What the Hell is a “Real” Gamer, Anyway?

It's just another term that's so wildly subjective, it's impossible to really define.
This article is over 10 years old and may contain outdated information

Every once in a while, when scanning the Internet for worthwhile stories and discussion points (as I do basically every day), something pops up and screams: “Debate me!”

Recommended Videos

In this case, it’s the term used in this headline. Now, I’m not passing judgment on the article in question, nor am I certain of the author’s definition of a “real gamer.” The point is that the term reminds me of “hardcore,” which is always extremely subjective and often a hot-button issue among the gaming community.

The problem with the “real gamer” label is that “real” is even more general and open to interpretation than “hardcore.” Is there any way to really nail it down, though? Do you consider yourself to be a “real gamer” and if so, why?

Is “real” based on the amount of time dedicated to the hobby?

I sometimes believe the term is based strictly on the time component. In other words, if you spend a certain amount of time playing video games on a daily or weekly basis, you qualify as a “real gamer.” Of course, then you have the problem of settling on a number. To some, anything over 10 hours in a week might be considered “real” or “hardcore,” but only if that person has a full-time job and normal adult responsibilities.

If, on the other hand, that person is in college (and let’s face it, we have more time on our hands in college that any other time in our lives, which is a testament to the kind of education we receive there), maybe it needs to be 20 or 30 hours a week. A stay-at-home mom? Unemployed? Disabled in some way? I mean, we’d have multiple numbers for various life circumstances, so isn’t that a big problem?

Maybe it’s the TYPE of games you play that makes you a “real gamer”

For the record, if I used the label “real gamer” (and I typically wouldn’t), I’d probably eliminate anyone who only plays a few apps on their smartphone from time to time. I have an admitted bias against such games, and when someone tells me about the latest game they’re playing on their phone, I’ve often responded, “Yeah, I play real games.” You can call it a personal bias if you like, but I have a feeling that many core gamers would probably agree with me.

Then you’ve got the argument concerning genres and what’s “hardcore” and what’s not. For instance, some gamers will claim that shooters are mostly casual experiences, while role-playing games are strictly for the dedicated hardcore. In other words, while being a Call of Duty fan wouldn’t grant you the “real” gamer label, being a fan of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim would. But how does this tie into the time component? What if that CoD fan plays religiously? And what if he or she doesn’t really play anything else? What label does this person receive?

Labels are stupid anyway, but don’t forget that they’re critical to marketers and publishers

In order to sell something, you have to know your demographic. Whether people choose to admit it or not, particular ages and income levels always factor into the market. So, while the ideal principle is, “labels don’t matter,” the reality of the matter is that in fact, they really do. Marketers have to know on whom they’re pushing a certain product, and why. If you think all games are generally marketed toward anyone who has played a video game in their lives, think again. That’s not how this works.

For instance, regardless of how you might define “real gamer,” manufacturers know that these fans are most likely to be standing in a midnight launch line. Therefore, while I resist labeling – and really, all of us should – the world of business often subsists and even thrives on labels. As such, I think it’d be interesting to hear what definitions Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo use for various groups of gamers…

GameSkinny is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy
Image of Fathoms_4209
A gaming journalism veteran of 14 years, a confirmed gamer for over 30 years, and a lover of fine literature and ridiculously sweet desserts.