Over the last six months or so I’ve heard a few different critics and twitteratti make comments and write articles to the effect that the title ‘gamer’ needs to stop existing or, at least, stop being used if we are to be taken seriously. After all, people don’t go around calling themselves ‘readers’ or ‘film-watchers’, right? It’s just a medium you absorb, like any other.
I want to put out a brief counter-argument.
There’s good reason to use the term ‘gamer’ to describe yourself, and it probably applies if you’re reading this article right now.
Think of a ‘film buff’ or ‘film nerd’ – whatever you want to call them. They’re not just people who casually enjoy a film or two from the rental store or late on TV. They read film news sites, probably collect posters, magazines, and devote a large amount of their spare time to analysing films and keeping tabs on the latest developments by their favourite directors, writers or cinematographers.
In the same way as this, some people don’t just play the odd new xbox game every other month, when something inspires them to do so. Some of us read articles every week by games critics, know which games are in development, play almost every new title in the genres we like, and have our own favourite game designers whose work we follow as diligently as any Tarantino or Scorcese fan.
So, sure, there may be a social stigma associated with the word ‘gamer’. The title may come with certain baggage – the image of an overweight World of Warcraft-playing slob whose gaming habit is supported by Centrelink springs to mind – but you don’t fight this image by trying to distance yourself complete from the title itself.
You do it by embracing it publicly, to shake off this idiotic misconception.
So whether you’re a handsome, socially savvy woman who just happens to play first-person shooters twelve hours a week, a business-suit toting young middle-manager who spends his off hours facing off against other hardcore RTS players on a ladder, or a father of three teenaged kids who leads a clan six nights a week (when he isn’t paying school fees and going on holidays with his wife)… you are still a gamer.
Say it proudly, and if somebody hears the word and gives you a condescending look, just laugh at them – if their choice is to watch reality TV and read Famous magazine and they’re judging you for your choice in hobbies… well, there’s a saying here involving a pot, a kettle, something being black, and the person on their high-horse being a complete festering idiot.
Everybody has memories of those films or shows that affected them as children or teens – Star Wars or Indiana Jones for some, maybe Withnail & I, Pride & Prejudice, Fight Club or The Crow. Perhaps it was a book – reading Great Expectations, Harry Potter or Stranger in a Strange Land. For me, it’s the end of a long session of playing Ultima VII until the wee hours of the morning, finally engaging in the final showdown with The Guardian and his fellow evil-doers.
If you feel the same way – if it’s games that ‘speak’ to you more than books, films or plays – then you’re a Gamer, and you shouldn’t try to hide it. It’s your label. So don’t be afraid to use it.