Recently, in a discussion with the other writers for Thumbsticks, a question arose which asked ‘what type of gamer would enjoy this game?’
Throughout the past few console generations the term “gamer” has grown in popularity as a self-identifying badge of honour. But whilst this was initially a form of collective defence, uniting those who associated themselves with others due to a shared interest, it has of late increasingly become a term designed to distance themselves from so called “non-gamers” therefore designating a large swathe of the population as “others”.
Extending out of the process of “othering” individuals who do not play video games has culminated in looking internally within the gaming community and ostracising those who are no longer considered to fit the “traditional” sense of what is deemed a “gamer”. The most blatant example of this has been the considerable backlash against those deemed “casual gamers”. A term which has yet been able to have positive connotations associated with it, despite a considerable number of people happily claiming to enjoy casual games, as well as the general consensus amongst many that games such as Peggle and the recent mobile hit Threes can be enjoyed by gamers and “non-gamers” alike.
Regardless of the hypocrisy that surrounds the criticism of those who enjoy casual games, there is a darker trend that is emerging, one which is pointing inwards into the gaming community itself. No longer satisfied with criticising outsiders, attention has shifted towards defining those who previously would have come under the umbrella of “gamer”. In order to differentiate themselves from other gamers, saw the emergence of the antithesis of the casual gamer, this being the “hardcore gamer”.
For those who self-identified themselves as a hardcore gamer meant that they played what they considered “proper” games. The irony is that when people originally began associating themselves with this term, Call of Duty was often given as the example of a game series which separated them from those who primarily played something like Wii Sports. Yet the fallacy of this association is that now there are gamers who argue that playing Call of Duty does not make someone a hardcore gamer. Even the main developer of the Call of Duty series (Infinity Ward) has come out and stated that they do not see those who play their games as hardcore gamers, or even gamers at all. This is because a number of the players purchased very few games that are not associated with the series.
Jamin Warren, who presents Game/Show for PBS, recently asked ‘what is a gamer?’ The main conclusion that he proposed extends from the point made by Infinity Ward, that being that for someone to be considered a gamer is not necessary based on how much they play, or on what they play, but on how familiar they are with video games as a whole; therefore associating the term gamer more with that of an expert of the medium. When referring to people who watch a lot of films/movies, they are not typically referred to as “filmer” or “movier”. Yet those who know a lot about cinema are often referred to as a “film buff”. Not a perfect term, but it does highlight that the individual is knowledgeable of the wider medium as well as also possessing insights into the finer intricacies that contribute to it.
The term hardcore gamer is becoming increasingly redundant with the variety of video games continuing to expand, and with it hopefully sub-terms regarding people who primarily play one genre of game. Even the use of genres is becoming less useful than they were with an increasing number of games being harder to properly categorise into an individual or sub-genre.
There are still also the many problems which females face in the video games community, which take many different forms of abuse, including the unnecessary bile accusing “gamer girls” of being fakes trying to get attention. This total disregard for an equally large segment of the community is abysmal and needs to end. It is not just a problem for females, but also has a lasting negative impact on the industry and the medium.
Therefore video games need to get beyond their niche standing, compared to other mediums which are universally accepted. In order to do so it needs to become more inclusive. This might anger some of the more defensive individuals who see it as a select group standing defiantly against the world, but by branching out the medium can be become stronger providing more experiences, meaning there will always be something for anyone to enjoy. This would benefit the industry as well meaning that those concerned about the purity of “traditional” games need not worry, as a stronger industry will be able to afford more diversity, which by its nature includes the games we know and love, as well as also having the option to try something new.