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Opinion: Let's retire the word 'gamer'
Opinion: Let's retire the word 'gamer' Exclusive
May 15, 2013 | By Brandon Sheffield

It's time to retire the word "gamer," argues Game Developer editor emeritus Brandon Sheffield.

The word "gamer" has fully infiltrated the game developer lexicon. It's the adjective we use for our customers, for ourselves, and even for our lifestyle. But should we really be letting this one word define us?

I say absolutely not, which is why the word was banned from Game Developer magazine (as was "gaming," because that has been a synonym for gambling for years before video games were around).

"Gamer" is a marketing term used to put you in a box. If you agree with that, maybe you can stop reading right here and never use the word again. But let's continue for the rest of us.

What other media uses a single term to describe its audience? Movies use movie-goer, viewing public, or for enthusiasts, cinephiles. The printed word uses "readers," or for the dedicated, bibliophiles. For music, you've got listeners, concert-goers, audiophiles (which is something else entirely), and much more. There are levels of gradation here, allowing different descriptors for different levels of interest and dedication.

The word "fan" applies to all media - it implies a rabid dedication to something specific - a musical artist, an author, a director. But for games, we have one word in common usage, and that's "gamer."

Think about what that means, and how all-inclusive it is about a person's life and interests. It's a simple enough word to break down - it means one who games, right? But there's nothing more to it. It defines someone who plays games, to the exclusion of all else.

Derisive Roots

In the early days of games, you had the Atari 2600, the ZX Spectrum, and others of their ilk. These were all billed as cheap family computers that you could balance your checkbook on - but they also happened to play games. They were meant for everyone. TV ads showed a full, smiling family gathering around the television screen.

But at some point it became obvious that games were selling these devices. And games were for kids, it was supposed, so these "home computers" became kids' toys. They began to be sold like toys, as well -- in Toys R Us and in the kids section of department stores. When the industry famously crashed in North America in 1983, many in the news media considered the "fad" of games to be over.''

Unfortunately, that's also when most mainstream media representatives stopped paying attention, and their cursory relationship with that era represents the depth of their knowledge. For evidence of this, watch any recent news program about games - it's almost guaranteed that they will either talk about how they don't play games and "hey, remember Pong?" *or* they will say "games have come a long way since Pong." Either way, their frame of reference will be rooted in something that came out over 30 years ago. This is not only because of their own ignorance of the industry, but because of the presumed ignorance of the audience. They're guessing that their viewers haven't had to deal with the idea of video games since the 70s.

After the big North American console game crash of 1983, and Nintendo's subsequent rise, you got a new group of people playing games. But popular opinion was now firmly established -- these things were for kids. Then these game players grew up, and they kept playing games. This was viewed as regressive -- people still playing with children's toys. From here, you got games as villainous, creating a Peter Pan syndrome in our youth, or the "basement-dwelling manboy." The impression is that "gamers" are just playing with their childhood toys. In the 90s, there was a mainstream view of the older game player as a deviant.

I have a friend whose mother works in film. A film associate of hers decided to make a movie based on who he thought my friend was, depicting him as a pathetic Japanophile who did nothing but play games and siphon money off his parents. (My friend is a very smart, well adjusted, and successful guy, by the way). The impression of "gamer" as an adult child runs deep in aging media.

If you grew up playing games, it's likely your parents warned against playing games, because they'll "rot your brain," and you'll never amount to anything. And now here you are making games for a living. Hmm.

But that impression of the game player as a do-nothing, thoughtless drone persists to this day. And that impression is perfectly encapsulated in the word "gamer." That is the word marketing people created to target and describe the basement-dwelling manboy. The person who just wants to play games and cares about nothing else. That person who only exists to shriek with horror and offense on internet forums about something he or she absolutely loves. And yet we have embraced this word with open arms, and proudly display it on our twitter tags. Microsoft even has its Gamer Points.

Who are we, really?

A "gamer," if we follow the rules of English, should be a person who plays games to the exclusion of all else. If you use a word that fully defines you, leaving no room for extra interests or hobbies, what does it say about you? It immediately becomes something to defend, or qualify. You can say "I'm a gamer, but I also read books." That's a bit forced, and doesn't it sound strange? Why the need to define oneself by one's hobby anyway? In what context could one naturally use the word, except derisively? And the news media does exactly that. "Gamers are lined up to get their hands on the new Call of Duty video game." Interviews with over-excited youths with far-away stares ensue, encouraging every mother watching to say, "I'm glad that's not my baby out there."

The word "gamer" is regressive. It accepts the portrait of us painted by the mainstream news media, and every time I hear it or read it it actually makes me feel a little sick. I believe in this art form, and I believe in the people who make it. That's why I am so hard on this industry, because I believe that as great as it sometimes is, it can get better.

So play games, of course, but don't let the playing of games define you. Why would you ever really need to describe yourself as someone who plays games, anyway? Do you walk up to people and say "Yeah, I watch movies." Well, of course you do, everyone watches movies. If games are to become part of culture, shouldn't it be assumed that you play games? Shouldn't it be presumed that we all do? In first world nations, isn't the person who doesn't play games in the greater minority, when you factor in Facebook, Angry Birds, and the like? The folks who play these more casual games don't consider themselves gamers, because they don't think of playing games as a thing that defines them. They're just casually consuming entertainment. And frankly, they're right. They see "gamer" as a term that describes someone else - they just happen to play games, it doesn't define them. And in their way, they're being more progressive than we are, as a result.

If you want to call yourself a gamer, fine. I can't tell you what to do. But if you want to start changing the public perception of the game playing public, so that the definition includes everyone who plays games, I say it's time to retire the word "gamer."

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Paul Festler
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While I understand your view, I don't mind being labeled a "gamer". Like many words, its evolution through popular culture has modified its status from something derogatory to currently something ...less derogatory, however, it could easily go either way, just as any label.

As a side note, and corresponding to the bibliophile, cinephile, and audiophile labels, I prefer the term ludophile for those who are "hardcore gamers".

Jonathon Green
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"What other media uses a single term to describe its audience?"

TV = Viewers
Newpapers = Readers

These are terms that describe what people are doing in their chosen medium. And are potentially expanded to be some of the most descriptive and accurate language we have for classifying ourselves within our space. Are you a Hardcore gamer, a Core gamer, an oldskool gamer, a casual gamer, a Game guru, a professional gamer ...

If you want to change the perception of the "game playing" public, I'd suggest taking a deeper look at the problems.

Christiaan Moleman
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Kevin Fishburne
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@ChristiaanMoleman I think that one's been taken already. :)

How about fuiee (singular) and fuiees (plural), pronounced "foo - eez"? If you haven't figured it out already, that's for "Frequent User of Interactive Electronic Entertainment". With more time, perhaps I can come up with a hyper-specific definition whose acronym is still reasonably pronounceable.

As an aside, it seems like there have been some fairly bizarre articles on Gamasutra lately. Redefining words, epic gender-related battles, thousand-page dissertations about ludic-something-or-other psychobabble... Perhaps it's some kind of mid life crisis.

John Flush
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I don't know, do we really want to be known as 'players' - yeah I could see that taken the wrong way.

Christiaan Moleman
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I thought that was pretty much what we already used when referring to one who plays a given videogame. Really don't think in the context "players" of games are likely to be mistaken for the other kind of "players". If I'm talking about the end user of a game I refer to them as "the player", not "the gamer".

Todd Boyd
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The way I see it, the term, "gamer", defines that person beyond being a part of an audience; it defines them in a broader sense. The term, "player", however, merely refers to the customer base for your game.

There are "viewers", and there are "couch potatoes". There are "moviegoers", and there are "film buffs", etc.

Michael Joseph
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I think the problem is that the stereotypes conjured up by the word is for some just a little too close for comfort.

If this powerful industry itself cannot change the stereotypes associated with the word by turning more people onto gaming, then I don't think the word deserves to be dropped from the insiders' lexicon. If it makes us a little sick, then let it serve as a constant reminder that we need to improve this industry.

To be clear, I'm not saying players must change themselves so that the negative associations become replaced with positive ones... because that is not how it works. And developers/journalists/advocates can NOT simply wish away the negative stereotypes by not speaking a word.

Instead, developers need to create better products and journalists and pundits need to help promote quality titles and expand the audience to more than just children and adult children by developing adult experiences. TV and film have narrowed but still provide a far broader range of programming and productions than games. Apparently there isn't much confidence by people in the industry that games can ever do the same.

other words i'm reminded of...
couch potato
boob tuber
RPers & LARPers

@Michael Josefsen - cool name! :P

Arthur De Martino
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How exactly is RPers and LARPers negative or innaccurate?

Ramin Shokrizade
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Michael I am in agreement that our industry has a severe branding problem, and I think it is deserved. We are still trending into increasingly unhealthy territory, even as the number of people we serve world-wide skyrockets. I don't think our branding will improve, especially with older generations, until we start putting out products that people can be proud to declare that they enjoy.

Kristian Roberts
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Ramin, by that logic, the rest of the media industries also deserve a branding problem. Look at say film or book publishing: think of the success of any Michael Bay film or Twilight. Both are pretty unhealthy in many of the same ways as the (admittedly) problematic video game fare, but neither impugn their medium -- cause people also remember that there are good films/books (and even good, bad films/books). (Note: I am using the ridiculously over-simplified good/bad dichotomy to be illustrative here.)

Similarly, I think it's a terrible conceit to thing that there aren't products that people can be proud to enjoy (a conceit that devalues much of the good work done in recent years to broaden the emotional appeal of the medium). I have no trouble saying that I like Journey, or Civ for that matter. Once people see those games, they understand. However, they don't proceed from the assumption that there are both good and bad games. There are only bad ones, until you prove to that your game is "worthy" of someone's time.

Kevin Fishburne
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@RaminShokrizade It is deserved. What it comes down to is that people have a hard time admitting to themselves, much less others, that deep inside us nothing has changed since Christians were fed to lions in the great Colosseum of ancient Rome. Despite our better halves sometimes guiltily raging against it, we are still those people and our entertainment reflects that.

Jeremy Reaban
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And yet it fits so well, because even though there are huge amounts of video and computer games, gamers never seem to see beyond a narrow slice.

Consider the almost dearth of coverage of casual games on this site (or on gaming sites). A giant part of the games industry apparently just doesn't exist in their eyes.

Especially amusing when topics like women in gaming (or in games) are brought up, because there's a whole sector of the game industry whose products are directly aimed at women, with games mostly starring non-sexualized women

Or indie games. To gamers, only some of those matter. If they are on the Vita or PC, they matter. If they are on the Ouya, they are dismissed as phone games.

Michael Joseph
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Indeed. if 95% of cable/sat television stations broadcast sports, wrestling, cop shows & kung-fu marathons, soft core porn and cartoons, then I think TV viewers too would very quickly develop a very negative reputation.

I guess that makes casual games the home shopping network?

Arthur De Martino
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That analogy would work, if there were a crapton of Home Shopping Networks who draw in impressive numbers.

Dane MacMahon
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I've often commented that "gamer" is such a wide thing at this point that it becomes almost useless as a descriptor. I play PC RPGs and shooters in the 90's style... my wife plays Android puzzle games and some Popcap stuff... neither of us have any idea what a site like Kotaku is talking about 90% of the time.

If you like movies you tend to like a variety. I don't think that's true with games.

Lauri Hanninen
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"If you like movies you tend to like a variety. I don't think that's true with games. "

There certainly are people who limit themselves to a few movie genres as well, don't you think? People consume what they most enjoy/see relevant in their life, not everyone watches the same things, act the same and so on. It's a tendency not a rule (except for some, but sometimes you just need to make the choice of where to put your limited time) no matter the medium.

Like Michael Josefsen here said, I play whatever I feel like playing at the time no matter the genre. If it's good, it's good. Same goes for a lot of movie-goers and I personally know a lot more of people who play all kinds of games than don't. And I know a lot more people who watch movies but wouldn't watch a certain type of movie or at least would never admit it.

And I think this is more and more true the more casual you go. It's just that most of the casual market has not yet discovered all that there is available and understood that something like the more "serious" games might be worth their time investment. Eg. There's plenty of people getting excited about things like Heavy Rain and The Walking Dead even if they haven't touched many other things beyond casual or the like.

Todd Boyd
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Eh, yeah, I agree with Lauri. I have friends that predominantly watch horror movies, or scifi movies, and if something doesn't fall into their genre of choice, they are generally uninterested.

Ricardo Hernandez
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I agree with the others who replied- just because you like movies doesn't mean you like variety. Or even have good taste :-) I know some people who love the Transformer Movies and Terminator: Salvation :-)

Garret Cashman
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Thanks for the article Brandon, very well put.

The word 'gamer' certainly doesn't include all those who actually play games and a large majority who do would probably not appreciate the 'baggage' that the term comes with.

"The word "fan" applies to all media - it implies a rabid dedication to something specific - a musical artist, an author, a director. But for games, we have one word in common usage, and that's "gamer."

I'm not sure I agree about the "rabid dedication" of the average fan; I suggest that saying that is similar tarring everyone who plays and like computer/ video games a "do-nothing, thoughtless drone".

Not everyone plays games with stalwart dedication and fanatical devotion attributed to the common (perception of a) 'gamer'.

Instead, something like 'game fan' might be more all-inclusive. Why not wipe the slate clean and include all those who play.

Let's not get started on use of the word 'core' :)


Eric Geer
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All of the sudden gamers care about the perception that mass media has placed on them?

Scott Sheppard
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Yes. I do care. Thank you for asking.

Eric Geer
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Unfortunately Scott. Gamer's never cared they want to be put on display and named something different--something new...something special....we play games. Gamer is logical. Whether there is stigma behind it....enjoy the games and the glorious title! fuck mass media

Ricardo Hernandez
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@Scott - I sure as hell don't. If you are going to change what you call yourself because of what others think, that's a quick road to live by someone else's standards. No thanks.

Lewis Pulsipher
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Why not "game-player" as a substitute for "gamer"?

I understand your desire to get away from praise for the "gamer lifestyle". I'm reminded of Escapist Magazine, which I've never found very interesting because it talks about game players instead of about games: "The Escapist aims to capture and celebrate the contemporary video gaming lifestyle", which lifestyle carries so many negative connotations to adults. The industry could do a lot to discourage such praise, but for decades those who define themselves as "gamers" have seen it as a badge of honor, as showing that they're somehow "better" than anyone else. Whether this was a defense mechanism or not, it certainly happened. If we want to be seen as grown-ups rather than kids, we have to change the popular conception, whether this involves dropping the word "gamer" or not.

Contrary to what seems to be popular belief on many game sites, upwards of a third of the people in the US do not play video games. (Of course, there are people who don't watch movies, but likely a much smaller percentage.) And many of those people, along with even more who play games but don't see it as their hobby, tend to see the hard-core as acting like children even if they're not children chronologically. Unfortunately, the noise generated by the hard-core only reinforces this notion among the "unwashed" for whom game playing is not a hobby.

Aleksander Adamkiewicz
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I'll be sticking to gaymer, thank you very much

Katherine Johnson
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I'm with you there. The moment I realized there was a term to describe the glbt folks who love games, I embraced. Maybe that's what we *need* to ultimately do: embrace the term. It's along the same lines as a word like 'queer' if you think about it. For some, it's a despised word, used by bigots; but for some of us who are out and quite proud to be who we are, it's perfect. I'm queer (by every stretch of the imagination, I suspect), and I'm a gamer. And, quite frankly, I'm intensely proud of who and what I am, and no amount of opinions will ever change it.

Ricardo Hernandez
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Count me in.

Robert Barker
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"A 'gamer,' if we follow the rules of English, should be a person who plays games to the exclusion of all else"

I don't know what book you got these "rules of English" from, but you should probably throw it away. By the logic of these "rules":

A "programmer", should be a person who writes code to the exclusion of all else.
A "painter", should be a person who paints pictures to the exclusion of all else.
A "writer" . . . . well you get my point.

I agree that "gamer" has negative connotations with it. But then so does "programmer". I wear both of them as badges of honor. There's no reason for me to cast them off just because they have negative connotations. If "society" takes a dim view of what I do, then that's their problem; not mine.

Michael Hartman
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That was the sentence I most objected to in the article for the exact same reason.

Well said, Robert.

Michael Mullins
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Thank you Robert. The discussion is a particularly vicious tempest in a teapot and that particular comment is begging for a citation. There is no rule of English making 'gamer' so exclusionary; it's a silly thing to say. As others have pointed out, the word is a short, useful descriptor and only has negative meaning in certain arenas and contexts. It's really really broad.

I work in robotics and UAVs. The American FAA has an official acronym for flying robots (UAS) as does the Air Force (RPA). The word 'drone' stuck, though, because acronyms usually don't make it into the public consciousness. 'Drone' has a similar bifurcation of meaning as 'gamer', interestingly enough. It can either be ominous or mostly harmless. Likewise 'gamer'. And my counsel to developers and journalists is to deal with it. The controversy is an unhealthy construct that skirts the real issue (abusive and sometimes mysoginistic behavior both online and in person).

Edit: and that's what I get for not paying attention to the article date.

Ricardo Hernandez
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Well said.

fred tam
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The problem is that the negative connotations have been amplified by a dishonest and corrupt gaming press.

A gamer is someone who has genuine interest in games.

My mother has played angry birds from time to time, but would she go beyond that? Buy a Gaming PC or Console? It does'nt matter how much you attempt to cater to her supposed tastes, she doesn't have a genuine interest in games, she doesn't read game sites, doesn't follow the industry. She isn't a gamer, and not because of any "hostility" against her, she doesn't care about gaming the same way most people don't care about golf, or nascar..and that's fine. The problem is this new pile on, denigrating "gamers" is just the new way to bash nerds.

Anyways Thunderf00ts latest answer to all this
"Anita Sarkeesians 'death threats' and Joss Whedons 'misogyny'! "

And Internet Aristocrats 3rd video on this
"Quinnspiracy Theory: White Castles and Ivory Towers"
Which notes the odd synchronicity with the "gamers are over" articles coming out...

#Gamergate Gamers Are Dead? No They Are Just Furious

That is the root of the issue people aren't dealing with. The stigma is illegitimate and its time people stop perpetuating something born of fraudulence.

The constant slandering of gamers based on total nonsense has to stop.

The root of this issue came from Anita Sarkeesian.
A woman who's narrative can be debunked in under a minute.
Anita Sarkeesian Debunked in Under a Minute

How is this allowed to stand is the real question that isn't being dealt with.

The first two parts on internet aristocrats expose on the corruption in the gaming press

Quinnspiracy Theory: The Five Guys Saga

Quinnspiracy Theory: In-N-Out Edition

David Richardson
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If the term needs retired, it should be due to the stigma attached to it -- not for its lack of specificity. Stealing a user comment from a Forbes blog on Nintendo's "I'm not a gamer" campaign:

"It’s fine to have this, as people realize now that you can play games and not be a gamer." (John Turcich)

The term "gamer" brings to mind an unflattering image of unemployed and socially underdeveloped 30-somethings ignoring their responsibilities to play a complicated computer game. Why? Because the term "gamer" says something about a persons identity. Who they are is defined by the fact that they play video games. That they self-identify that way is troubling. Don't they have anything more important going on? Why don't they identify with their profession? (Think: "I'm a plumber" or "I'm a lawyer" vs. "I'm a gamer")

Sure, everyone plays games of one sort or another, though we use terms "player", "participant" and "competitor" to identify those people exclusively within the context of a game. Players might not even consider the activity a kind of play. The certainly don't see playing games as a significant aspect of their identity!

It's easy to separate games like softball and poker from "play". Video games, however, are a different matter entirely. (Though I suspect many gamers don't think of their "hobby" as play either.) If the industry wants to shake the nasty connotations attached to the term "gamer", dropping the term is just a first step.

Casual games seem like a useful place to start. Even the average grandmother plays video games now, though they don't think of themselves as "playing video games". They're just playing a game; no different than a round of solitaire. A perfectly acceptable way for an adult to pass the time. Farmville and Bejeweled fall in to an entirely different category than "video game" -- one in which they feel safe engaging.

If we only want to shake the term "gamer" to open up new markets, we might be better off asking why some video games are okay for adults to play and why others are not. Why is it okay for mom to play Bejeweled and not Super Mario Bros.? A great question, but one that's sadly off-topic.

Ilya Turaev
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Of course, you're right! The word "Gamer" has very many extra meanings, which we wouldn't like to mean.
The "gamer" is a fat teenager with pimples, who doesn't intrested in anything, which is not the game. But I'm sure this image and stereotype of last century and it will change in 5-10 years.
We speak the living and changable languages, we can affect it.
The best way, I think, is to use "gamer" as much, as we can to make people calling theirself "gamers".

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I'm good enough, I'm smart enough and doggonit I'm a Core Gamer.

Jamie Madigan
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I count myself among those who never understood the big deal about this term. It fits, it's short, it's not awkward (unlike any alternative I've seen), and it's generally understood. If you want more specificity, just add modifiers: core gamer, casual gamer, etc. And if those don't work, you can always actually describe what mean, like "John plays a lot of games on his phone and Facebook."

TC Weidner
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I agree with Jamie. I see nothing wrong with the term gamer. It's simple is a word which describes the type of hobby people enjoy.

I'm a late 40's professional, have been to many a nice dinner party where other professionals ( bankers, lawyers, doctors, politicians) discuss their hobbies, some say golf, and we discuss courses etc, some say games, which is followed by, what type? and the discussion goes into types of genres enjoyed. Gaming has grown up, the kids of the 70s and 80s are now the professionals of today, and we still like our hobby, and there is nothing wrong with the term gamer.

Alex Boccia
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when I write papers I refer to "gamers" as "players"

Rob B
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Most of this article is factually inaccurate,
Others have mentioned the introductions reference to their being only one all encompassing term for game players is nonsense.
Also, the word gamer has existed for far longer than video games has and didnt have derisive roots at all. The media and stereotypes have corrupted the word in some contexts, as they would regardless of the terminology you use. Call us all flibflopflaps and youll see the same articles about 'flibflopflaps causing increased violence' a few weeks down the line.
This is no different to the press negativity over being a 'TV viewer' and Id imagine it goes back much further, applying to Listeners, and Readers. Nobody upped and changed their terminology over it, itd be futile to even bother.

As for the ending, it seems more like he has problems with his own insecurities. Ive never said 'Im a gamer... but I also read.' and never plan to. If I ever have need of defining myself as a gamer then thats as far as it goes. Ive never been greeted by sneers and derision for saying Im a gamer. Why would you be? and why would you feel the need to apologise for such an innocuous fact even if you were?
Nobody has ever walked up to people and randomly announced their hobbies, they say what they enjoy when it is relevant to the conversation and when it is relevant 'gamer' is no less valid than 'moviegoer'.

'Readers Line Up for Their Copies' in relation to Harry Potter and likely numerous other popular books. Did the author see such negative connotations in that as well?

'every time I hear it or read it it actually makes me feel a little sick.'
Given some of the issues facing the industry I think the author needs a serious priority check; mountains out of molehills.

William Basso
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I completely agree with this article.

Erica Stead
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I agree that "gamer" is a little awkward for a company talking about the people who partake in its products; I use "player" for that. I make this choice because, generally, in this situation, I'm not concerned with how those people identify - I'm concerned with the fact that while they are using the product, they are players.

But as a social descriptor, I like gamer. Its like using something like "movie fanatic" to differentiate someone who is intensely into watching, studying, and knowing about movies from the general population who watch movies here and there. The term gamer was also used long before video games in baseball, to describe a player who always wanted to play and couldn't stand to have the game played without them. Even though I'm not a sports fan at all, this connotation adds to the term for me. It describes the distinct segment of people who see a game and itch to play it; who always want to try a new game; who do let gaming (or playing video games, to be politically correct) influence life choices to a degree. (Life choices refers more to choosing to spend a vacation at a convention or choosing a house that has a space for a game room rather than the negatively stereotypical "choosing to live in parents basement and not have a job in order to play more games.")

When referring to people who are partaking of video games in general, yes, we have moved beyond these people being distinct from the general population. But socially, I still think there's a need for a word for those who make it a hobby and not a casual, occasional pasttime. Its the difference between "reader" and "bookworm"; between someone who listens to a song and someone who buys both physical and digital music and goes to every show that comes into town. In that respect, we are lucky to have the term gamer; movie fanatics and the music obsessed don't have such a concise term.

Todd Boyd
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Excellent and salient points, Erica. I agree wholeheartedly. You shouldn't be concerned with their entire identity of your audience (stereotypically or otherwise) unless you are making a game that has an explicit goal of catering to a specific identity.

Kenneth Wesley
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You know what would really help the industry? People who make and write about video games, actually love video games. There's so much of this 'I'm so sick of how we're defined' going around. Like we should be ashamed someone we never met or don't know might be turned off to what we do. Juggalos have better self-esteem about theirselves than this industry. Do you see any of them going, 'Boy, maybe we should be more like the people who ridicule us?'

I'm a gamer and that has led to me to a decent career within the industry, good pay to actually support myself, gave me the means to find other activities. At no point did I feel the need to hide that passion or be insecure it.

Art forms grow when people share the passion that they have for that art with others. I remember all the crap metal music gets (and still gets) and there's so much amazing music that came out of it. Warner Bros found a director and writer who took the idea of a rich vigilante in a bat costume and it lead to some amazing film works being done with old properties to the tune of billions of dollars.

There are changes that the industry needs, I agree. Let's start with how many people work long and hard on projects on a contract basis only to get tossed away when the game hits shelves. OR how about we try to get rid of stockholders who only pump in cash to make clones of what has already sold. OR how about we look at the mainstream media who 'looks down' on poor us and remember they dedicate 20 minutes of news programming to relationship gossip to reality actors.

One thing we don't need is outsiders defining and changing our art form. The best change comes from within. By showing livestreams and stories of how sexist men can be a fighting game tournaments towards women, we get to decide how we interact with one another and how we're supposed to include one another. We decided that, not CNN, not Rolling Stone, gamers and the game industry.

Last thing: I hear this term a lot: video games have to grow up. You know what a big part of growing up is? Accepting what you are. Knowing your flaws and strengths. Knowing that the pains you experience on the way to adulthood won't compare to the joys you may feel when you accomplish something.

PS-Go hug yourselves today. You're a gamer and you're alright!

James Barnette
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Surely you guys have something better to do than sit around all day writing articles about why the terms that have existed for so long are wrong and/or politically un-correct. you play games. you are a gamer. stop over thinking everything!

Wylie Garvin
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I actually like the term "gamer". It does describe me.

Jeanne Burch
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I was trying "gamophile" on for size in my head while reading through the comments. It seemed awkward.

For myself, I always say "I play video games" rather than "I'm a gamer." I usually have to repeat it a couple of times because of the dual perception that women don't play video games and that middle-aged people don't play video games, but I find it works better than calling myself a gamer.

"Gaming" has its own problems. Last week I attended a talk by Richard Hilleman at Adobe MAX advertised as "The Magic Bullet of Web Gaming." When I showed the schedule to my parents, my mom was shocked that I was into Internet gambling. This is the woman who regularly trounced my Spacer Invaders scores back in the day, so it's not as if video games are a foreign entity to her. "Gaming" is just not a word that she associates with video games.

George Blott
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I'm certainly not the first one to point out that if anything it is "User" as a dev-side term that conjures up the most negative associations.

Kris Graft
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Yeah, "user" needs to be banished. It really just sucks the humanity out of the people who keep companies in business, and has seen an uptick with new metrics-driven business models.

Todd Boyd
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We call them "customers" where I work, or "end-user" (which implies that everyone is a user, but these particular users are in a certain point of the supply chain/workflow/whatever).

Ryan Bloom
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A lot of this article feels as dated as the description of to the local news about them going back to Pong as a reference point. Maybe it's just my local news versus your local news, but I haven't seen that kind of callback for years and years and years.

With the exception of a couple of things that very clearly show their age, video games in the media have evolved past the representation of "80's arcade bleeps over footage of Super Mario 64".

There is nothing wrong with the term gamer, and the only people for whom that bothers are people who are over-thinking what the term represents to them personally. It is far easier to tell somebody, "I am a gamer" than to go through the awkward and overly-lengthy song and dance of trying to describe that you "play games but not a lot of games but also more games than most people?"

If mothers are glad that "it's not their baby out there", then that's just another stigma that needs to be changed. That does not mean you abandon the term - that's cutting off the branches while ignoring the root of the problem, which, at this point, feels mostly dealt with if you ask me.

Games are mainstream now. Have been mainstream for a while. "Gamer" is not a dirty word, "Gamer" does not bring to mind the crazy shut-ins for most people. If anything, "gamer" is what a lot of people use to describe your average Call of Duty or Madden fan, which at this point are the single most ubiquitous type of consumer in this industry. That's all you need to say to know there's nothing wrong with the perception of that term for most people.

"Gamer" is here to stay, and unfortunately, you're just going to have to get used to it.

Ian Richard
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I'm a gamer. I play games for entertainment, I make games for fun and profit, I spend countless hours studying games to improve my own skills. I'm PROUD to play games.

I see all the articles talking about "How society defines me" and "How other perceive me". Guess what? They are going to judge me no matter how I answer.

If someone thinks less of me because I play games... I don't care about their opinion or perceptions. The ONLY opinions that matter are mine and the people who are a part of my life.

To hell with what "society" thinks.

Michael Kolb
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Ahuh, you had it up to the end. The history of the gaming hobby of video games was pretty much echoed with what the podcast TalkRadar said over the years, the hilarious parody of said event along the way. There's a particular omission of the mainstream movement of the industry today as with mobile players letting anyone be referred to as a gamer. Thus since everyone is a gamer the term sort of feels diluted and it doesn't mean anything. It doesn't mean anything, I don't think people take offense calling ourselves gamers as we play games. If you say I'm a reader, I hope you don't jump to the conclusion that you just read books. Kind of silly since I enjoy all kinds of media and entertainment.

Jeff Morin
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The term is synonymous with the majority of this generation, most people know what you mean when you call yourself a gamer nowadays. If its communicable with people especially in groups of other gamers, then its fine with me. Its just how you come across as a "gamer" that matters. Unless all you do is talk about games nonstop, wear fan based attire let alone play games whenever you have the chance, then you shouldn't worry much about being identified as the stereotypical controller hogging, red bull chugging, hermit crab, subculture slang slinging gamer. Its up to you to not bring that stereotypical image upon yourself.

Kujel s
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This is one of those times I wish people with english majors would not write about anything, they come at the subject from an outside view and often times it's a skewed view :(

Ryan Watterson
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Wow that 'in-group' sure is numerous and wants to silence that labeled outsider 'out-group'. Of course the out-group view is skewed and not the in-group view. I wonder what makes this particular out group so unknowledgeable about games, compared to this other group

Ricardo Hernandez
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@Ryan - "In the early days of games, you had the Atari 2600, the ZX Spectrum, and others of their ilk. These were all billed as cheap family computers that you could balance your checkbook on "

Do you see anything wrong up there? Not that I think it should be construed as an attempt to silence, as much as pointing out the nonsense.

David Mann
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I think I disagree with this article entirely because of this assumption which I don't believe is true: "It defines someone who plays games, to the exclusion of all else."

I an a programmer, a runner, a gamer and a number of other things. I am not exclusively any of those things and I don't expect that if I tell a person that I am any of those things that they will assume that I am exclusively that thing. Gamer means different things to different people, but that's ok, welcome to linguistics. What I can assume about a person that self identifies as a gamer is that they consider themselves dedicated enough to games to do so, but not much more. If I call someone a gamer I consider them dedicated enough by my standards.

Maybe gamer has a broader meaning in the non-game world, but not to us.

Ben Hopper
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This is a silly article.

Dimitri Del Castillo
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I agree. It's an elaborate troll.

Erin OConnor
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I am a gamer.

Luis Guimaraes
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Socially Awkward Penguin?

Nick Putnam
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I actually agree with Brandon Sheffield on how the term 'Gamer' is miss used and has become a negative connotation in most instances when uninformed mainstream media attempts to categorize people into stereotypes of what types of lifestyles they believe people who play games have. It's purely an image issue; games are used by everyone and beyond entertainment. There are serious games that are used to help initiate change in our real world space, simulation games that are used to teach people necessary skills for different types of jobs, and education games that are used to help better educate our youth and others in skills that will help the future growth of our societies. It's just that uninformed mainstream media only categorizes 'gamer' in a connotation of the youth spending countless hours drinking energy drinks, staying up late in the night, annihilating their parents electricity bill, going no where in life, and forming so called negative anti-social habits.

Diego Garcia
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I get that this article won't click with a lot of people who self-identify as a gamer and find that identification a source of pride and inclusion, but I'm in total agreement with the overall point here. I'm a full-time game design student, i've published games, i curate a games culture blog that posts every day, and I play a lot of games for both fun and research. Still, I hate the word gamer. It's stigmatized -- conjuring up images of "gamer fuel" and mom's basement. For me, there's a grand canyon of difference between the words "gamer culture" and "games culture," but I think the two get confused and I don't think it's helpful for the image of what is a pretty beautiful and intelligent community.

You can call it insecurity, and maybe it is, but I think that the stigma exists in my mind is representative of the fact that it exists in the minds of the people who put it there, and in the minds of people who know less about games culture than myself.

Justin Speer
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The stigma is definitely strong, isn't it?

Maybe it's even strong enough that part of the game-playing community is trying to reappropriate the term. "Oh, you think being a gamer is wrong? Well guess what, I'm a gamer."

That's one of the reasons I think the term isn't going anywhere.

Ian Richard
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Do you really believe that people will treat you different if you don't call yourself a gamer?

In my experience, certain people will judge you no matter what you do. That stigma exists and will always exist in these people's minds because they are judgmental. Whether you call yourself a gamer or not, they will still judge you. It doesn't matter if it's true, or if you admit to being a gamer, they will jump to conclusion that because you play games you (insert hurtful stereotype).

Some people will judge you. If not because you play games... they'll judge you based on your hairstyle, you clothes, or the way you walk. Hell... do you know how often I'm judged harshly because I make games for a living? I've been called lazy, stupid, childish and plenty more by those who refuse to learn about the industry.

Stigmas will always exist and changing the name won't fix them. All we can do is to be ourselves and hope those who are willing to learn realize that the stereotypes aren't true.

Ricardo Hernandez
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So are you going to let others define you? Or could you, living by example, show that they are wrong about what someone who describes themselves as being a gamer can be?

Justin Speer
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I'm not the biggest fan of the word "gamer" myself, but people define themselves this way and while we might call them something different, the popular usage isn't going away anytime soon.

I suspect some people like the term because it sounds so active... they don't sit back and passively "consume" this "media," they plug in their controllers and DO THIS SHIT.

People are going to define themselves in whatever way they choose. If someone wants to be a Belieber, they can beliebe. If someone is really into motorcycles, they might call themselves a biker. If someone wants to be a gamer, who's going to stop them? I somehow doubt game developers or anyone else have that power.

Will Currier
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I am a gamer, and have no shame saying it. It seems that this article is trending along the "no-labels" line, but really, labels exist everywhere. This is not a bad thing; humans create paradigms to establish order in the chaos of life.

As for the connotations that go with the label, consider the evolution of the term "gay." Its original meaning was "having a merry, lively mood: gay spirits; gay music." Later it became used as a pejorative for homosexuality. Now, it is a commonly used term for homosexual males. Is it still used in the second sense? Yes, but doing so now is considered, at the very least, rude and disrespectful. The term gamer may be used by some in the sense of "35 year old male sitting in his parents' basement eating cheetos and playing video games," but more and more people see the evolution of gaming into a respectable industry.

In furtherance of the evolution of the term, gaming has evolved into more sub-categories, such as casual gaming, serious gaming, etc. These terms give gamers more flexibility in defining themselves should they wish to. However, for me, I am not a hardcore gamer nor a casual gamer.

I am a gamer.

Vicki Smith
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The problem isn't with the word. The problem is with our subculture's snobbishness. It's like the word "punk." Even though the spirit of punk is supposed to be independence, rebellion, etc, etc, punk culture is incredibly internally conformist -- intolerant of "posers," of people who have not proven themselves to be punk enough, who do not have "cred." You don't have to talk to many hard-core gamers before you'll run into their scorn for the non-hard core. Message boards spill over with gamers who say that casual games "don't count," and even on this site you'll hear devs who openly embrace the boys-club culture of games. Just google "fake gamer girl" to see a jaw-dropping illustration of this.

Put aside issues of inclusion, equity, etc, etc. The truth of the matter is that contempt is always reciprocal. A lot of gamers in my generation felt despised as geeky children, so we banded together to despise the 'normals'. For some people, that "us" and "them" thing never entirely went away. And when the normals run into that wall of resentment, so painfully on display on the internet, they come away thinking that "gamers" are embittered, lonely men who waste their lives watching virtual boobs play volleyball in their parents' basement. It's not true, but it's perceived, and it turns potential gamers away.

Those of us who want to welcome the broader culture into games (read as: want to sell way more games) just have to figure out how to deal with the fact that a non-trivial number of gamers simply do not want their favorite hobby -- their defining hobby -- to become mainstream.

Thomas Happ
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Perhaps it's similar to how "geek" went from being derogatory to being a sort of exclusive badge of honor. Things are "geek chic", people threaten to take away your "geek card", etc.

Shea Rutsatz
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I don't/have never had a problem with the term. It makes sense. Plus, as has been pointed out, there are usually sub-categories, if you're into it enough (Hardcore Gamer, Casual Gamer etc).

If someone says they're a "Gamer", it usually means its a strong interest, or enough to at least use the term. They're probably also something else, and I doubt "Gamer" would be the first term they use to describe themselves. If that's the ONLY thing they identify with... well... that shouldn't be put on everyone!

I'm also a Snowboarder, Basketball fan, Musician... I could think of a few negative traits associated with those.

Otherwise, we could change "Gamer" to "Interactive Media Enthusiast"!

Thomas Happ
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All I can think of to say is: It's hard to get people to stop using a word they're accustomed to. But, I admit, it has a more negative connotation than a positive one. At least "geek" implies some level of power and capability, like you might be wildly intelligent and/or successful.

Daniel McMillan
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"Trekkies" once asked to be re-named "Trekker" (but after a few decades do they still care?) Our world is filled with chat slang, acronyms, tags, keywords, titles, L337 speak, like, and more. You said it best, when you said: "So play games, of course, but don't let the playing of games define you. Why would you ever really need to describe yourself as someone who plays games, anyway?"

Thus, on that note, why should we allow the tagging of keywords define us?

Michael Pianta
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I have to be honest, I have basically no idea what this article is talking about. Who thinks the term "gamer" implies an exclusion of all other activities? Similarly I don't generally detect a negative connotation to the term. It's simply descriptive. For example, from the article, "In what context could one naturally use the word, except derisively? And the news media does exactly that. "Gamers are lined up to get their hands on the new Call of Duty video game." " What exactly is derisive about that usage? I see nothing derisive there. I feel like the author is projecting their own attitudes onto other people here.

Furthermore, it seems to me that the term gamer is primarily used by other gamers to describe ourselves and each other. I can't think of any time some one else used the term gamer to describe me. No one ever comes up to me and says "Get out of here gamer! We don't want your kind around." If marketers also use the term, they are taking their cue from us, the audience. It was a self applied label as far as I know, and also perfectly neutral and descriptive.

That being the case, it bothers me that the attitude of this article is one of submission to a condemning society. Suppose other do use the term derisively - so what? We should make up some new term for ourselves to please them? Why not instead reclaim the term through positive example? I feel like this is what happen to the term "nerd." It seems to me that that word has lost most of its negative connotation and that happened because nerds were manifestly cool. Now it's a big thing - comic book movies are huge money makers and people talk about the power and ubiquity of "nerd culture" nor do they say it with a sneer. Gamers were generally a subset of nerds, at least when I was in school, and our public image is benefitting from the general nerd uplift.

But regardless of all that I just don't read nearly as much into it as this author does. It's just a generic descriptor for enthusiasts of an activity, no different than people calling themselves painters or guitar players or modellers or whatever.

jin choung
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ugh. misguided. so concerned with perception....

fuck it. i'm a gamer. and fuck everyone who has a problem with that.

and i read comic books. no matter how hard they try to push the term "graphic novel".

fuck perception. fuck respectability. do what you like and fuck everything else including what it's called.

for fuck's sake.

Christopher Thigpen
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Call me: Batman

Val Reznitskaya
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Reading the comments, I'm seeing people compare playing games to both reading books and riding a motorcycle. But there's a pretty profound difference. Reading books has become ubiquitous; most literate members of society read something occasionally. It's not seen as strange or different. In fact, it's largely taken for granted. That's why the word "reader" only makes sense in the context of a specific work. If everyone reads, what we care about is what they're reading.

On the other hand, I don't know very many people who ride motorcycles. There's nothing wrong with it, but it would be ridiculous to assume that my old math professor has a Harley-Davidson stashed in his garage.

The word "gamer" only makes sense if you view playing games like the latter. Unlike "reader," the term is a label associated with the activity itself. And if playing games ever becomes as common as reading, we would no longer need it - because at that point, we could stop worrying about IF someone plays and move on to WHAT she plays.

I would imagine that the difficulty of learning to ride a motorcycle is a much bigger barrier to entry than the stigmas of "biker" culture. But whether the "gamer" label is descriptive, derisive or worn as a badge of honor, it turns people who play games into the "other" from the perspective of those who don't. So even though anyone can pick up a game as easily as a book - even though there is nothing fundamentally different about people who play them - the term feels (to me) like it stands in the way of games reaching as broad an audience as books or film.

This might sound like a huge stretch, but I honestly believe that if society starts taking it for granted that everyone plays games, more people will actually play games. But looking at this from the other side, maybe clinging to the "gamer" label is some people's way of keeping the club exclusive.

TL;DR I think the word "gamer" is synonymous with people who play games being viewed as anything other than the norm, and if one goes away, so will the other.

Sean Kiley
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Let's retire trying to define games, what to call them and what to call the people that play them.

Diego Garcia
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Even though I agree with the sentiment, there are a couple of things I would change. I don't think "gamer" implies a love and devotion to gaming at the exclusion of other activities, and if it did, I don't think that would be the problem. I just think that in common perception (and, yeah, I am kind of concerned with how people perceive me, as are self-identifying "gamers" or else they wouldn't be arguing here to protect the label that others reject) "gamer" implies a specific set of interest and a stereotypical personality type. And it kind of is a problem for me when I say "I am a game developer," and someone else hears "I am a gamer." It's a problem for me because, even though I play a lot of the same games as a "gamer," I don't want to be defined by the surrounding subculture.

I don't think any of us wants to be misidentified, and I feel silly having to explain that humans care about public perception. If the perception associated with "gamer" overnight changed to "devoted ultimate frisbee enthusiast who commonly dresses in all yellow, refuses to eat grains, and is whole-heartedly frustrated with democracy as a system," the few of us who don't feel that sentence applies would stop and say "What? Why do you think that about me?"

We can say the term won't go anywhere, but I'm not sure I agree. I think very few of my peers wouldn't cringe being called a gamer. I know also that some game-design programs specifically leave "game" out of their title to battle the perception that it's a program made up of white dudes in black t-shirts who play games all day. That public perception is probably the larger problem -- that "gamer" has the stigma at all -- but distancing ourselves from the term, clarifying that game does not equal gamer, and continuing to establish games as a common, respectable, and understood sector of popular culture is the best way to eliminate that stigma.

Mike Griffin
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I reckon Brandon and I have been in the company of a fair number (read: hundreds) of publisher PR and marketing teams, and within that particular microcosm of the terminology's usage, I will say that I've witnessed many examples of "gamer" used in a way that could certainly be perceived as slightly condescending. Kind of in the sense of zookeepers talking about how to best train their animals.

On the other hand, even that has loosened up over the last decade with the arrival of mainstream casual gameplay and alternate genres, as those same individuals are now obliged to expand their pseudo-segregation to include additional descriptors like "core" gamers, "indie" fans, "casual" players, and all the other sub-categorization.

Nowadays if I meet someone and they're introduced to me as a "big gamer" with a " you two should get along" disclaimer, I'll usually set the tone with some extra detail.

Like: "I'm an old-school gamer, been playing pretty seriously for about 30 years. These days I'm more of a hardcore PC gamer, but I still play big games on console and a lot of indie games on every platform."

I think "gamer" still comes across A-OK if you apply some additional clarification.

*As an aside: It's funny, I don't fear any confusion between gamer, gaming, and gambling these days.
I do believe us 'video gamers' (sigh) have more or less stolen the terms away from the gambling industry for good, insofar as every day use 'among the people'. If you stopped 100 random people (ages 15-60) on the street and asked them if they were gamers, I'd say 95% of them would form a response based on electronic games.

If they answered "Yes" you'd then follow it up with, "And what kind of gamer?"

To which you would receive a myriad of responses referencing a rainbow of genres, platforms and services, each player to their own.

Robert Tsao
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I feel the problem with the word "gamer" is that the mainstream media commonly uses it as a one-size-fits-all label that illustrates, above all, a consumer goods-focused homogeneity solely based on loose assumptions of what people who play video games might happen to like, or worse, are like.

Think back to the obnoxious "extreme" marketing of the 90s and the rampant tropes contained therein: X-games, skateboards, neon elbow pads, skulls, anti-establishment, flame patterns, backwards baseball caps, shredding guitar solos, and X-games, all frothing in a violent "fuck conformity" tide of consumption. In other words, a completely unrealistic image of the target consumer built on anachronistic concepts and existing solely in the financial wet dreams of people who lost touch with their basis of reality long ago.

This is more or less what the term "gamer" is. It's a marketing buzzword now, an obnoxious, ridiculous term to boot and yet a good segment of the gaming population seems dead-set on defending it (or at least using it subconsciously and by default), as if liking games granted their identity some kind of goodwill. How insecure are we in our passions that we feel the need to construct some kind of cultural framework around our hobbies?

Really, it's so simple: just loving games gives us amazing output and creativity from an industry that matches our passion; "gamer" gives us the Spike VGAs and Mountain Dew cross-promotions. You want to wear that ironic T-shirt saying something about pastries and deceptions? Fine. You want me to listen to the latest Anamanaguchi album because it reminds you of Bubble Man's level in Mega Man 2? Cool!

Just stop doing it all under the pretense of being a "gamer". We're all adults here.

To use the music analogy, I understand punkers, just like I understand hip-hop heads; I don't understand Musickers. Genre, theme, and artistic intent in games have matured beyond rescuing princesses and killing insectoid aliens. The medium has evolved, and in constantly maturing, it is defying traditional and conventional definition. The gaming audience needs to do the same.

Garrett Brown
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This article does a better job at stereotyping gamers than most mainstream media. It's either an unfunny troll attempt, or a poorly written article.

Kyle McBain
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We still call I feel the same about the words "Video Games". It sounds juvenile. But I do refer to myself as a gamer a lot. The reason being I like games. I mean to dismiss the word "gamer", you would have to dismiss "video games" as well. Maybe that is a good thing though. Maybe we need to do that. But ultimately it's like calling a car a truck. Sure you can say electronic art or something weird but it is still a fricken game!

I read in another article that some "gamers" see themselves as performance artists and that games themselves are an art form in their own right. That they are not comparable to anything else. And if you think about it games are still in their infant stages. What will it be like 50 years from now. What will we be called then, or what will we call ourselves. "Gamer" is not so bad, but I still hate "video games". As contradicting as it is, maybe we should keep "gamer" and come up with something else for "video games".

Also, that is my opinion contrary to the author. If you read what he says, he is not suggesting we replace gamer. He is simply stating we just omit it all together.

Mike Griffin
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Yeah "video games" is a tough one.
Everyone instantly knows what that means.
Try going with "electronic games" in a crowd and confusion pops up.
"So you play Operation and Simon Says all day?"
No, you just meant games are played on electronic devices. You know, video games.

The easiest one next to video games is usually "computer games." Rarely will people seek clarification.

In any language, it's always the "games" part. In French, it's Jeux Video.
Ditching the "games" part won't work. Games are games, when they're games.

The "video" part is sketchy to maintain, considering how much more there is to the equation besides video. But it's firmly embedded in common speak for now.

The only time mass media has branded games with something other than "video games" was in the early 2000s, when some vocal groups were calling first-person shooters "Murder Simulators". Did they call the players Gamers, or Simulated Murderers?

Anyway, weird post. I guess what I'm saying is, we shouldn't take labels too seriously.
You do what you do.
If something's your hobby and you take it more seriously than the average guy, you tend to be more sensitive to the quirks and stigmas that the average guy attaches to it.
That's fine -- carry on.

Vincent Pride
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I would rather go with Interactive Entertainment

Keith Burgun
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Everyone I know already has.

wes bogdan
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Well gamer has become part of pop culture there's even a horrible movie about "stereotypical" mmo types of gamer s but as a "gamer" i prefer games with humor and storytelling to simply grabbing the NEXT in a never-ending line of shoorers.

Though i was able to play with default CONTROL through n64 but found I needed to design my own CONTROL scheme which might not have happened had I been started on a DUAL shock over the tridentpad.

I was able to use motion aiming on vita after slowing the right stick down to 1 so it became aim assist and yes even with motion aiming i use inverted aim. So I was able to play uncharted and gravity rush if vita games have a camera center and motion aiming I'm able to play it AS if it were a single analog game...wish sly ,stranger and ac 3 all supported motion aiming and camera re centering.....though other "gamers" simply play madden,tiger and others just cod.

Negitive connotations asside gamers are a varied bunch and nothing's wrong with that...even if after 20 years i can't play modern gaming without my custom scheme.

Yu Ki
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I am not a gamer because I am not interested in playing games. I just have great interest in game itself.

Biff Johnson
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Interesting read and I get your point.

Unfortunately, having played on consoles over voice chat? erm.. the term unfortunately fits. Play any COD on the 360 for 30 minutes and you won't be able to convince the average individual who doesn't play these games other wise.

Having played for 30 year .. it's going to stick.

Vincent Pride
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1) The negative connotation is not going anywhere since it represent a prosumer of this media rather accurately: "gamers" (which equals hardcore players) really ARE either kids/teens or desperate manchildren - addicted, socially disintegrated and sexually deprivated.

2) Making games, even the ones that are commercially successful to absurd extent, isn't perceived as a serious accomplishment either. Nor general public sees even famous game creators as masterminds and creative geniuses. If you visit any movie premiere or autograph session you will observe celebrities being constantly swarmed by fans, especially when it comes to attractive male stars and their army of female fans. In contrast, when was the last time you've witnessed the same thing happening to Cliff Bleszinski, for example, or to Peter Molyneux, or Hironobu Sakaguchi? They're managing multimillion productions and running the most famous video game franchises in the entire world, and still nobody would recognize them ever, were they standing at Times Square for the whole day. This speaks volumes.

Chris Toepker
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I'm always happy to see folks joining in this sort of conversation. As designers, we need better understanding of our players.

Still, I think we are stuck with "gamer," and I don't think there is anything particularly wrong with that. The counterbalancing examples cited seem pretty weak. For example, it seems a real stretch to say that "the media" or "the marketers" regularly talk about to "bibliophiles." At least, the marketers I worked with in a rather successful publishing department never attempted it.

So, for me, it's about the next level down ~ especially when we are doing our work. If we indeed think there is only one kind of "gamer," we are doomed. We need to better define who we are making games for. Each and every time!

Scott Hansen
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I couldn't get past the fact you called the Atari 2600 a "cheap family computer that you could balance your checkbook on."

Your facts, like this article, are Epic Fail.

Paul Laroquod
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Seriously, WTF was up with that? The Atari 2600 only "happened" to play games? History just turned over in its grave.

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I think this is lame. It's like comic books vs graphic novels. A bunch of people ashamed that they enjoy comics so rather than just man up or stop reading them, they called comics graphic novels so that they wouldn't be associated with those lowly comics.

If you hate this so much or you're so embarrassed about gaming, pick a new hobby or something. Or grow a pair and man up. You can take your "interactive digital media enthusiasts" or whatever you come up with to hide your shame of enjoying gaming and shove it.

Lincoln Thurber
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Sorry, I am not convinced by any arguments I see in the article. People who ski, like to be called skiers. People who run, like being runners. In fact, some runners like to special to be called marathoners just as some writers like to be called novelists, journalists, or poets. So for every hobby you can name that do not identify with a modified verb, you will find just as many that do. For as many who create specialized words to subdivide you will find just as many who use general terms as well. As for Game Developer magazine does or does not use, that is meaningless. Each publication has its own hit list of words not to be used, and that is fine for them, but there is a trap in believing any publication/organization can or should speak for an entire community. Game Developer magazine can no more make a word forbidden than they can ceremonially inducted another term.

I might add that the true antidote to actual gambling is electronic non-betting games. Take out the punitive financial losses and keep the subconscious thrill by offering a better alternative to gambling through our community’s conception of ‘true’ gaming. There is real good that can come from video gamers appropriating the terms 'gaming’ and ‘gamer' from the gambling community.

As much as I would like to save Game Developer magazine’s feelings, not grabbing 'gaming' and 'gamer' from the open jaws of the gambling community was a mistake. Words are tools, you do not allow people with bad intentions to use tool you could use for good. Even if gaming and gamer were used for centuries by gamboling there is no good reason to leave them in their hands. We can might not grab the terms by force, but the slow accumulation of public’s consciousness has worked. I expect that some people reading your article had not made the connection to gambling because gamers (yes, I said it..gamer, gamer gamer) have ameliorate the term game for several decades. The term is now just as much ours as it is there's and we have a better use for it. I say we keep it, and grab more of it in the public consciousness.

Craig Bamford
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So if we're retiring "gamer", what are we replacing it with? There does need to be an equivalent to movie-goer or "cinephile". Trying to say that everybody is at the same level of enthusiasm for the medium is silly.

It's especially dubious for a medium that does involve a certain level of skill development. Half the reason why "gamer" exists is due to the skill curve between "casual" and "core" players; that curve can't be defined out of existence, and it affects the sort of mechanics and experiences that are felt to be appropriate by the different groups. How do you signal to experienced and skilled players that a game is appropriate for them?

Rich Levine
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"In the early days of games, you had the Atari 2600...all billed as cheap family computers that you could balance your checkbook on..." I agree with Scott Hansen. I think you meant the Atari 800.

Richard Carpenter
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I would say this is much ado about nothing. I believe the teaser to this article included the author claiming that the use of the term "gamer" made them sick to their stomach. Seriously?

I game. Therefore I am a gamer. Seems to me it's the author who has an unreasonably narrow scope of what the term implies, not the rest of the industry.

Josh Jones
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Unfortunately gamer is such a simple word that it will get used for all sorts of things. I personally agree with the other commentators here that it is not always negative. I think we would be better off just trying to rework the term to be neutral/positive like 'movie-goer' or 'geek' and start correcting people who use 'gamer' negatively and replace their words with things like 'immature' or 'inept' or 'rude'.

I like to hope that when I call myself a gamer and people see an upstanding, hardworking, clean, and fun person who just plays games a lot, it helps define being a gamer as something positive.

I wish there were something like 'interactive experience enthusiast' but simpler so I could use that, but for now I'm going to work on shining a positive light on the word 'gamer'.

m m
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Arguing the semantics is all well and good, and I know I'm opening myself to an epic can of message board whoopass here. But...isn't it a little immature to be all "oh I don't want to be called a "gamer" because THE MAN uses it to pin me down...MAN"? Not trying to be a dick about it, but it's a little sophomorish.

Some people will get it, most will probably troll me (or accuse me of trolling)

But the even bigger point is how about we don't let a hobby define us? I've long disliked the term gamer, not because it was some means for the industry to peg us into their hole, but because...well, they're right. As a guy who grew up with video games his whole life and plays them in his 30's to this day, would be really pissed if someone tried to assume video games have anything to do with my self-definition. It's something I do and enjoy. It's not a part of me, and I feel bad for anyone who's internalized this frivolity that way. Have your fun, for sure, but you need to broaden your world a LOT if this is "who" you are.

Paul Laroquod
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Labels are labels. They are all arbitrary. Opponents of video games tried to tarnish the word 'gamer' and from reading this article, it seems like maybe they have succeeded. However, erasing the label doesn't erase the opponents, who will inevitably attempt to retarnish any other label we choose. And worse... they will have us on the run.

I say we make our stand right here. Around 'gamer'.

Altug Isigan
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Mark Barlow
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I'm a gamer and many other things as well, but I'm definitely proud of the 'gamer' tag!
Resistance is futile!

Carmelo Consiglio
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The label gamer is so dated. I prefer lord of the controller. =p

Josh Neff
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I would posit that , in the way that the word “B*tch” was appropriated and made into a “good” thing, and the term “gay” is less and less tolerated as a definition for something undesirable, the term “gamer” has long since followed that trend to self define instead of being defined by the industry. “Gamer” is no longer (and in my humble opinion, hasn't been for a long time) just a title applied to a cross section of people who fit a small number of criteria that qualify someone as a target market. The word “Gamer” now invokes a host of cultural implications... if one person talks to another, and they find out both are gamers, the next question isn't just about what games are bought, but the music, art, story and strategy within a game.
There are Gamer conventions that celebrate the gamer culture the world over. Gamer, broken down to its constituent components (with regard to video games), is simply; someone who enjoys an interactive electronic medium... this simplistic definition ignores the depth of impact games have on our culture and is more in line with how a marketeer will often perceive a gamer through their often one-dimensional, money colored glasses. A Gamer, however, has as many and myriad views on the term as there are gamers... most of them with the central aspect of enjoy games... but rarely to the exclusion of the other aspects of life.
I cannot tell you how often I hear people proudly proclaim “I'm a Gamer”. Its akin to anyone else saying: I'm a Martial Artist, or Free Runner, or Musician or any other label that may exist out there. The difference? Gamer used to be a derogatory comment... I can't emphasize “Used to be” enough. It really isn’t anymore... its now a distinct part of our culture. Are there people out there still using it in a derogatory way? Sure. And there always will be... but the solution isn’t to hide one aspect of our lives... quite the opposite. The solution is to proclaim loud and proud: “I am a Gamer!”

Simone Tanzi
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I don't really understand the Issue.
Assuming that the gamers Need to improve their reputation towards people that are not into gaming (I do not btw) the goal should be to improve the perception of gamers, not to back down to another term until it becomes yet another synonym for loser and migrate from term to term endlessly.
I don't know if it is because I'm not from US or because my biggest successes in life are tied to my being a gamer. All that without living in my mom basement and having a healthy relationship with a woman for the past 10 years (I do understand these are considered not Gamer behaviors somehow).
I do not understand why we should change a definition because some media get their facts wrong.
The definition of gamer has evolved in time... it has sub-categories and by itself core-Gamer is usually implied.
People starts to say "people who play angry birds once in a while on the train are gamers too" I do not agree.
They are casual gamers.
Nothing wrong with that really, they are just a different demographic.
Are some of them living in their mom basement? sure.
There are a lot of "artists" that do exactly the same, i don't see artists from all over the world trying to change their definition because some of them are hopeless loners who are stuck with their parents for not being able to keep a job.
I really don't see the issue here aside from "the media gets their fact wrong" and the obvious answer would be let's give them the facts right, or, let's promote media who can get the facts right.

Peter Smith
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The runners, golfers, knitters, brewers, drivers, sailors, joggers, candlemakers, coders, writers and readers stand with you! DOWN with er'ing activities!

Brandon Shelton
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I'm glad this was reposted on the front page, because I strongly disagree with it. If the problem is really how society has defined the term on our behalf, then let's change it, not throw it away. How do we change it? By simply being people that play video games, and breaking some of the stereotypes about us in the process. I fully admit that I fit a lot of the stereotypes of the marketing-defined "gamer" -- I do love me some Mountain Dew and Doritos, and spending an entire weekend binge-playing an Elder Scrolls game -- but I'm also well-educated, have a broad range of interests, and I'm not an immature asshole spouting racist obscenities to people online. If Robin Williams can be identified as a gamer, then is there really a problem with the label in the first place? Definitions work both ways. We can change how society defines us just as easily as society defined it for us in the 90s, but not if we throw it away.

Emeka Enubuzor
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"What other media uses a single term to describe its audience? Movies use movie-goer, viewing public, or for enthusiasts, cinephiles. The printed word uses "readers," or for the dedicated, bibliophiles. For music, you've got listeners, concert-goers, audiophiles (which is something else entirely), and much more. There are levels of gradation here, allowing different descriptors for different levels of interest and dedication."

What are you talking about, have we not had discussions about what a casual or a core gamer is? Being a gamer doesn't holistically define you, i'm not sure where this idea has come. I can be a gamer, a movie enthusiast, a music fan, and an anime fan and whatever I want. It's just a label to help identify with others. If you want to call yourself something else, fine, but you're just giving the same thing another what did you actually change?

This whole, "down with 'gamers'," thing seems to be about people not being satisfied or ashamed of what they do and what they love, which is sad. But rebranding it doesn't change what it is.

Lihim Sidhe
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I'm fine with the term gamer.

I do think the term video games are outdated though.

I default to just using the word games.

Luis Guimaraes
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"I do think the term video games are outdated though. I default to just using the word games."

Video-games and games are not the same thing. I rather wish people stopped saying '-game as a short for video-game in a way that makes it to be confused with game. That only causes problems and sets our field back whenever it happens.

Ben Oakley
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Exactly. For example, "I play games." is just too ambiguous. Well, what kind of games do you play? The term "Video Games" isn't outdated. It describes the type of games we play.

Same thing with Art. There are so many categories for Art you can't just classify it all into one bucket.

And I'm actually shocked that a lot of folks actually find the term "Gamer" offensive. It's a hobby for most, for some a lifestyle, and for others a career. Take the term for what it is. Yes it's a label but be proud of the term. It's the ultimate form of entertainment. You get to play characters and travel to worlds that words on a page can't do justice.

Kristian Roberts
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Isn't labelling everything and everyone in sight fun?

Look at what a cohesive and productive conversation we've had!

I submit that any term used to pigeon hole any group of people, each with a varied set of identities (y'know like "parent" or "French" or "tall" or "green-skinned") will ultimately fail to actually represent that group of people. We're just not a very box-shaped species.

Alex Boccia
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'Gamers' don't have to be your audience. 'Gamers' are over. Exclusive - Leigh Alexander

We Might Be Witnessing The 'Death of An Identity' - Luke Plunkett

The End of Gamers - Dan Golding

Any explanation as to how all these people came up with nearly identical opinion pieces? Really, quality spin right here.

Maxim Preobrazhenskiy
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If this was the world of politics, i'd start looking for someone shelling out the dough to influence popular ideology :)

Ricardo Hernandez
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"I am convinced that this marks the end. We are finished here. From now on, there are no more gamers—only players." Says Dan Golding.

So if you get the same group of people harassing and threatening the same other people but now they are called players, does that mean it's time to change the players word too?


Perry de Havilland
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Gamers exist. They know who they are, even if some people want to fondly imagine "gamer" is like saying "e-mailer" or "phone user"... but it isn't. Feel free to not market your games to "gamers", but then don't be surprised if not a lot of people who actually like games buy them as a result.

This reminds me a bit like a previous attempt at semantic engineering: "accessible"

Bioware made DA2 more "accessible" than Dragon Age: Origins. And so when gamers (yes, gamers) bought DA2 and played it, they then came to understood what "accessible" actually meant. It meant "not designed for gamers". I have not bought another Bioware game since and probably never will. I got the message and so did a great many other 'gamers'.

I wish you all the best making games that are not for 'gamers', but I very much doubt you will be seeing my credit card any time soon. But thank goodness for capitalism, there are plenty of people who are quite happy to make games for (yes) gamers.

Maxim Preobrazhenskiy
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I have identity. My identity is a gamer.

That is, someone who sees everything he encounters as a game. That is, a potentially meaningful interactive experience with governing mechanics and underlying aesthetics.

If society decided that "gamer" is something different and doesn't like it, then the only thing i will do is teach society that it is wrong.

Having an identity means occasionally having to go against the flow for its sake. If the author feels that he'd rather give up on his identity, because the current general flow is against it, then that's his problem. Maybe that means that the author never has been a gamer to begin with.

Ricardo Hernandez
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I struggle to understand the new "fad" - it seems to me, in being ashamed somehow or remove or change pretty innocent words from the dictionary. Now it's the turn for "gamer." I mean really. When did this become a problem? Where is this politically correctness Lysol™ sanitizing dictionary effort coming from?

I don't let the media define me. I have used the word "gamer" myself for a *very* long time. Why do I have to give it up all of a sudden? Who defines it is offensive?

This reminds me of the whole gay/queer wording. Gays didn't say "you can't say queer"- they said "oh yeah, we *are* queer, get used to it!" They never let the word define them, they appropriated it and marched with it.

Of course now I find out there's a new ridiculous similar issue going with the quite innocent word homosexual. I don't understand it.

As Maxim also said: "If society decided that "gamer" is something different and doesn't like it, then the only thing i will do is teach society that it is wrong."

You are not going to change other people from using the word the way they want. You have to live by example what it means to be a "gamer." In the ideal case, more than a "gamer" I am simply me.

I refuse let this article define what I am supposed to do now, given "gamer" has been used for ages and I used for myself on my own.

Also as pointed out:

"In the early days of games, you had the Atari 2600, the ZX Spectrum, and others of their ilk. These were all billed as cheap family computers that you could balance your checkbook on - but they also happened to play games. They were meant for everyone. TV ads showed a full, smiling family gathering around the television screen."

No, the Atari 2600 *was designed* with the *sole purpose* of playing games. Ok, also making money, like every consumer product. The TV ads also showed a full smiling family gathering around the television screen...

Ettore Luigi Gislon
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Ok Brandon, we won't call you a gamer anymore.

I mean, that was the whole point, right? :P

edit: still, I kinda somewhat agree with the general message that is here, but I always hope that people know that they should not feel shackled by terminology that wants to classify them.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Mike Higbee
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Just because there are some bad apples doesn't mean the term "gamer" is misrepresentation for the culture at large.
I mean hell I still call myself a "football fan" even though that lumps me in with those idiots who get drunk and start fights at the games.

Steve Fulton
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Electronic Games magazine coined the term "arcaders". I liked that one much better.

Benjamin Branch
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What the term "gamer" colloquially is just shorthand for "game enthusiast." This is why people get touchy when you try to call people who are not enthusiasts "gamers."

I think the real question is why are so many media outlets simultaneously anxious about the word "gamer?" Why are media outlets threatened by a word that just describes game enthusiasts to the point you want people to stop using it?

Luis Guimaraes
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"I think the real question is why are so many media outlets simultaneously anxious about the word "gamer? Why are media outlets threatened by a word that just describes game enthusiasts to the point you want people to stop using it?"

First one is easy: they want their jobs to sound cool at parties and they think it doesn't. Second, they are not threatened, their self-steem and sense of importance is.

It's interesting to observe how problems in the #gamedev bubble have been escalating and propagating down the Maslow Pyramid in the last few years. I could, however, be VERY biased in believing they have all started in the Self-Steem layer as I'm implying above, but the patterns are there. I don't mean "interesting" as if any of what's happening is good, but the pattern makes me think about other general conflicts and even wars, if they all somehow don't start up in the pyramid and propagate down with the crescendo of time, events and involved people with concerns the layers already seized.

I could say I'm pretty sure this all started in the Self-Steem layer. But again, I might be biased to think the Self-Actualization layer is "above" that.

I wonder how many more conflicts of humanity follow the same pattern.

Mike Higbee
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Let's retire the word 'journalist', because with most these articles attacking the word 'gamer' there doesn't seem to be too much journalism going on.

Mike Higbee
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I'm just loving how this and Leigh's article along with the latest piece on Eurogamer there's about 11 articles attacking gamers and dodging people questioning journalistic integrity (and they all came out pretty damn close to each other). Did you guys have a skype or batch email to decide to pretty much all write the same thing?

'Gamers' don't have to be your audience. 'Gamers' are over. Exclusive
Leigh Alexander
Aug 28, 10:00am

An awful week to care about video games
Chris Plante
Aug 28, 1:21pm

The death of the “gamers” and the women who “killed” them
Casey Johnson
Ars Technica
Aug 28, 5:00pm

A Guide to Ending "Gamers"
Devin Wilson
Aug 28, 7:57 pm

We Might Be Witnessing The 'Death of An Identity'
Luke Plunkett
Aug 28, 8:00pm

Gaming Is Leaving “Gamers” Behind
Joseph Bernstein
Aug 28, 8:29 pm

Sexism, Misogyny, and online attacks: It's a horrible time to consider yourself a gamer
Patrick O'Rourke
Financial Post
Aug 28, 9:33pm

It's Dangerous to Go Alone: Why Are Gamers So Angry?
Arthur Chu
The Daily Beast
Aug 28, time unknown

The End of Gamers
Dan Golding
Aug 28, time unknown

This guy's embarassing relationship drama is killing the 'gamer' identity
Mike Pearl
Aug 29, time unknown

Why we need more developers like Zoe Quinn
Dan Whitehead
Aug 30, time unknown

Ricardo Hernandez
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That *IS* interesting. It's also disgusting.

Ricardo Hernandez
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I would also like to know why is Gamasutra trying to propagate this too. "Don't miss" it says in the headlines about this article. Why? What's going on here?

Luis Guimaraes
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While all made under the same subject and with the same social identity, the dispersion of those releases across time supports an assertion that they're not pre-planned, and instead that Leigh's article gave fuel for more.

As you can see, the frequency at which more articles appear increases steadly, and it's a fair assessment to consider that all the writers have Gamasutra and many of the others on their RSS feed. It's a wave.


It' says "Don't Miss" because it's a re-feature of an old article.

Gamasutra uses this prefix to increase track to stuff that has left the first page, since it can scroll really fast sometimes, specially on Mondays. And then they started bringing up older stuff when the subject became "relevant". Everything with a "Don't Miss" tag is old. Check the date of the article and the first comments and you'll see.

Click on the Half-Life feature on the front page right now and you'll see it's from 1999, also with the "Don't Miss" prefix. If you search the update history you'll find more examples.

Mike Higbee
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I don't doubt they're a result of Leigh's article, there was also a blog on here on the 27th called "They Shout Louder" which predated all of them that had the same tone, and trying to have a discourse with the author in the comments... it was pretty much a soapbox

This is my fave site to talk games and industry and I hate seeing shit like this which is Kotaku tier blogger click bait pop up.
What I always loved about here is it always seems to be civil point counterpoint with actual devs and people in the industry.
I may just be an amateur coder for over 18 years and at this point an extensive 'gamer' tabletop and video game wise, but I love playing games and working on them and their craft in my free time.
This site used to be a bastion for tips and industry info until some pieces like this bashing my hobby and passion popped up making me feel like i was bullied for liking gaming in the 80s and 90s again when it wasn't a hipster trend.

Luis Guimaraes
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I too hope we can soon go back to the upmost Self-Actualization layer of Maslow's Pyramid quickly enough, but it seems we'll spend a while here in Self-Steem land.

There isn't much to do about it besides writting some cool gamedev articles ourselves, but releasing them now amidst this noise won't help other fellow devs very much either.

Ricardo Hernandez
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@Luis- thanks much for that explanation. I completely missed that.

Mario Nieto
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Hi, I have been browsing this site for a long time (and will continue to do so) but I felt the need to comment for the first time on this article. There is a point the author makes about what "gamer" means that I have to disagree with as a life-long gamer, a hobbyist developer (VERY hobbyist...), and general game enthusiast.

"A "gamer," if we follow the rules of English, should be a person who plays games to the exclusion of all else."

I always thought that "gamer" already referred to anyone who plays games, which you want to change to another word that means the same thing. When I looked up definitions of "gamer" they all referred to people who play games. None of them mentioned anything about playing games to the exclusion of any other activity.

But, I understand that words mean different things to different people. let's take your definition of "gamer" and say it's the true one. If gamers really only play games to the exclusion of any other activity, then riddle me this:

How is it possible that casual gamers exist? I understand that many casual gamers wouldn't refer to themselves as gamers but they're still being referred to as casual "gamers", and all it means is they play games, just casually.

Giuseppe Navarria
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I'd rather retire the words "game journalist" because seems like there are none around...

David Lin
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Instead of spending time and effort thinking and/or debating about it, why not use the energy to enjoy playing/making some games?

If you are going to be affected by every single label or name that are attached to certain groups of people, you won't be able to live your life to the fullest.

Imagine that you are arguing against someone on whether iOS or Android is better.

Get what I am trying to say here? In other words, just use whatever you are comfortable with. (e.g labels/phones & etc)

Ricardo Hernandez
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Oh I do enjoy time playing or making some games. I don't see why that should preclude me from pointing out the nonsense in this article.

Nathanial Watts
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I am a Gamer.

That phrase doesn't put me in a box any more than any other hobbyist term or label.

It's as simple as that - deal with it.