A Shift in the Image of “The Gamer”

It is during this lazy Sunday afternoon that I am finally able to articulate a concern that has been boggling my mind for a while (fancy way of saying “ranting about stuff”) – and that is the notion of what a “gamer” is. When the medium of videogames was young “gamers” consisted mostly of MIT programmers and, when they eventually became commercial, the hip young crowd at a bar playing a “game” where two ambiguously shaped squares paddled a smaller ambiguously shaped square back and forth. Back then, before the early 1980s, “videogames” were nothing more than a curiosity to spend a few minutes with an odd form of entertainment.

During the early and mid 1980s, and specially with the release of the NES, a new crowd of people became “addicted” [1] to videogames: kids. Kids all across America, and most of he world, spent their afternoons after school in front of the TV, just as the previous generation had. However, this new generation spent it controlling a plumber avatar that ate mushrooms to grow in size through several levels stumping turtles on the head in order to rescue a princess that had been abducted by a giant dinosaur-turtle. Here the “gamer” concept changed into fat “nerd” kids. As these “nerd” kids grew the notion of a gamer made them out to be the socially awkward introvert individual that they were not. This stigma of the “nerd gamer” has prevailed until present day, and it is still the dominating image that is invoked when people say “gamer”.

There is, however, another version of the “gamer” that has arisen during the last few years, predominantly thanks to Halo, and it is that of the “hardcore gamer”. The “hardcore gamer” is, for all instances, a perfectly normal and functional, socially working, extrovert individual who is a football jock or cheerleader and enjoys Halo, Racing Games, and GTA. While the “nerd” gamers were heavily defined by Final Fantasy and Zelda titles, “hardcore” gamers are heavily defined by first-person shooters and sports games.

It should be worth noting that when “hardcore” gamers came to light around 2002 (1998 – 2001 were transition years where “nerd” gamers turned “emo” to “evolve” into “hardcore” gamers) the remaining “nerd” gamers were perfectly indifferent to the phenomena. Most of them, in fact, welcomed a new segment of the population into gaming. That is why I, as a “nerd” gamer, get frustrated when I see these 19 year old “hardcore” Scarface worshiping gamers say things like “I hate casual gamers”. I think they are shunning away a segment of the population that can have a large impact in the game industry. The casual gamer community, which consists of “grandpa” and “grandma” playing Wii with their grandchildren, “grandpa’s grandkids”, “your sister playing bejeweled”, “your teacher playing Tetris”, and “your mom playing solitaire”, among many many others, may just have a tiny bit of influence in lawmakers’ commentaries. Next time they try to say “videogames are bad let’s band them” they will have to think that 90% of Americans play them, and instead of going on baseless rants about games and violence and the mindlessness of gamers, will have to offer a sensible system of ratings to help parents decide what is good for their kids and what is not. Oh wait, that’s the ESRB.

At any rate, to those of you who are the new gamers, the “casual” gamers, this old-school “nerd” gamer bids you welcome. Hope you enjoy your stay.

[1] I use the term “addicted” loosely. By “addiction” I mean something like “the favorite indoor pastime”.


About Quijano

Johansen Quijano is a professor of English in The University of Texas at Arlington, where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Development focusing on TESOL, and a Master’s Degree in English Literature. He has published and presented on a variety of topics including video game studies, popular culture studies, education, teaching methodology, language acquisition, romantic poetry, and victorian literature. His research interests include the above-mentioned topics, narrative, interactivity, simulation, new media in general, and 18th century literature. He also enjoys creative writing (fiction, historical fiction, and poetry), and reading all kinds of epic literary works - from the Epic Poem of Gilgamesh to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

Posted on July 18, 2010, in Video Game Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Hey man, can you take the pic of the guy in the Islanders jersey down? That’s me. I don’t know you got it, but I’d like it taken down please.

    • No problem, man. It’s done. Tho you should be aware that if that was you, someone memefied your picture. When you google “hardcore gamer” your photo is on the first page and when you google “hardcore gamer nerd” it’s the very first image with a really unflattering quotation below it. I found it through the search but took out the quotations.
      Thanks for visiting!

  1. Pingback: The Problem with the Rhetoric surrounding the #GamerGate “controversy” | Quijano: On Stuff

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