Ask The Readers: Do you keep your hobby a secret?

Gamer with polyhedral die in his natural habitat Roleplaying games are still a niche hobby. Most people probably know computer and video games. A lot of people enjoy board and card games but there’s only a minority of people who list roleplaying games as one of their hobbies. The funny thing is that probably nobody would lie about playing poker, a lot of people actually hide being a roleplaying game fan.

Why is that the case? First the RPG hobby is not widely known. Most people who hear the word roleplay think about French maids and cop uniforms or believe you’re talking about your last session at the psychotherapist’s.

And a few people who know what you are talking about, think you must be an evil Satanist. Thanks to Patricia Pulling and her group BADD (Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons) a lot of people still believe today that roleplaying game enthusiasts are evil devil worshippers. *sigh*

So, a lot of people keep their hobby a secret because they fear these misconceptions may get them in trouble with friends, family and coworkers. I have to admit it’s not as bad in Germany. From what I know the Anti-D&D craze hasn’t been as bad in Europe, and I can openly talk about my hobby without someone freaking out about it. I even wear my geek  t-shirts at work. Of course I have to explain what these games are about quite often. But I have never got any negative reactions as far I can remember.

Do you keep your hobby a secret? Or can you talk about RPGs with your friends, family and perhaps even coworkers openly?

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

24 thoughts on “Ask The Readers: Do you keep your hobby a secret?”

  1. Yes and no. I make no real secret of that fact that I hang around playing games with a bunch of guys on a Tuesday, but at the same time I don't specify what 'games' involves unless people ask.

    I talk about it with a few non-gamer friends who seem interested, but they normally either wargamed when they were younger and/or play videogames, so it's less of a jump 😉
    .-= Hammer´s last blog ..Review: Rogue Trader =-.

  2. I don't really talk about it with my family…they're the type of people who aren't willing to understand anything suspicious or could be regarded as being anti-christian. Most of my friends game and/or are geeks so it's them I talk to about the hobby. There are those however, who just think that it's strange/adolesent to game.
    .-= pb´s last blog ..[Pathfinder] 101 uses for a 10ft ladder =-.

  3. Usually I do, as most of the people I interact with (who aren't friends, most of whom are geeks like me) are those at work.

    And while at work, I like golf and I like beer and wings and I care deeply about whatever inane sports drivel the client wants to talk about before a meeting. Because all of those things are just part of my job, and I do them because Im paid to. I am not paid to be myself, and the unique and brilliant snowflake with the wierd hobby doesn't get the corner office.
    .-= Zzarchov´s last blog ..Halloween Creature Feature – Peripheral Terrors =-.

  4. Yes and know. Most people know I game, but I also don't really ever bring it up with non-gamers. I got grief just the other week from a friend for openly admitting I play Magic, which is just a shade less geeky than D&D.

  5. I'm not sure there's anyone who knows me who doesn't know what my hobby is, and most of the people I call friends participate in it with me…indeed that's how they came to be my friends.

    My one concession to the obscurity of the hobby is that nowadays in casual conversation I usually say I play D&D instead of "role-playing games" even though I almost never play D&D, just because it's easier than explaining.

    .-= Joshua´s last blog ..Out-RAGE-e-ous Accents =-.

  6. I'm with Zzarchov on this one. My friends (mostly semi-nerdly) know about my gaming hobbies. My immediate family knows, my extended family just knows I'm into geeky stuff (but as some of them are also geeky, it's no big deal).

    But at work, it's verboten. A couple of my co-workers know, but beyond that, I maintain a corporate / professional facade because, like it or not, RPGs are one of those things that can significantly affect other people's perception of you in weird, intangible ways. It's one of the reasons I write my own blog under a pseudonym and work very hard to keep my "online footprint" very small when it comes to gaming. Now that companies are making more of an effort to do web searches and a little online investigating before hiring a candidate, it's not always in one's best professional interest to make it known that you're obsessed with Cthulhu or elves or mostly-naked barbarians or "dark magic"…
    .-= Badelaire´s last blog ..Halloween One-Shot Adventure: The Winner =-.

  7. I don't consciously think about hiding it or flaunting it…

    I wear shirts emblazoned with D&D logos, Pathfinder Society factions, and other geekery to work and in public in general with nary a second thought about how people will react.

    Of course, I've already gone through hell (4 years of active duty with the Marines), so nothing really phases me and I think I have enough of a "don't f*@k with me" attitude that the people that would normally say something think twice.

    By now, everyone at work knows I'm a gamer and that I write about RPGs and that I go to the cons. Everyone in my family has known it for ages and all my in-laws are aware too (I'm sure it irritates that hell out of the handful of religious zealots related to my wife).

    The last time I encountered any real flak (besides harmless joking) was when I was a tween. Of course, it might be different if I had made other choices and had a different demeanor.

  8. I'm thoroughly open with my gaming. My wife, non-gaming friends and coworkers all know about it. They also know that if they chance to visit my apartment, they'll likely get roped into playing a game or checking out my latest work-in-progress miniature paintjob.

    I've found that the hysteria surrounding D&D has largely abated, especially with the rise of games like World of Warcraft and Grand Theft Auto. I mean, there are bigger fish to fry out there.

  9. I tend to be open about it for the most part. I have one gaming friend who is a pastor so when the your going to hell arguments start i just redirect them to talk to my pastor about it which is always fun to see there reaction.
    .-= Quinn´s last blog ..Failures =-.

  10. It's a little different when you are a woman and a mom as well as a DnD gamer. It took me a long time before I would let my best girlfriend know about when I began playing (a little over a year ago). Fortunately, I was already married to the gamer whose group I joined, so I didn't loose to many Best Friend points. For now I schedule our social calendar around our game nights (also because they're at our home). When I'm planning something with another friend, whose usually a mom as well, I just say that we can't get together that particular night because "It's game night" They take it how they want. If they're really curious and ask, I usually 'fess up. But I'm still at the point where I sheepishly smile and say something about playing DnD with my husband.
    .-= Tyrwench´s last blog ..Robins Laws Revisited Complete Series from ChattyDM =-.

  11. No. Not just no, but HELL no. It's a hobby I love, just like, for some people, fishing or watching football or playing golf or crocheting or scrapbooking is a hobby they love — and that's how I talk about it to people. They've had 30+ years to hear about it. I'll just bring it up like it's nothin'.

    Why am I so open abut it? Well, I have two min reasons: One, you never know who's also a gamer; and Two, TO FIGHT THE STEREOTYPE. I'm a fairly charismatic fellow, I have a wife and a kid, I hold down a job, I make friends easily, I like to wear a clean shirt and I shower daily. I'm not a catpiss man. The way I figure it, the more that non-gamers are exposed to the reality that average, every-day people play role-playing games, the more they'll just accept it…like they do with scrapbooking, and fishing, and watching football and crocheting.

    And all things being equal, life's too short for me to feel shame about the simple things that make me happy.

  12. I'm with Joshua on this one. I talk about it, and people certainly know about it. I feel no shame, and anyone who thinks it's strange simply hasn't played. I'll bring gaming books to work with me, or talk about game sessions with family. It's not a big deal.

    But I've found that you have to tell those that aren't familiar that whatever you're playing is like D&D, because they just don't really know what roleplaying is.
    .-= Jeff Carlsen´s last blog ..Apathy Rules for Introducing a New Player – Introduction =-.

  13. No, I don't really hide it. I'll even wear geeky tee-shirts and stuff. But I don't really bring it up much either. I know most people aren't interested, and I'd consider it rude, much like when people try to talk sports with me even after knowing I'm not interested.

  14. Eh..I'm one of those folk that put it down as an interest on job applications. I guess that means I don't hide it.

    I only talk about it if it comes up in conversation with people outwith my gaming group though.
    .-= Bob´s last blog ..The Simple Traps =-.

  15. It use to be that Gaming was a dark and vile secret that I would keep to myself. After all, I've nerd of the highest order. Don't believe me, well let me tell you of my other hobbies (yes, I have other hobbies): Computer Programming (yes it's a living and a hobby), Amateur Radio (Yes, HAM Radio Still exisits), watching History and Science Shows, etc. Hell being a gamer is not something you advertise on a first date. So, when I was younger, I wouldn't admit such a thing or I would just say that I did some gaming. Strangely enough people would assume I was into gambling. Of course this lack of disclosure was from my early days of gaming during the DnD witch hunt era. Fast forward about 25 years, and now I pretty much don't give a damn what people think. Of course I'm not going to give them large speeches about my last gaming session, being non-gamers trust me they don't care. This is in keeping with most hobbies. I'm not going to bore you with Ham Radio stuff if your not even remotely interested. After all that is just plain rude.

    WOW ,that was long speech that said just about nothing eh?
    .-= Bonemaster´s last blog ..A Bestiary of My Very Own =-.

  16. Thanks for all your great comments. And it's actually a good thing that most of us can now freely admit that we are geeks and especially RPG fans.

  17. I openly show my geeky colors, and I'll talk about my hobbies as appropriate, but then this is also my business a game designer. When people ask what I do I tell them, it's part hobby part business.

    I can't think of one person I've run into in the past five years that has had a problem with D&D on the level that Patrica Pulling does. Nor has anyone even asked about me worshiping the devil. Personally I'd forgotten about the stigma until reading this article.

    So my question is, is there anyone that still feels this way?
    .-= Tyson J. Hayes´s last blog ..Apathy Rules for Introducing a New Player – Introduction =-.

  18. I do talk about roleplaying when asked, never did I deny that I game…

    but like most people, I try not to be obnoxious by talking about the minutiae of the latest session to people who just don't care…

    the same way I really don't care when people start talking to me about football like I should give a damn…

  19. This is an interesting question, one that always makes me scratch my head, because I’ve experienced very little to no negative reaction from gaming. I grew up in a household where my interest in gaming was encouraged and my family (mom, grandparents, etc.) allowed me to host games and even offered to pick up my gaming friends (back when we didn’t drive) so they wouldn’t miss a game.

    When I started dating I must admit I was a little hesitant telling girls that I gamed, fearing what they would think, but that quickly ended. I worked in a gaming/comic store through college so I wore my geek badge proudly.

    These days I openly tell people about my hobby if it comes up in conversation. It’s not something I push for, if it happens I tell people and if they want to know more I’ll tell them what it’s about. My coworkers know, and actually know the night I play and avoid calling me or sending extra work my way that day.

    My significant others have NEVER been into gaming, or geek life in general. It might have caused some tension, but no more so that football or poker night for any regular couple. After my divorce (for reasons other than RPGs) I made appoint of telling women I dated I gamed. I figured if they thought it was a negative (hey you can never tell), my other positives would make up. If she couldn’t understand it, hey it was not meant to be! My current girlfriend supports it and understands my passion for RPG.

    BTW, my first post here, and I must say I’m really enjoying the blog. I don’t read many, a mixture of too much work and RL keeping me away from really actively participating in blogs, but I mist admit I REALLY enjoy this one. Kudos!

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Sunglar. I will try to keep up the good work. And thanks for your comment.

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