I was sitting in the audience at Game-Tech, scribbling notes, scanning the crowd for familiar faces. Ron Curry, the CEO of the iGEA took the stage.
“We need to redefine what the word ‘gamer’ means,” he said.
I wrote that part down.
Later, another speaker hit the stage with some interesting statistics. In generational terms, 76% of Gen Y plays games. 90% of the frankly terrifying Gen Z plays games. Even 60% of Gen X, the generation that, insanely, my own parents are a part of, plays video games.
In short – if you’re not playing video games, you’re in the minority, and that got me wondering about the way we represent ourselves as ‘gamers’.
I suspect that calling yourself a ‘gamer’ arises from the need to define yourself in opposition to some imagined majority. I play games. I am a gamer. I am a gamer because you don’t play games, but I do.
I am a gamer.
But where to now? Nowadays everyone plays games– what word will we now use to define ourselves in opposition to the mainstream?
Recently, with the mass market embrace of gadgets like the iPhone, or consoles like the Wii or the DS, we’ve seen people distort the term ‘gamer’. I am a ‘hardcore’ gamer people say. Other people play games, but they don’t play hardcore games.
I am a ‘hardcore’ gamer.
What an utterly pointless, meaningless phrase.
Honestly, what is this strange insecurity? What is this identity crisis I’m supposed to identify with?
As a teenager you form groups, those groups twist and transform according to trends and fashions, but it’s all in a fumbling search for an identity, something that helps define you. As a teenager I was most definitely a ‘gamer’. I played games – but not everyone played games - therefore, I was a ‘gamer’.
Now I’m older. I’m far more at ease with myself, and I think that growth has been reflected in the games industry as a whole. Everyone plays games nowadays, so why do still have need of a word like ‘gamer’. My mum watches TV – I’ve never heard her refer to herself as a ‘TVer’. She’s a mother, a nurse and wife.
My dad watches sport; any sport, and it doesn’t even matter what sport it is. I’ve never heard him refer to himself as a ‘sporter’. He’s a father, a firefighter, a husband.
If you cringe each and every time you hear someone use the words ‘hardcore gamer’, or it’s more marketing friendly derivative ‘core gamer’ – then that is the correct reaction. Because those words have evolved as a selfish reflex - the reaction of a child who doesn’t want to share his/her toys, a teenager who can’t abide their parents listening to the same music they do. Surely we should be past that by now?
I for one vote that the words ‘hardcore gamer’ be obliterated from existence, smelted into the furnace where dead, meaningless words go to die – and while we’re at it, can we chuck the word ‘gamer’ in there too?
As ‘gamers’ we’ve made ourselves far too easy to market to. Like some bizarre Manchurian Candidate, our ears are designed to prick up in Pavlovian response anytime an executive barks the words ‘immersive’, ‘core’, ‘AAA’ – meaningless words. Words that don’t really say anything about games themselves – what they do, who they are for, whether or not they’re actually worth your time.
Everyone plays games now - practically everyone. And as time passes, as new generations come and go, that fact will become increasingly relevant. Do we really still need to define ourselves in opposition to a majority that no longer exists?
I play games - I will always play games.
But I’m no longer a gamer.