As a video game writer, I read lots of forums, news, blogs, and articles, seeing tension within the gaming community between gamers of all traits. It makes me reminisce back to the days when the term “gamer” distinguished anyone who played a game; if I played games, I was a gamer. As the times changed, new genres and supporters of games emerged and subgroups were formed. Groups like “hard-core gamer”, “pro-gamer”, and “newbie” became terms under the umbrella of “gamer”. Leagues, communities, and connections formed bringing gamers together to support each other and compete. I feel a great sense of respect and “chilax-ness” when I am with my friends drinking beers and playing Halo again and again goofing around blowing up stuff, sniping, or racing the warthog over huddles executing wild stunts, all the while laughing in camaraderie. Competition sparks a passion to compete aggressively to win, but when it’s over, it’s like we had been your friends for decades. We’ll praise, criticize, joke, and mock each other and whomever loses will say something hilarious like, “you won the battle but not the war. I’ll get you next time!” as the winner gloats, but not too much, about his victory since we would game to our hearts' content with a sense of appreciation for each other skills, esteem, and abilities. Moments like that don’t exist outside the spectrum of my close friends because of the identity and stereotype I am associated with as a female gamer.
In my childhood, I played for the sake of enjoyment because video games were, and still are, my hobby and therefore “I = gamer.” With the emergence of subgroups and genres, “I = gamer” became “I = girl gamer” by default. The resulting effect was a backlash of bitterness or denial of my designation because of a haunting connection with disillusions of nonexistent gamers who happened to be female. My identity may be “girl gamer”, but the ultimate meaning is still “gamer.” Besides the term “pro-gamer,” most identities reflect the variety of interests and level of interest gamers are defined in the gaming community. For this reason, we have new titles like “casual gamer”, “mid-core gamer”, “retrogamer”, “gaymer”, and “girl gamer”. The emergence of these identifies shed light the term “gamer” is growing into vast avenues of interests and levels of gaming keenness. This is important because game developers need an ideal target market whenever in development of a game because creating a game that is good does not make it successful, but molding it to gratify a particular group is what makes it thrive. There are times when a game targeting a particular group will offend me as a gamer. Therefore, I have every right and even a responsibility to let my voice be heard as a gamer. Just because that particular group may not understand my point of view does not mean I’m wrong, but if they are willing to debate about the topic instead of bashing, because of the identity I am associated with, will be doing more harm to their willingness to reach a mutual understanding. This is my underlying issue with identities and stereotypes as they become mechanism of segregation and division. No more are the times of compliancy and camaraderie or understanding and debate, because of the emergence of these identities that bring some gamers to assert themselves as better or distinguish someone as different.
I believe identities are used more to classify a group or market than for self-assertion. Self-assertion is unnecessary since it is obvious. In the gaming community; for example, if I am playing a game I do not need to express myself as a “girl gamer” because that is made obvious by me simply playing a game. Someone who plays retro games, shouldn’t go around introducing themselves as a “retrogamer” since it only matters when someone asks “what type of gamer are you?” The same holds true for “casual” to “hardcore gamers”. There is no need to express the obvious that can be seen when a casual or hardcore gamer plays. Just play or talk about games and let what you know and your skills do the talking. Never let a title or term define you; it instills bias once you do and clouds your judgment and understanding of another gamer’s beliefs and convictions.
Places like GirlGamer.com or Girl Gamer Vogue identify their target audience by stating their market in their name. Doing so, they inform their audience and possible business prospects what is their target market. Gamers of all identities are big on communities, so creating an identity based website catered to unifying them to form a community or creating a social news feed targeting their interests is common.
It must also be said with every identity there is a stereotype, but we must remember that stereotypes are stretched facts and are not truth. Stereotypes should not identify a person nor should someone be associated with a stereotype if they match an identity. So if someone plays retro games like Contra on the Sega Genesis or Atari 2600, are they an old fart with no sense of modern gaming wonders? How about if someone casually plays games on their iOS, for example Angry Birds? Are they the misfits of the gaming community because they don't play on consoles? And what of the female gamer, who is bombarded with accusations that because she plays games she is an attention seeking whore? How about the gamer who spends most of his time playing World of Warcraft; does he live in his parent’s basement? What about the professional gamer, is he Korean or Japanese?
These automatic mindsets are predisposed in our psyche and are delusions that we need to wake up from. Instead of picking fights with each other we need to go back to the fundamental connection of all of this; we are all gamers. I refuse to see gamers bicker with each other pretending one identity is “better than the other” because quite frankly we all are the same. The identities and stereotypes about the distinctions of gamers are nothing more than terms that should not be used to divide us. It does not matter who you; once we play a game, go on Xbox live, put on our headsets, log into our favorite MMORPGs, play co-op or multiplayer with our friends, we all become GAMER. Adopting this mindset, I can look forward to just having fun, drinking beers, speaking my mind, and doing crazy stunts on the warthog with new friends and strangers.