Imagine yourself at a job interview. You’re nearing the end of the process, and this question (or a version of it) is asked to you: “What do you do in your spare time?”
I’m all for pushing towards mass acceptance of the video game medium, but would you tell this potential employer that you play video games? Having been through a number of interviews at ad agencies over the past year, I can tell you exactly what I say. I start by saying that I like to spend time with my family. Then I talk about how I play musical instruments. Then I talk about how I like to blog. Then, should the employer want to know more, I mention video games in passing, usually in the context of, “The video game Rock Band helped me learn how to play real drums.” All of these statements are true, but I admit to being a bit…selective.
This scenario was brought up in an episode of Shacknews’ Weekend Confirmed podcast a few weeks ago. Between hosts Jeff Cannata and Brian Leahy were two very different perspectives. Jeff felt that among the masses, there is still a stigma surrounding video games, and that associating yourself with that medium unfortunately could hurt your chances at landing the job. Brian Leahy on the other hand, felt that if you’re confident in the way you talk about gaming, then any preconceived notions about it won’t matter.
When I started this blog a year ago, I totally was on Jeff’s side of the discussion. As much as I love games, I really didn’t want it to be held against me when a job is on the line. I was still in the process of establishing myself in the advertising business, so when I was asked that question, I would downplay my love of video games and spotlight other aspects of my life.
Even though I’ve been actively maintaining this blog for over a year now, I made a conscious decision to not associate my professional identity with In Third Person. I genuinely feared that potential employers would see this blog and conjure up every negative stereotype that they may have about video game players and apply them to me. As someone fresh out of school with nothing to fall back on, I really didn’t want to ‘risk it’.
In the last few months, I’ve definitely seen a shift in myself that leans towards Brian’s perspective. Sure, I believe that video game stigma exists, but video games are a part of me and I might as well embrace it. Who I am as a person is just as important to a potential employer as my experience. At every job I’ve worked at, it doesn’t take long for my coworkers to discover the ‘real’ me, which isn’t a bad thing at all. Everyone has their hobbies, and video games are mine. They don’t get in the way of the quality of work I do and they don’t negatively affect other aspects of my life.
This shift peaked a few weeks ago for me, when I finally claimed In Third Person as my own on my professional blog. Part of that decision was made to demonstrate my interactive, technical and social media skills. The other part of that decision was to show a more personal side of me that my professional blog doesn’t always capture. Though everything here is framed within the context of video games, I like to think that this blog demonstrates my passion, my commitment and my thoughtfulness, among other personality traits.
With the way things are going for me at work, I don’t see myself in that interviewee chair anytime soon (knock on wood). But the next time I’m put on the spot, I hope I can stand up for myself (and for other gamers out there) by being straight-up about my love for this. I don’t have the power to single-handedly make the stigma go away, but if I’m true to myself and embrace what I love, then its a step in the right direction.