What is a gamer?

1280px-Girl_plays_Pac_Man

A gamer. Who is that? If you would take it literally, it means someone who plays a game. So that would make practically everybody a gamer, and it would be a pretty empty word to describe yourself. Like t.v. watcher. Or driver. Gamer is not an empty word though: you see people calling themselves a gamer everywhere.

The connotation I have with the word gamer is someone who plays games professionally, or at least passionately, or is a games connoisseur. Hence, I would never describe myself as a gamer, just like I would never describe myself as a pianist. I’d say, I play the piano, or I play games. To me it would sound wrong to state that I am a gamer.

But the word gamer is out there. Not just for the professional gamers. There is something else going on here. It is the designation of a subculture. It is an identity label. Like hipster, foodie, emo, goth, etc.

If it works as an identity label, you need to know what it is. Someone who is devoted to Farmville? A fat kid with bad skin and no social skills? Geeks with glasses and a comic collection? Aggressive people wanting to shoot stuff? All possible connotations. News articles that announce that most gamers are girls, and the fastest growing group consists of middle aged women, can be annoying if you identify yourself as a gamer and you are not part of those groups. A quick look at such an article could save you: they are not talking about games, they are talking about phone apps. Those are not real games. They are not real gamers.

What is a real gamer? How to make the label ‘gamer’ clear? One group of ‘gamers’ emphasize that gamers should embrace each other, and be welcoming to one another. They are, in reality, also trying to paint the word with meaning. Gamer: a label for open-minded people, of all walks of life, of all color, age and gender, playing a wild variety of games. Together. Lovingly. Utopia. Of course, not everybody likes this hippie’ing up of the term. Another solution to know what you are talking about when you talk about gamers, is to subdivide. Introducing terms like: pro gamers, hard core gamers, mid core gamers, casual gamers, girl gamers, gaymers, and the list goes on.

I have to sidetrack a little because of one of these terms. Girl gamer. To me this sounds weird. I doubt any pro gamer who is female would describe herself as a girl gamer. (I might be wrong, I only did a short check and the ones I found didn’t call themselves that.) That would make a girl gamer a casual gamer who wants to draw attention to the fact that she is a girl. That is apparently important to know. It’s a sort of add: hey guys, I am a hot (nerdy, girl next door) girl who also can play a game with you! With my pink controller! Hihi!
Something like that. But then again, why not. Get the attention.

Games are in rapid development. More and more people play games, and different types of games. They enjoy them and want to identify with them. The use of the label gamer will most likely evolve with these changes; it could fade as an identity label and the term might go for the professional meaning, or it might divide itself into more and more subdivisions. Divisions by genre, or game developers. I doubt that the ‘we are all gamers’ connotation will win, but that too could happen. Who knows. One thing is sure. It’s not about young males alone. Too many other groups have identified with the term. Only time will tell who will successfully own the term ‘gamer’.

PS: You all know the prejudices about what’s typically male and female. Let’s think games. It’s multitasking, working together, and you don’t need any muscle power to do it. What does this sound like? The natural state of being a woman. (Btw, I don’t believe this, but nowadays evolution seems to be the new God: the ultimate source of answers.) Guy gamers ( :) ) are basically practicing their feminine side in games! A new meaning. Guy Gamer: the feminine dude. Loves multitasking together. Also likes to dress up and unify colors.

Photo attribution: Picture derived from “A girl playing Pac Man” by Lars Frantzen licensed under CC by 2.0

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