No, this isn't an article about that lousy Gerard Butler flick. And I'm definitely not going to engage with the ongoing barrage of flashpoints and hashtags that have dominated certain corners of the internet lately.
Does that make me a coward? Yes, probably. But here's my excuse: right now the more vocal portions of the tubes seem to be taking 'sides' and drawing battle lines when there are actually a dozen complex and completely separate issues on the table. Some of which are specious, shortsighted and cruel tabloid paparazzi at its most shameless, whereas others are incredibly important and demand serious introspection. Untangling this sorry web will take time and understanding, and frankly, I'd rather write about videogames. Seeing as that's technically my job.
What I will write about, though, is the term "gamer," which has been a talking point for several years and is now back in the limelight. It's a term we use daily, but as the medium continues to evolve, many have argued that the label is outdated and we need something new, or perhaps need to stop using arbitrary labels altogether. Including myself on occasion. But, ultimately, I still identify myself as a "gamer," and I'd like to explain why now that the discussion is hotter than ever.
On a very basic level, many of us writers love the term "gamer" because it's lazy shorthand. We use it interchangeably with "players," "people," or "people who enjoy playing videogames and are passionate about it as both as entertainment and a legitimate form of artistic expression." Which doesn't flow particularly well, let's face it. To be honest, I could probably stop there, but I'd like to dig a little deeper into why I still use the word.
One of the classic arguments for "gamer" being obsolete is that there isn't really an analogue in any other form of art or entertainment. Books don't have "bookers." Films don't have "filmers." Music doesn't have "musicers." Many pundits have made this point time and time again over the last few years, but for me, this line of reasoning ignores one of the most unique fundamental quirks about gaming and our relationship with it.
See, a movie, novel, or painting (just as some obvious examples) are self-contained things. They need someone to appreciate them, but our relationship is largely passive beyond engaging with the themes, subtext or larger discussion. They broadcast at us while we sit back and take it all in. A book is still a book when you put it down. A painting still hangs on the wall. Once a film begins, it runs its course even if there's no-one in the cinema.
Games, conversely, are fundamentally interactive. Without a player to play them, to drive the character's movements, to make second-by-second decisions, to push the narrative forward or even just click on the 'next' button, they are literally nothing. Just lines of code or a motionless start menu. We conjure them into being and give them life. We are part of the art. "Gamer" seems, at least to me, to be rather appropriate - perhaps in the same vein as "musicians" are required to bring life to someone else's compositions.
There's another reason why many of us balk at the idea of letting go, however. It wasn't so long ago that "gamer" was an insult, a smear loaded with negative preconceptions and even used as a verbal put-down in playgrounds or mainstream media. The rise of geek culture and shift from niche to the mainstream was a huge milestone, and many people feel that they've literally reclaimed the term from the people who used to torment them. As such, I can totally understand why so many have reacted to some of the more antagonistic headlines on the subject, even if the way they've reacted sometimes missed the original point of the discussion entirely.
But at the end of the day, you're free to identify yourself in any way you choose. If you want to label yourself by your hobby, by your pastime and passion, then go for it. There's no battle to be fought here, but if you love games, play games and want to call yourself a "gamer" then more power to you.
I certainly do. Right, time to crack on with some more previews.