Is The Way In Which Society Views ‘gamers’ Changing?

What is a 'gamer'?

The word ‘gamer’ is a loaded term. Typically it conjures up images of the great unwashed, staring deep into their pixelated world blissfully ignoring the real one passing them by.

But the definition of the word gamer is changing fast. A quick google reveals that the word ‘gamer’ is still synonymous with role playing games such as World of Warcraft but has now been forced to include ‘anyone who plays a video game’. ‘Anyone who plays a video game’ could now almost equal anyone.

The Wii has brought with it a new market of gamer; those members of the family who were previously left baffled as to what their offspring would spend hours doing, isolated in their bedrooms. Now Mum, Dad and the grandparents can have a game of bowling, tennis or stroke a puppy if the first two activities become too energetic. As a result Nintendo’s sales rocketed, shockingly overtaking their competitors Microsoft and Sony with the Xbox and Playstation 3 respectively.

'Are motion capture systems like Kinect changing the way we think about gaming?'

A changing industry

The gap in sales has prompted the others to try and catch up. Microsoft has released their kinect system for the xbox 360, which uses the whole body as a controller, as opposed to the wiimote system of it’s Nintendo counterpart. Sony in turn have released the Move controller, to directly compete with xbox for the Christmas sales of 2010. All of this means that more people will be playing video games, so therefore in 2011 there will be more ‘gamers’ than ever.

The video games industry is the biggest and most lucrative industry in the world. The recent launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops has shown what big business it is, with $360m in it’s opening weekend, the game earned more than twice the latest Harry Potter film. However despite these figures gaming still seems to be a slightly guilty pleasure, especially when compared with other types of media such as the music or film industry. So even though gaming is more popular, mainstream and lucrative than its media competitors, is it still as shameful as its ever been?

The shame of the 'gamer'

I was prompted to ask this question after watching the latest tour from Irish comedian Dara O’Briain. This material, like kinect and Move has been released in time for Christmas but I had the privilege of seeing it live in Bournemouth earlier on in the year. For those of you who haven’t seen it, (see below) O’Briain performs a routine that centres around the familiar frustrations of playing video games. From having to play through mediocre ‘tunes’ on Guitar Hero to finding a button that isn’t crouch on stealth games like Metal Gear Solid. At the beginning of this routine he explores the way in which society (particularly middle class society) looks down upon the gamer, going so far as to say he would rather admit at a dinner party that he masturbates to unwind, rather than admit the shame that he likes to pretend he is a rock star on a plastic guitar.


Dara O'Briain talks about gaming

At this stage I’ll introduce my gaming credentials. I’ve been playing games since I can remember and my first memory was as sonic running carelessly through green hill zone on my mega drive. From the mega drive to the N64, to the playstation, to the PS2, to the Xbox 360, this is how I chart my childhood. However as I grew older I became less of a ‘gamer’ in the traditional sense, exclusively playing sport games. Now I play every now and again, I still love to play a bit of FIFA and Call of Duty until my eyes hurt (which on the new game is about 15 minutes.)

However even if I may fall into the ‘casual gamer’ bracket, I do know many people who’ll play first person shooters until they get discharged for actual shell shock and I also know of people who roleplay so much online that they fill in tax return forms on behalf of their avatar. These people may still get treated with the ridicule as shown by Dara O’Briain, but gaming as a whole has developed extremely quickly over the last few years. If gaming continues to infiltrate the mainstream at this rate, who is to say that in another few years time a valid excuse for firing someone won’t be ‘I was left with no choice but to dismiss Mr Smith because he was a n00b.’


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