What It Means to Be A Gamer: Battling Stereotypes, Preserving Identities


Remember the days when the term “gamer” defined anyone who played whatever game? If you simply played a game you were a gamer. As the times changed, and different genres and advocates of games developed, “gamer” became an umbrella where subgroups were formed. Groups like “hard-core gamer”, “pro-gamer”, and “newbie” became subcategories under the term “gamer”. Leagues, communities, and bonds are created through these self-expressed identities which bring gamers together to support and compete. There is a great sense of respect and “chilax-ness” that occurs when you are with your friends drinking beers and playing Halo again and again just goofing around blowing up, sniping, or racing the warthog over huddles doing crazy stunts, all the while laughing in camaraderie. Competitions spark an urge or passion to one-up the other and win, but when it’s over, it’s like they had been your friends for years. They compliment, bash, joke, and tease each other about the match and if the loser isn’t a sore loser, they’ll say something humorous like “you’re good, but you only won the battle but not the war. I’ll get you next time.” The winner shouldn’t gloat about his victory either, that’s just bad company and stirs spite. Gamers should game to their hearts content so that when one wins over the other, there is a sense of admiration toward each other for their skills, esteem, and abilities.

Besides the term “pro-gamer”, most of these identities reflect the range of interests and level of enthusiasm of the gamer which defined them in the gaming community. For this reason, we have new titles like “casual gamer”, “mid-core gamer”, “retrogamer”, “gaymer”, and “girl gamer”. The emergence of this titles shed light that the umbrella of “gamer” is growing into vast pockets of interests and levels of gaming keenness. This is important because game developers need to have an ideal target market whenever they are in development of a game. Only creating a game that is good does not make it successful but molding it to cater to a particular group is what makes it successful.

Therefore, these identities are used more to define a group or market than for self-assertion. It is as if you were walking down a street and someone came up to you and said, “I’m Asian” or “I’m Black.” Such self-assertion is unnecessary since it is obvious by your culture. The same holds true in the gaming community. For example, if a woman is playing a game she does not need to express she’s a girl gamer, because that is made obvious by her simply playing a game. However, places like girlgamer.com identify what their target audience is by stating their market in their name. Someone who plays retro games, shouldn’t go around introducing themselves as a retrogamer since it only matters when someone asks “what type of gamer are you?” which then the answer would be appropriate. The same holds true for casual to hardcore gamers. There is no need to express the obvious that can be seen when a casual or hardcore gamer plays.  Just play or talk about games and let what you know and your skills do the talking for you.

We need to realize that with every identity there is a stereotype. Stereotypes can be seen, however they are not always true. Stereotypes should never identify a person nor should someone be associated with a stereotype if they match an identity. So if someone who plays retro games like Contra on the Sega Genesis or Atari 2600, are they considered old farts of an era long ago? How about if someone casually plays games on their iOS, for example Angry Birds? Are they mindless noobs with no sense of a joystick? And what of the female gamer who is bombarded with accusations that because she plays games she is an attention seeking whore? How about the gamer who spends most of his time playing World of Warcraft; does he live in his parent’s basement? What about the professional gamer, is he Korean or Japanese? These automatic mindsets are predisposed in our psyche and are delusions that we need to wake up from. Instead of picking fights with each other we need to go back to the fundamental connection of all of this; we are all gamers.

There are so many more things to bicker about than who measures up to be a gamer and giving every gamer the respect they deserve is what is important. Every gamer was a noob once (or a couple times). Let’s just game in peace. If anyone says “I’m a hardcore gamer” ,”I’m a Girl Gamer”, “I’m a retogamer” you tell them straight out they’re just a gamer like the rest of us. People who self-assert themselves to be gamers are not gamers. True gamers do not need to express that; their skills and knowledge do it for them.

Narz is founder and owner of Girl Gamer Vogue, writer at Gametyrant, and lead video game columnist at Knickerbocker Ledger.

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