Antepiece 6: “Gamer”

Before we continue, I’d like to direct you to a page on tumblr. Bear with me for just a second on this, since it’s important for context:

I’d say that it’s amazing to see how integrated gaming is in the mainstream, but truthfully, it was bound to happen. Better, well-applied marketing combined with games that appeal to everyone helped propel gaming into, generally speaking, mass acceptance, which is pretty damn cool. There are all sorts of games for all sorts of people, and having this kind of variety is a great thing for the industry and us gamers. There’s no arguing that point.

None of us growing up in the 80′s and 90′s could have seen this coming. Face it – despite Nintendo trying to hock Zelda’s appeal to the ‘cool kid’ demographic, you were more likely to get your ass kicked in school if you admitted to playing videogames (or, worse, if you tried to rap the song to your peers). Nobody was putting up with that nonsense. Gaming was a hobby gleefully pursued by geeks, and this wasn’t something you wanted to admit to the public at large unless you truly desired getting your ass handed to you (verbally, physically, or both – take your pick). Gaming was an outlier, something to be shunned. What others thought about your hobby determined whether or not you’d be taken seriously, so for the most part, you stayed silent about it.

Fast forward to today. In the United States alone, over half of the population plays games. There is a wide gamut of games available, and the genres are pretty far reaching. From mainstream FPS triple-A titles to obscure indie games from Brazil, there really is something for everybody. And it’s easier than ever to find or create a community of like-minded individuals who share the same enjoyment out of your title(s) of choice. It’s looking pretty good, culturally speaking, when this kind of community seems to be getting better and better.

Except when it isn’t.

I want you to ask yourself something, and be honest with yourself: “Do I really care if someone is a ‘casual’ gamer? And if so, why?”

One of the fundamental aspects of gaming that I think gamers (and I’m referring to us ‘hardcore gamers’ here) tend to forget is that games are novelty items. They are relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things. They’re toys. Unless you are making your living through the creation (or, if you want to stretch it a bit, the critique of) games, they really should be low on your “what to give a fuck about” priority list.

I’m a gamer. I spend hours with titles like Mass Effect, Bioshock, Left 4 Dead 2, and yeah, even the dreaded Call of Duty series. But I also spend time tweaking my town in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Does that make me any less of a gamer?

And if all I played was Animal Crossing – or Facebook games, or Android apps, whatever – would you still call me a gamer? And if not, why not?

Hell, the term ‘gamer’ isn’t even a “badge of honor” anymore, if we could ever even call it that. The immediate world outside of gaming certainly doesn’t give a shit. And who can blame them, given that all people on the outside see is the loud minority of dirtbags associated with gaming?


Remember this? Even Nintendo got tired of the “gamer” label – and this is a commercial for their flagship IP!


Truth be told, I suck at most games. Unless it’s an RPG (which I always managed to claw my way through), I’m actually kind of terrible at games. Hell, one of the main reasons I loved Metal Gear Solid so much was because it was the first action title that I was halfway decent at as a kid. And, honestly, it’s no better now.

One of my best friends goofed on me, light heartedly, because I couldn’t handle the shooting in Bioshock Infinite. I frustrated other friends because I was having a hard time tagging things in Jet Set Radio, since I wasn’t used to the Xbox’s controller. It takes me a while to learn new (or new-to-me) game mechanics, and it’s worse when I’m around friends. Generally, it goes like this: because I get anxious about friends seeing how much I suck, this in turn makes me play much worse than I usually would, which results in my feeling worse about myself. This causes a tremendous anxiety and failure loop that could very well have been avoided if only I didn’t pick up the fucking controller in front of people in the first place.

I’m letting the opinions of others dictate how I should have fun. Sound familiar?

And take a close look again at the linked ESA pdf above. About 19% of the games people play fall under the ‘causal’ category; that’s a pretty significant amount. If we’re making the attempt to belittle these so-called ‘dirty casuals’, who in the hell are we really spiting, here? (Answer: family and friends who just want to play a game without dealing with ‘gamers’ busting their balls.)

We’re turning into the people who hated and bullied us. The term ‘gamer’ – hardcore or otherwise – is meaningless these days. Next time you start separating people into these odd categories, consider the people you’re leaving out in the cold. Consider the people who want to enjoy their games without feeling like they’re assholes for not liking the same things that you do.

See you next time. And tell me what you think about the ‘gamer’ label in the comments below!

Joan is a lifelong gamer who lives in Buffalo, New York. She spends entirely too much time discussing gaming culture, storytelling in games, games as art, and all of the neat minutia that goes along with these and related topics. Her favourite games are Metal Gear Solid and Portal 2, amongst others.

Currently, she’s working on paying off loans (and building projects) in Animal Crossing: New Leaf.


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  • Stephen Farrell

    Thank you for a well written piece here. I can say with absolute honesty two things with this. One, I am a hardcore gamer in the sense that I play and have games on me about, 23/7. At work, home, school, anywhere, it is on my Zune, my phone, portable systems. There is also something on me. And second, with what you mentioned about the ‘casual’ games; I tend to poke fun at some people that play the app/facebook type of games, but with light-hearted intentions. I too am “guilty” in the sense that I have also put some time into games like Dragon City, YDKJ FB, and the like. And I have thoroughly enjoyed them when I actually played.

    I am not sure about anyone else here, but I do NOT try to make fun of anyone for what they play….to a serious extent of being a bully at least. Personally, what they play I may scoff at, laugh at, or poke fun.
    It is also easy to see the enjoyment factor that they are having. What right do we have to make fun of those that play WHAT THEY ENJOY using their time for, to just escape from the real world whether for a couple of minutes or a couple of hours? Why are gamers the new bullies to gamers (i.e. CoD fanboys that take it way too far)?

    And what can we do to change?

    • // Joan

      Hey there, Stephen! Thank you for the comment; I love getting feedback and seeing what you guys have to say about the things we write about. :)

      I think there’s a difference between poking light-hearted fun at friends and family for the games they play – I’m certainly not suggesting people take this hobby so seriously that you can’t do that! – and legitimately insulting (or being condescending) to people who play the more ‘casual’ titles. And what you said is exactly what I mean – being a jerk to someone because of different tastes and likes isn’t exactly something that should be encouraged in polite society.

      Now, granted, I’m also shouting into a void here, somewhat – not only will some people be jerks, but I doubt that many of them are reading these (or others) articles about this kind of thing. Still, I like to hold onto the illusion – grasping as tightly as I can! – that people will turn themselves around and just be polite to one another. It’s nice to dream.

      Allow me to play devil’s advocate for a moment. It’s interesting that you mentioned the CoD fanboys as an example of people who may be guilty of this behaviour. While I don’t necessarily disagree (and it should be obvious that I don’t mean *every* CoD player, of course), I’d also argue that it’s not just them. The hipster, “high art” gamers are guilty of this. The Nintendo fanboys are guilty of this. The indie gamers are guilty of this. A lot of us are guilty of this behavior to some extent. If I were to deny that I ever partook in this, I’d be lying, full disclosure. It’s just as frustrating to hear a CoD player say “Mario is for babies” as a hipster retro gamer say “CoD is for lowbrow mainstreamers”. It’s all petty behavior, really.

      And as far as what could be done to change this? I wouldn’t recommend policing behavior or anything of that sort. If anything, I’d say to just take the time to really question why you (general you) feel how you feel about gaming. You don’t need to spoil someone’s enjoyment of a game because you dislike that title, or genre. But adversely, it’s good to have discussions that allow for genuine critique and debate about the merits of a game. I guess I’m just asking for people to be civil.

      Wow, this reply is almost as long as the article itself! Thanks again for your comment. Hope to read more from you soon!

      • // Adam

        Testing replies.

  • seven5three


    Our Disqus plugin wasn’t working correctly, so you likely never saw Joan reply to your comment. I’ve been able to import our comments, but it duplicated your post. Please check back and you’ll see Joan’s reply.

    Thank you!