About a week ago, my friend Kiara posted this on Twitter, and it got me thinking:
What is the criteria for being called a “gamer”? I mean, I run a mean @WolfQuestGame server, does that count?
— Kiara Kalmey (@kiara_kalmey) August 11, 2018
Like with almost any label someone can apply to themselves (baker, photographer, reader, etc.), there seems to be some set of criteria for calling yourself a gamer, but no one knows what it is. What separates a gamer from a non-gamer? What’s on that mythical list of requirements? Today, I’d like to answer that question and finally put an end to these discussions.
Before I dive into that though, I want to give a shoutout to the wonderful people in the Geeks Under Grace community! I posed this same question in their Facebook group, and while these thoughts in my post are mine alone, discussing this topic with them helped me process some of my own ideas.
So, what makes someone a gamer?
The easy answer is “someone who plays games.” Most people would add that it specifically refers to people who play video games, as opposed to a board game aficionado or someone who enjoys tabletop roleplaying games (i.e. Dungeons & Dragons).
Alright, so a gamer is someone who plays video games. But it must be more specific than that, right? Because that definition includes everyone from your grandma who plays Candy Crush on her phone to the people who get paid thousands of dollars to compete in e-sports competitions. There’s clearly a difference between the two, so another distinction must be made.
Let’s start by ruling out mobile games. Why? Well, games like Candy Crush don’t actually require any level of skill. Anyone can play them! Mobile games are clearly meant to cater to the lowest common denominator, so they aren’t real games that actually take time and energy to play. People couldn’t possibly be dedicated to them in the same way they’re dedicated to traditional video games. Therefore, anyone who just plays video games on their smartphone or tablet is clearly not a real gamer.
But that still leaves us with a lot of people. There are three major consoles in the market today – not counting PC gaming, of course, which everyone knows is the best. Not everyone who owns an Xbox can be considered a gamer though, right? After all, some people have these systems sitting on their shelves collecting dust, or they only power them on to stream Netflix.
So we’ll add another item to our list: A gamer must use their console or PC to play video games at least three times a week. I think that’s reasonable. And, while we’re at it, we’ll add another qualifier: Gamers must own at least one gaming system from the current generation. After all, if you’re not buying the latest and greatest console, are you really dedicated to the cause? In 2018, this would mean owning a PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or Nintendo Switch (but let’s be real – does anyone actually count Nintendo as real video games anymore?). And, of course, PC gamers have the advantage here, since PC is the greatest system.
I think we’ve eliminated a lot of the casuals at this point, but we can still narrow our definition a bit more. We’ll rule out anyone who only plays single-player games, since we all know that multiplayer is the way of the future. And anyone who just plays Nintendo games can be taken off the list, since everyone knows Nintendo only caters to little kids and a real gamer wouldn’t be caught dead playing a Mario game. No one actually thinks The Sims is a real video game, so if that’s all you play, you’re not included. Independent games don’t count as either, because only big publishers know what makes a good video game. And we’ll take out anyone who doesn’t have a YouTube channel or Twitch stream, anyone who doesn’t get paid, and we end up with…
Basically no one.
Actually, now that I think about it, I’m not even included in that definition! And that can’t be right, since I call myself a gamer. Where did I go wrong?
As you probably noticed, adding qualifiers means exclusion. You might’ve agreed with me for the first few requirements (no mobile games, etc.) but chances are, you started to feel excluded as the definition got more and more specific.
“Fan culture” or “Fandom” is part of just about everything, from video games to sports teams to music. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with fandoms, but they can often become exclusive to the point of toxicity. Geek culture, and specifically gamers, can be some of the worst offenders (and if you want to read more about that, you can read my post on Geek Girl Hate). We think that if someone doesn’t enjoy video games the exact same way we do, they’re not a “real gamer.” We start kicking people out of our group, and before long, we’re the only ones in it.
Making a long list of requirements to be a gamer is arbitrary and ridiculous. Let’s scratch everything above and try this list instead:
- Someone who enjoys playing video games as a hobby, regardless of who made them, what system they use, how often they play, and how recent they are.
- Someone who wants to call themselves a gamer.
That’s it. Do you consider yourself a gamer? Congrats, you’re a gamer.