Here, at the beginning, something needs to be confessed; I never really cared for the term “Gamer.” Honestly, it never fit well with me and the more I thought about it the more asinine I found its use. Film fans don’t call themselves “Movie-ers” and people who read a fair share of novels don’t refer to themselves as “Bookers” either.
Of course, I do not want to portray myself as someone who needs to distance themselves from the medium. Someone who loves “video games” aren’t necessarily a social pariah; hell, Steven Spielberg loves games and has been playing them since the 1970’s but he doesn’t go around declaring himself a “Gamer.” I love the interactive medium, I always have and I always will.
What I do take issue with however is the branding of an entire fan base, the results are often preconceived notions and strong stereotypes. The truth is, I don’t like being spoken for and by simply branding someone something or throwing them into the collective you have effectively summarized a person with one word. To assume one is a “gamer” is to assume a universal level of investment, both financially and emotionally. No, I don’t play every game out there so no, I’m not going to know everything there is to know about “games.”
Equally disturbing is how the term “Gamer” has been used within its own native spectrum. Over the last decade the term in particular has shifted from a banner of pride to that of validation and self-worth within its own social community. Games continue to change and evolve, taking many shapes and forms, the result is a splintering of the “Gamer” identity.
In a cruel and ironic twist of fate, “Gamers” have begun to ostracize individuals that exclusively play genres or series’ that are deemed to be inferior or not worthy, often fans of Call of Duty and mobile games(such as Angry Birds) are not in fact “Gamers” themselves. We are now witness to the rise of the new and improved True or Real “Gamer”, individuals who are just like regular “Gamers”, save better! The attitude is groan worthy, childish, naive, and just plain insulting. A good friend of mine has a preference for TellTale and David Cage games, that doesn’t make his fandom any less worthy than the individual who has played every single Square-Enix JRPG.
More so than the term itself, I take issue with the identity and mindset it produces. There is effectively a “hive mind” mentality to “Gamers.” Whenever a situation “stirs the nest” many “Gamers” ban together to attack the target, the most recent “Gamers Gate” debacle is evident of such an outcome. Perhaps the most noteworthy thing about this whole situation is how many people get caught up on the term as the cataclysm for offense.
I’d wager that a fair amount of individuals effectively agree that serious concerns are being raised about the community and the culture, specific matters need to be addressed and I don’t think anyone is specifically arguing for such negative elements and factors to persist. The problem is that “Gamers” see it as an attack on their faction, they see the group and not the individual. Yes, part of the blame lay with the framing by those who point the fingers, but the accused see themselves as “targets”, regardless if they actually might agree with what is being said. The desire in this situation is to shed the mentality of the many and rationally approach the conversation as the one.
The “Gamer” mentality can be a determent to the games themselves. A popular criticism for contemporary offerings is that they are “too similar” to one another, a criticism I personally think is all too appropriate. Of course, sales and focus testers have their say and influence across all mediums, but I find the power of the “Gamer” audience equally amazing and disturbing at times. Film companies can dictate the final cut of films (see Marvel as an example) as can big game publishers dictate the direction/content of games, but in recent years the creative control has been given back to the creators in most places. What’s disturbing to me is how influential an audience’s impact can be on something, in this case the power that is derived from “Gamers” outcry.
Mass Effect 3 is perhaps the greatest example of “Gamer” dictation and influence and I am not too convinced having that much power is a good thing. Like it or not, the original ending of Mass Effect 3 was the intent of BioWare, a company that has developed a fairly impressive reputation for developing story based games. The ending of Mass Effect 3 was controversial and disliked by many (I didn’t care for it personally), “Gamers” rose up in massive numbers, pushed for a different ending, and voila, BioWare changed their ending.
I’m not saying fan input is a bad thing, and in the past has provided positive alternatives for individuals who wanted to enjoy things differently (30FPS in The Last of Us, alternative aiming in Uncharted 3, etc.) The difference being here that what was changed was no single surface issue or small grievances, what was changed was something’s specific direction. “Gamers” are vocal, and recently it seems they are using their voice in a negative way. Games of course are arguably the most collaborative medium out there so naturally a true “Auteur” approach seems unlikely (and perhaps inadvisable) but the notion that game makers can’t create the games they set out to make free of audience influence is worrying.
To this day David Cage is criticized for the kinds of games he makes, regardless of their actual quality. More recently Ready at Dawn has faced countless committee suggestions” from “Gamers” based on how they think The Order 1886 should be developed, recently receiving flack for saying that story is “ at the top of the pyramid and everything else supports that.” It bothers me to no end that “Gamers” can’t seem to let creators create and act like what they truly are, an audience. The end experience will speak for its self but ultimately be the output of those who developed it and that is the way I feel it should be.
There is nothing wrong with loving the interactive medium, for loving “video games.” More so than ever we find ourselves influenced by our media, it permeates our lives and goes on to affect us long after the credits roll or the book closes, be that dressing up as a favorite character for events or wearing Tri-Force couplings at a wedding. I think it is perhaps most important to approach it as an individual, love games but don’t let them define you, don’t feed into a stereotype or culture that has increasingly become more negative and toxic overtime. Don’t be a “Gamer,” be more.
– Featured image from Pichost