A Response To: Are You A Narcissistic Gamer? by Jennie Bharaj

Welcome back brothers and sisters, today I watched a video on YouTube by our sister, Jennie Bharaj, talking about narcissism in gaming. When I saw the tweet she posted from a few days ago, I responded thus:

Well… if i wasn’t a narcissist before…

Tonight I remembered that I’d seen this post, and thought to myself “hey, I should actually watch that video”, and I found it very interesting. interesting enough to write a response in the comments. A rather long response, with many paragraphs and a bit of greek mythology in there for good measure.

However, seeing as I wrote this response rather than actually write the article I had already started, I decided to turn my comment of three volumes, into this article. This will be the first long response article I write, I never thought I would do something like this and if it’s something that you enjoyed, please let me know in the comments below, and I’ll try to do more like this in the future.

An epic shout out to the wonderful Jennie Bharaj, if you are a gamer, and are interested in studying games, gaming conventions and gaming cultures, you should be following her on YouTube and Twitter, and please check out the website she co-founded BasedGamer.

I want to point out before I get into this, that I am using the video as a catalyst for this discussion article, and my comments are not directed at our sister herself, I am arguing the studies she brings up, not her thoughts on it.

So to start with, here is the video:

Narcissism is a complex personality type, and there have been many interpretations of what narcissism actually is. However, when we base a word, an adjective that is meant to describe a type of person on a morality play as we have with the term narcissism, in my opinion, deviating too far from that original meaning, simply means that we are talking about something different.

The classic definition of narcissism, has always included a sense of over inflated self worth or love of ones self to the extreme, rather than attention seeking behaviours, so I’m not sure I would agree with the seemingly over simplified two category system that these studies suggest, as there is no mention of this trait. In fact, it seems that they are more likely defining very different personality traits, and simply calling it narcissism.

The word narcissism we have today derives from the Greek mythological character Narcissus (actually pronounces Nark-is-oss), who upon catching a reflection of himself in the water, fell in love. However, as his reflection was not real, he lost the will to live and died at the waters edge, because he could never be with the one he truly loved. This is of course a morality tale, rather than an actual event, which speaks to the dangers of ego and taking too much pride, to the point of arrogance in an aspect of ones self. In the story that reflected self, turns out to be illusory, but in a more real sense described the potential effect of discovering those traits you hold so highly are neither special nor superior in any way, which could result in a metaphorical death or loss of a sense of self.

The categories that these studies suggest are attributes of narcissism, to me instead simply appear to be co-presenting personality traits in their own rights, rather than defining aspects of Narcissism itself. In my opinion this only serves to distort what narcissism is and has always meant to be, rather that defining it better. After all this is a word coined to define a phenomena which is presented in the personality of the character of Narcissus, in which neither desire for admiration nor rivalry are factors. Narcissism in this traditional context refers to one thing and one thing only, an overly grand sense of self value and pride to the extreme.

Still, let’s look at the actual traits.

Seeking the admiration of others is fine, albeit a little self deprecating, as your sense of personal worth is coming from an outside source. This is not narcissism. It’s actually quite the opposite to the original meaning. It could only be narcissism, if you are seeking the admiration of others, because you believe THEY would benefit from knowing you, rather than you receiving some benefit from their admiration. The “God’s gift” sort of personality. That’s not to say that they wouldn’t be narcissist-like, giving of the appearance of apex self confidence in an attempt to convince others to validate you. In and of itself however, I don’t think seeking the admiration of others is a negative trait in moderation, people may want the admiration of someone they feel is their superior, not because they love themselves and think that they should be recognised, but because they love the other person so strongly that they seek to be noticed by them.

A far cry from the man who fell in love with his own reflection.

While rivalry again can be found in those who are narcissistic, I don’t think it’s a defining trait of narcissism itself. People can become rivals because they see something of value in the other person rather than seeing themselves as more valuable. For me personally, I would consider someone a rival if they constantly pushed me to better myself, to want to prove myself to them and others, and beating them would be to have them recognise my achievement and have my sense of worth validated by that person I look up to. This is very similar to the above example, and again this would be a validation from an outside source, not unconditional self love, though a certain sense of pride to push on in the face of adversity maybe a prerequisite.

A more direct counter argument however, is that true narcissism may be incompatible with a sense of rivalry, because if you are a narcissist you would believe yourself to have no rival in your particular field or over all as a human being.

When this shifts to gamers however, is probably where I feel this two dimensional version fails the most.

If someone wants to gain a sense of achievement in games, or as put in the study “a sense of improvement on real life abilities”, then the person who uses gaming to achieve those things are doing so because they don’t believe they can do it in real life. Such as jump four times their height, drive incredibly well, or be a near perfect shot. Thus they create a perfect avatar, or identify something of themselves in a character, to live vicariously through. This is again quite opposite to traditional narcissism. This isn’t a love of ones self, but a knowledge that they will never live up to characters they play as.

At most this could be described as narcissism by proxy, the love of the proxy or avatar, and only in this situation does rivalry make sense, as you are invested in the proxy being seen as the best.

And how the simulation of imagination is narcissistic is beyond my ken. (and Ryu :P)

Going on to distraction from the real world. I would certainly say I did that for many years, but I wouldn’t agree that it had anything to do with a sense of rivalry. I did this because my school life was awful, and I just wanted to get away. I didn’t believe I deserved being the whipping boy, and as such wanted to lose myself in another world. Not for narcissism’s sake, but just to stay alive. These were worlds where I felt like I could actually be something or affect change. Legend of Zelda resonated with me, not because Link was the Hero of Time and the once and future saviour of Hyrule, but because he was just a lonely boy. Like me.

There is nothing narcissistic in that.

Not having the context in which people said that video games were just a distraction, does call into question what they actually mean by that, but an interpretation might be someone who sees video games as nothing more than a fleeting past time, I highly doubt someone could have so much of their sense of self worth tied up in something they have very little investment in, and that makes me wonder as to the motivations of the people administering the survey in the first place. It seems that they are categorising people who would otherwise be harmless, as having a sense of personal superiority. Putting these gamers at odds with other gamers and non-gamers alike.

Was this the intention? Is there bias in the way these two studies have been correlated? We may never know, but I strongly doubt that you play Mario Run, or Farming Simulator 2017 because your a narcissist.

Now, does that mean that there aren’t narcissistic gamers? No, of course not. There most certainly are. There will always be, in any group of people those who think of themselves as the superior to others.

However, I believe in gaming, as in sports and other high skill, high investment hobbies and careers, these people are quickly filtered out. It’s like a make or break situation. Either they receive a rude awakening very early on when their sense of superiority sends them into fights they can’t win, or they are that damn good, and they win championships.

At that point it comes back to the question I posted in jest to Twitter, are they narcissists if they really are the best?

Another possibility is that people become narcissistic because they start to believe their own press, and when people treat them as gaming gods and beings of myth, like Narcissus, they fall in love with that image of themselves.

However, in traditional narcissism there is a sense of the extreme, someone who knows they are the best in their field, is different from someone who becomes arrogant over that fact, and who come to believe that their success makes them a superior human being. This is where narcissism has it’s greatest dangers for the narcissist and those around them.  Being dropped from such a great height of mythic status, is a huge blow to ones ego and sense of identity, and could potentially lead to depression, psychotic breaks, and suicide when faced with a crushing defeat at the hands of someone who you might otherwise consider below you. So while it’s important to help bring these people back to reality, knocking them off their high horse, is not likely to be the best way to do it. These people need to come to terms with the reality of the situation, and come to the realisation for themselves, rather than being forced to face cold reality.

I think this is especially important in gamers. There are a lot of gamers that have their social issues, and maybe this could mean that we are predisposed to mental illnesses like depression, bi-polar syndromes and the like. It is known that there is a large percentage of people with autism amongst gamers. Narcissism or at very least narcissistic behaviour could be a front to cover up for their own insecurities, when deep down they know their outward arrogance and pride is nothing more than a facade. Like myself, diving into Hyrule, these people may be drawn to the concept that for a change they have control over something, even if it is only a game. For a change they can be the hero and save the oppressed, or be the bully, rather than the bullied.

Understanding the reasons behind personality traits are just as important, if not more so, than the traits themselves, so passing someone off as a narcissist, a term that does have a strong negative stigma, is an easy thing to do when faced with this kind of egocentric behaviour, however there could be a lot more going on behind the scenes. Bullies are often bullied, abusers are often abused. That’s not an excuse for their actions when they become inappropriate, but within our gaming community, I beg of you to look out for one another. Treat your brothers and sisters in the game with love and respect, and help those who fall back into the Game’s grace, and bring them back to the community that we have.

But that’s my thoughts on this, what do you think? Feel free to discuss this further in the comments below. I want to know what your thoughts on narcissism in gaming are, and feel free to remind me how sexy I truly am!

Also, I want to plug Jennie Bharaj again, check out her YouTube, Twitter and the excellent site BasedGamer. I’ve actually written a few articles that I’ve posted to Based Gamer and you can find those just below below!

My love to you all,

Peace and High Scores!