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Wow, look at the weirdos

Attitudes to gamers in the mainstream have barely changed: even when they're not out-and-out batpoop mentalists, they're sociopathically disassociated

NCIS made me laugh the other day. Like many episodes, 'The Immortals' followed the CSI template of killing someone in an obscure subculture -- in this case, online gaming -- so the bemused but beautiful 'tecs can investigate it, complete with gothette lab tech Pauley Perrette explaining the game to a befuddled David McCallum. The apparent suicide of an MMORPG-playing sailor, unable to distinguish between game and real life, revealed an online feud spilling into the real world in a paranoid revenge fantasy.

The twist to the episode was that, having learnt the extent of the dead man's crazy-crazy, his seemingly innocent rival was revealed to have dared him to prove he really was immortal by jumping in the sea. Conclusion: even when they're not out-and-out batpoop mentalists, gamers are sociopathically disassociated.

Okay, the episode was from 2003, before World of Warcraft had even launched. But that just makes it more interesting that attitudes to gamers in the mainstream have barely changed. A WoW cosplayer at the Lich King launch made it on BBC Breakfast, but the underlying tone is still very much 'look at the weirdos'.

It was a shrewd move then by GameSpot UK's Alex Sassoon Coby to open his Guardian piece with the statistic that WoW has 11 million subscribers: "more people than there are in either Austria, Switzerland, Israel or Portugal". It made more money last year than the GDP of Belize. Numbers alone make WoW pretty mainstream, so why is the media still at best patronising, and at worst misinformed or sensationalist?

I spend my spare time dressing up in tribal costume and joining thousands -- millions -- of people around the world following a game. Oh, I'm not a WoWer: I'm talking about football, which has the mainstream media sewn up. Now who's weird?