What is a Gamer?
What is a gamer? This is a question that seems to simultaneously evoke the utmost passions and complete indifference. When the issue is brought up, the more common responses are often “anyone who plays a game” or “anyone who plays a specific type of game”, with the specific type being whichever the individual considers a “real” game. Other times, some answer with “I don’t care” or “the concept is too hard to define.” Because I enjoy biting into issues long forgotten and seemingly insolvable, I have decided it worthwhile to write a few notes on what a “gamer” is. The notes below are some jumbled summary-like thoughts from my book mentioned in the previous post.
But before that, let me address a separate demographic – the “player” (or game enthusiast or whatever).
To me, a game player (or player for short) is anyone who plays a game. These players can exist in categories based on how much they play.
The first category I will refer to is the casual player. The term casual player often invokes images of Candy Crush or Flappy Bird, but this is not what I mean by “casual player”. I mean “someone who plays games causally”. This may be someone who plays Flappy Bird on the bus on their way to work or someone who only plays a few rounds of Call of Duty on a late Saturday night while drunk in a frat party. These are the people who play only a few hours a week (let’s say 1 – 2 hours a week at most because arbitrary numbers are awesome).
The second category are the average players. These are the ones who play for slightly longer periods of time, let’s say 2 – 5 hours a week because why not. It doesn’t matter whether this time is spent playing repeated rounds of CoD, one hour a day farming crops on your favorite farm simulator, or someone who plays through single player games. If they see gaming as a hobby, but not as their main hobby, they fall under this category.
The third category are the dedicated players. These are the ones who spend a great deal of time playing games and for whom playing games is the main hobby. Again, it doesn’t matter if this is someone who spends most of their time clicking stuff and spending ridiculous amounts of money on extra click coins, someone who spends most of their weekend farming in WoW or in an FPS multiplayer, or someone who beats 80 hour RPGs in a few weeks and then moves on to the next epic.
This kind of differentiation, I think, makes it so that the type of player isn’t related to the type of game the play, thus avoiding generalizations like “hardcore players only play CoD” and “casual players only play on mobile devices”.
This brings us to “gamer”.
What is a gamer? To me, a gamer is someone who is really passionate about the media and who is well versed. A gamer is someone whose other-media-equivalent would be a bookworm or a film buff. They certainly include professional gamers, but they also include people who have expansiv knowledge about the medium and are incredibly dedicated to playing. Gamer is a label, I think, that can’t be placed on someone else. It is a term that you choose as identify as. And it well may be that you may be asked by someone to “prove your gamer cred” (although most likely you’ll just be asked “what do you play?”), but that’s a whole other issue. At any rate, maybe adopting these definitions might help further discussions about game culture, maybe not. Who knows. But for those who might find thinking through these concepts, there you go.