Defining A True Gamer
Coming up with definitions for labels is never an easy task, even more so when that label is part of your identity. In this case, it is the label of a “gamerâ€. The first entry on Urban Dictionary defines a gamer as “someone who plays video games when bored … usually very good at itâ€, or “someone who plays video games as a hobby.†The second definition expands on this category by defining multiple types of gamers: “casual gamers,†“hardcore gamers,†and “true gamers.†The author has a very negative definition of casual gamers, stating that they are gamers who buy consoles to play sport or racing games, don’t enjoy fantasy games, and makes up the bulk of the gaming community. The author also defines them in such a way that reminds me of stereotypical frat boys. To the author, hardcore gamers aren’t actually as hardcore as the claim to be, since they are the type to complain about new “3D†gaming technology and debate the minutest details between two games in a series. Finally, the author defines true gamers as those who have gaming as a “true hobby,†play the finest games available, own high quality PCs, and play PC games.

In comparison with the definition given in the Oxford English Dictionary, these definitions are very narrow minded. It lists four definitions, but I will only focus on two: a participant in a war-game or role-playing game; a player or creator of such games and a person who plays video, computer, etc., games esp. habitually. I prefer this definition, since it allows for a much wider range of people to fall under the category of gamers. This is partially due to my earlier experiences with my gamer friends. I was told multiple times that by primarily playing The Sims, I was not considered a gamer, even though I met (and still do) the criteria listed in this definition.

Ultimately, the use of the gamer label is rooted in the desire to shape one’s identity, both personally and socially. In “How to be a gamer! Exploring personal and social indicators of gamer identity.†Frederik De Grove, Cédric Courtois, and Jan Van Looy used social identity theory to explore “why people attribute a gamer identity to self and others†(p. 346). They point out that video games are different when compared to other forms of media when it comes to identity, since video games provide a platform for expressing and experimenting with one’s identity (p. 347). What was interesting about their research was that, early on in the article, they pointed out it was easy for gamers to not attach the gamer label to themselves. Their study primarily focused on adolescent gamers, and they ultimately concluded the following: older adolescents were less likely to identify as a gamer than younger adolescents, males were more likely to identify as a gamer than females, and those who had played games in the last month were more likely to identify as a gamer than those who hadn’t played. Finally, they determined that adolescents who had gamer friends were more likely to identify as a gamer as well, which emphasizes the social aspect of being a gamer (p. 354-357).

As I stated in the beginning, it is hard to define a label that is part of your own identity. Before I started writing here at RCM, I didn’t outwardly define myself as a gamer. My sporadic gaming experience and my intense love of The Sims didn’t seem to be enough to warrant calling myself a gamer. I didn’t embrace gaming in the ways that some of my friends did; I was never up to date on the latest games, didn’t have a preferred console, and I didn’t feel as though I could enter into their conversations. It wasn’t until I was given a voice through my writing that I realized I could wear the title and that there were other people out there who think my less intense gaming choices are valid.

For me then, I define a gamer as follows: someone who enjoys playing games because they are fun, they enjoy the stories and artwork that goes into games, they play games at the pace that works best for them, and finally, they embrace a social network that can be encouraging, competitive, and fun to be involved in. It isn’t a perfect definition, but I believe it’s flexibility can include a larger number of gamers without pushing arbitrary categories into this part of their identities.

1. Grove, F. D., Courtois, C., & Looy, J. V. (2015). How to be a gamer! Exploring personal and social indicators of gamer identity. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 20(3), 346-361.

Ruby Re is a writer and member of the RCM Summer Writing program. She'd love to see your feedback in the comments below!
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Good article. I'd be curious though to expand more on your definition of what it means to be a gamer and why you feel that way.
Should there be a blanket definition or should it be diversified? Again I would be curious with more of your take on it.
I think it should be more diversified. Labels are nice since they can help define our identities, but I don't think there can be one blanket definition, since not everyone defines themselves in the same way. For example, the definition I gave here works for me, but it may not work for someone else. This is ultimately why I think having flexibility and diversity in these definitions is important. I hope this answers your question and I'm happy to expand on this further if you would like :)