What Defines a Gamer: Women, Bros, Mobile and Casual, and Getting Along

Why can't we all just get along?

If you've watched any of Anita Sarkeesian's videos, you'll notice one common argument amongst people who either hate her as a human being or disagree with her:

"She's not a gamer."

This claim can be considered as one main disagreement of Sarkeesian's presence online, but is she the only one who is being called out? Doubtful.

Actually, I'll take it one step farther and say that many people, including some male stereotypes, are victims of this claim. And it's making the entire gaming community look like a closed-minded, exclusive club.

Let's take a look at some of gaming community's own perennial favorite stereotypes that aren't really doing us any favors:

The Bro Gamer

Courtesy of Bro Gamer

Most shooters like CoD, Halo and Gears of War are inhabited by men. A certain type of man. I'm talking popped-collar brosephs. Usually in some unflattering salmon color. These are known as the 'bro' gamers.

If you take a look at the Urban Dictionary entry for this breed of person, it's not very polite or friendly. They're known to use derogatory language, talk a lot about their girth, and are generally found in frats drinking out of a Solo cup.

Are all of them like this? Doubtful. Are these the only games where this type of person exists? Probably not. So why are we pinning these particular people as bro gamers when they're playing games like the rest of us? 'They don't play real games' isn't applicable here--CoD and Halo are both very well-selling titles. Are the brosephs just that numerous? It's possible.

However, these games are often seen as the low of the low in terms of community and generally 'gamer'ness--brosephs are just 'bros', they aren't real gamers. When their players overreact or act out, we shake our heads, say 'well, that's just how they are in THAT game' and move on.


The Girl Gamer

Courtesy of Jaltoid

According to the stereotype, this person is found mostly in MMOs, MOBAs, mobile games and casual games (for the sake of this article, we'll define 'casual' as Facebook and Mobile, which includes smartphones, tablets and browser games) and occasional shooters. According to market data, these people make up 45-50% of the gaming industry in terms of money spent. Is that money spent on popular AAA titles or best sellers? Probably not, considering the majority of the demographic for top selling titles are male.

Following popular opinion and ongoing arguments, a very vocal group of the gaming community doesn't see a problem with women in gaming, or how games portray women--whether it be through stereotypical tropes, attention-seeking players or the treatment of female gamers, the community is facing a lot of discourse over the topic of sexism. Does the entire community feel this way? Given the existence of white knights, obviously not.

Though Sarkeesian has claimed to dedicate over 60 hours to games played for her series, she is still facing the claim that she isn't a real gamer.

Women who play Facebook games, browser games, mobile games and other casual titles aren't considered gamers.


Mobile and Casual

Courtesy of AthenaTechs

As stated above, this market is held mostly by women--though men partake of mobile and casual games (again: casual games are defined as 'mobile', browser, Facebook, smartphone and tablet games).

Men are equally accused of not being real gamers when they participate in only this type of environment. Moms and dads who play casually, children who play casually, grandparents who play casually--none of them are considered gamers.


How do you define a gamer?

I can't definitely answer why to any of these questions. All of these people play games--regardless of whether or not they're passionate about them.

Is passion what makes a gamer? Does a broseph who is passionate about his CoD match a 'true' gamer? Or is he just a fake douchebag? Is a girl a fake gamer because she plays WoW or GW2 casually? Or an 'attention seeking whore'? Either way, she'll receive negative attention from many of her peers, just like the broseph will.

The fact of the matter is: these people are, technically, gamers. So what social stigma aren't they following to get the same status as the 'real' gamers? Maybe they didn't play any vintage consoles. Maybe they didn't play The Legend of Zelda, or maybe they didn't even know that Zelda doesn't actually wear the hero hat--Link may be a foreign name to them. Does this make them less of a gamer?

Regardless of any one person's answer, this question is seriously killing the gaming community. In my opinion, it's the root of many arguments justifying stereotypes: 'Black people aren't gamers--that's why there aren't any black main characters,' 'Women aren't gamers, they just want attention,' 'Bros aren't even real people.' 

Stereotypes are human nature, but they have a place

Speaking more logically, stereotyping is part of human nature. It's an undeniable practice that everyone is guilty of. Even using the word 'guilty' to describe it makes it sound like an evil that just comes naturally to the human brain.

Honestly, your brain needs stereotypes to function. Stereotyping is categorizing--and it's essential to understanding the world around you. Stereotyping your reality is known as cognitive function, and it simplifies information so that it can be easily stored and recalled upon later.

Socially, stereotyping is a way for a human to feel included in a group of individuals--people who dress the same way, act the same way, and share the same opinions are often considered to be part of the same stereotype.

When does it become hurtful, though?

Keep in mind that stereotypes do not always, or even often, reflect the reality of the people being categorized. To address one, people who play CoD do not always live in a frat house or drink Natty Lite. This type of stereotyping--grouping people together because of race, sex, class or any other bias is harmful to those people and may portray them inaccurately.

It is human nature to group people together, and gamers are no exception. But, I wonder...

Are we excluding different types of gamers to avoid change?

"Games have always been this way--there's no problem."

Though this may enrage a couple of you, my theory is that we're protecting ourselves by dictating who is and isn't qualified as a 'gamer' using petty stereotypes because many gamers and game communities are afraid of change.

I absolutely hated when my WoW guild fell apart as we all began to play different games. This meant I'd have to meet new people, tolerate new personalities and make room in my circle of friends for people I may not really like. I hated that change, and in general have a difficult time dealing with new things, at least at first.

Admitting that these people exist and make up at least some fraction of the gaming market means that the products produced within that market must undergo change. Themes, plots, characters, settings, etc. will all have to be looked at in a different perspective.

Honestly, I think it terrifies not only gamers, but developers.

Shifting away from a proven seller is tough, and understandably it's hard to do once, much less two or three titles in a row. Games are expensive to develop, and sticking to the norm is a safe way to make profit. No shame in that--these companies and developers need to survive and we want them to keep making games.

Accept and reward changes you like

That means we, as gamers, need to step up and say it's okay for people to try and like different things. It's okay for the main character to be black, or female--or, Heaven forbid, a black female. It's okay for games like CoD and Gears of War to be popular, and the people who play these games are still an important part of the overall demographic and deserved to have games cater to their tastes.

Likewise, don't dislike someone because they play CoD, or WoW, or Farmville. Dislike them for personal reasons--they're a jerk, they called your mom a bad name, they called you a n00b in LoL. Disliking someone because they're an asshole is way better than disliking them because they happen to fit a certain stereotype (which may not actually portray who they are as a person).

Don't hate publishing companies because they're making games that are proven to sell--suggest change, and help reinforce that change with your wallet. Reward developers who acknowledge their mistakes and harmful stereotyping by telling them you appreciate their reasonable attitude and willingess to accept criticism.

Let other people enjoy the industry

Above all, I'm proposing that 'real gamers' just get over themselves. The gaming industry and those who participate in it are not made from molds and don't fit some cookie-cutter stereotype. Everyone is different and likes different things. Let the people who want the industry to change suggest that change, and let them play the games they like without shaming them or harrassing them. Playing Farmville over Dota 2, World of Warcraft or Fire Emblem does not make someone less of a gamer.

It just makes them a person who enjoys having fun--which is what all gamers are, aren't we?

Former Staff Editor

whale biologist.

Tags bro
Published Aug. 13th 2013
  • Catrana
    Beautiful article, and bang on. We really need to stop hating on each other and accept that if you play a game...you are a gamer. Regardless of what you're playing.
    If you played Mouse Trap as a kid, you were a gamer. If you played Pinball at a local arcade, you were a gamer.
    A game is something played for entertainment purposes by one or more people. It doesn't even have to be electronic. If you partake in a game, you are a gamer and that's that.
    It could be pen and paper DnD, it could be WoW, it could just be that you love Bioware games and play them religiously. You might not like the Legend of Zelda games for whatever reason - that's okay. That doesn't make you worse than other gamers. It doesn't make you better than other gamers.
    I despise nothing more than people tearing down others with mindless hatred, just because they are different to themselves.
    If someone plays a game, they are a gamer. It doesn't matter what kind, or for how long a day. It doesn't matter if they were a gamer for a day or a month or a year or their whole lives.
    What does matter is when people who are trying 'games' as they are seen today - things like mobile games, Angry Birds, Candy Crush, etc. - and they are targeted by thousands of needlessly angry people and torn down because they're seen a poisonous casuals who are somehow 'ruining' games for everyone else, that scares them away.
    Why would they pick up another game after being told that they don't deserve it, that they're a bad influence? That person playing Candy Crush in the loo might have been tempted to try out something like Rogue Legacy or Spelunky, but after being viciously torn down by the wider gaming community, they might have changed their mind.
    In the end, the haters are only damaging the future of the gaming community by trying to turn it into some sort of private club, where the membership cards are arbitrarily handed out on the whim of the Old Boys when they deign to acknowledge us. We want more gamers. More gamers means more profit to the companies we love, which leads to better games.
    It's the circle of life, and we should all try to make it as fun for everyone as we can.
  • Amy White
    Former Editor in Chief
    Excellently put.
  • Max Jay
    Featured Columnist
    Great article! I've been saying for years that anyone who sits down and plays a game is a gamer in their own way.

    I really hate social games (Facebook, mobile etc.) but I see the value in them.
  • Katy Hollingsworth
    Former Staff Editor
    I tend to agree with this. If it's a game... and you play it... you're a gamer. I don't think we need to make it more complicated than that.

    I also hate them, but I know some people sit for hours on those games, just like any other. More like Kazz said, to each his own--I just wish we would stop tagging on all these negative connotations to casual and mobile.
  • Max Jay
    Featured Columnist
    Absolutely! It gives the people that love games a terrible reputation. We're only hurting ourselves.
  • Ashley Shankle
    Associate Editor
    "Women who play Facebook games, browser games, mobile games and other casual titles aren't considered gamers."

    Because those games have a reputation for taking the bare minimum amount of skill overall, and are often instead money or timesinks.

    The hate is more about less skill-oriented games becoming far more popular than otherwise, and hence the more difficult and lower selling titles becoming extinct. It's fear more than anything else.

    On another note, you bring up Sarkeesian's 60 hours of gameplay time toward games in her series. How many games has she claimed to have played during this time? Because 60 hours toward that number of games is such a miniscule amount of time to cover that many titles, that it's obvious that she is cherry-picking and hasn't even put any real effort or big research toward the games she's so happy to slam. She is a sensationalist and nothing more.
  • Germ_the_Nobody
    Agreed. I liked Sarkeesian at first because I thought she was opening my eyes. But the more I watched of her, the more ridiculous she became.

    As far as the hate, for me it's more worry about the developers of games moving to casual because the number of casual gamers outweighs the hardcore. Anybody can sit on there phone tapping the screen repeatedly to pass time. And there's a lot of money going into that. Those games can be fun but real gaming is much different.
  • JediSange
    Featured Contributor
    Good read. I'm not sure I agree that stereotypes are nessicarily harmful, though. The idea that "Hey, this is a group of people that play League of Legends. They are more likely to enjoy this competitive game as opposed to a casual game like Farmville, so we will show them more relevant advertising/articles/etc" is a valid one. That same deduction can be made across most groupings of people, including those based on race, sex, or age.

    I think the bigger problem is that people get defensive. There is absolutely no reason any person, female or otherwise, should be offended over the way a woman is dressed in a video game. It's not a reflection on you at all. And the person or company that made the game is entitled to their expression, regardless of your agreement on the matter.

    Your conclusion about tearing down those molds is absolutely correct. People themselves need to stop identifying with these groups before we can stop portraying them. More plainly, I have never once been offended at an overly muscular male on my screen. "Wow, is that how they think *real* men are?" That would be my own problem for being defensive and *identifying* or wanting to identify with that character.
  • William Henry Harrison_6951
    I don't know if this article was somehow prompted by my reply to the author of this one in that other article earlier today, but when someone goes and says something like, "There are so many games that are marketed almost exclusively toward a male demographic. A few, however, have broken down that barrier and have given females a voice in gaming," and then cites two AAA games as examples, I am going to assume that they are talking about the AAA market, because there certainly is not a lack of casual games that buck the trend.
  • Germ_the_Nobody
    Beautiful article. But if you can't see the difference between a person who plays a trivia game and a person who plays World of Warcraft I don't know what to say.

    I don't dislike people who play casual games. I don't consider them gamers is all. I think that's silly.
  • Max Jay
    Featured Columnist
  • Pierre Fouquet
    Featured Correspondent
    But if you play games regularly, aren't you a gamer? You have certain 'rights' to talk about the type of games you play, or have played, but no more, so if a gamer who plays say only mobile games, I don't think they can talk about the state of the AAA industry, and that used games are bad/good, as they do not 1. spend money on AAA and 2. don't buy used games for them selves to play them on their own consoles. But then someone who does not play mobile games and only plays MMOs they cannot talk about CoD runing gaming, as CoD has no influence on MMOs, as they are very very very different games, even the FPSMMOs, persistent worlds, and all that.
    So they ARE gamers, just types of gamers who play casual games, they just are casual gamers is all.
    But anyway, what you think is correct, for you, so you are not wrong.
  • Stephanie Tang
    Featured Columnist
    I know what you mean, and in many ways I subscribe to that view too whether or not I want to - that is, that only a few 'hardcore' games and genres actually count towards making you a "real gamer".

    But that view also smacks of total and utter elitism. It stems from a need to feel superior in some way. And it's wrong.

    Why is Battlefield more of a "real game" than Legend of Zelda? What makes me a better gamer if I play World of Warcraft versus Candy Crush? If I have sunk an equal 2k+ hours in both, can you still say it's casual? And skill... well, skill is necessary to be good at anything, 'casual' or otherwise.

    Different strokes for different folks and so on.
  • Germ_the_Nobody
    uh What? Legend of Zelda is a real video game. Farmville is not. Neither are trivia games. I haven't played Candy Crush so I can't give an opinion on that. But Angry Birds: no.

    I really don't understand how people can argue that a trivia game is the same as Battlefield or World of Warcraft. It's really silly.

    There's a difference between a gamer who plays casual and "hardcore" games, and someone who only plays casual/puzzle/trivia games. Those people are not gamers to me, and never ever will be.

    I honestly have no idea how that relates to feeling superior. That is also completely ridiculous to me.
  • Stephanie Tang
    Featured Columnist
    Yes, according to you. And according to me too, but not to plenty other people who have even narrower ideas of what "real video games" are. You place casual and mobile games in their own little category but that doesn't make them any less of a game.

    And the superiority situation works like this: to you, they don't even count. They don't even rank. That already implies that your game is inherently better, superior, more "real" than Angry Birds.

    And yet why? If I clocked more hours on Angry Birds than you ever did on WoW, how am I any less of a serious gamer than you?

    People can argue that a trivia game is a game the same way Battlefield is a game because it's true. It's a game. When you add your own definition of what makes a game real, that's just you placing your opinion above what is fact because you feel the need to differentiate.
  • Wokendreamer
    Featured Columnist
    I suspect the need to categorize gamers of various types came about more as a result of how gaming became mainstream. As more types of people began to game, it became harder for gamers to be able to say, "I am like this person"

    The hate between these different groups probably started as a joke. I know the groups I hang with use the term 'casual' as a sort of mock insult, meant more for the laughs than because we honestly have a problem with it.

    Sadly, on the internet people will take anything seriously if they decide it would offend them to do so.
  • Kazz in space
    Featured Contributor
    I don't see the point in needlessly hating, its just plain rude and ignorant imo. That said I don't really class someone who plays candy crush on their phone whilst sat on the toilet a "gamer". That term just means something else to me, but I'm not going to give them grief for it. Each to their own.
  • Katy Hollingsworth
    Former Staff Editor
    We can't embed images in comments but here you go.


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