I was just reading the recent post by beloved friend, the Bossy Pally: Obtaining and Using the Title “Gamer”. Recommended read. Rather than simply leave a comment, I felt the desire to explore the topic as well.
I feel she covered the concepts of elitism and competition quite aptly, so I will move towards the posed question: “So, what, to you, makes someone A Gamer? And, more importantly, does it matter?”
Firstly, I thought, “am I a gamer?” and “do I think others regard me as a gamer?”
The first one is obvious. I’m definitely a gamer, in terms of my own self-identity.
Well, I’ve been playing games since my Atari 2600 and Commodore 64, which I put a great deal of hours into. I currently own 16 unique consoles with roughly 600 games between them. I also built my own PC that is at least powerful enough to play any popular game currently on the market and it is used for such. I derive part of my self-identity and self-esteem from my knowledge and love of my older consoles. Especially obscure and forgotten games. I have distinct “retro cred”, at least in my own eyes.
Do I think others regard me as a gamer? Strangely so. There is something oddly omnipresent about the retro console scene that is recognizable gaming-wide. It is specific to consoles, even though many of the more popular games were available elsewhere. For whatever reason, the retro computing scene did not get the same lasting impression. Perhaps consoles are more associated with the widely known arcade titles of the day or they were simply more accessible for the common consumer. I can’t just go anywhere and discuss the merits of Silkworm as a game, but Super Mario Bros., Tetris and Pac-Man are a free passport into almost any gaming community.
So who else is a gamer?
Yeup. I am awesome. That is not in dispute. But am I where I set bar for the title Gamer? That does seem to be the trend. You must have accomplished at least X feat in order to qualify as a Gamer, because I did. It’s definite elitism. Did you defeat Kil’jaeden prior to the release of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion for World of Warcraft? Do you have as many achievement points as I do? How many Magic the Gathering cards do you own? Our definition of “Gamer” tends to be a narcissistic comparison to our own accomplishments. We need to deny people the title to give it worth above our own heads.
Such criteria setting quickly falls apart in application. I’m reminded of Sony’s show, The Tester. Season 3 brought on the Internet-acclaimed Arin Hanson (aka Egoraptor). In episode 1, he was grilled and judged harshly for his lack of PS3 Trophies (the PS3′s achievement system). The man produces his own series that focuses on thinking critically about game design, called Sequelitis. His involvement in and contribution to the gaming community is well known. Yet (probably for the sake of ratings and shock value), they felt obligated to find some criteria by which to deny him the title of Gamer.
So, who do I call a Gamer?
Anyone who says they are.
Everyone’s a Gamer?
Everyone claiming to be a Gamer is a Gamer.
I don’t simply mean that for some politically correct, love-and-peace reason. Everyone who plays and buys games impacts your gaming experience, no matter how removed they are from your interests or accomplishments. The people making games want to sell their games. The people calling themselves Gamers want to buy games. If you deny someone the title of Gamer, that doesn’t change that their dollar is going to influence the types of games you get to play tomorrow.
Elitism doesn’t pay a programmer. Consumerism does.
If a game can be described with the words “freemium”, “social” or “X defense”, chances are I loathe it with such bile as would make the denizens of hell blush. I find much of that social/casual scene to be more experiments in exploiting human psychology for money than anything I’d call a game. Would I consider people who play only these kinds of phone and facebook games to be Gamers?
It is actually important that I acknowledge them as Gamers, because their influence is heavily swaying the entire market right now. They are pouring money by the barrel into their little Skinner boxes. To say they are not Gamers is a very “head in the sand” approach to the direction the market is headed.
“So, what, to you, makes someone A Gamer?”
Being a contributing (e.g., financial or social) influence upon the gaming market.
“And, more importantly, does it matter?”
I’m not going to say what I think matters absolutely. But yes, I do believe that acknowledging the influences on your passion is important. No gaming sub-community exists in a vacuum. Nothing about gaming is an island, removed from all other elements of the world. Like all artistic mediums, it is flexible and impressionable. Its growth depends on it.
You can exclude them. You can insult them. You can deny any common ground exists between you and them. They will cheerfully charge forward and decide your gaming future without you.