Gamer is a bad word … I mean, what?

Gamer Logo


Gamer Logo

I don’t want to imply that I took offense to Yahtzee’s article entitled, “Don’t Use the Word Gamer,” but I can say that I did vigorously disagree with most of what he said.  The sum up his article, the word “gamer” implies two things – it reinforces a negative stereotype of overweight, neck beards, acne, and smelling faintly of milk.  Second, he says that the concept of “gamer” creates a division where there isn’t one.

I’ll leave you to read the rest of the article, but at the heart of it, those are the two high level points he makes.  I’m going to tackle these in reverse order, because the concept of a “gamer” is necessary for their to be a negative stereotype.

Alright, so Yahtzee doesn’t see the need to have a special designation for those who enjoy video games, but I think he’s grouping ‘those who play games’ far too generically.  There are people like my fifty-something aunt who loves Farmville, and then there are people like my friend Geoff, who like me, eats, breathes and even sleeps (or lack thereof, depending on your perspective) gaming.  I know I would be hard pressed to put both Geoff in my aunt in the same category, though both enjoy games.  Yahtzee never comes out and strictly defines what he means by gamer, only that he dislikes the term.  In the most generic way possible, we could say gamer is, “one who games.”  Of course, we could get more nuanced, but for the purposes of this response, I think it fits.

On that 100,000 foot view of the term, I would have to agree — we are all gamers in the same way we are all human.  To apply the term human to any given person is, generally speaking, a superfluous qualify.  According to the definition of gamer implied by Yahtzee, applying the term gamer is just as superfluous – there’s no point in calling it out because it applies to the vast majority.

However, I would alter the definition slightly, and in a way that I think makes it more applicable to how the term is used today.  For me definition, I say gamer is “someone who holds an exceptional or above average interest in playing games.”  I think that my altered definition is a required change from the implied generic definition from Yahtzee.  As gaming becomes more pervasive, exactly like movies or science fiction, a generic term like gamer becomes superfluous because they are so pervasive that the inclusion of gamer is implied in just … existing for lack of a better term.

While the general “one who plays games” becomes an implied part of being a media consumer, exactly the same way that we don’t call everyone who goes to the movies a “movie-goer,” what the term doesn’t account for is for those who have an interest above that of being the average media consumer.  For example, we like to throw the word “buff” on the end things.  Someone who’s really into movies, maybe more than the average media consumer is a “Movie-buff,” or a “sci-fi buff” for someone who really enjoys science fiction.

I’m sure there are other examples, but I think you get the idea.  The rub of it that currently, the closest that those who are exceptionally interested in gaming have is, “hardcore gamer” which in and of itself implies different things within the community of those exceptionally interested in gaming, which makes it an imperfect term for use in this instance.  The term “game buff” could, in theory, work but it isn’t really being used.  It doesn’t seem to roll quite as well off the tongue and feels a bit foreign.

For me, and for a large segment of those who are exceptionally interested in gaming, the term “gamer” fills the void there.  My aunt certainly doesn’t think of herself as gamer, though by the broad strokes definition above, she is.  Whereas Geoff certainly does think of himself as a gamer, but likely in a more specific sense than what the term above implies.  That being said, I think the term “gamer” fills a specific need in the media space surrounding gaming calling out those who have an exceptional interest in gaming, such as Yahtzee.

That portion of my response took more space than I anticipated.  As for stereotyping – I’ll sum up my argument quoting Gandhi (alright, potentially a bit dramatic, but it gets the point across, eh?)  “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  If you want the term gamer to not be associated with pungent dairy products and poor hygiene, then be not that, but still call yourself a gamer (or game-buff, as it may be).

We do agree on one point however.  Sayeth Yahtzee,

I’m not saying you have to be ashamed of playing videogames, but I’m not saying you should be proud and shouting it from the rooftops either.

Subtlety is often our friend, though as those who are exceptionally interested in games, we often lose sight of that.  As Yahtzee mentions, there are more than a couple of examples where gamers were louder than was required, and potentially made some life choices, loudly, that were not the most eloquent nor given to an overabundance of forethought.  Again, subtlety is the way to go.

Also, should you actually read this Yahtzee, kudos on the Mana Bar.  If you want to open up an affiliate on the east coast of the States, by all means look me up.

Extra Punctuation: Don’t Use the Word “Gamer” – The Escapist

Edit: Somehow I must have accidentally deleted my link-back.  Just put it back in.

3 thoughts on “Gamer is a bad word … I mean, what?

  1. As a skeptic, I’ve often complained about the problem language, when it comes to communicating “truths.” And here, once more, we see the same problem. What the speaker is trying to say, and what the listener is hearing are two wildly different things. Yahtzee, on a personal note, would agree with you I think. But that’s not what he is saying. He wants you to quit calling yourself a “gamer” for the good of the whole; gaming maybe gaining ground, but for the vast majority of people, it’s still a useless pastime that results in sloth and nerd rage. It’s not how we, the gamers, define ourselves—it’s how we want to be defined, as.


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