fat gamers just rings hollow around here, and I should know as I'm superficially a pretty classic fatbeard type myself in many ways.
  • Walking into an "open games day" event at my local game shop, I typically see a preponderance of folks with poor personal hygiene and very, very sloppy dress codes more than I see huge heavy dudes. But they're also usually sitting in this totally sedentary way, so it's hard to gauge them by size.

    That said, the very, very fattest people I know are all gamers. That may say more about my non-gamer circles than about the folks who pretend to be elves.
  • While what Eero says is hilariously "european" sounding to my red-blooded american ears, he's probably right.
  • There is some truth to this stereotype in the UK.

    Graham
  • In my own experience, I can't say that "gamers" have any particular demographic characteristic (other than maleness) beyond that of any random sampling of Southerners. Overweight? That's "average" these days (especially on Match.com!). But I see quite a few skinny (myself included) and fit and sort of lumpy and even athletic. It helps that the venues in which I see a lot of "gamers" include cons, which have a largish LARP contingency (here). Seems that LARPers aren't quite as large (or as unhygienic, come to think of it).

    Now, if we start to focus in on miniatures gamers, I think things worsen. Don't ask me why--it's just an observation. RPGA being a notable exception, I reckon maybe because it draws older gamers and (maybe?) they have more years of "acceptably sedentary" life?

    I am willing to bet, however, that a comparative sampling of *computer gamers* versus LARPers and TTRPGers would show that the computer is far worse for you than the battle mat.
  • Posted By: David Artman
    Now, if we start to focus in on miniatures gamers, I think things worsen. Don't ask me why--it's just an observation. RPGA being a notable exception, I reckon maybe because it draws older gamers and (maybe?) they have more years of "acceptably sedentary" life?
    I think you're probably on to something in that regard. While there are certainly younger and thinner gamers, especially around GW minis games, greyer and more pear-shaped does seem pretty common amongst minis gamers. A lot of the things that make minis gaming more viable are easier for an older, more settled lifestyle, which is when a lot of folks start to also experience the sudden appearance of a gut.
  • >I am willing to bet, however, that a comparative sampling of *computer gamers* versus LARPers and TTRPGers would show that the computer is far worse for you than the battle mat.

    Not if you go by my totally scientific methodology of making assumptions based on The Guild. Only one obese gamer out of I think 11. You are totally wrong here.
  • Here in Denmark we have a pretty broad demographic, all sorts of people of all shapes and sizes. Denmark being so small, we have more sub-culture overlap than division, so roleplayers would encompass all possible mixes of tabletop-, boardgame-, larp-, wargame-, cardgame-, drinkinggame-enthusiasm, in a single individual. It also means the culture is pretty open to people being weird in general.
    There are obese and hygiene-impaired gamers, but they are an obvious and avoided minority outside their own tribes, just like in the rest of society. That being said, round and regular people like me are way more common than gym-freaks.
    Personally I've always seen the "all gamers are obese and dysfunctional" trope as an exaggeration of a trend, not an accurate portrayal.
  • Posted By: NamelessNot if you go by my totally scientific methodology of making assumptions based on The Guild.
    Yeah, Tink and Codex are totally the standard for gamer grrls. ;)

    But in *my* totally scientific assessment of MMORPGers I know... it's about 50% obesity, an even split.
  • Here in Honolulu, the stereotype is skewed by a large number of military gamers. Average health and hygiene ratings go up somewhat, average age and facial hair go down a bit.
  • From my own unscientific sampling, it seems that US board-gamers are more stereotypically-nerdy than RPG players, and just not along the body-weight axis. But this may be skewed because most of the RPG'ers I've met lately are indie types ... based on my hypothesis, I suspect that the closer the RPG comes to wargaming, the nerdlier the players skew.

    This effect is part of the reason why my interests have been moving more from Eurogames to indie RPGs in the past year. It's easier for me to find board-game players, but I like my current RPG group better than any of them.
  • The stereotype goes all the way back to the wargaming grognards...it didn't originate with RPGs.

    When I was going to Origins on a regular basis they used to have a table right in front of the breezeway (where there are massage chairs now if I'm not mistaken) that was a giant scale diorama of the Alamo with probably 1000 miniature soldiers (the Texans were 1:1 scale at any rate). Every year there was a gamer at this table the entire con (IIRC the battle was fought over the course of the entire con). He had 2 chairs to sit on...one for each cheek...and he overlapped the sides of those.

    We called him the Huge Ancient Red Dragon on our scale of associating gamer body types to the 1ed scale of dragon sizes and ages
  • Thinking about Ralph's anecdote, isn't it also the case that obese people self-select into hobbies they actually can perform? It shouldn't surprise a statistician that there are more fat people in gaming than in marathon running - and not because running marathons makes you thin, but because your body can't hack the marathon if you're too fat. The same explanation seems believable for why there's more obesity among video gamers than roleplayers, even - get fat enough and you lose the self-confidence to meet up even with other fatties for gaming, leaving you to play alone. Get even fatter and playing video games is probably the only intellectual stimulation aside from reading that you can enjoy.

    From this viewpoint we should compare gaming to other sedentary hobbies to get any idea of whether it attracts/causes more obesity than other hobbies that consist of sitting on your arse. So - collecting stamps or something, I guess? Model trains?
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenThinking about Ralph's anecdote, isn't it also the case that obese people self-select into hobbies they actually can perform? It shouldn't surprise a statistician that there are more fat people in gaming than in marathon running - and not because running marathons makes you thin, but because your body can't hack the marathon if you're too fat. The same explanation seems believable for why there's more obesity among video gamers than roleplayers, even - get fat enough and you lose the self-confidence to meet up even with other fatties for gaming, leaving you to play alone. Get even fatter and playing video games is probably the only intellectual stimulation aside from reading that youcanenjoy.
    I can only wonder... How fat are people who like to read? (Not a rhetorical question. I'm actually curious, since you do have good points in there.)
  • I can confirm that adherents to the fancy rat breeding hobby in the US tend toward obesity, perhaps even to a higher degree than RPG/board/wargaming.
  • >I can confirm that adherents to the fancy rat breeding hobby in the US tend toward obesity, perhaps even to a higher degree than RPG/board/wargaming.

    This just makes me laugh, for all the strangeness in it. The only thing mainstream in that comment is obesity.
  • You're saying the US is not mainstream?
  • Posted By: snejThis effect is part of the reason why my interests have been moving more from Eurogames to indie RPGs in the past year. It's easier for me to find board-game players, but I like my current RPG group better than any of them.
    At cons, I don't even bother dealing with non-Forge-derived games. The instance of fun has been way lower in my experience, and the kinds of people who tend to gravitate toward these games are, in my experience and making a scientifically dubious leap, in better physical shape and better able to carry on conversations like a normal human being. (Not that being within spitting distance of one's "ideal" weight is a prerequisite for me to consider gaming with someone.)
  • edited January 2010
    I think that Eero's theory of the unfit selecting hobbies they can do is partially correct, but also people who enjoy spending their time exercising rather than sitting in a chair rolling dice tend not to be so fat. But I guess these are the border cases.

    I am about to attend a con and will make a mental note of the proportion of fat, bearded and unhygienic people I see there. I'd say that here in the UK something like about 20% of people I see at cons are fat guys with beards. Less than 10% of the people I meet smell like they haven't washed. The rest are mostly somewhere between somewhat overweight and basically average. Although thesea re the type of people who are willing to travel to a con, the demographic for more casual gamers may be quite different.

    On the other hand, I am both quite fat and have a beard, although a more stylish one than most you see at these things.

    Freakily, I have been complimented twice today without a hint of irony for smelling nice. The fact that I have changed to a different cologne today is probably the reason. The freaky part is the today I'm wearing Tiberius instead of the usual ck one. Turns out it's OK.
  • It's a hobby that involves sitting around for hours, it ain't going to select for runners.
  • Posted By: JDCorleyIt's a hobby that involves sitting around for hours, it ain't going to select for runners.
    Nor against them. I dunno...I see the RPG hobby being not-so-connected to other lifestyle elements. Runners watch TV, go to movies, do all kinds of other sedentary activities, for example. I bring this up because in my own circle we have mountain bike racers (me and a couple others), canyoneering enthusiasts, backpackers, road cyclists, marathoners.

    I think at this point I'd also make my obligatory note that the RPG hobby =/= the RPG lifestyle.
  • I fit the fat bearded stereotype - as do 50% of the folks I regularly play with in Seattle. Not planning on giving up the beard, but I am actively shedding weight.
  • John, that's interesting. My experiences with Seattle gaming has actually been that people here don't fit the stereotype so much.
  • I'm from Seattle. My BMI is fine, and looking at me you would bet that it is better than it truly is. I don't have a beard. I do have mutton chops though.

    Outliers abound.
  • Seattle became way less attractive after I left.
  • Have known personally a total of 1 overweight gamer, have been around others, severely out numbered by skinny people.

    Find the notion that video game players are fat to be slightly absurd, but am completely unfamiliar with MMOs and don't really consider them games so...

    Video gaming isn't really not mainstream any more, it'd be hard to say that video gaming has a lot more fat people as it is a large enough slice of the population that all body types would be represented with the same frequency as in the general population.

  • Posted By: TulpaHave known personally a total of 1 overweight gamer, have been around others, severely out numbered by skinny people.
    Likewise here, although (unfortunately) the overweight guy was obese to a point were it was bad for his health. I don't think there was any correlation between is weight and the Hobby. I think he was mostly eating to punish himself for his social awkwardness (which fed (no pun intended) the vicious circle)

    This guys mysteriously stop coming ( faking a whole bunch of reasons at first and after a while stopped calling us to game)

    again I'm a strong believer that Hobby =/= lifestyle.
  • I've known:

    3 grotesquely overweight gamers*
    5 severely underweight gamers
    1 gamer who did not shower under any circumstance, and got discharged from the military for being so gross
    4 gamers who were also gym rats
    4 gamers with bad skin
    5 gamers with facial hair
    10+ gamers of average weight and cleanliness

    *This is not counting the dudes who would come up to me when I worked at Game Stop and invite me to their D&D or WH40K games; by "know" I mean "have gamed with."
  • I'm a lifelong gamer and I weigh about 154 lbs and am 6 feet tall.

    Of course, I also wear glasses, and as you've already read, am quite thin. So there is your other geek stereotype.

    Oh, and right now I have a beard and goatee. But that is only to compensate for my receeding hairline.

    ME

  • So my question is: Does the stereotype actually represents the majority in our hobby?
    With the vast majority I've met in this hobby -- absolutely. It's almost creepy how they're so similar.
  • The people I know of in the hobby come from a wide selection of body types, from slim and athletic to morbidly obese. What's more, the proportions thereof are roughly representative of the proportion of the general populace that share the same body form. In other words, yes we have some big guys gaming but I see just as many big fat guys walking around the city.

    My thought therefore would be this. Role-playing is associated with geekish behaviour. There are two basic body-forms for the classic geek, painfully thin and on the tubby side. Both often wear spectacles. The gamers you see on TV shows like the Simpsons will always be stereotypes because they want the reader to instantly associate them. The comic store guy in the Simpsons is probably the only role-player with a regular TV spot, other gamers in shows like Family Guy and Futurama notwithstanding. Therefore he has become the roleplaying zeitgeist in the popular media, whether he is an accurate representation or not. He's the only role-player that most non-gamers will knowingly come into contact with, so he is 'the' gamer to them, the one that defines the culture.

    Which is bloody annoying because I HATE the guy!

    This is just a theory of course. Your countries and experiences may differ.

    -Ash
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