I play games. I am not a 'gamer'.
29th Mar 2012 | 11:31
When my imagination idles, it idles solely in Skyrim. When I worry, I worry about my K/D ratio. When I reminisce, it's usually about Half-Life. Yet I don't consider myself a 'gamer'. Why? Because as soon as I dip below the surface of the net, the collective indignant bawl of a legion of self-defined 'gamers' makes me nauseous.
There's a rolling ball of 'gamer' culture that thunders through countless websites and forums that, from the outside looking in, divorces the people caught up in it from the fundamentals of their everyday lives. Entirely. Dogs, girlfriends, wives, children, schools, friends, jobs... all lopped away from online personalities until all that remains is a capitalised, screaming hatred for the latest hate-figure: Call of Duty, the other console, some idiot politician.
This is inevitable, the nature of the net, but it's also where 'gamer' begins to ferment. It stops being a description of people who play videogames after a hard day at work, and becomes an unrefined blend of anger and fanaticism.
Forum posters start to define themselves as 'gamers' in the same way others define themselves in sexuality, race or religion. What's more - just as with the Republican Tea Party in US politics - the loudest, most extreme opinions are the most dominant almost regardless of sense, as the saner majority simply stay away from the screaming match rather than wade in with soon-to-be-steamrollered rational debate.
The 'gamer' has become just what the ignorant, progress-fearing outsider thought they were all along - a 2D character sketched on virtual paper and seemingly unaware of the three dimensional world outside.
News sites even start to feed the 'gamer' information skewed through this strangely warped lens: a 'gamer' murder in Florida over a PS3, the 'gamer' take on the Japanese earthquake, what 'gamers' need to know about the Anders Breivik massacre - after all, he used to play World of Warcraft, don't you know?
Could you imagine meeting someone in a pub and them introducing themselves, with a knowing smile, as a 'reader'? And on book websites, can you see those 'readers' gnashing, wailing and screaming 'corruption!' when their favourite author gets a bad review?
Likewise, millions of people ride motorbikes - yet they're not 'bikers'. That's a term only assigned to a relevant few. Rabid opinion and snobbish elitism are part of these interest groups too, of course (it happens wherever people are passionate), but with gaming that same brush seems to tar us all.
The tag of 'gamer', with its nerdish, antisocial and even sinister mainstream connotations, is crudely daubed over everyone who occasionally plays Call of Duty or FIFA with their friends. We're all guilty by association.
The problem arises when people who don't play games find themselves looking over the fence. When the mass media label us alternately as losers and psychopaths, you have to consider what they're looking at: online we appear a rabid bunch, hitting back with fire and brimstone at any criticism.
Yet these people, like 'bikers', are a minority - highly visible, but a minority. Regular game-players are now everywhere. We are no longer different, or special. That ship has sailed.
Games have crossed boundaries - bringing together people over national borders, and increasingly bridging generations. It's changing the way we all live, learn and socialise for the better.
We truly are as mainstream as film, books or TV - but some of us still behave like it's a private member's club, then cry foul when we're lambasted for it. To be taken seriously we must stop acting like special little princesses. The 'gamer' is dead. Long live gaming.
Image Credit: Two friends on Shutterstock.