RPG Evolution: The People Who Don't Game

Believe it or not, there's people who don't like games. At all.

Believe it or not, there's people who don't like games. At all.


Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

We've all encountered it: we mention our gaming interests or someone notices our games and the response is, "I don't like games." There are a lot of reasons for why this is and their reasoning tells a lot about that person.

"They're a Waste of Time"​

Perhaps the most frequent response to gaming is that it's a frivolous past time, and therefore should not be pursued. This broad characterization has roots in the idea that free time should be spent productively, even if the benefits are ancillary. Practicing a sport is a means of exercise, tending a garden grows plants, etc. It's perhaps not a surprise that busy people are more inclined to take this stance because they're under intense pressure to maximize their free time when they have it. As Gloria Liu explains at the Atlantic:
Research finds that women generally have less leisure time than men, perhaps because of the gendered division of household work and child care. That could be why Yee told me he more often hears women than men express that games are a waste of time. This rings true for me, at least: When I think about the leisure activities I “indulge” in, such as cycling, they tend to have bonus benefits, like exercise.
But unless it's a contest with a reward at the end, games provide enjoyment simply by playing them. In a previous article for the Atlantic, Liu admitted as much:
Pointless goals, in contrast, are meant to be enjoyed. They trick us into doing the things we love, which can also put us in a flow state, where we’re deeply satisfied, present, and absorbed in the task at hand. (If you must justify the time, Price says, know that flow states can also boost creativity and serve as an antidote to the constant hijacking of our attention by our work, our devices, and our kids.)
In short, it's only a waste of time if you don't value the enjoyment that comes from gaming.

"It Tells Too Much About You"​

When I was playing Dungeons & Dragons in high school, one of my friends told me his father disapproved of the game -- not for the usual reasons (back in the 80s, the Satanic Panic was in full swing), but because he felt it shared too much about the participants involved. He was right:
Rachel Kowert, the research director for Take This, a nonprofit that supports mental health in the gaming community, told me that the beauty of getting to know people through play is that the relationships form “backwards.” “You meet someone on the street—you get to know them slowly over time and see if you can trust them,” she said. “But in a game, if you helped me kill this dragon, I immediately have some foundational level of trust.” In other words, games can reveal people’s core qualities: how they react when they’re stressed, how they cooperate in a team, or how they behave when they win or lose.
I'm often fond of saying that if a gaming group plays together long enough, they'll either be best friends or will drop out of the game. Tabletop role-playing in particular can be an intensely personal experience that accelerates relationships, including breaking them faster.

"I Don't Like That Game"​

Games are frequently painted in broad strokes by their most popular brands: board games bring to mind Monopoly, card games Poker, role-playing games Dungeons & Dragons. As many gamers are fond of pointing out, there's life beyond just killing dragons. But getting there requires being open to the concept in general, and often dislike of one game ends up a dismissal of all of them.

There are many different kinds of games for many different types of gamers. Quantic Foundry's survey offers a detailed breakdown of gamer interests, so it should come as no surprise that there's a game for everybody -- they just might not all be interested in the same game.

Your Turn: How do you respond to the people in your life who don't like games?

log in or register to remove this ad

Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca


"Believe it or not, there's people who don't like games. At all."

We know this already.

I've seen a lot of good stuff from you Talien but was there a point here? No response is needed and you are unlikely to argue someone into suddenly liking games so ... what are we doing here exactly?


Doing the best imitation of myself
With regards to the women versus men part that you mentioned, as an old-timer, this is something that I'm happiest about changing. When I was growing up, gaming was about 80-90% male, and I have had many women roll their eyes when I mentioned that I was a gamer. This is because I generally dress like a business/tech guy and so can pass as a non-nerd in public.

I'm really glad that this is changing, or to be honest, has changed already.

As to what do I say to people who don't like gaming or don't understand it? Not much, really. I'm pretty comfortable in who I am and I get that people like different things. You won't find me playing golf, for instance, which a lot of the people in my age group and profession do. I am amused by people who describe the hobby as "childish," though because with job and parenting I think I fill out the adulting pretty well at the moment. I just use this CS Lewis quote:
When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.


I thought this article was going to be about people who watch streaming shows but dont game or buy gaming stuff just to read but aren’t really into gaming.

But different hobbies - all good. I drove past a bunch of birdwatchers today, Telescopic cameras, waders, camo gear and thought that’s not for me I have my own weird hobby. If I meet them I hope they don’t talk to me about bird habits and I won’t talk to them about rpgs.
With non gamers I just focus on what we have in common.


People like what they like. Some friends don't like playing games, so I do other things with them. It's never been an issue.

I disagree about the "he was right" part. That implies we are doing something foolish by getting to know other people, and letting them know us. There's nothing wrong with that, that's just having friends. If that guy's dad wants to live his life in fear of people knowing him, that's his choice, but i think we can be braver than that. And i've played with people for years, but still know that i can only depend on them for some things, or only share certain parts of my life with them, and hold back others. I'm not sure that you learn so much more about a person immediately when playing a game than you do in other social activities. "Person you meet on the street" is a pretty low bar of social interaction. Loads of other activities surpass that in getting to know someone.

Von Ether

I'll focus on a feelgood story.

A friend of mine had his 32nd birthday party at a game store. One young couple was gobsmacked at the variety of games. "We only have Monopoly at the house," they said.

I said, "This will not stand."

I introduced them to several entry level games that were hot at the time (Tsuro and some others.)

Within a year, they had their own game room. Years later, they have two kids, a game room, and an Airbender campaign going on.
Last edited:


My wife used to play games before we had kids. Once kids came along my gaming time was reduced, but she quit completely. In the last few years as we wind down towards retirement and an empty nest she has no desire to pick it up again. She will play a short board game with our kids and me, but roleplaying is out. She said she enjoyed it back in the day, but when she has down time she does not want to think - she just wants to veg and watch tv. I count my blessings for having a tolerant wife and keep playing.

Two of my four kids have stopped regular gaming too. Four hours once per week is just too much of a commitment for them.

This article has more merit than some may realize. I would like to note that, as an example, while I really enjoy role playing games and have made that a lifelong hobby, my interest in boardgames is all but nonexistent. I had some interest in a few when I was young (Civ, Ogre and Amoeba Wars come to mind) but as time went along my interest in boardgames died, badly. If I am playing a boardgame these days, it is begrudgingly to be polite....the abstracted mechanics and extremely specific goals of the boardgame process are almost painful to have to deal with. So I can understand that there are people out there who may find the concept of games in general (or RPGs or other types in particular) to be frustrating, uninteresting or just anathema.

Voidrunner's Codex

Related Articles

Remove ads

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads