Identity Crisis: What Exactly Is A Gamer Anyway?

Joel Harvey

When you think of the term gamer, what pops into your head?

Is it the hulking, Scottish figure of Gerard Butler ominously looming over you?

Butler was the star of the 2009 sci-fi action flick, Gamer. If you’ve never seen it, then let’s sum it up: it’s a film about gaming, seemingly made by people who’ve never played video games before. And of course, it’s utter garbage.

But a gamer is not really Gerard Butler. Nor is it any of the other one-dimensional character types that can be found in this sub-standard film. No, a gamer is something else. If you look in the mirror, you’ll apparently get to see what a gamer looks like. And surprise, it’s you.

You Are A Gamer

“You play video games, therefore you are a gamer.”

There’s a certain laziness to statements like that, where a wide array of people are dumped under an umbrella term like gamer. It’s like saying anyone who watches films is a filmer, or anyone who plays with stones is a stoner. It just isn’t necessary.

But here we are, you’re a gamer. How does that feel? Probably not great. In recent years, being called a gamer hasn’t always been meant as a term of endearment. The whole gamergate fiasco didn’t help paint a positive light around those people who defined themselves as a gamer.

Nothing you can do about it though, because you’re a gamer. That’s your lot in life now. Someone created a pigeon-hole for you and now you’re living in that hole forever and ever. And who built that poorly constructed bird-home in the ground for you? Who else, but those good folk over in advertising.

When the second wave of video game popularity hit us full in the face in the nineties, suits in high positions needed to easily define a demographic so they could sell things to them. Thus, the gamer definition was born. And when the word was used, it obviously would conjure up images of catalogue model-looking dudes asking for a “cyber razor cut” or something equally ridiculous.

This was the look that advertising executives wanted for the gamers; an aspirational image of some super-cool guy. In truth though, these ad execs probably saw gamers as another lazy definition: a geek.

You Are A Geek

If gamers were something to aspire to, then the geek was something to avoid. If advertising wanted to sell you the awesome-to-the-max lifestyle of being a gamer, they needed a counterpoint and the geek was it.

Geeks were positioned as the dorky gaming cousin to the gamer. Geeks played the C64 and sat in darkened bedrooms for hours on end trying to finish RPGs. They had glasses, probably wore bow ties and they definitely had braces – the classic stereotypical geek look.

So, maybe you’re not a gamer then. Maybe you’re a geek. Gamers are Judd Nelson and geeks are Anthony Michael Hall.

But remember that time when we all had Saturday detention together? When we all came to realise that being a part of a lazy social construct didn’t define who we are as people and maybe, just maybe, we can break through these barriers and change things for the better. You remember that, right? Don’t you forget about that – don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t you…

The reality is this: gamers and geeks aren’t real. They are complete works of fiction. Because ultimately…

You Are You

We don’t want to get all cod zen-philosophical about this, but you are just you. If you play video games, you don’t have to bracket yourself within a closed term like gamer anymore.

You don’t have to define yourself with a complex definition about what this means and all the nastiness that might come with it. You don’t have to sub-define yourself as a “casual gamer” or a “true gamer” or other such nonsense.

And you certainly don’t have to draw an imaginary line in the sand, segregating the people who you think are ‘for’ or ‘against’ gaming. This isn’t a war of definitions. We all like playing games, so we’re all on the same side. It’s just millions of people who get a kick out of playing video games. It’s that simple.

The games industry has evolved in recent years, and video games have become much more than just the sum of their parts. But old-school definitions still remain. We’re all culpable for falling into these traps and using them; it’s sometimes easier to apply these catch-all terms than to not use them. How else can you quickly explain a group of people who play video games? As just people? That’s ridiculous.

But that’s exactly where we are now. We live in a world where a whole generation was brought up playing video games. And now, those people are becoming the older generation. Video games used to be a more niche pursuit, but not any more. And no longer should there be a divider about who is, and who isn’t, a gamer.

We’re all gamers now, and maybe that means none of us are gamers anymore. And hey, that might not be a bad thing.

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