Lately, a major battle has been waging over the term gamer. When it’s appropriate, when it’s not, and what constitutes a “true” gamer.
The issue gets conflated when girls—historically not the biggest consumer of games—assign themselves the title. “Boo!” say the male gamers, “You haven’t earned the right to call yourself a gamer!” In the minds of these individuals, the title has been scandalously appropriated by girls to achieve social status. And what with the cultural acceptance of video gaming as a suitable—even cool—pastime, there might be some truth to it. But regardless, naysayers will oftentimes demand proof of true geekdom, and quickly dismiss what’s produced (valid or not).
Why all this fuss over a silly title? After all, shouldn’t gamers be eager to welcome the fairer sex into the fold of gaming? Shouldn’t girls be allowed to identify however they like? Well…
Gamers have this knee-jerk defensiveness about their hobby, since it’s often the case that they’ve grown up with little else in terms of guiding interests. Not to disparage; video games are a deep and complex medium offering a wealth of different experiences and means of interactivity. They will often serve as the tree from which other interests—writing, art, computers, etc—branch. When someone cultivates their personal history in that way, the title they give themselves carries quite a bit of weight.
It may seem absurd, but this is not uncommon behavior. Anyone with a deep commitment to a title that they self-identify with (e.g. Catholic, Marine, Democrat) will exhibit the same sort of zealousness if they feel the tenets of their designation are being eroded by fad-adopters. As people, we’re wired to sniff out bullshit and expose it, and gamers aren’t any different.
Ultimately, I think the problem lies with the inherent shallowness of a title, especially one like “gamer.” You can play 5 seconds of Flappy Bird—not even make it past the first pipes—and call yourself a gamer without lying. Same goes for books and movies … these are common pastimes that consumers will easily identify with. As entertainment marches into the future, the industry works to involve greater and greater numbers of the population. Soon, we’ll all be “gamers” to some extent.
But if you’re a fan of film, you’re not a “movie-watcher;” you’re a “film buff” or a “cinephile.” What if you enjoy books? You wouldn’t call yourself a “reader”… more like a “bibliophile.” Gamers who seek to communicate their dedication to the medium, a storied history of owning different video game consoles, and the impression all of video games have made on them, have… “gamer.”
“Fake gamer girls,” and the backlash against them, comes from this: The accessibility of the title “gamer” mixed with the vehement defense of its legitimacy from its dedicated bearers. And there’s really not much people can do on an individual level to stop it. My proposal is this—GAMERS, LISTEN UP: Our new title is henceforth “lamers.” Wear it proudly and ironically… but don’t tell anyone you’re being facetious.