After I shared my thoughts about Miyazaki’s remarks on otakus and the Anime Industry’s focus on that demographic, one of the comments caught my attention to write about this topic: Should you call yourself an otaku or even a gamer? (Image Source)
In the past, these labels have negative connotations and stereotypes towards a person liking a certain hobby because it’s not socially accepted. This differs to the word “fan” which implies a strong interest or liking in something, but does not have an undesirable perception in comparison. Granted, video games and anime has been in the mainstream for a while now, but should people use these demeaning labels to describe a person’s interest in a hobby? To me, I think it’s better to move away from these labels not because they are demeaning, but for the fact that it defines a person to a hobby.
While otakus and gamers have some differences in terms of interests, the stereotypes and perception of both by society is similar. People tend to stereotype them as lazy, unproductive to society, and socially inept for the fact that they do nothing but play games or watch anime/read manga all day long. However, otakus are viewed more negatively compared to gamers for the fact that there was a person who was heavily interested in horror anime that murdered several girls as a result of being withdrawn from society.
While this isn’t the case anymore, there are still some instances of anti-social behavior from otakus such as people carrying around a dakimakura of a fictional character he/she likes or instances of harassment against voice actors/idol singers just because he/she is dating someone. These negative behaviors from a small minority of the fan base creates a negative stigma for people who have an interest in these kinds of media even if they don’t want to be labeled as one. As a result, it causes a person to keep their interest for a certain hobby a secret in order to avoid being labeled as such by society. As seen in Nogizaka Haruka’s Secret and Ore no Imouto, Haruka and Kirino had to hide their otaku interests from their parents and friends because they fear that they will judge them by their otaku interests. Both of their fathers eventually find that their daughters have an interest in it and immediately disapprove of it by telling them that they have to get rid of it.
From this example, it shows that society is quick to judge people who have interest in a certain hobby just because it’s not socially acceptable. I don’t think it’s right since not all fans of video games or anime are anti-social or take things to obsessive levels. There are a lot of normal people who play video games or watch shows geared to an otaku audience on a daily basis. I admit that I enjoy playing video games and watching shows that has cute girls. To me, they are just forms of entertainment that I enjoy, not something that replaces reality. Furthermore, I think that there are many normal and sociable people who collect merchandise and figurines. Lastly, there are a lot of normal people video games that enjoy playing video games and are hard-core fans.
If that is the case, why do people get tied to a label just because they have an interest in a particular hobby while others don’t get the same treatment? If someone watches a movie, would you call him or her a moviegoer? If someone listens to Japanese music for instance, would you call him or her a Japanese music listener? No, you wouldn’t because watching a movie or listening to music is socially accepted and don’t have a label compared to playing a video game or watching anime. This double standard does not only apply to these hobbies themselves, but media targeted to a certain demographic. For instance, it’s socially acceptable to play casual video games like Candy Crush Saga or Angry Birds on a smart phone or tablet but not games like Tales of Hearts or Hyperdimension Neptunia on a gaming console. These double standards are one of the reasons I don’t like the word gamer and outright refuse to call myself an otaku (aside from term being negative in Japan).
At the end of the day, I understand that there are good amounts of people who prefer calling themselves gamers or otakus and I respect that. One have to agree, why are we automatically labeled as such just because we enjoy playing video games, watching anime, reading manga/light novels/visual novels or interested in gaming/otaku subculture? These labels only encapsulate all negative stereotypes for people who are interested in these hobbies. Why can’t anime, video games, light novels, etc. be considered a form of entertainment or a hobby instead a label? These forms of entertainment are already mainstream, so why not?
With that, what are your feelings towards the words “gamer” and “otaku”? Do you think people should automatically be labeled as one because they have interest in video games, anime, etc?