Steps to becoming a gamer
- Play games
Congratulations, you are now a gamer.
This may seem pretty straightforward but in recent years this has become a heated debate. One that I feel strongly about: there are no requirements to playing games and shouldn’t be. To play games is an incredibly important aspect of being human. Therefore, it makes no sense at all to say what is a game or who can be a gamer.
I would add that people trying to say what is and isn’t a game are gatekeeping games as a way to create a reclusive niche for themselves. They are trying to protect something that they see as being a part of their being. To them, games are important because they define themselves by games whereas I would say we define ourselves by how we chose to play no matter the medium. Trying to say what is or is not a game only works against players but limiting what they can play and limits developers by what they can create. In a way, this is an actual attempt to censor developers by curving their use of mechanics.
Gatekeepers mean we all lose. ALL OF US.
If a single developer decides to change their game to pander to “leet gamerz” then we possibly lose their new ideas. Before Minecraft would anyone believe a building game could be a major hit? Lego building games had come and gone with little excitement. If Notch had decided to make just a plain old first person shooter instead we would never have the paradigm shift we got with Minecraft. No matter your thoughts on Minecraft you can’t say it wasn’t an important game for the industry.
What about gamers? If you just play Candy Crush are you not a gamer? Nope–still someone actively gaming. There are a plethora of amazing ways to game in the world and all of them are awesome in their own way. You may enjoy and not enjoy some, but they are all valid gaming avenues.
Let’s think about this in terms of other subcultures. People who love reading (bibliophiles) do not have a singularly defined club that only TRUE readers can join. They do not have a national membership. No one attacks you for entering a bookstore and shopping. No one harasses you for wanting to read or sharing that you are reading. This is because if you enjoy reading you can express that ergo there are not watchdogs waiting to attack avid readers. Sure, if you say on your Goodreads account that you read Cryptonomicon but can’t talk about creating data havens, you might receive some sass for lying. But, there isn’t a test for entry to being a ‘Reader’.
We know there are levels of bibliophiles. Some only read to the exclusion of games, movies, art, writing, and other cultural activities. We know hardcore readers when we see that they where book quote clothing, name their children after characters, tattooing an asterisk somewhere indecent, or think a wild night is heading to their book club. Why? Because reading does not have gatekeepers.
And look at all the great things we have to read now. Science fiction, high fantasy, low fantasy, biographies, textbooks, religious texts, research studies, steampunk, mythology, ukulele chords, zombie noir, comics–SO MUCH amazing culture that all stems from the free enjoyment of an ancient art form and cultural interaction.You want the next Halo? Minecraft? Candy Crush? Then stop attacking the content creators of your favorite medium. Someone made a game you don’t like much? Don’t play it much. Got it?
In games, there are; board gamers, video gamers, puzzle gamers, crossworders, pen-and-paper-ers, first-person-shooters, sports gamers–you get the picture. There are many many many flavors of gamer. Trying to claim the term is special and singular to a chosen few is preposterous and downright silly. Embrace all kinds of gaming and gamers! For a group of people that complain about not having friends, gamers now seem to try really hard to push everyone away from themselves. Instead, welcome anyone interested in what you are interested in. Try new kinds of games. Meet new kinds of people.
For a life example, I hated the Souls series and the subculture of people playing it. I thought it was the dumbest game ever made. I couldn’t figure out why anyone would play them or what fun they could derive from them. I tried Demon Souls and rage quit. Years later I tried Dark Souls and put down the game. My wife started playing though and I wanted to have something else we could talk about. So I gave it a third try. Now I love the series and really love games like them that punish their players. I’ve grown to really love the series and mechanics. It’s opened an entirely new world of gaming to me and with it new types of gamers. I was missing out by letting my crappy attitude about a game rule how I viewed the entire series and type of gaming experience. Don’t do that–try new things and meet new people and keep trying new things. Scary things can become not scary with practice and bullheadedness.
I’ll admit that not all games carry good messages. There are developers and organizations that are pushing out content that tears apart our communities. But you know what? Having an opinion about a bad game or a bad developer is different than saying everything that isn’t Call of Duty is worthless. You can have your thing and other people can have their’s and no one has to get hurt or excluded. It’s a big world out there. Check it out.
Gaming is more than consumer-based-culture. Gaming is more than just video games, pen-and-paper games, and board games. Gaming is the act of creatively playing with rules and systems. Gaming is an artform where we collaboratively compete to create narratives of struggle and skill mastery. Gaming is more than the price of admission or the hardware someone uses. Forgetting that is a destructive path.
Taking ourselves to task on this matter is of utmost importance to the hobby. I don’t care if you stopped playing games at Pong–if you want to see multimedia continue to develop culturally, you have to stop gatekeepers when you see/hear/get screamed at by. That includes when we do it ourselves. If gamers want gaming to be taken seriously as a media, we have to stop driving off potential gamers, we have to stop doxing game developers, and we have to start being kind to one another. If we leave the gates open, we only have more room to grow as a culture and hobby.
This leads us into a recent discussion about what is a game? My personal feelings are varied and numerous on the topic but Extra Credits does a pretty smash-up job of bringing up most of the points I had about the topic. I’ll leave you with their thoughts: