February 22, 2014

What is a Gamer?

PBS Game/Show's latest episode explores a topic that might seem trivial, but reflects a poignant undercurrent in the gaming world's online subculture.

It seems that the topic of who is and isn't a "real" gamer, and what that means, is of the utmost concern to certain people. While I personally see it as a rather juvenile accusation to snidely dismiss someone as "not a real gamer," this exclusionary attitude can affect people's willingness to consider certain outsider opinions on topics related to gaming, which is never a good sign. It never hurts to consider the definitions of the words we throw about in everyday conversation, and reexamine just what it is we are talking about when we use them.

I have to take issue with one of the ideas put forward in this video: that a "gamer" could refer to someone who has knowledge and experience with a wide (or total) range of genres. This definition is likened to how we might regard a "cinephile" or movie buff as someone who possesses an especially broad awareness of films, directors, movie history, etc. Do we really need to have strict qualifications for a word like that, though? Isn't someone's expertise in an area something that would become naturally evident, as it becomes relevant to the situation? It's not like anyone can take a test and register as a "cinephile" or a "gamer." These aren't protected titles -- they're just what you self-identify as, and describe an interest or hobby. Furthermore, demanding qualifications to these words is pretty elitist. So, if someone plays games on a fairly regular basis, but doesn't enjoy every genre or own more than one game console, are you going to call them out as not being a "real" gamer? What is the point of that? There need not be "credentials" for such a thing.

The way I see it, being a "gamer" is like being a "foodie." It's a self-ascribed label that describes a hobby you take an active interest in. It's not anyone else's place to judge your degree of aptitude at your hobby. That said, I can see raising an eyebrow at a self-described "gamer" who just has a copy of Call of Duty sitting on their coffee table, but otherwise can't be bothered with video games. A "gamer" who plays nothing but Candy Crush or Farmville is like a "foodie" who only eats at McDonalds. Similarly, someone who has a sheet of postage stamps in their desk drawer isn't a "stamp collector." Maybe it's not my place to tell someone they aren't one if they really feel that strongly about it, but surely such a blurry and meaningless qualification is going to lead to some bewildering dialogue.

The quality of "gamerness," like so many things in life, is a broad spectrum. There is no point at which you become a gamer. You don't get to be one bu purchasing the right software. You don't get to be one by beating Street Fighter on Hard. You don't get to be one by owning every game console. It's just a hat you choose to wear or not wear. If the hat fits, people will be able to tell. And if not -- well, no one else can make you take it off, but you might look like bit of a goof.

1 comment:

  1. While I might consider myself more of a foodie as of late than a gamer, I'd have to agree that I would only fall into a niche of the "gamer spectrum" as there is only a limited type of games that I might consider playing.