What does it mean to be a "gamer" anymore? Does it mean anything at all?

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The terms "casual" and "core" gamer, as well as the word "gamer" itself is oft-debated in gaming forums, I know. For the most part, I tend to avoid the argument. It always seemed pretentious, silly, and exclusionary: a way of heaping scorn and derision on the people who don't play the games that you play (e.g. "people who play shooters are casuals!", "people who play JRPGs are casuals!", "people who play iOS and Facebook games aren't real gamers!", etc. ad nauseum).

But the other day something happened to me that forced me to reconsider my perspective. So let me frame my discussion with a recounting.

I was set up on a date with a certain gentleman by mutual friends. While I've dated non-gamers in the past, my preference is to date gamers. I spend a considerable amount of time on my hobby, I'd like to be able to share it with the person I care about. Besides, my BFF isn't always around to play co-op. Anyway, I've made this preference known - my friends set us up because, I was assured, we both had that hobby in common. Now, this gentleman was a little old for me and I don't usually go for older men, but since he was a gamer, just think of what he must have played in his youth! The old King's Quest games, or the original Fallout! I was certainly willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on account of our shared interests.

After breaking the ice with the usual - professions, schools, travel, etc. - I asked him what games he'd played lately. I was curious to see what sort of gamer he was. My friends had no specifics. I have my own favourites, but my tastes are pretty broad. Shooters, RPGs, platformers - all good!

"Oh, I've been busy - you know, work." He replied. "What about you?"

Fair enough, I thought. We're both busy professionals. And showing an interest in me is good sign! I told him that I was busy too with projects, and had finally gotten around to picking up Skyrim.

"Skyrim?" He asked. "I've never heard of it."

"...Uh, you know, Skyrim." I was puzzled. I hadn't name-dropped an obscure Japanese-language only import from a decade ago - this was 2011's Game of the Year. "It's an RPG? By Bethesda."

No recognition.

"They made Fallout 3."

"Never heard of it. What system is it for?"

"It's, uh, on both of them, as I understand it."

"Both?"

"Both PS3 and 360. Oh, and PC too, I think."

"I only own a PC."

Oh, I thought, with relief. He's a PC gamer. Personally, I'm primarily a console gamer, but I have a gaming laptop and a Steam account. This could work. "So what did you think about Diablo 3?"

"I haven't gotten around to it yet."

"You played the first two?"

"I played the first one."

"Yeah, that was a classic, wasn't it? What was your favourite class?"

"Uh... I don't really remember. I don't think I beat it."

He sounded surprisingly disinterested in the topic; a marked contrast to the enthusiasm I'm accustomed to when talking to other gamers. Something wasn't right. But, hey, he'd told my friends he was a gamer. He'd mentioned it himself at the beginning of the date. So, he must be one, right? And I'm no gaming snob - anything he plays is fine. Maybe it is just Robot Unicorn Attack, or World of Warcraft. I play far too much pew pew myself. "So... what have you played lately?"

He doesn't respond. He sits there deep in thought, dredging through memories. And I begin to wonder...

As it turns out, the original Diablo was probably one of the last games he'd tried. His entire knowledge of Final Fantasy comes from 7; he's never heard of Crysis. But he doesn't really know classic games either. He played a few rounds of Quake at a friend's LAN party, but Wolf 3D and System Shock don't garner so much of a flicker of recognition.

And that's when it hits me. He is not a gamer. Maybe back in the 1990s and 80s he sort of was one - a very casual one. I can't talk to him about anything more in depth than "so, about that Super Mario World, eh?" and yet he clings to the identifier because he knows what "zerg rush" means (although not how to effectively perform one).

But surely, the argument goes, anyone who plays any games at all is a "gamer"? After all, we don't have words for "movie watcher" and "book reader". Everyone does those things.

Well, that's part of the problem. Gaming, at least to people of a certain again, has become virtually ubiquitous - like reading books or watching television. Everyone does it. While back in the 90s calling yourself a "gamer" might have meant identifying with part of a subculture, these days "I play video games" is tantamount to saying "I use the internet". Or, "I breathe air and drink water". "Gamer" must necessarily mean something other than "has played any video games at all" because it is fast becoming interchangeable with "human being on the planet Earth".

And actually, we do have exclusionary terms for those people who turn book reading and movie watching into a hobby or a passion: avid readers and film buffs. While you might not expect everyone to have watched Citizen Kane, it would be perfectly reasonable to expect someone who claims to be a cinema aficionado to have done so. And it would be very strange indeed if a self-professed avid reader had never even heard of Tom Clancy, even if their tastes don't include his work. If you listed "listening to music" as a hobby on your eHarmony profile, but you last listened to an album of any kind ten years ago and even then only listened to a handful of bands back then your potential romantic partners would feel (rightly) that you had misrepresented yourself to them.

Yet, because there was that subculture of "gamer" versus "non-gamer", people cling desperately to the descriptor because that's how they want to identify, that's where they want to belong, even though in truth they slid into "non-gamer" status years ago. Especially now that geek is the new cool, and gaming is mainstream.

How do we solve this problem? How do we salvage the word "gamer" from the utter meaninglessness it has come to hold? Do we pry "gamer" out of the clutches of those who don't really game and make it a term like film buff? So that someone who'd last watched a movie in the 90s and then only Independence Day would feel utterly ridiculous telling someone they were one?

Or do we remove the stigma from the word "casual" - stop using it as an insult directed at those who don't play games we like, and use it on those who rarely play games at all. Make "core" not a badge of honour, but a simple point of fact. After all, "casual filmgoer" is not an insult, and no one would take it as such. Most of us probably are this, and unless we've seen hundreds, if not thousands of titles, we wouldn't dream of calling ourselves "film buffs". Similarly, "core" could be reserved for those who have more than ten or twenty games from any given generation.

My suspicion is that the damage is already done. "Gamer" has become a meaningless non-word to describe everyone born after 1970, but has enough subcultural cache that no one wants to let it go. And that removing the "core" versus "casual" stigma will be next to impossible (not to mention that the industry has started to use these terms themselves to talk about something entirely different altogether). I expect that we'll have to invent a new, neutral, generic term for "game buffs" that separates them from the "gamers" without insulting them.

So if I go out with a guy who calls himself a game buff, he'll probably have at least heard of Skyrim.

I hate the term hardcore gamer. It makes me think of 14 year old who play call of duty 50 hours a week and likes to own people. I play games maybe 30 hours a week and I consider myself a gamer, nothing more. Well ok maybe a nerd as well.

I dont think less of somone you could apply the term casual too...nor do I think the term "hardcore" applys to all of us

but fuck it...there's a distinction, I just wish people would stop dancing around it

like jim said with art games...when you say "hardcore" and "casual" generally people know what you mean

like when you say cartoon/animation and anime which technically are the same thing but people KNOW what you mean when you use the terms seperatly

Guy from the 80's:
I hate the term hardcore gamer. It makes me think of 14 year old who play call of duty 50 hours a week and likes to own people. I play games maybe 30 hours a week and I consider myself a gamer, nothing more. Well ok maybe a nerd as well.

As I said at the beginning of the teal deer, so do I. It's always struck me as a little obnoxious and exclusionary.

But we need something or "gamer" really is going to denote "human being".

Since his last game was such a long time ago I wouldn't say your date was a "gamer" just like how a person who doesn't do plumbing anymore isn't a plumber.

Anyone who play games are gamers, those who don't aren't gamers. It's not a title you keep forever, if you stop playing games you stop being a gamer, simple.

Vault101:
I dont think less of somone you could apply the term casual too...nor do I think the term "hardcore" applys to all of us

but fuck it...there's a distinction, I just wish people would stop dancing around it

like jim said with art games...when you say "hardcore" and "casual" generally people know what you mean

like when you say cartoon/animation and anime which technically are the same thing but people KNOW what you mean when you use the terms seperatly

The problem isn't that people don't know what "core" and "casual" mean - I think, as you say, that on some level we all do - the problem is that "casual" has become an insult, so people will misapply it to people they don't like, and others to whom it really does apply will fight tooth and nail not to be called one.

The term casual gamer, I mean, it shouldn't be an insult, just a descriptor for someone who occasionally plays games.

I despise the term 'hardcore', it just makes me think of people who only play military FPS games.

Maybe make a new term, like, I dunno, off the top of my head, Daystar grade gamer.

>_>

<_<

Keoul:
Since his last game was such a long time ago I wouldn't say your date was a "gamer" just like how a person who doesn't do plumbing anymore isn't a plumber.

Anyone who play games are gamers, those who don't aren't gamers. It's not a title you keep forever, if you stop playing games you stop being a gamer, simple.

But how long do you have to have stopped playing games to lose that title? Clearly, he felt that he still was one. And while I've heard people say things like "I was a plumber" or "I used to surf" in the past tense, I've never heard someone say "I was a gamer". It's always "I'm a gamer, but I haven't played anything for a while".

Again, I think it's the subculture problem. "Plumbing" isn't a culture like "gaming" is.

Ariseishirou:

Guy from the 80's:
I hate the term hardcore gamer. It makes me think of 14 year old who play call of duty 50 hours a week and likes to own people. I play games maybe 30 hours a week and I consider myself a gamer, nothing more. Well ok maybe a nerd as well.

As I said at the beginning of the teal deer, so do I. It's always struck me as a little obnoxious and exclusionary.

But we need something or "gamer" really is going to denote "human being".

I think its pretty straightforward. There is nothing like a hardcore golfer, nothing like a hardcore sailor. So why hardcore gamer? I think the terms has been invented by maybe people who consider themselves hardcore/[email protected])c()r3 who feel contempt for people who play wii or the likes.

Ariseishirou:
snip

I'd say if you're "out of the loop" of the gaming industry then you're no longer a gamer.
For instance in this generation if you don't know what:
-League of Legends (most played PC game this year so far)
-World Of Warcraft (most likely the biggest MMORPG so far)
-Team Fortress 2 (Ridiculously popular FPS with a huge fanbase)
-Skyrim (So much hype)
Are then you're probably not really a gamer, even if you're a casual gamer you should have at least HEARD of those titles they're just too big too ignore.

Guy from the 80's:

I think its pretty straightforward. There is nothing like a hardcore golfer, nothing like a hardcore sailor. So why hardcore gamer? I think the terms has been invented by maybe people who consider themselves hardcore/[email protected])c()r3 who feel contempt for people who play wii or the likes.

The thing is, though, not everyone golfs, and not everyone sails, so the comparison to gaming is sketchy. We're getting to the point where gaming is more comparable to watching films or television - i.e., something everyone does, so that "tv watcher" is more like "food eater". You just don't say it. It's assumed. You have to go out of your way to say "I don't watch television", instead.

Heck, even then if someone only golfed a couple of times years ago they probably wouldn't call themselves a "golfer". And if they do it regularly, but infrequently, they'd probably say they were a "casual" golfer.

Yet "casual gamer" is like "baby killer" in this hobby.

This is too funny not to share. OP, what if your date just didn't like you, so he feigned ignorance? He just went "Skyrim is a pretty cool guy. Eh kills dragons and doesn't afraid of anything." in real life. For some reason I find this hilarious. And I mean no offence, either.

To paraphrase Potter Stewart's statement about pornography, I can't define a gamer, but i'll know one when I see one.

Keoul:

Ariseishirou:
snip

I'd say if you're "out of the loop" of the gaming industry then you're no longer a gamer.
For instance in this generation if you don't know what:
-League of Legends (most played PC game this year so far)
-World Of Warcraft (most likely the biggest MMORPG so far)
-Team Fortress 2 (Ridiculously popular FPS with a huge fanbase)
-Skyrim (So much hype)
Are then you're probably not really a gamer, even if you're a casual gamer you should have at least HEARD of those titles they're just too big too ignore.

Yeah I'd begun to suspect that he wasn't a gamer when he hadn't heard of Skyrim. Even if he prefers another genre altogether, the hype and the advertising campaign would have been impossible to ignore if he was engaged in the hobby at all.

I did mention later that I played Call of Duty. His response? "Oh... yeah, I think I know that one."

But there's something that feels so wrong about judging who gets to be a "gamer" and who doesn't, even though it's pretty darn obvious to me now that we do need to draw that line somewhere.

DoPo:
This is too funny not to share. OP, what if your date just didn't like you, so he feigned ignorance? He just went "Skyrim is a pretty cool guy. Eh kills dragons and doesn't afraid of anything." in real life. For some reason I find this hilarious. And I mean no offence, either.

Hahahah yeah that would have been some pretty epic RL trolling. He seemed pretty sincere, though.

DoPo:
This is too funny not to share. OP, what if your date just didn't like you, so he feigned ignorance? He just went "Skyrim is a pretty cool guy. Eh kills dragons and doesn't afraid of anything." in real life. For some reason I find this hilarious. And I mean no offence, either.

-scoff- what sane man would dislike a partner who shares the same niche interests? a madman I say! a madman!

Keoul:

DoPo:
This is too funny not to share. OP, what if your date just didn't like you, so he feigned ignorance? He just went "Skyrim is a pretty cool guy. Eh kills dragons and doesn't afraid of anything." in real life. For some reason I find this hilarious. And I mean no offence, either.

-scoff- what sane man would dislike a partner who shares the same niche interests? a madman I say! a madman!

Maybe he didn't feel any chemistry and this was his way of letting me down easy, lol. "Skyrim? Is that the new James Bond flick?" All the while has a $5000 Alienware gaming PC at home and a collection of titles in the thousands ;p

I get confused with all the gamer terms 'casual', 'core', 'hardcore' all that jazz. I don't really know which category I fit into which makes me think I must be 'casual' but I do consider video games to be a main hobby so maybe I'm 'casual-core'. But then again it just doesn't matter to me as long as I find games I enjoy.

Ariseishirou:
Maybe he didn't feel any chemistry and this was his way of letting me down easy, lol. "Skyrim? Is that the new James Bond flick?" All the while has a $5000 Alienware gaming PC at home and a collection of titles in the thousands ;p

Pfft, scrub.
Everyone knows alienware are way overpriced :P he's definitely not a gamer if that was the case XD or at least not a "hardcore" one.

Able Seacat:
I don't really know which category I fit into which makes me think I must be 'casual' but I do consider video games to be a main hobby so maybe I'm 'casual-core'.

"Casual-core". Oh wow, are we there already, as a hobby? Are the distinctions really that fine?

Ariseishirou:

Able Seacat:
I don't really know which category I fit into which makes me think I must be 'casual' but I do consider video games to be a main hobby so maybe I'm 'casual-core'.

"Casual-core". Oh wow, are we there already, as a hobby? Are the distinctions really that fine?

I don't know I might have made that term up but I guess that's what I was trying to say, I have no idea where I fit so somewhere in between maybe.

Guy from the 80's:

I think its pretty straightforward. There is nothing like a hardcore golfer, nothing like a hardcore sailor. So why hardcore gamer? I think the terms has been invented by maybe people who consider themselves hardcore/[email protected])c()r3 who feel contempt for people who play wii or the likes.

those peopel who go on solo trips around the world battling harsh seas and their own sanity arnt hardcore sailors?......bullshit

bad example, those are more niche (particually sailing) than the kind of media everyone consumes

and even if you do go there..take movies, Art films and film festivles....isnt there even a name for that kind of thing? cinemaphiles?....anyway my point is I think the distinction comes from how deep the enthusasm runs

there isnt really any other term but "hardcore" (mabye "core") but theres still a difference...if you own a big libairy of games...play games alot..keep up with gaming news and have every bot ofgaming merchandise you can get your hands on then its painfully obvious you are different from somone who bought a Wii for Wii fit

I have a great idea: Stop foisting these pointless titles on people who play video games. We all just want to have a bit of fun, dammit.

Keoul:

Pfft, scrub.
Everyone knows alienware are way overpriced :P he's definitely not a gamer if that was the case XD or at least not a "hardcore" one.

while Alien are overpriced....I don't see whats so wrong with the willingness to pay for convience...but no, suggest the Idea and they all go after your head

Im not saying go buy an Alie ware...I'm just saying wanting to buy a gaming PC rather than build one yourself maybe doesn't make you scum of the earth? even if it is as easy as people say

Ariseishirou:

He sounded surprisingly disinterested in the topic; a marked contrast to the enthusiasm I'm accustomed to when talking to other gamers. Something wasn't right. But, hey, he'd told my friends he was a gamer. He'd mentioned it himself at the beginning of the date. So, he must be one, right? And I'm no gaming snob - anything he plays is fine. Maybe it is just Robot Unicorn Attack, or World of Warcraft. I play far too much pew pew myself. "So... what have you played lately?"

.

mabye he figured being a "gamer" ment playing games no matter what kind or how long for...OR the amount of knowelge he might have

anyway....

I dont think you need to have knowlege of (or even like) older games to "be a gamer"

when I first came to this site, if anyone was to quiz me on my gaming related knowelege they probably would have branded me casual within 30 seconds and cast me out....which was true, I knew very little

however after trying out all thease new and exciting games...hanging out on the forums and actually keeping up with gaming related news for once...I now "know" things about gaming

theres still alot I don't know (like what Leauge of ledgends is...other than its awful)

A gamer is someone who cares about games. Doesn't matter what games you play or how long you play them. Before smartphones and facebook I called myself a casual gamer, since I loved games casually (and I didn't want to try to prove that I'm hardcore since I don't care about other people, I care about games.) Now I use softcore since casual refers more to smartphones and facebook than enjoying all games to a lesser degree than enthusiast but still more than normal.

People who don't care about the medium can still enjoy games though, and they're just normal people with no classification. The same way I may watch movies, if you ask me what's playing I have no clue but there will be that one movie I'll want to see and that's all I know. Then you have movie-goers where you name a movie and they've seen it.

A 'gamer' to my mind is someone whose primary method of entertainment is gaming, if you spend more time playing games than you do reading books or watching films then that's the only qualification you need.

Daystar Clarion:
The term casual gamer, I mean, it shouldn't be an insult, just a descriptor for someone who occasionally plays games.

I despise the term 'hardcore', it just makes me think of people who only play military FPS games.

Maybe make a new term, like, I dunno, off the top of my head, Daystar grade gamer.

>_>

<_<

Completely agree.

Daystar Grade Gamer? Someone who waits until his 20's to try Civ for the first time! :D

Guy from the 80's:

I think its pretty straightforward. There is nothing like a hardcore golfer, nothing like a hardcore sailor. So why hardcore gamer? I think the terms has been invented by maybe people who consider themselves hardcore/[email protected])c()r3 who feel contempt for people who play wii or the likes.

You could call them a golfing enthusiast or something like that.

Matthew94:

Daystar Clarion:
The term casual gamer, I mean, it shouldn't be an insult, just a descriptor for someone who occasionally plays games.

I despise the term 'hardcore', it just makes me think of people who only play military FPS games.

Maybe make a new term, like, I dunno, off the top of my head, Daystar grade gamer.

>_>

<_<

Completely agree.

Daystar Grade Gamer? Someone who waits until his 20's to try Civ for the first time! :D

Sounds about right :D

Never was into strategy games that much.

Daystar Clarion:
The term casual gamer, I mean, it shouldn't be an insult, just a descriptor for someone who occasionally plays games.

I despise the term 'hardcore', it just makes me think of people who only play military FPS games.

Maybe make a new term, like, I dunno, off the top of my head, Daystar grade gamer.

>_>

<_<

I agree with you on the casual part but "hardcore" always makes me think of a 28 year old virgin who weighs 300lbs and lives in their parents basement while playing games for 50 hours a week.

People over complicate this shit...

Do you play games as a hobby and would be happy to chat to others about games?

You are a gamer. awesome lets move on.

Do you want to try dating me? :P

On a serious note

Keoul:

I'd say if you're "out of the loop" of the gaming industry then you're no longer a gamer.
For instance in this generation if you don't know what:
-League of Legends (most played PC game this year so far)
-World Of Warcraft (most likely the biggest MMORPG so far)
-Team Fortress 2 (Ridiculously popular FPS with a huge fanbase)
-Skyrim (So much hype)
Are then you're probably not really a gamer, even if you're a casual gamer you should have at least HEARD of those titles they're just too big too ignore.

I have to disagree with that. You don't have to be "in the loop" to be a gamer. There are probably plenty of gamers who play only older titles and don't give two cents about present games. As soon as new console generation will hit the market, I will become one of such people. Yet I will be still playing a lot.

I don't care much about a label of "hardcore/casual/whatever gamer", however it does put me off a little when people call themselves gamers when all they're playing are games on their shitphones or facebook.

All in all

Rastien:
People over complicate this shit...

Do you play games as a hobby and would be happy to chat to others about games?

You are a gamer. awesome lets move on.

This.

Your date was probably desperate for a date so he was like "Yeah, I'm a gamer *inner monologue: I played some Diablo stuff few years back, gaming industry couldn't have become that big all of a sudden, I'm probably safe on this point.*"

Ariseishirou:
Well, that's part of the problem. Gaming, at least to people of a certain again, has become virtually ubiquitous - like reading books or watching television. Everyone does it. While back in the 90s calling yourself a "gamer" might have meant identifying with part of a subculture, these days "I play video games" is tantamount to saying "I use the internet". Or, "I breathe air and drink water". "Gamer" must necessarily mean something other than "has played any video games at all" because it is fast becoming interchangeable with "human being on the planet Earth".

And why is it so important to have these labels?
What's wrong with saying "I play games sometimes" or "I play games a lot" or "I play games and am also interested in the history of gaming"? Does it really hurt people to say a few more words?
The same labels can mean different things to different people. For someone who doesn't play games, a person who plays games sometimes is a gamer. However, for a person who plays games 30-40 hours a week and knows who's making what, what different consoles have under the hood etc, that same person will not fit the description of a gamer.
I don't like labels in general. Unless it's in your job description or you're trying to impress other people (which is probably what this guy you're talking about wanted to do) for various reasons (in this case, to make you like him more, most likely), you don't need them.

Daystar Clarion:
The term casual gamer, I mean, it shouldn't be an insult, just a descriptor for someone who occasionally plays games.

I despise the term 'hardcore', it just makes me think of people who only play military FPS games.

Maybe make a new term, like, I dunno, off the top of my head, Daystar grade gamer.

>_>

<_<

Which is just another way of saying, "If you go 10 minutes without playing Civ V you start slapping your face and looking for crack rocks."

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