The Ever-Elusive Definition of “Gamer”

There are a myriad of definitions out there, but what constitutes a "gamer" in your eyes?
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What the hell is it, anyway?

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I’m not even referring to the subcategories, such as “hardcore gamer.” I’m merely talking about the basic term, “gamer,” and how, when and why it’s applied.

The question is, and you may consider this a poll question for all GameSkinny members: What is a gamer to you?

Wait, does it even matter?

Well, in point of fact, it does. It does because despite all efforts to the contrary, we are a species that understands and in some cases, even thrives on labels. Our brains immediately attempt to categorize and analyze and in so doing, we instinctively label, even when we don’t consciously acknowledge the process. Therefore, asking if it matters yields the reluctant but realistic answer: “Yeah, it always does.”

The key is to not make it too important. We’re talking about a hobby here, after all. If we start defining our lives by it – or worse, if we start judging others based on it – we’ve got much deeper problems.

Okay, now that we’ve established this disclaimer, moving on.

It could be argued that in this day and age, EVERYONE is a “gamer”

One could make this argument as well. Chances are, if you’re even remotely technologically inclined, you’ve played a video game at one point in your life. If you own a computer, tablet, smartphone, dedicated handheld gaming device, or one of the consoles, you have, of course, played a game. We’re becoming a society that’s increasingly invested, emotionally and financially, in our entertainment. I don’t condone that at all but it’s a fact.

That being said, I don’t believe that “everyone” is a gamer. Just because someone plays a few free apps while waiting for the bus doesn’t make them a gamer. It’s not a judgment; it’s just a deduction based on my own personal definition of the term. Again, subjectivity is going to be huge, so we always have to bear that in mind. I tend to embrace logic and common sense; just because I see a few movies here and there doesn’t make me a movie buff. Know what I mean?

What do you picture when you think of a gamer?

The images in our heads are a complicated result of years of learning and observation. They come from a million different sources and it’s up to us to select the appropriate image(s). The problem is that when we try, we’re often facing a deluge of stereotypes that, despite our best attempts to dispel them, sometimes sneak through. This is why when I think of a gamer, I’m automatically picturing someone who doesn’t exactly belong on any red carpet.

I always try to alter that image because obviously, in recent years, gaming has become a legitimate form of mainstream entertainment. There’s no reason to believe that the pretty people don’t play video games. Still, I’m willing to bet that you aren’t picturing a Brad Pitt type when you’re imagining the quintessential gamer, are you? You’ll have to struggle to come up with something that’s realistic that isn’t infected with A. deluded hope, or B. a terrible self-image.

Are YOU a gamer?

I’m sure you’ll answer “yes.” However, what makes you a gamer? This could make it easier to answer the ultimate question as to whether or not someone else is a gamer. It always helps to turn the microscope on yourself before casting a searching eye about, looking to label and categorize. After you’ve done that, you may have additional questions.

For instance, how has your gaming changed over the years? How do you see it changing in the future? At what point will you go to a party full of strangers and realize that in fact, just about everyone there can be considered a gamer? …yes, a child’s fantasy from the ’80s but hey, maybe it’s fast approaching.

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A gaming journalism veteran of 14 years, a confirmed gamer for over 30 years, and a lover of fine literature and ridiculously sweet desserts.