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Daily Reaction: Is Gamer Still an Insult?

October 2, 2012 Written by Dan Oravasaari

With the level of divergence that the industry has taken since its inception, the ability to classify those who use the product has become a hotbed for confusion and topics much like this one. Today the Daily Reaction team of Sebastian Moss and Dan Oravasaari comes back from their awesome new podcast to bring together the concepts that define what it means to be a gamer, and just how broad such a term can be when it strikes home for so many. Is the terminology just an archaic remnant from a time that couldn’t comprehend the world as we know it? Or are we just so afraid of losing the culture we have historically been stereotyped to have?

Dan: Honestly, my stance on the term is that it loosely defines a person whose lifestyle incorporates an experience where someone plays something interactive. Whether they be a board “gamer” or a video “gamer”, the term is simply someone who fundamentally takes the action of playing to a new level. The problem is that most of those who have gone through the years where gaming wasn’t as mainstream as it is now, feel the term has lost the heart behind it. Which could just be a statement to how far we have come as an industry, and culture, but also to the fact that the act of gaming is far from just a title to many of us. To be a gamer is to be yourself and to not just follow the mainstream idea of popularity, as it weaves it’s way through modern scenes and genres.

This idea that to be an actual gamer, or hardcore as most have come to say it, has been the calling card to say that we are a part of the crowd who love what we love, regardless of the social norms. This dichotomy of people who play games and enjoy them and those that play them because they found them through social means (while still liking them) is ironic, as as we are all gamers to some degree. Yet we fight amongst ourselves to an ironic level, as we want the industry to produce more, yet keep our world inclusive. This is simply because we are in the first stage of this growing industry pushing boundaries, and finding itself. These awkward and angsty teenage years are going to pass as the industry becomes mainstream, and the word gamer will slowly define us less and less. Yet, this is not to say that we lose our heritage or culture, but that the hardcore will always be just that – much like all hobbies have those more dedicated than the rest.

Seb: It’s a rather interesting time to be a ‘gamer’ because there are now more people playing video games than ever before, but with the growth there has been diversity. Gamers aren’t just people who build their own PCs or play a ton of console games and know the difference between Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, they are people that play on Facebook and people that play on the iPhone. The key is that they play games, it’s as simple as that.

But, as ever, people like to feel special, to be a part of the small group that ‘get’s it’. So divisions are naturally made, just as music has splintered up into so many different subgroups – that can differ by the slightest margin – that I’m glad I write about games and not about Avant-garde Metal. But that’s fine, it makes sense. You don’t want to be lumped with Facebook mums and neither do I (unless they’re up for entering one of my competitions). People shouldn’t be offended when ‘gamers’ are grouped together, rather we just need to push for greater understanding of the subgroups – just as Apex Twin fans aren’t going to deny that people who are listening to pop a music fans, but would rather there was an understanding of the division and subgrouping between them.

What I take far greater offense to is the rather shameful approach of some to treat ‘gamer’ as an insult. Fine, I expect it from idiots or backwards-thinking media, but today I’m particularly saddened because Nintendo has come forward and gut-punched all their loyal fans that put them where they are today. In the ad below, a beaming Gabrielle Douglas proudly states “and I am not a gamer”. First off, Ms Douglas – yes you are, presuming you weren’t just pretending to even know what a 3DS is, or at the very least, your ‘ad personality’ is. You play games, therefore you are a gamer. Do not be stupid.

Secondly, why did Nintendo make that their newest slogan? And we’re not just talking for Wii Fit type games, this is New Super Mario Bros. 2. Basically what they are saying is that they are ashamed that people may think Nintendo products are used by gamers. They don’t want their videogames to be associated with gamers. Instead of saying “hey, we’re all gamers, it doesn’t matter if you play FarmVille, Mario Party or God of War, you’re just different shades of one big happy mushroom kingdom” – something the cultural zeitgeist has been slowly gravitating towards – they are saying “hey there women/old people/’adults’, remember those dirty gamer folks that live in basements, the ones that are all male 12 year olds with the social etiquette of a sticky tissue? Well you’re not one of them, and neither are we. Let’s go play in another corner together, away from them”.

Fuck you Nintendo.

Dan: That is true, there really needs to be a better understanding of the subcultures that make up gaming culture as a whole. As one of the interesting dynamics that I notice between the two subgroups, is that as the hardcore spout out facts about Mario, Halo, or Uncharted, there is an assumption that these factoids have greater depth than information on how to find a rare brown egg, or proper farming techniques. Our ability to take something so mundane and give it such depth is comical, not because these things don’t matter to us, but that is exactly it. The things we hold true to ourselves, is defined by us, and we have no right to demean anyone in the same manner we as a culture were once treated.

One of the biggest reasons behind the fear that the “casual gamers” will take over is due to the difference in population, and the fact the money always flows to where there is profit. As we see companies that are well established in the hardcore space like EA and Ubisoft enter the social market, gamers can’t help but worry that this new space is going to start deteriorating our piece of the pie. And while I would like to say that this isn’t true, we have seen major developers move to this growing space. It is an interesting time, but maybe we need to look at this shift not as a downgrade for us, but as an upgrade to the social market. Social gaming, and the casual market are still in it’s infancy, and much like the unwanted baby brother – we may hate him now, but once he’s old enough – we might actually stand to tolerate, and even love him…or at least his toys.

The usage of the word gamer as a derogative term is to me just a great way of saying how stupid and uncreative you really are. Much like pushing someone and calling them a nerd, you really get a sense of immaturity and inability to understand the world as a whole – especially in the modern culture of our nerd kings (Bill Gates, Steve Jobs). The only thing with a high degree of connection than Kevin Bacon, is gamers. So for someone to think it’s a bad thing to be a gamer, probably thinks women shouldn’t vote still, and “minorities” should still have less rights as well. So in a sense, if you still think it’s bad to be a gamer…grow the fuck up.

Seb: Well I partially disagree. There’s nothing wrong with ‘core’ gamers disliking ‘casual’ ones over their love of crappy games – to reuse the music analogy again, there’s nothing wrong with making fun of Bieber fans and pretending to vomit on them. My point is that sure, we can make fun of them, or not view their choice in games as intelligent as ours, but to deny the fact that they are gamers is stupid. Or for Nintendo to deny that they themselves sell to gamers is stupid.

Diversity is fine, subgroups are fine, subcultures are fine. Denying fact is not. You’re a gamer, your sexy mum is a gamer, Gabrielle Douglas is a gamer. Just you’re probably a core gamer, your sexy mum is probably a FarmVille of Angry Birds gamer and Gabrielle Douglas is a fake casual gamer.

I hope Nintendo stops their stupid ad campaign before it perpetuates the needless division between ‘gamers’ and their apparent target audience which is ‘people-who-play-games-but-aren’t-gamers-ers’. This is still a fledgling medium that still suffers from the negative stereotype surrounding it. They are natural growing pains, but I just didn’t expect one of gaming’s oldest and most influential companies to be the ones that are trying their hardest to push this stereotype.

Do you still consider the label “gamer” an insult? Do you classify yourself as a gamer? Where do you stand on the difference between social gamers and the hardcore? Let us know in the comments and send all your rare brown eggs to Seb and Dan, and remember that there’s still time to enter our podcast giveaway.