In the last decade, video games, how they are perceived, and the people who play them, have changed. What was once a hobby associated primarily with being socially inept, immature, and a dude, has expanded to include anyone at all who enjoys waggling peripherals in Wii Sports. With that change, the social stigmas that in the past caused many to shy away have been pushed aside. New people are starting to get into games and closet game lovers have stepped into the light. Video games are currently something most people associate themselves with comfortably with no fear of being treated like a loser. The coolest bro on the football team loves some NFL 2K16 and your mom is never shy to ask me for lives on Candy Crush (even though she still hasn’t responded to my messages on Tinder but whatever.)
However, while I accept the existence of this new audience, a clear distinction between the groups is necessary. There are people who have been around for a while and people who are just about that Farmville life. Minus those in the latter group who desire to be in and speak for the group of the prior, both groups are valuable. They’re valuable and vastly different. There is culture associated with playing games for a while and if you’re someone hasn’t played many games, you don’t understand our culture and cannot appreciate the shared experiences of the group. You should be comfortable outside of the group as your experiences are different from ours; you don’t belong.
To be a legitimate member of any culture you must have experience with multiple aspects of the culture, you must appreciate the things that make the culture unique and you must have respect for the other participants who have experienced what you have. By the standard I use for authenticity, anyone who does do those things is automatically an authentic member and anyone who does not is simply outside the group. When forcing their perspective, those who lack authenticity are harmful to progress as they promote ideas that are not in sync with the desires of most of the group. Those who love games do not wish for them to creatively stagnate in the ways other media forms have because of cultural exploitation. They do not want their desires misrepresented; they want to continue to grow and think faster than the masses. The culture has evolved because we have promoted the evolution through our purchases and attention. We continue to be at the forefront of technology, art, and social justice because of traditions and ideas passed to us from our cultural involvement.
The social justice aspect is often overlooked but those who play games are incredibly socially aware; it is part of the culture. In the case of many games that “we” have popularized, acceptance and understanding are often promoted through the cultural elements that lurk beneath all the sweet 60fps explosions and pretty colors. Even in the lewd and racially charged words exchanged with strangers during online games, there is an exchange and a conversation that is transcendent of class, color, gender, age and creed that didn’t previously exist. Games are secretly very socially progressive. This is true not only when playing with others over the internet but while enjoying a game’s narrative alone as well. It all ties together and encourages a player to become a more socially and culturally conscious person. Experienced players are open minded, creative, and progressive because of the nature of the most highly acclaimed games.
Our unique social perspective is established and you can particularly see this in the things that are becoming popular now. Not only have women become more prominent in games and in the community in recent years, but video games have given birth to some of the most positive and lovable representations of minority characters in all of popular media. I mean, who didn’t become attached to Lee after playing season one of Telltale’s “The Walking Dead”? Who didn’t get choked up when a certain black on black murder occurs toward the end of the game? I am very pleased at how far we have come and the way in which the voices of the cultured ones of us promote the odd things that should not be odd. It’s all very cool ((italics plz))
So, how is it with all of this awareness and progressive thinking that we have overlooked some pretty major cultural flubs? How have we accepted the input of the uninformed and recently uninvolved? How have we allowed ourselves to be made into fools? I have silently battled with certain terminology that during my adolescence mysteriously appeared and has yet to fade into obscurity. I have been forced to associate my history and my identity with an idea that I do not identify with simply because I like games. I know I’m not alone in my total rejection of this aspect of the culture and I believe understanding my hatred is the key in separating us from them. Knowing separates us from
That word as well as “gaming” and the verb “game” are a massive issue. I have a twenty year history with games and at no point in that time was I ever a “gamer.” I have not once been caught “gaming.” I have always been bothered by “gamers” and what began as a pet peeve has become a very thick, ropey, sticky kind of intense disgust. I play games. I play a lot of games. It used to be easy to explain that I was a dude who simply loved playing games. I would play my games and be secure in my identity. I didn’t need a title or a club. I could connect with game lovers without all of that. Then, seemingly over night, I was being verbally assaulted with a cringeworthy pseudo-slang term.
I am bothered primarily by the derogatory and culturally detached aspects of the word (but we shouldn’t ignore that it’s just ugly and feels bad in the mouth.) Before the term was more widely accepted by the gamers who identify with the word’s newer association’s, it was being developed as a advertisement tool to erase past stereotypes. After all, you can’t sell things to a group of people who are not unified and also imply that they’re hopeless neckbeards. So the negative, loser stereotype that games were once heavily associated with was pushed to the side and many new “gamers” (and sadly some more authentic game players) lined up to be part of a new identity that had been established. They did this in the name of pride not seeing the puppetmaster at work. In fabricating the gamer image, the corporate side of video games trivialized our cultural identity, manipulated many, and upset those of us who could see past the neat headsets, the merchandising, and the general commercialization of a once great artform and hobby.
With a sickening mixture of pop culture and big business branding, the term evolved into something a wider audience could grab on to. In your heart, we all know what a gamer really is. You’ve seen it: a very nonthreatening, test group dude holding a controller playing what appears to be the most fun game ever created. The ads picture nothing anyone who played gam approved es through the 80s or 90s would relate to. In other words, “gamer” has never been our word. It is a slur and a tool to exploit those who lack authenticity. It uses our own progressiveness against us and has us including people who want us to be whatever Reggie Fils-Aime is. ((Meme of him being creepy)) Is that something you want?
Also, where is that game the guy in the ad is playing? Nevermind.
In summary, I am excited to associate myself with anyone who has a genuine interest in games. If you have respect for the work that goes into games and value those who play games, you should proudly wave your banner as a game enthusiast. However, if you are using the word “gamer” and are very proud of your gamer identity, then you are likely a pawn. You are not in touch with those who respect the culture and the people who make games not awful. You work for the people who want games to be widely appealing and easy to make money off of. Just have fun playing with your friends, don’t try to be a part of a group, be what you are from doing what you enjoy and support the desires that come from that.
Please comment below with what you believe could be a better term to unify those of us who truly love games… Unless you’re like a filthy casual or something.