Editorial: The Definition Of "Gamer"
You know, the elitists just love to test others who call themselves "gamers," asking about a tiny plot element in some obscure 15-year-old title, asking how much time they spend playing games in any given week, asking to name the developer and publisher of some other no-name title from yesteryear, etc, etc, etc. For whatever reason, this has always irked me, and let me explain why.
First of all, the aforementioned elitists are all cut from the same mold. They're the socially awkward outcasts who - unfortunately for the rest of us - fit the stereotype of a gamer from head to toe, and absolutely must find a way of elevating themselves above others. They can't do that in school or at work due to their social status and lack of general social graces, and because they're made to feel inferior by others, they must find a way to (ironically enough) do the same to anybody they meet. If you've been around the industry long enough, I can guarantee you've ran into a few of these people, and they quickly try to prove they're more of a "gamer" than you are. That superiority complex forces its way to the forefront instantly, and I completely understand the reason for this behavior. I'm old enough now - I will be 30 later on tonight - to recognize and despise adolescent transparent behavior.
But even so, the debate still rages: what exactly constitutes a "gamer?" Most will agree that those who come home and play computer solitaire for 20 minutes before going to bed aren't "gamers," but it's a sliding scale. Some say you can't just play "casual" games (sports, party, etc.), while others will set bizarre knowledge requirements like the examples listed above. And while I certainly agree one should have knowledge of one of their favorite hobbies, why is this a requirement? It's an automatic byproduct! If you love skydiving, you're gonna know a little something about skydiving. If you love gardening, you probably know a bit about gardening. And who would even bother to call themselves a gamer if they didn't care? If they didn't possess such knowledge as a result of their interest in the hobby? Who poses as a gamer just for kicks? I just can't wrap my head around gamers imposing highly subjective "requirements" on people if they wish to proudly hold a certain label.
But here's the thing. It has nothing to do with how much you know, what type of games you play, or believe it or not, how long you play them. It has nothing to do with how much money you spent on games last year. It has even less to do with how many trivial and random facts you know about the full Atari 2600 library. I'm sick of the gaming elitists swelling up in an effort to counteract those who shun them in the real world, simply to even the scales. You want to know what you need to call yourself a gamer? A love of video games. That's it. Nothing else is needed. And yes, I'm aware this is yet another subjective rule - how do you define "love?" - but it's the best I can do. If you truly enjoy playing video games, and it's a permanent hobby for you, you're a gamer. I don't care how big your collection is and I don't care that you know how many hit points Ozma had in Final Fantasy IX. I really, really don't. If you love games, that's enough for me. It should be enough for anybody.
So if anybody out there ever runs into me for whatever reason, and you know who I am and what I do, please, for the love of God, don't try to impress me with your video game knowledge. Don't boast that you played 35 hours of GTAIV in four days. Don't tell me how much you paid for a Neo-Geo controller on eBay. I'll be very bored. If you want to just talk games, on the other hand, great. But for the last time, to all of you out there who think you know more than every critic, who think you can design better games than the best developers on earth, and who think you simply know more than anyone else: knock it off. Leave us all alone and let us enjoy our chosen hobby. Otherwise, I will humiliate the snot out of you by challenging you to an arm-wrestling match, which you will - more than likely - lose. HA! See? It takes no real talent to make people feel stupid, but it might take some maturity to accept your limitations and wrap your head around the fact that you can't decide who is a "gamer" and who isn't.
I thank you all for your attention. And if you're wondering about the pic, I know it doesn't have much to do with the topic, but I just love that poster. :)
8/1/2008 Ben Dutka