Seriously, this is the first pic of a person I got when I googled "typical gamer"

Seriously, this is the first pic of a person I got when I Googled “typical gamer”

I really don’t want to rehash everything surrounding #gamergate, Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian and some terrible assholes doing terrible things like threatening to rape and kill women. There’s a lot on the internet about it already and my opinion has swayed back and forth about a million times seeing elements I agreed with on both sides (and then being completely appalled by the actions of what I hope is a small portion of not just gamer culture, but hopefully humanity itself). Anyways, this article isn’t really about GamerGate, or about feminism and gaming, or the video game media and it’s responsibility (or lack of it) to the reader. No, what I want to talk about is the opportunity that gamers have right now to set things straight. And yes, I still think the term “gamer” can mean something and I think we can be better than all of this.

To be clear, I think we can all agree that when someone identifies as a “gamer” they are saying a little bit more about themselves than just “I play video games.” Without spending too much time on the definition of a gamer, I think it is someone who at least slightly participates in the community, be it through message boards, going to conventions, redditing about video games, writing a blog, etc. The gamer spends time reading about upcoming releases, researching game design and game theory, tries to find cool indie projects, etc. It is like being a film buff, but for video games. In the same way that someone who goes to every summer blockbuster might not be a film buff, even someone who spends a LOT of time playing video games is not necessarily a gamer.

Everyone has been so quick to dismiss the gamer as a concept. Saying that as the industry grows and is more and more widespread the gamer is dead. The tag is meaningless now that more people play video games. It’s the same as saying “people”. I say fuck that.

There is a group of people to whom videogames are important. Regardless of why or when they entered into the culture; be it at a young age playing classic consoles or more recently getting roped in by astonishing next-gen releases, there is a distinction to be made between the gamer and the “person who plays video games.” Like I mentioned above, there is a community out there of pretty cool people who call themselves gamers. If you’re involved in that community, you’re more than just a person who plays videogames. It is part of who you are and who you identify with, you’re part of a community. You now have a responsibility, like in all communities, of maintaining it and guiding where it goes and what it values. If you aren’t, then you’re either a) being a bad member of the community or b) misrepresenting yourself about actually being a member of said community.

Now here’s the twist that I don’t think a lot of people get: videogame companies and “for profit” media are not part of that community. They profit from the community. They might share some ideals but aren’t actually held to the same standards of the community because they’re fueled by the need to generate revenue. This need trumps the needs of the community. If a company or media outlet does something you disagree with, they’re doing it for money. As I mentioned before, there are a lot of people who play video games who aren’t gamers. They might just be appealing to those people instead of the gamer.

I think everyone can understand that the car factory near a small town is important to the community without a being a part of it. I think everyone can also understand that the local newspaper might be employed by members of the community while also having the interest of sales above that of actually serving the community. Of course, there are exceptions and some news outlets might well and truly serve the community, but again, they are meant to be useful to the community and in a sense outside of it.

What does that mean? It means that videogame developers might make misogynistic, homophobic, racist video games that will turn a profit. Does that reflect ill on gamers? It doesn’t have to. Gamers can stand up and say “this is bullshit X company” and take their business elsewhere. Back to the film buff analogy; it’s the same reason I haven’t seen the sequels to Transformers. They were bullshit, had negative female and African American stereotypes and insulted my intelligence. Lots of people did and I think those people don’t know very much about good movies. I also don’t have a problem with movies, I have a problem with that movie. There are a lot of shitty movies out there with terrible messages, you would never say “Movies are the problem here.” You would more likely say “this or that movie is a problem.”

It also means that within the community there can be disagreements. Some members might find a particularly violent videogame off putting and speak out against it. Others might find it’s just fine. They can disagree. They can have intelligent discourse about that disagreement. They can’t threaten each other with violence. Then they’d be shitty members of the community.

Video games are important to me (and in varying degrees important to everyone at 9to5.cc). I also identify as a gamer. I like the culture. I’ve been to PAX. I play a lot of games. I read the forums. I own the tshirts. My pastime is now getting mainstream success. What’s the best way to react? Is it to try to close off my interest and keep people out or should it be to show off what kind of cool people have been playing video games all these years and invite everyone to the party? They might not all become gamers, but they might start enjoying videogames.

Just like the film buff might be way more into movies than their friends, it doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy movies with their less savvy friends.

Not everyone who plays videogames is a gamer. Some assholes are gamers. Those of us that aren’t assholes should probably try to stand up and show that yes, there is a community and like all communities it has it’s faults (and its assholes). However, at the end of the day the community on the whole is better than the few noisy assholes pushing their own agendas and can be inclusive, level headed and a lot of fun.

Seriously everyone. Be a better gamer.

Keith does all sorts of things here on 9to5.cc, he works with the other founders on 9to5 (illustrated), co-hosts our two podcasts: The 9to5 Entertainment System and Go Plug Yourself and blogs here as The Perspicacious Geek

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