Changing Times: A Hitchhiker’s Guide to games and fandom

03/10/2022

Amelia Doherty discusses the changing prejudices and reputations of gaming societies in the modern world

Article Image

Image by Jamie Leverett

By Amelia Doherty

Games & Fandom has consistently been one of the busiest and largest of YUSU’s categories. With 22 societies in September, I know that being the representative will have its own unique challenges, from setting up the first Societies Rep social media to figuring out what exactly DougSoc was. I didn’t expect one of those to be writing an article for the first-ever society at York.

I began my own time in Games & Fandom as the Social Secretary of Dungeons & Dragons Society, where I’m now Diversity & Accessibility Chair. D&D has, in itself, gotten a stranger reputation in the last few years. From satanism to Stranger Things, the public opinion has changed a lot. Now, DnDSoc is one of York’s largest societies, with more than 200 members, and as a whole, D&D is relatively mainstream (or at least, you’re not going to get a weird look for being involved), thanks to shows like The Big Bang Theory and Community. Typically, Games & Fandom gets a lot of love in terms of numbers, with SwiftSoc and AnimeSoc also boasting large memberships.

But, it is undeniable that Games & Fandom has... a reputation. It’s not a university-specific issue, but a cultural one. The nerd stereotype might have become unacceptable to throw around elsewhere, but gaming communities still feel the brunt of stereotypes about their looks, their priorities, and even their relationships. Yet research has shown that gamers just aren’t like that (not that we needed research to be told this!).

Looking at the societies I represent, fourteen are games (both online, like Genshin, and traditional games, such as bridge), and the other eight are fandom. And if you look at the gaming presidents, you find that three are women. Yet almost all have women in their committee. So we can already throw out the stereotype that women aren’t gaming. In fact, the Entertainment Software Association found that 48 percent of all gamers are women. And if we think about the ‘lazy gamer’ stereotype — York is knocking it out of the park. Two of our Games & Fandom societies were nominated last year for charity and fundraising — FragSoc, who were Highly Commended at the Activities Awards for the Charity Champion Award, and DnDSoc, who were shortlisted for Fundraiser of The Year at the Love York Awards showing that gamers are just not lazy, but are active contributors to their communities. Not to mention the time and effort that goes into not just gaming itself, but running the societies. So, we’ve debunked the lazy gamer stereotype with people from our own university. As for the loner stereotypes, with societies getting memberships in the hundreds, massively active Discord servers, and events crossing over rooms, including quiet rooms, Games & Fandom is debunking the hermit theory once and for all.

Another great thing to note is the accessibility of the Games & Fandom societies, something that personally brings me a lot of joy. With most workshops transferrable online, a number of societies, such as Animal Crossing Society and Genshin Society, provide online events. In fact, many Games & Fandom societies are smashing our equal opportunities goals of being accessible to disabled, working class, LGBTQ+, and carer students, and some are going above and beyond. For example, a number are completely free, such as PokéSoc, which is more accessible for working class students, and most will be involved in the free Give It A Go sessions at the start of term. Quiet rooms are used by bigger societies, and sober socials happen just as often as alcohol-based socials. So anyone can be involved — no matter what you look like, or how invested you are in games and fandom as a whole.

I think it’s really important to acknowledge that stereotypes are not reality, and I love the way Games & Fandom here at York consistently proves these stereotypes wrong. This year, the aim is for Games & Fandom to get a lot of love! Having worked with the committees, I know first-hand how hard they work, and I guarantee that there’s no place more welcoming. So, if I could give freshers any advice: join a Games & Fandom society. From QuizSoc to TolkSoc, from cosplay to chess, there’s definitely going to be something for you. And if there is not — set one up! Never be ashamed of your interests (no matter how 'nerdy’ they may seem), or buy into the stereotypes, towards yourself or others. University is a place for discovering yourself, your interests, your passions, and your friends for life, and societies are a great way to do this.