Not too long ago, people identified themselves as gamers, fully knowing exactly what the word meant.
The stereotypical gamer was a person who would spend hours on end playing games, and enjoying particularly difficult, brain-shattering challenges. (Juul, 2010) But more importantly: The gamer identity came – just like any other label – with a community, and a sense of social security.
In recent years, however, with the rise of app stores, smartphones, and the possibility to download and distribute games in a matter of minutes, everyone is a gamer. From commuters to kids. So is the “gamer” stereotype still relevant?
Why even identify with a label to begin with?
According to Pete Nuttall (2009), the consumption of content, brands and products, is one of the most common ways for adolescents to form their own idea of self. Nuttall has conducted interviews and research on this in regards to music, and the conclusion is, that being able to categorise yourself within society, be associated with likeminded people, and subscribe to a widely known set of values, is indeed a basic need for the modern person.
By picking and choosing labels to wear, people can effectively communicate their selves to others, in order to create bonds and relations with minimal effort.
The major difference between music and games, is that the consumers of music has long since divided themselves into individual categories of the media they consume: The attitudes and values of punk-rockers are worlds apart to those of the ravers or the blues-rockers, despite them all grounding their identity in the same medium. This division has been met with plenty of commercial goods and brands, responding to each individual image.
With games, however, the term is still broad and unspecific.
The closest gamers get to a categorisation, is being labelled either a hardcore gamer, or a casual gamer. A divide which is largely over-simplistic and vague. (Juul, 2010, Shaw, 2012)
Battling an old stereotype
Adrienne Shaw (2012) talks of this specific issue. The producers of video games are still making games to fit an old-fashioned and outdated stereotype of gamer: The white, heterosexual, adolescent male.
This leaves minorities ignored, no matter if they are misfits because of race, sexuality, gender, or age, and it has a significant effect on how these marginalised groups feel about not only the word “gamer”, but also the video games industry itself.
Forming an identity is incredibly important for functioning in a society and as part of a community.
Other media industries – such as with music – has successfully evolved to accommodate this, but game producers are lacking behind, and this has a negative impact on how game audiences think and feel about the games they play.
In the near future, we will hopefully see more game studios recognise it’s marginalised audiences, and benefit from this new open-mindedness in return.
Juul, Jesper (2010) A Casual Revolution: Reinventing Video Games And Their Players. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Nuttall, Pete (2009) “Insiders, regulars and tourists: Exploring selves and music consumption in adolescence”. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, Volume 1, Issue 4. pp. 211 – 224. (July) University of Bath. Accessed February 17th, 2017.
Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.arts.idm.oclc.org/doi/10.1002/cb.286/full
Rougeau, Mike (2015) “How I realized My Dragon Age: Inquisition Character is Gay”. Kotako. (October) Accessed March 1st, 2017.
Available at: http://kotaku.com/how-i-realized-my-dragon-age-inquisition-character-is-1678673801
Shaw, Adrienne (2012) “Do you identify as a gamer? Gender, race, sexuality, and gamer identity.” New Media & Society, Volume 14, Issue 1. pp. 28 – 44. (February) University of Pittsburgh. Accessed February 17th, 2017.
Available at: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1461444811410394
Every Eye (2013) “Recensione The Walking Dead – Il Videogioco” (January) Every Eye. Accessed March 1st, 2017.
Available at: http://www.everyeye.it/articoli/recensione-the-walking-dead-il-videogioco-18573.html
Outragezine (2015) “Gaming’s new Gay Characters look almost as real life” (July) Outragezine. Accessed March 1st, 2017.
Available at: http://www.outragezine.com/gamings-gay-characters-real-life/
BioWare (2014) Dragon Age Inquisition, Electronic Arts.
Telltale Games (2012) The Walking Dead, Telltale Games.