What Does It Mean to Be a “Gamer”?

Most people – with your parents on the top of the pyramid – probably frown when they hear this. Being a gamer, to them, is something similar to being a low life. A scum. Somebody who wastes their life away playing those horrible things called video games. There’s nothing to learn from playing video games. There’s no added benefit. There’s NO point in being a gamer.

At least that’s what some people believe…

But what does it actually mean to be a “gamer”?

If we look at the actual definition after a quick search on Google, a “gamer” is “a person who plays video games or participates in role-playing games.”

Fair enough. You don’t need an phd in astrophysics to figure that out by yourself! But is this definition complete? Would gamers consider themselves just people who play video games? Would the society agree that this is all you can say about gamers? Because, yes, we’ve already decided what parents would think…

Many people – those who consider themselves as “gamers” – would say that being a gamer is equal to being a “hardcore gamer”. There are also non-gamers or casual gamers. You probably know them. Those playing games every now and then, enjoying freemium titles on mobiles, playing match three games and hidden object adventures.

They are the ones “real gamers” frown upon.

Being a “real gamer” is a cult thing. You own all major game consoles (or are a diehard fan of a particular one), you spend hundreds of hours per month playing video games, you have completed a few just last month, you know everything there is to be known about your favorite franchise and those who play Call of Duty are crap.

The truth is that there are many ways to look at this. “Real gamers” – the really dedicated ones who still play games night and day, have tens of titles ready to be played and can kick your ass when you go against them, no matter the genre – might not be the actual “real” gamers.

Are professional gamers more “real” than the “real gamers”? Aren’t they as hardcore as you can get? Shouldn’t they be considered gamers, and everybody else non-gamers or casual gamers?

You see… it’s always a matter of the angle of the people answering the question.

For your mom, a gamer is that person who plays games. You can spend a ton of time in front of the computer writing programs or doing something else, non-gaming related, but still be a no-good gamer. For the people who only play the most popular mobile games and have made it to level 1,200 in Candy Crush Saga, that would be gaming. They’re gamers because they play games.

For the hardcore gamers who spend tens of hours customizing their main character for that popular RPG, who build their rooms into true (and a bit nerdy) sanctuaries of games and godlike virginity, they’re the real gamers.

For the pros, those who earn real money by playing games, it can’t get more real than that.

And you know what? All of them are right, up to a point!

Should there be a difference between core, “real” gamers and casual ones? Aren’t we all just a big, happy family?

And what makes a game “core” in the end? Some would say that core games are difficult and not accessible to the masses. Well… have you tried playing Flappy Bird? Flippy Knife? Even Candy Crush Saga can get frustratingly difficult and seemingly impossible to beat…

Now, I completely understand that there can be a distinction between hardcore and more casual gamers based on the time and resources they invest in their hobby. Make it something like playing for the pros or the amateurs: you’re still playing the game, but in a different league!

It might all have its origin in the early moments of gaming. Back then, it was a bit underground to be a gamer. Back then, there weren’t as many options and the gamers were indeed a select few.

But today, games are mass market thing. It’s true, many of them have been dumbed down in order to appeal to greater masses, many changes have been made and they’re completely different than games a couple decades ago… but you know what? This is not a bad thing!

And even the hardcore gamers today should be reminded that, most likely, their favorite games have been dumbed down a bit too – or at least changed, in some cases radically.

Do you know that back in the days there was no such thing as regenerating health in FPS games? Nowadays, most require you to find cover and you’re magically healed. Well… playing Wolfenstein 3D or the highest difficulty mode was as difficult as getting a score of 30 in Flappy Bird!

All genres have changed and evolved. Some have been improved thanks to the technical evolution – mostly strategy games – but things are still different.

Being a gamer, therefore, is not a title that should be decided by hours played, consoles owned or money spent. For example, I still consider myself to be a gamer, even though I’m aging, I have a family, I have a job, I need to sleep more… and therefore I don’t have as much time as I’d like for playing games. I am no longer hardcore, that’s for sure, but I am still a gamer.

And you know what? I really enjoy some of the silly mobile games out there and play them regularly. Because, in some cases, 5 minutes is better than having to invest a few hours in something.

And we’re not even getting into the whole debate. There’s also the “gamer girl” thing going on for a while, which is nicely debated over at Big Fish Games. Also known as a portal for casual games. Or, in other words, completely unknown to “real gamers”.

So… what do you think? What does it mean to be a gamer? Should you feel ashamed if you play more casual games… or should those who only go for the so-called core games feel somehow superior for the choices they make?