Escapist Editorials

Escapist Editorials
Publisher's Note: The State of Gaming

Alexander Macris | 8 Sep 2014 17:00
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Part I: The Culture

Gamer culture has been in turmoil for the past few weeks. An angry blog post about the proclivities of a relatively obscure indie developer exploded into a wider discussion about game journalism, gamer behavior, and now, the very identity of gamers. Gamers have taken to twitter hashtag #GamerGate to demand transparency in journalism while game journalists have unleashed the power of the pen to proclaim the death of gamers. "We might by witnessing the death of an identity," says Luke Plunkett of Kotaku. "Gamers are over," says Leigh Alexander of Gamasutra. Gamasutra's Devin Wilson offers "A Guide to Ending 'Gamers". "From now on, there are no more gamers-only players," says Dan Golding. Casey Johnson of Ars Technica proclaims "The death of the 'gamers' and the women who 'killed' them." Buzzfeed's Joseph Bernstein announces "Gaming is leaving 'gamers' behind".

These articles have understandably caused outrage among the gamers whose death they proclaim. Yet the questions these writers are raising are important. When everyone plays games, what meaning does "gamer" have? Should we welcome games' emergence as a part of mainstream culture, or fear it? How does one balance pride in hard-earned skills and knowledge with a welcoming attitude to newcomers? How ought one best cover games as a journalist?

Important - but not new. Since the very first issue ever published of The Escapist, our writers have been grappling with these questions. 9 years ago, in issue 1, we wrote, "to celebrate our new validation as a distinct culture, we have created the first issue of The Escapist, centered around the impact gaming has had, and continues to have, on our society."

In Issue 1, we alerted our readers that games were not just the small, secret pastime we shared in yesteryear; we cautioned them to worry what might happen to their favorite hobby if it thoughtlessly plunged headlong into the mainstream without staying true to what had made gaming grow in the first place; and most of all, we argued that we had to plunge forward regardless of the risks because gaming would be the most important entertainment medium of the 21st century.

Nowadays more people than ever play games, and that's a wonderful thing!

But let us not be fooled: Not everyone who plays games is a gamer. A gamer is a game enthusiast, a person whose primary hobby or avocation is the enjoyment of games. The "enjoyment of games" is a deeper pursuit than merely playing them. It encompasses dedication towards their mastery; understanding of their history; commentary on the design; insight as to their relationships into the web of source material from which they are derived.

Every field of human leisure has similarly dedicated individuals. Everyone drives, but not everyone is a gearhead. A gearhead is a car enthusiast - someone whose primary hobby is the enjoyment of automobiles, broadly understood to include fixing them, modifying them, studying them, and driving them. Everyone wears clothes, but not everyone is a fashionista, or fashion enthusiast. Everyone eats, but not everyone is a foodie, or food enthusiast. Everyone watches movies, but not everyone is a cinemaphile, or movie enthusiast. Everyone takes trips, but not everyone is a traveler, or vacation enthusiast. I could go on and on.

Because these dedicated individuals have interests within their field that are deeper than those of the average consumer, they sort themselves into communities of like-minded enthusiasts. The existence of these communities in turn creates opportunities for businesses, which support the communities with news, apparel, supplementary media, and accessories that are designed to be of interest to that community. The collection of the enthusiast's media, community, and businesses creates that field's enthusiast culture.

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