Today, I was talking to someone at college about the new Nintendo system, the Nintendo Switch. In talking to them, they said something that made me think.
"That looks really cool, but I'm not a gamer."
This got me thinking. What is a 'gamer'? Why do we use that label, and what does it mean?
I think the label of 'gamer' is one of the great misconceptions, or even one of the great lies, of the late twentieth and now the twenty-first century.
Gaming is too varied for all people who play games to be put under a single label. There are sports games, action-adventure games, role-playing games, shooters both story-based and competitive, puzzle games... No one 'gamer' has the same exact taste as another, so a label seems a bit of a broad stroke.
Also, one needs not be a 'gamer' to enjoy games. Video games, at their core, combine two very human pasttimes: storytelling, something that has been part of the human condition since before recorded history, and play, something that has been part of life since before even humans.
To say that one must be a 'gamer' to enjoy this combination of story and play, plants a seed in one's mind that gaming is restricted to a certain class of people, or that a story in a game is somehow 'different' from a story in a book. Older people see it as a young person's activity and miss out on stories that, in some although not all cases, are the Ulysses of our time. People who aren't too 'technical' assume that to play games, you need some expert computer knowledge, not realizing that play is universal as long as you are willing to learn the rules.
The label of 'gamer' serves to deceive those unfamiliar with games, short-change the value of the games themselves, and artificially constrict the mass appeal of gaming.
In the end, video games are meant to be one thing. In the words of the late, great Satoru Iwata, they are meant to be fun. Fun for everyone.
But for that to be truly realized, we need to learn to be, I suppose, a 'post-gamer society'. A society where an interest as broad as 'storytelling and play' isn't painted with a single, broad, detrimental stroke.
Getting to that point, one supposes, is the ultimate game.