Just when we start thinking that the world has accepted that gaming is a widespread, diverse hobby on the same level as any other form of media, an awful marketing campaign comes along to remind us that, oh yes, some people still believe that "gamer" is a dirty word.
"I am not a gamer," proclaims 16-year-old Olympic gymnast Gabrielle Douglas in this new commercial for Nintendo's 3DS and New Super Mario Bros. 2. "With my 3DS, I'm a coin-collecting champion." Because she wants to make it clear that no, she's not one of those fedora-wearing neck-bearded acne-ridden gamers; she's just a girl! Like you! Play Mario! Buy a 3DS!
The other advertisements in Nintendo's campaign are similar. "I am not a gamer," says actress Dianna Agron in one of the other commercials. "With my 3DS, I'm an artist."
This sort of misguided advertisement campaign is especially disconcerting coming from Nintendo, the company that helped link gamers and non-gamers all across the world with the widely-appealing Wii. That was a console marketed for everyone, from your ageing grandmother to your little brother to your squealing children. And the Wii's ads did a pretty decent job of reflecting that diversity.
So why has Nintendo suddenly taken a step backwards? Instead of trying to bridge the gap between people who play video games and people who don't, this advertising campaign is widening it. Spokeswomen like Douglas and Agron are propagating the stereotype of a "gamer," disavowing the word and making it quite clear that yes, they might be playing video games, but they're not like all those other gamers. It's OK for you to play New Super Mario Bros. 2. You won't suddenly start growing unkempt facial hair and eating Gamer Grub.
Playing games is already as acceptable a hobby as reading books or watching films. In an era where gaming is a $US20 billion industry and massive franchises like Angry Birds and Call of Duty have taken over modern culture, the word "gamer" might very well be obsolete. Everyone plays games. Which makes it even grosser when a company like Nintendo conveys the patronizing, condescending message that being a gamer — that is to say, being someone who stays up to date on gaming, who spends tons of time on Steam and Xbox and maybe even plays some Mario and Zelda — is not something to be proud of. It's admirable that Nintendo wants to appeal to people who don't play a lot of video games. But do they really need to step on some of their biggest fans along the way?