What Makes Someone a Gamer?
When I hear anyone use the word “gamer” without irony or air quotes I cringe. It’s always the same line—“I’m a gamer”—with the addition of some trivial attempt at supporting the claim—“I have three old school consoles”—and no attempt to explain what the term “gamer” means.
Logic should suggest that a gamer is simply one who games. After all, a writer is one who writes, a actor is one who acts, a painter is one who paints. Of course, “er” words tend to lean towards serious hobbyists or (aspiring) professionals.
With video games, there are very few professionals and very many serious hobbyists. Wikipedia suggests that nowadays gamer simply means “one who plays a lot of video games”. To me gamer comes with a more negative connotation. If you ask me to describe a stereotypical gamer I would say lacks interests outside of video games.
Why do I have this schema? I guess I really hate words that seem made up. “Gamer” popped into the vernacular recently and it almost always means people with a certain attitude about their experience level. Most of these folks consider a gamer to be someone who not only plays a lot of video games, but someone who plays the right type of video games. If I spend all day playing Diner Dash and Peggle, then I am pushed to the rank of “casual gamer.” If I instead spend all day playing first person shooters, then I’m considered more of a gamer. I can’t just play new games—I have to play old games—the right old games. So my love of Spyro: Year of the Dragon, gets me no gamer cred, but playing Ocarina of Time would earn me plenty of gamer points.
Another big problem I have with the word “gamer” is that it automatically means video gamer. Why does being a board game fanatic earn me a different title than being a video game fan? If someone who loves board games is a “tabletop gamer” then why is someone who loves video games a plain old no modifiers necessary “gamer”?
I suppose this is just the way it is with language. Words come to mean what we make them out to mean. If a gamer is someone with a deep appreciation of video games I can’t object to that. A gamer should love games. She should play classics that have stood the test of time and independent games that push the boundaries of the genre. (This, of course, is often but not always the case). The same rules apply for fans of any medium of art be if film, sculpture, or literature.
Then again, I’m the only person I know who gave a video game character a permanent place on their skin. Maybe I am the biggest gamer I know but I’d sooner do without another unnecessary label. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go play some video game versions of board games. I guess that makes me a tabletop video gamer. Or does it make me a video table top gamer?