Experience Point 2/3: What it Means to Be a Gamer

Hello again, after the long delay.  I was moving in to my college place. Then I was being in college for my sophomore year. Now I’m not. The first two sentences of this paragraph show how long since I’ve started on this draft.

There are really two meanings behind being a gamer – a boring, mundane one, and one that’s actually worth thinking about.  Let’s save the best for last, and do the boring one first.

The first meaning is, what does the word “gamer” mean?  I recently heard it brought up that if a gamer is anyone who plays games, and virtually everyone plays games of some sort, then everyone is a ‘gamer’.  But, because of that, the distinction becomes useless. This has led to (misleadingly phrased) arguments that just the word “gamer” itself is useless. On the other hand, we could just define “gamer” differently; maybe as somebody who plays games in a professional capacity (maybe excluding athletes, who may object to association with that word based on their playing of physical sports).

As I said before, this part of the topic isn’t very interesting. Most people just say “Who cares? We all know what ‘gamer’ means, we don’t have to find some clear cut dictionary definition, and this might be one of those terms where there is no such definition.” I’m one of those people. I think the more useful way to figure out what a gamer is would be just to describe gamers in normal language, in the way an encyclopedia might.

For instance, my mom sometimes plays Bejeweled and Solitaire and the like, but unless you stand by the “if you play any game at least semi-regularly, you’re a gamer” definition, most people would say that she doesn’t exactly qualify as a gamer. I play a lot of Kerbal Space Program, Ace Combat, Trackmania, and occasionally Minecraft. Three of these are somewhat niche games, but I play them when I can. Based on this, am I a gamer? If so, what makes that different than if I just played Bejeweled and Solitaire? As an added challenge, anyone who uses the terms “casual,” “core,” or “hardcore” are immediately on the list, so be careful, though I doubt anyone would be calling any of these games “hardcore.” I just want to avoid the casual/core fallacy.

Maybe the question isn’t all about the kinds of games people play, or how frequently, but how much time and attention one invests in games. My mom wouldn’t likely be particularly excited if a new Bejeweled were announced, but I’ve been following Ace Combat 7 for a while now (and was really hoping it would come out in 2017).  Beyond that, however, I have no method for determining where the line between them is, or if attention is even directly measurable.

Now, let’s contextualize this differently by making a comparison with art lovers. There are several parallels here – as with games, paintings, sculptures, etc.  are not basic necessities for sustaining life, but there are people who still enjoy them, people who criticize them, and people who make them their life’s work. Some would actually argue that there is no difference, as I did implicitly in my last post.

Now, some people would consider themselves art lovers – connoisseurs, critics, etc. They put a special interest in an art form, and have a circle of discourse among them. Others would not; if you asked them to describe themselves, you’d get any of countless possible answers – an engineer, a party animal, maybe a gamer. Yet, if you would look in their house or apartment, you would probably find some painting hanging on the wall, or a small sculpture sitting on a desk. I figure that’s about the way it is for gamers too.

Gamers, just like dedicated fans of anything else in general, are simply a people who show a common love for games, and build communities around that. Being a gamer means sharing that experience. This is one of those cases where, once I come up with a simple answer like that, I wonder why there was ever a question. That usually means that the answer is too simple or vague, so I may come back to this again if I think of something else, or if someone gives a better answer. Until then, I would say that this could be used as a premise of an inductive argument about games being an artistic medium, if it has a similar kind of following as other such artistic mediums.

I haven’t quite decided what next week’s will be about. In other news, due to the restrictive nature of this series, I may begin actually writing shorter pieces in between them at irregular intervals like a normal person, on topics that probably wouldn’t have a place in this series. Occasionally, I’ll start talking to my brother about something, and he’ll say, “sounds like a good topic for an experience point.” But, it will be some wierdly specific topic, or not really about games. Anyway, if I do write something this week, I’ll be sure to include next week’s topic.