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There was once a time when the title “Gamer” wasn’t treated like a badge of honor. To be a gamer was to be a geek, or a nerd – the type of person who enjoyed summer afternoons before a glowing array of pixels instead of the great outdoors. Gaming was a hobby that was best enjoyed in secret, like your sister’s Nsync album, or a fresh batch of pornography. As such, I find it odd that we often feel the need to defend the title from those who would wish to use it without having “earned” it.

Back in my middle school, the gamers were the ones stuffing their Gameboy Pocket between the pages of a paperback during silent reading, or sneaking behind the school with a Pokemon cartridge and a link cable for an adolescent drug deal. We’d discuss our plans for “football” after class, when in fact we planned to get together and play Goldeneye. We were covert members of a culture that was still thick and condensed -and we liked it that way.

Recently however, the gaming culture emerged as a power-player in mainstream media. The icons of my youth – once sacred, have been marketed and distributed for mass consumption. People across the globe have taken up the title, and I can’t help but feel the culture become a bit more diluted with each additional player. My concern isn’t so much that I’ll have to deal with these people – but rather that the medium will continue to pander to the lowest common denominator, resulting in an endless flow of movie licensed titles and Madden updates.

Perhaps I’m naive – it’s possible that the culture hasn’t changed at all, and I simply perceive it differently now. It’s possible that the beer bonging, fist bumping douchebag on the other end of my 360 headset has been gaming just as long as I have – or longer – and I’m just recently being exposed to him via the miracle of the Internet. It’s also possible that I’m just being an elitist prick – however unlikely.

This all struck me when a group of my coworkers suggested we meet after work for a session of “Rock Band” – only by “Rock Band” they didn’t actually mean Rock Band. What they really meant, was Dungeons and Dragons – they were using Rock Band as a cover, much like we did with football as kids. It was then that I realized that gaming had become so mainstream that it was more socially acceptable for three grown men to play “Tom Sawyer” on mini plastic instruments than it was to play a tabletop role playing game. We were using something nerdy to cover up something equally nerdy – but no one even noticed.

So then, with gaming now a mainstream entertainment medium, what criteria must be met for someone to don the “Gamer” title? Must they know a Hadouken by heart, or will a button mashing victory in Soul Caliber 4 be enough? Do they need a decent high score in Tetris, or will an Ultra Extreme Fever in Peggle do? Does a player earn their MMO cred by playing World of Warcraft, or must they have raided Everquest to be taken seriously? Where do we draw the line?

Tell me, dear readers. What do you think makes a gamer?

  1. Back in the day, if you were a gamer, you generally got made fun of.

    After Halo, EVERYTHING changed.

    Now, if you’re in a group of people want to look cool, you can just say “yea I play Madden, Halo, and Call of Duty with my boys a bit”, and you’ll instantly get cool points. Times a’ changin’!

    I don’t really know how to “brand” someone as a gamer. I suppose it would be someone who plays more than a few hours a week, and more than just casual games, or popular titles “just because it’s the cool thing to do” in places like College Campuses.

  2. Labeling someone as a gamer has definitely become more difficult, I think. Games have greatly diversified, and as a result so have the types of gamers. Chris sums it up pretty fairly – someone who plays more than the more casual games like Zuma and such, and for more than a couple of hours a week.

    Of course, then we get into the territory of “hard-core gamers” and those who don’t exactly fit into that category either. I don’t think having an outstanding amount of achievement points or how perfect your skills are in a certain game really define a gamer either. Granted, you don’t want to be running your jeep or what have you into walls while the enemy is shooting at you, but you don’t have to be amazing. I play games for fun first before I get into perfecting my abilities.

    So the title of “gamer” is highly subjective. There are those who shy away from the FPS realm and stick mainly to RPGs and vice versa, and then those who play everything. There are those who compete and those who don’t. I feel like a gamer should be someone who devotes time to video games, above the casual Pop Cap level, because they have an interest and find enjoyment in them. I don’t think it lies in high scores or how many legendary weapons you’ve unlocked. How they fulfill their “gamerness” is up to them in the end.

    Sorry if I’m going in circles here – hope it made sense!

  3. avatar TheGameLlama

    Strangely, I made a post along the same lines as this on my video game blog a few days ago… http://thegamellama.blogspot.com/2009/05/who-are-gamers.html.

    Even casual gamers are still gamers – just because they haven’t unlocked COD 4′s Prestige Mode or got all 1,000 achievements on The Orange Box doesn’t mean that they aren’t eventually going to be the future hardcore game consumers. Remember a few weeks back when that Sony bigwig admitted that the Wii is good for gamers? Gamers had to start somewhere. For many, it was Mario Bros. on the NES. Now, it might be Guitar Hero or Wii Sports. I don’t want to see the gaming gene pool polluted any more than the next guy, but without an audience, no game company will be able to stay in business. As gamers, we need to support the good titles that take chances (Okami, Shadow of the Colossus, any Atlus game, etc.) and keep around those companies that actually treat games as an art form.

  4. avatar tbo

    I believe what composes a “gamer” comes from them understanding and knowing the community behind it all. Today you can inherit the title “gamer” by sitting around with a few friends enjoying a brew while playing some Rock Band. In my world it comes by countless hours spent in your basement playing Counter-Strike with a cot set up inches from your computer. Learning the mechanics of the game and toying with your competition while wielding the sub-par pump shotty. All in all I may not be much different from those guitar hero’s playing with themselves. I wore the title back when it wasn’t so pretty and that’s what sets us apart.

    Oh and playing gameboy behind a paperback? Thats genius!! I wish I would have thought of that..

  5. avatar Matt Crain

    I remember when being a gamer meant more than just playing a little Halo or Call of Duty, to be a gamer meant to be willing to spend your time energy and (usually) life dedicated to Beating the Biggest Boss or Getting the highest score, 5 or 6 years ago If i had said in casual conversation at a party “yeah I spent all weekend playing Warcraft II online” I would have been laughed out of the damn state. To be a gamer was something more than a game it was a passion a joy and a lifestyle, i definitley think that when Gaming hit mainstream that the
    anti-culture that i loved became dull and lifeless, i miss it when being a gamer actually MEANT something.

  6. Thanks for the awesome, calm and collected feedback guys!

  7. avatar darthLegion

    I like to poke puppies with a stylus. That makes me a gamer. More like that would mean my taste in games suck.

  8. avatar r e m a g d i k a

    first of all sorry for my english if there is any mistakes . i think who can play any good game in any genre is gamer . who realy don’t know how to use trainer or cheat is gamer . who complete any game that start and do not release it half is gamer . who play at least 4 hours in a day is gamer . who can guide others about a game is gamer . and finaly who realy play games and and get into them is GAMER … ( not hardcore gamer ! )

  9. avatar Colt

    well i no im a hard core gammer i have a wii and ds a game cube gameboy ps 2 and 1 and im geting a xbox360 ( ELITE ) and i have just for the ps2 about 37 game and i sold like 40 of them i have had over 20 wii game over 40 ds games and i play for hours and thats not even including the mmo mmorpg online i play lol

  10. avatar jay

    i blogged about it a lot. i think a gamer is defined by his passion for gaming. Theres many forms of gamers. you have the collector who dives into every genre and plays with diverse genres though not necessarily being the best at each game they play. theres the perfectionist that only dedicates him/herself to one or a couple of genres. there are those who are pro gamers who strive to be the best in competetive gaming. A gamer doesn’t have to be the best or even a good gamer, but as long as they have a passion for it…and i mean a passion for it, then i count them as a gamer. You can’t call the dungeon and dragons player or rpg gamer a true gamer because you are picking one genre to be the genre that a true gamer has to play because gaming is diverse as there are cultures. You can’t someone who plays madden simply based on the fact that its a sports game cuz a gamer may play madden and dissect that game more than a guy who plays rpg’s. I certainly think there are more intricacies in competetive gaming than there is in a single player game. Genre’s shouldn’t count but only a passion for gaming. A gamer knows when he or she is gamer.

  11. For me, gaming has always been a part of what I do. I dislike the term “casual gamer”, as I feel that in the early 90s most gaming was casual. Every kid had a NES or a Mega Drive or SNES or whatever and playing Mario was just second nature. I guess as technology has moved on, some people have carried on going and others just given up as things are now too complicated and clique. But I don’t think my patterns have changed and so I’m not “hardcore”. I’m still a “casual” gamer. I haven’t suddenly developed this “hardcore” habit. Nobody is a hardcore TV watcher but most people watch TV for 3 hours a night.

    @Jay, I agree whole-heartedly with what you said…

    Personally, I’m a huge FIFA fan and I don’t believe there are many games out there that can match the skill and dedication it takes to really become a force to be reckoned with. It’s not a case of putting the ball in the net. It can be as rewarding or heart-shattering as any game of Soul Calibur IV, Halo 3, Burnout Paradise…

    I just think you need the dedication. If you’ve read one book in a year, you’re not a reader. If you go to the cinema once every couple of months, you’re not a film buff and if you pop down to an art gallery every six months you’re not an…erm… arty type. A gamer is somebody who has gone above the call of duty (for want of a better phrase) to make sure he or she plays whatever genre of game they are into more than they probably should!

    • avatar Irfan

      I’ve finished pinylag this game. Bethany key to getting there in uptown buildings into 2 in the staff room only inside the desk drawer. You’ll find the key to room 403. entry into sewers and find a locked basement. This game is completed with the cessation of the character and his wife while on a ship at sea.

  12. avatar Guy

    I saved the fucking princess, therefore I am a gamer.
    Excellent on-topic comic by VGCats:
    http://www.vgcats.com/comics/?strip_id=282

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  13. avatar 245

    One thing that I don’t like about the game community becoming mainstream is the fact that people think they are cool because they play games. For example one day I was in the lunch line and some random guy saw that I had a Call of Duty: World at War shirt and he looked at me and said I could probably kill you at that game. I was a little annoyed at the fact that this random kid came up to me and tried to call me out. The point I’m trying to make is I don’t care if more people would love to join in on the fun but I hate how they are mostly very cocky and think they own at every game while they only play one or two games at least once a week.

  14. @jay
    We’re getting our blog system live soon, and we’d definitely love to hear your thoughts!

  15. I wouldn’t even try to define what makes a gamer. Just someone who regularly plays games, I guess.

    I do understand the embarrassment part. I never take my DS or PSP out of my room, and a lot of games can be hard to play in public–Eternal Sonata, Heavenly Sword, MGS4, etc.

    Where I am, gaming seems to be fairly acceptable. I can’t count the number of times I’ve come into class early to hear some college kids raving about a Pokemon game.

    Which really kinda freaks me out.

  16. avatar Big Stan 129

    IMO, what makes a “Gamer” is his passion. No everyone isn’t a Hardcore Gamer, but if you play to meet the challenge of a game or your opponents (if it’s multiplayer) you’re a “Gamer,” be it “Casual” or otherwise.

    As for me, there’s nothing casual about my gaming, my intent is always to beat the game, and see how I can do it in the least amount of time, without cheats. I welcome the frustration of levels that cause me to break sumthin (I have bought more controllers, in my gaming years than I have games, and I have boxes of games in storage lol), or have me up for hours trying to clear it (12 and 14 hour sessions @ a time, not on one game though).

    I am a “Gamer,” and considered so, not for the popularity of the word, but for the substance of my work.

    Gamertag: tha zone 129
    PSN: bdots

    • avatar Stephanie

      Im not going to going to say what everyone else has aladrey said , but I do want to comment on your knowledge of the topic ,Your are truly well-informed.I cant believe how much of this I just wasnt aware of .Thank you for bringing more information to this topic for me .Im truly grateful and really impressed.

  17. avatar Karthik

    You really make it seem so easy with your peisentatron but I find this topic to be really something which I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and very broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

  18. avatar Henrie

    you find bethany in a cage in one of the herc dome/tents that you can get only trohught the sewerDONT get confused with the first few sewers. there aremany sewers and the one u will have to cross to find bethany is the last one you will find in the game.Hope This Helped!

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