It is, of course, a strange thing to sit down and think about, but I can’t be the only one who has thought to themselves about their reasons behind being a gamer. I mean, why did I choose video games as one of my favourite means of entertaining myself, and one of my most time-consuming hobbies? What has brought this on, I hear you ask? I was asked recently, which sparked this entire thought process, and inspired a lengthy conversation about this topic between a non-gamer, a ‘casual’ gamer and myself about not only the reasons I am a gamer, but my reasoning for why others may have also chosen to be gamers too.
The first question to ask really is what a ‘gamer’ actually is, a conversation that has played out probably several hundred times over, and has even been discussed during of the Team Z1G live streams over on our Twitch channel. This particular question is hard to answer, simply because it is all down to perspective, and also because the criteria of what it means to be classed as a ‘gamer’ has changed in recent times what with the meteoric rise of the mobile gaming platform and the emergence of the ‘casual’ gamer.
By my definition, a ‘gamer’ is someone who identifies video gaming as their primary hobby, or as an important one by any stretch. To that point, a ‘gamer’ will choose to play a game as a means of entertainment through a period of time in which there are other options for activity. They will opt for this choice above most, if not all, other choices. This is different to ‘casual’ gamers, who will turn to video gaming only as a means to fill time which have limited other options, as a means to alleviate boredom (for instance, playing Angry Birds on their morning commute), or as a final resort. It is these key differences in mentality and opinions towards gaming as a whole that define the line between the two. This of course doesn’t make either of these lesser than the other, but ‘gamers’ undoubtedly owe/blame (depending on standpoint) the increasing social acceptance of gaming as a whole to the ‘casual’ games market.
Now, the question of ‘why’ is a little harder to answer as it is entirely subjective. I also believe that a lot of the reasoning could also be isolated to the genres of gaming themselves. This doesn’t mean that I think that everyone who plays (the abomination) Call of Duty is a future soldier/gun-toting psychopath, but I believe that core personality traits of the individual involved play a part in the genres that they are attracted to.
For instance, someone who is a problem solver in real life and enjoys working things out may be attracted to puzzle titles such as Professor Layton, or someone who is a team-player or loves the idea of leading a team to victory may be drawn to strategy titles such as XCOM: Enemy Unknown. I know that it isn’t as simple as this, of course, but thinking of things from a simpler standpoint may help to understand why people choose the games they do choose. It may even be the opposite of this, and those have a peaceful and non-confrontational life may be drawn to games where they can destroy their opponent such as Tekken. Unfortunately there are no clear-cut links that can be drawn between the person involved and the genres they choose, however there can be clear reasoning behind why they choose to be a ‘gamer’ in the first place.
For me personally, it is the escapism that gaming can bring. This is because, although I have no problem with my real life (in fact I really enjoy it), I simply cannot ride dragons/take part in epic sword fights/cast magic/other generic in-game activity in my real life. I love the fantasy worlds, the stories, and the wonderful characters I journey with. The whole act of switching on my games console and escaping into another world for an hour or so is something that I genuinely enjoy, and I know this is the case for many ‘gamers’.
Albeit, it can go too far, like with the stories you hear about World of Warcraft and the troubles caused by addiction to it. However, this can simply be accredited to the fact that, although gaming have become more socially acceptable, some ‘gamers’ still enjoy the social isolation aspect of it. It is easy to forget that, until fairly recently, gaming was a mostly solitary hobby. Only with the advent of ‘casual’ gaming and ‘party’ games (such as the various games championed by Nintendo’s Wii, among others) has gaming changed into something all the family can (and will happily) do. After all, up until about five years ago or so I was the only one who played games in my family, and now even my grandmother has a Nintendo DS!
Games such as WoW also allow a deeper kind of escapism for the player, as they are permitted an entirely new persona that they can become in this world. They can act however they want to act, with minimal repercussions, and can see determined progress with their character (something which doesn’t as exist in ‘real life’ as obviously as experience points do). It gives those playing a real sense of achievement, with minimal effort. This is good for the mind to the most part, but it unfortunately can cause laziness and/or those who become to involved to feel dis-enamoured with the actual world outside their houses if not kept in check.
As I said at the beginning, the reasons behind why people are ‘gamers’ are varied and the person’s own. But, I would like to know, why did you all become gamers? Also, what is it about gaming that has kept you hooked all this time? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me @reubenmount.