The Idiosyncratic Nature of Gamer Food…
It has never been said that gamers are a healthy lot, overall. One needs only look at the stereotypes, with their bags of chips and two liters of soda to reinforce this notion. Or worse, go to a regional convention, where the vendors advertise ‘Gamer Sizes (3X+)’ and the venues can accommodate double-wide wheelchairs. There’s a certain logic to it, given that the more cerebral aspects of gaming are typically at odds with people who go out for sports in high school or make sure that they never miss their morning jog. And often the stereotypical game sessions run late, evincing the need for sugary, caffeinated sodas in fairly high quantities.
This is an awful lot of generalization, I grant, and there are plenty of people that I’ve gamed with who manage to keep from descending into pure and horrible stereotype. (If I’m being honest, I’ve managed to avoid gaming with too many people who are truly fat and slovenly, and I’m not sure exactly why. It could be that the type of gamer that most lives up to the stereotype are the kinds that I would rather avoid. Mayhaps, I am simply a narrow minded and pretentious sort. It’s hard to say.)
The standard outlook on gamer food is that a six hour (or more) gaming session is going to run long enough that people are going to get hungry sometime during play, and whatever steps are taken to remedy this should minimize an interruption of the game. The easiest way around this tends to be packaged food and beverage, which lands us firmly at the ‘Funyuns & Mountain Dew’ aspect of gamer culture. I’ve pretended that my main staple of chips and salsa is slightly healthier, but there’s not as much difference as I would tend to like to have.
In the past, different groups have made the attempt to undertake an actual meal together beforehand, which can kill up to an hour or more before the game starts. By the time you’ve decided on a place to eat, gotten a table (there’s never been much call to go for fast food before gaming in the different groups I’ve been a part of, for whatever reason), been served, eaten and returned; there’s a good chunk of time taken away from the session allotment. It’s not a bad solution, all things being equal, as everyone is guaranteed to have an adequate energy level for the upcoming session and it’s a step above the average junk food that might otherwise be available.
Or at least, it’s supposed to be. Prepared food, much like processed food, can leave a lot to be desired, depending. Not a lot of gamers that I know have a great deal of disposable income, so better quality meals may be up to debate. While I haven’t been subject to just running down to the local Taco Bell, I have to assume that there is a solid percentage of people that are willing to go to that extent. Besides which, my gaming group is solidly American, which means that any given restaurant meal could comprise over half a day’s requirement of calories and a good portion of the week’s sodium.
Naturally, there were some amazing options while I was living abroad, but that’s pretty much to be expected. I was living in an extremely cosmopolitan city, with the expected array of domestic and international cuisine as options. Even then, I knew people who would use the excuse of gaming and eating out to seek out the comfort foods that they couldn’t get otherwise. It was always a trip to see the Canadian guys show up with an order of takeout poutine that they found at a stall in the bus terminal.
The next logical option is to order food in. The logic here is that there isn’t any time wasted seeking food at some outside venue, and the delivery food can be eaten wherever the game is taken place. My experience has mainly come in the form of pizza or subs, but I’m sure that more civilized or urban-centered gamers could avail themselves of anything that could be couriered in from outside. The same problems apply with the nutritive value of American food that I alluded to previously, as they’re coming from the same general range of restaurants.
The final option, of course, would be to cook on-site wherever you’re gaming. This is the most generally rare version, to my personal experience, for whatever reason. In some cases, it’s because you’re at a public place, like a games shop or a library. In others, it’s because no one can agree on what sort of food would work for everyone’s palate. (So, going back to the pizza thing … I’ve found that, no matter the group, there always has to be two pizzas in a given order, since it’s rare to get everyone to agree on even that. Americans are sorta weird.) Elsewise, it’s because the gamers that I’ve run with don’t tend to be great cooks, overall. There are particular exceptions, but even then, the ones that can cook are pretty unlikely to please all palates. The quick and easy example of this was one of my good friends, who would make a point to cook up some amazing curry on occasioned sessions. There would always be one person who couldn’t handle the heat of this and would sullenly be sitting around with a takeout sub while the rest of us tore the holy hell out of our collective digestive systems.
The upshot of all this is that there tends to be a disconnect between the imagination that fuels the very hobby that we’re talking about and the amount of thought that goes into fueling ourselves while engaging in the hobby. I’ve lived on both ends of the spectrum of nutritional choices, spending my adolescence with soft drinks and bags of chips (and in one very weird incident, several dozen jelly-filled donuts that were to be divided between a mere handful of people) and slowly becoming a relatively fastidious consumer as I got older. I know that there are enough others like me, but stereotypes exist for a reason. There are still plenty of people that fall back to old habits when they sit down to throw dice. (If it weren’t for the weird influences of one of my regular groups, I’d probably down an unhealthy amount of canned soda at every single gaming session. As it is, there’s still too much Coke in my diet, albeit far less than it might otherwise be.)