The problem with people is that they’re only human.
TWRM is back with yet another moderately-proportioned question to bequeath: “What is a Real Gamer?” What is your own definition of one or is the term stupid? Snuck an extra question in there. Those of you who have participated before know the drill. With our Asking Big Questions series I invite you to join in the conversation.
Now I do have to express my regret that I’m unable to read every response to these questions, as I’ve failed to do in the past. Time is a terrible tyrant. Sometimes these questions receive a lot of responses and many of them are very well-thought out and articulated.
The point of this series is to generate open discussion, not necessarily to create content purely for me to digest, so in that spirit please feel free to comment below with your answer or even create a blog post about what your definition of “real gamer” is! If you create your own post, please remember to link back to this post so that everyone can find your link as a resource. Every conversation is one worth having. Well, almost every one. I think.
Here are four possible answers to the question that I can imagine, though I’m sure there are more. I wanted to share some of my thoughts as well. You’ll find I don’t think to highly of the term “real gamer”
#1. “Real gamer” as an elitist term
This tends to be used in the phrasing “only real gamers [insert act that the poster does themselves]”. Real gamer implies that there are false gamers or fake gamers, hypocrites or pretenders aspiring to the overwhelmingly illustrious position, “poseurs” as we used to call people in the eloquent ’90s.
In other words, it’s “only real gamers are like me”, because ego. You’ll hear “only real gamers play PlayStation/Xbox/Nintendo”, “only real gamers play retro games”, “only real gamers play in 4K HD”, “only real gamers subject themselves to the addiction of MMORPGs”. Typically there’s a certain level of skill or ownership of a collection that’s appealed to. To the great arbiters who decide who is a true gamer and who isn’t, a host of other terms are brandished to describe those they deem below the cut: cheap gamers, casuals, losers, etc. You can tell these folks by their go-to phrase “I can’t believe you haven’t played [random game title]!” I’d like to also submit “do you even PVP, bro?” for their convenience.
Now don’t think that this is unique to gaming (and I hope that helps to set me apart from other games journalists!). That’s human nature for you and it’s something you can see repeated among sports fans, hobbyists, artisans, and even writers (yes, writers are not magically better than anyone else simply because of their choice of activity and/or natural talent, contrary to popular belief). The ubiquity of Self with a capital “s” is no phenomenon but it explains why the term “gamer” is used in this way.
#2. “Real gamer” as a technical or industry term
This one is interesting. The sense here is that games are either designed or marketed to the “hardcore” gamer or the “casual”. Talking with someone who worked in the industry, they were able to relate how different levels of attention in development were paid to different games that were intended to be sold to casuals vs hardcore gamers.
As a marketing term meant to make it easier for developers to define the goals for their games in terms of demographics and sales, I don’t see too much problem with it. Of course, I don’t use the term in this manner since I’m not a developer, but I doubt that those saying “real gamers only play [blank]” always are either.
#3. “Real gamer” as emblematic of gamer culture
So-called gamer culture is somewhat of a packed term. It calls to mind a stereotype or a generalized description, more so, associated with toxicity, arrogance, bragging, rudeness, anti-sociability, addiction, and obsession, and in many cases rightfully so. Google “real gamer”. It’s a mess. Certainly there are people like this and you can call them a culture, but I don’t think you have to be like them or associate with them if you play video games. I don’t, so I can attest to that. I daily get to interact with some really amazing, funny, talented, articulate, intelligent, witty, and creative people who also happen to play games. They’re out there, you just have to find them. Also, if you want friends you have to be friendly yourself. If gamer culture is just a bunch of strangers calling each other slurs, then count me out.
The term gamer culture is so fettered and dirty that many have stopped calling themselves “gamers” at all to disassociate. There’s a lot of obsession with labels today and if you prefer to be called “a non-conforming individual who occasionally but without regularity partakes in the activity of playing computer games” that’s fine, but I don’t think that’ll fit in your Twitter profile.
Call me a gamer, don’t call me a gamer, I don’t care. That to me makes the “real gamer” descriptor that much more laughable. It doesn’t matter to me. If it matters to you, that’s up to you. That’s your own thing. Cool. Just don’t assume that I throw my stuff around in fits of rage or hate women and minorities because I happen to play video games. But… it’s easy to tolerate poor behavior in ourselves and then shake a finger at the rest of the culture, so I’ll stop right here. “In the multitude of words…”
#4. “Real gamer” as literally anyone who is plays video games
It doesn’t matter what genre of game you play or what platform its on or who developed and published it. It doesn’t even matter if I like or approve of the game, myself! The thing that resonates with me about this definition is it allows me to find common ground with anyone, regardless of what they’re playing. It takes into consideration that there’s nothing better or worse about gamers because they’re just people who enjoy a specific activity from time to time with varying frequency.
Maybe the best thing about this definition is it prevents anyone from excluding or shaming someone else on something that’s really at the end of the day pretty superficial and doesn’t have much to do with that person’s character: the kind of games they play.
Some people are sphincters (and some of them are “gamers”). Some people are lovely (and some of them are “gamers”). As there’s no relationship between playing video games and becoming an active shooter, so too there’s no relationship between playing video games and being a jerk. Real gamers in this definition can be anyone and real gamers can play whatever they want when they want or have time or money for. This is why I’m indifferent to things like “gamer pride”. That’d be like saying “kicking a ball pride”.
I don’t care what your skin tone is. I don’t care what gender or orientation you are. I don’t care what your creed is. I don’t care if you’re “hardcore” or “casual”. If you play games, we can talk about it. By some people’s definitions, I’m “hardcore”. By others I’m extremely “casual”. To me, gaming is just an activity I enjoy like movie watching, hiking, or eating food. It has plenty of baggage, gaming does, but it’s different than being a writer since a writer creates (and that’s more how I’d identify myself than “gamer”).
Anyway, that’s just my take, as in “take it or leave it”.
To close this out, let me say that I really liked what someone said on Twitter (I couldn’t find the tweet): gamers complain about having been bullied in school as outcasts and about being marginalized now for playing video games, so don’t become bullies and exclude people into being outcasts yourselves. Don’t become what you hate. If anything, gamers should have learned to be kind to others if they were really on the receiving end of real harassment.
Excellent point. Think about it. You can’t moan about being discriminated against or looked down on if those are the things you’re doing yourself.
logic common sense,
-The Well-Red Mage
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