The other night I saw that my brother shared a post titled “Why #Gamergaters Piss Me the F*** Off” written by Chris Kluwe, a former NFL player and gaming enthusiast for the last twenty-six years. Fair warning, the piece is not for those who are easily offended. Also, I have read some summaries of what GamerGate is, but I am not that well versed in the issue overall, so please excuse me if I misrepresent anything. I enjoyed reading this piece for his “no holds barred” and uncensored reaction to the whole GamerGate fiasco, though some parts did feel a bit over the top. Kluwe argues that some Gamers (those people might label as “True”, “Hardcore”, or “Traditional” Gamers) are afraid of drastic changes happening to gaming culture and video games themselves due to the recent influx of new nontraditional Gamers into the gaming community (much of the focus has been on women during GamerGate). Some of these Gamers have posted highly inappropriate and sexist messages on Twitter using the hastag GamerGate, which Kluwe insists is now so toxic that all decent people should abandon it. My post touches a bit on my reaction to his comments but mostly deals with this notion he raises, one which I have heard of before, of the existence of people who label themselves as “True Gamers” (people who generally consider themselves to be the only authentic Gamers). This post is directed towards those who throw the term around as justification for attacking and degrading others and not those of you who are proud to be part of the growing and thriving gaming community.
Kluwe may go a bit over the top in his description of the traditional Gamer, who he says is afraid of change and thus lashing out at women and other groups, which he describes as a pasty white male hiding in his parent’s basement (you probably know the classic video game nerd description). These types of generalizations and character attacks are typically not a sound way to convincingly win an argument (though he may be exaggerating on purpose). He also may be unfairly lumping together very different groups of people in his attacks. But, he is passionate about something which has obviously gotten out of hand, so I personally cannot fault him for getting upset and animated about the issue. Also, considering the amount of hate I see people spewing on many topics in online forums, game chats, Reddit, etc, while hiding behind the veil of anonymity, some of these people probably have it coming. Regardless, my main intention in writing this post isn’t to dig in to GamerGate or give my reaction on Kluwe’s post.
Chris Kluwe playing Assassin’s Creed with former Vikings Teammates (from article)
One part of Kluwe’s post that strongly resonated with me was the existence of people who label themselves as “True Gamers”, or the people who believe that they play the real authentic video games and promote true Gamer culture. From what I understand, some of the loudest screaming during the whole GamerGate uproar has come from people who label themselves as “True Gamers”. I’m sure those of you who play any games online have seen many people use this term to describe themselves in game chats or on forums, and they pretend like it adds more legitimacy to their claims. I’ve heard people say things like: “True MMO Gamers play WoW (World of Warcraft)”, “True Gamers don’t play WoW it’s stupid and old, true Gamers use to play WoW back when the game wasn’t for newbies”, “True Gamers own a Playstation or Xbox since Wii is a babies toy”, “True Gamers play LoL (League of Legends), not any of these LoL clones that have come out that are for Noobs”, “True Gamers don’t want difficult levels in Dark Souls because if it’s too hard you don’t deserve to play it”, etc., etc., etc. So, one has to begin wondering, what exactly is a “True Gamer”?
Well, luckily I can make this post a pretty short read for most of you. I don’t think they really exist, or, put another way, there are no “truest” Gamers out there. The typical arguments for why someone is a “True Gamer” usually relate to types of games they play, the systems they own, how long they have been playing games, and/or how skilled they are at playing games (high scores, games conquered, etc.). Certainly some people have been playing games for longer, some people play more games than other people, some people are probably naturally better at some games, and some people are much better informed about video game culture and history than others. Unfortunately for self-professed “True Gamers”, people who play video games have greatly different interests in what they play and how much time they are willing to spend with any one game. Kluwe in his post talks about how he’s been playing games since he was young, and video games have been an important and meaningful part of his life. He’s also a fan of all different genres from first person shooters to role-playing games (ironically he hates sports games he says). To me, and certainly to him, that sounds like someone who is a devoted Gamer, maybe even if I have to say it a “True Gamer”. Someone who can enjoy many diverse types of games, takes his games seriously, considers playing games part of his identity, and just loves playing them in general. Considering that Kluwe was a professional athlete though, I doubt he is the first type of person many of us think of when we think of Gamers.
Where this Gamer Started and Still Playing Mario Games Today, Cause Real Gamers Save the Mushroom Kingdom
I’ve been playing games since the original Super Mario Brothers on the original Nintendo Entertainment System, and I still enjoy playing games today. I’ve owned a Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Playstation, Xbox, PC gaming system, Gamecube, Xbox 360, and Wii. I enjoy a wide variety of games from action games, to the occasional first person shooter, to role-playing games, to racing games. If owning a Wii, and planning on getting a Wii U at some point, makes me a noob, a baby, or not a “True” or “Hardcore” Gamer, I don’t really care (nor do I think that it does). Wasn’t Nintendo the company that basically created modern games and gaming systems anyway (I’ll save my Nintendo rant for later though, my apologies to Sega and Atari fans also)? I play games to have fun, be entertained, and often to engage with friends. I enjoy doing activities and experiencing stories in games that would be impossible in real life. Isn’t that more than enough reason for anyone to be allowed to play them and have a stake in their future? I don’t really understand why people play Candy Crush, and I do occasionally make fun of my wife for playing, but if they are having fun playing, they should play. If somehow, and I’m definitely speaking in jest here, feminism “invades” our video games and all the games have rainbows, unicorns, friendships, and hugs, if the games are still fun to play I don’t really mind. I’m always excited by new innovative, interesting, genre twisting games, which are only created when Gamers embrace and allow change and are accepting of a diverse community. Why should anyone want to stop others from having fun or care that others are able to enjoy the same things they do?
I’m probably not one of the strongest players on my team in many games, but that doesn’t mean I can’t contribute some helpful suggestions to my team or give advice on a message board because I’m not some sort of “True” or “Hardcore” Gamer. That doesn’t mean that my input into what might make games fun or innovative in the future is invalid. Granted, I do have very odd taste in video games, so, maybe they shouldn’t listen to me in particular. Just because I still love Link or Mario, can’t reach wave one hundred in some survival mode, or never beat some extraordinarily difficult game (and then joked about how easy it was later of course) I’m somehow less of a legitimate Gamer than you are? (Let’s be fair though, in general you do probably want to seek game advice from someone who is good at that particular game) Games are supposed to be fun for all of us, regardless of our skill level or identity outside of the game, and they are also supposed to be an activity that we can enjoy doing together. Some new players might have some great advice or helpful observation. Not to mention just helping someone out rather than trashing or attacking them leads to a better experience for everyone (and probably more wins in the games you play). But, I suppose it’s easier to just get upset, blame the world’s problems on someone else, and make yourself feel superior by taking down others.
Not What Will Ever Happen with My Family, But What’s Wrong with Gaming Appealing to Everyone? Even Paid Actors!
Just as new players might bring some fresh insight in to a video game regardless of their experience, these new Gamers can help bring fresh ideas, observations, and unique insights in to the gaming community. These new Gamers may not act like, look like, enjoy the same games as, or share the exact same values as older or more traditional Gamers, but we should still want to listen to this new diverse group of people who are becoming a part of the gaming landscape. What’s wrong with bringing new people in to the fold? As Kluwe explains in his writing: if you love doing something, why wouldn’t you want other people to be able to experience that also? Also, won’t a greater popularity and firmer foothold in popular culture only help to ensure that they will be around for a long time? One part I think people miss is that the game industry is larger now than it has ever been. With so many more games being made, can’t we make a larger variety of games that suit more people’s desires? Or maybe, does the very existence of these new game types make some people feel like less of a Gamer somehow? Besides just having a wider variety of games, why can’t games be made in a way that allows more people to enjoy them such as difficulty settings or different game modes? If you want to smash your controllers while playing Dark Souls on the hardest difficulty, why do you care if someone else just wants to casually walk through the game? How difficult can navigating through an options menu be? (yes, some games do have very annoying options menus, I know) Does someone else beating a game on easy somehow undermine your accomplishment? Do you feel like less of a man now or something? Granted, I might be mixing up the terms “Hardcore” and “True” Gamers, but I think there is certainly some overlap.
So again, what does being a “True Gamer” often mean, besides possibly that you want to win an argument on a message board? I can’t really say for sure, but regardless of what it is, calling yourself a “True Gamer” just to try to make your opinion sound more important isn’t a reasonable tactic to me. And certainly, you should not throw around the words “True Gamer” to try to pretend like you and a small chosen few should solely be able to decide the future of video games or have the right to spout hateful or sexist messages. To me, there is a difference between those who play games and self identified Gamers, who consider gaming part of their identity and enjoy being immersed in Gamer culture. I typically identify myself as being in the first group, because I mostly just like playing games. But no matter what kind of Gamer I am, right now I’m a guy who gets irritated by people pretending like they alone are the superior group who knows the best way or the correct way something should be done based on what I consider an often arbitrary and dubiously established criteria. I understand that people often desperately want to cling to the status quo, fear change, and want to feel like they belong to an exclusive and special group that they helped create. It reminds me of the indie band fans who turn against the group when they become popular. They probably feel betrayed, worry about things changing, and think they have lost this special thing that use to just belong to them and a select group of friends. I can relate to that feeling, but shouldn’t we be glad that so many more people get to enjoy this music you love and that the band you supported is now a success?