Am I a gamer? I review video games for various sources, including a major metropolitan newspaper. In May, I made the rounds of E3 for ten hours a day. I have a carefully selected games library, and my adoration of GTA dates back to the London expansion pack, when I used a double-decker bus to evil ends. I grew up in the arcades, standing on tiptoes to feed quarters into the slots. I give game recommendations to friends and acquaintances as if I were reading their tea leaves.

But, in the opinion of some, I am not a gamer.

The common archetype of gamer is specific. He likes FPS - a lot. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of every game that was released on the Dreamcast. He customized his own PC, and will argue the benefits of various video cards until the end of days. (He still thinks buying an Alienware system is a cop-out. Real gamers start from scratch.) He would be highly insulted if I ever called myself a gamer in front of him.

Lately, I've been wondering who came up with this idea of the "gamer" and its parameters. Do gamers play World of Warcraft, while non-gamers are on EverQuest II? Are you a gamer if you take a week off to watch DVDs, rather than play Half-Life 2 when it's released? Do you have to hit 60 hours a week to qualify, or is 20 enough? Do you have to be playing many games at the same time, or if you've only ever played City of Heroes, does that count?

Maybe gamers are the ones lined up at midnight for the big release of Halo 2 - or maybe Halo 2 is not really a gamer's game, just a game for people who think they're gamers. It seems like having other interests - such as mine, things like travel - rule you out from the gamer label forever, because you'll always be PKed by someone better.

To me, being a gamer implies that you play pretty much to the exclusion of everything else. You may stand in line for the opening day of Spider-Man 3, but that's an acceptable anomaly. If you're a gamer, you're not sitting down for a few hours a night to read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and postmodern musings on the Basque region. You're playing games - a whole lot of them - and you're much, much better at them than I.

To be a gamer is also to spend a lot of money on the act of gaming - getting new games at $50 a pop, having multiple consoles set up in your living room, upgrading your PC system because the new game you want to play demands it. Enthusiastic kids I know - all raised on the PS1, and pretty much game players for life - wouldn't qualify as "gamers" in this scenario, because they don't have the money to spend.

Maybe the whole concept of a "gamer" is outdated, a remnant from five years ago. It seems like a concept from the era when PC titles were the only game in town. Once the console - with its wonderfully pre-configured set-up - entered the picture, the masses flocked to it. PC players played consoles, too, but stayed involved in PCs, retreating into a world of ever more complicated gaming, where learning the basics of an RPG or a flight simulator could reasonably take 24 hours non-stop.

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