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Identity Crisis: What Makes Someone A "Gamer"

Posted on Sunday, July 28 @ 12:00:00 PST by Alex_Osborn

Compared to other forms of entertainment, video games are relatively young. Despite the fact that they've grown in popularity exponentially over the past several years, games have still been walled off from the likes of movies and television, and compartmentalized into a category of their own. A category that is believed to be dominated by pimply nerds and adult men living in their parents' basements. However, that stereotype couldn't be more inaccurate, as people of all ages and walks of life are engaging in games. 

From Wii-equipped nursing homes to high school halls littered with teenage girls gaming on their smartphones, the "gamer" label is growing incredibly broad and in many regards outdated. After all, we don't label people watch movies "movie-ers" because everyone watches movies. We're reaching a point where virtually every one is playing games to some degree, so doesn't it make sense to drop the categorization at this point?

Ah, but we are forgetting something aren't we? There's a whole lot more to being a "gamer" than merely playing games, isn't there? There's this sort of implication that those who are "true gamers" are on message boards and gaming websites regularly, immersing themselves not only in the games themselves, but also the industry at large. I guess the film equivalent would be a "movie buff," which not only implies that the person watches a lot of movies, but also researches and knows a lot about the industry that produces them. 

So then, is the gamer label still necessary? Do we need to distinguish between those who just play games casually and those of a more hardcore persuasion? If so, isn't the use of "hardcore gamer" versus "gamer" a bit redundant? Are those that don't fit into the "hardcore" category automatically relegated to the "casual" sector? And what about someone like me, who spends far more time writing and reading about games than actually playing them? See how ridiculous all of this is?

I can't tell you how many times I've been asked, "So... you're a gamer?" when I tell people what I do for a living. To me it just reinforces the fact that games still have not yet been accepted as a respectable form of entertainment. Why do we need to be categorized in such a way? Is it really that different from reading a book or watching TV? What's funny to me is that I feel as though I couldn't be further from what makes someone a "gamer." Sure, I play games, but if you've ever listened to GR Radio, you're well aware of the fact that it's often times a rare occurrence, as I'm far more interested in the industry that surrounds the games themselves.

Do you think we'll eventually outgrow the "gamer" label, or is that distinction here to stay? I'm holding out hope that as this industry continues to mature, the outward perception will as well. Feel free to weigh in on this battle of semantics in the comments below.

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