If there’s any definitive trope being used in the gaming industry it’s that of the ‘Gamer’. (I put that in quotes, not because I don’t believe in the term, but because there seems to be a distinct difference between what some in the industry think of as a gamer and what gamers themselves see.) This negative stereotype has pervaded popular culture, media and even games journalism for years, and gamers themselves have either been mostly silent until recently, or have adopted these stereotypes as jokes. Let’s face it, gamers are used to this and we usually do one of two things. We laugh along with the jokes, or we ignore them for the most part. Eventually, however, even the most mild-mannered dog will snap if you poke it with a stick enough times. Not sure how pervasive these tropes really are? Go to Google and type in gamer on the image tab. How far down do you have to scroll before you see a gamer that actually looks like someone you know?
What are some of these tropes, stereotypes from the mouths of the very media that is supposed to support and inform gamers?
- “They don’t know how to dress or behave.” ~Gamasutra
- “…people who know so little about how human social interaction and professional life works…” ~Gamasutra
- “…a generation of lonely basement kids…” ~Gamasutra
- “These obtuse shitslingers, these wailing hyper-consumers, these childish internet-arguers — they are not my audience. They don’t have to be yours.” ~Gamasutra
That’s a taste at the stereotype being promoted by publications and writers that, for a long time, have been considered a source for news an information on gaming. Those are also quotes from one of the ‘gamers are dead’ articles that hit the internet all at the end of August. Is it any wonder that this was finally the straw that broke the camel’s back? For years gamers have become a more inclusive, tolerant, and diverse group. Women, men, young and old, all races and creed and yes even people to don’t identify with their birth gender, and all people in between have been calling themselves gamers for years now. Suddenly these writers, ‘journalists’, and reviewers turned on this culture that has been growing and evolving, and telling them that they are no longer relevant. Not only that but sometimes framed in language that, if directed at any other culture or group, would be considered extreme bigotry.
Why was this generally acceptable among the community of games journalists? Mostly it was accepted because “it’s just nerds, nobody cares about nerds”. And why is that partially true? Because of the gamer trope that has been sold to the general public all these years. We see people say things like “It’s just video games”, or “Ethics in games journalism? It’s games journalism!” With the gaming industry now the largest entertainment industry in the world it’s really not ‘just video games’ anymore.
So hopefully an outside observer can understand why the notion that the term gamer, coupled with the negative stereotype or trope that has been used for years, would cause some outrage among gamers. Especially with the significant rise, or quite a long period of time, of female gamers, LGBT gamers, and gamers of various ethnic backgrounds. All of the people who had found the gaming community to be accepting, tolerant, and fun were being told that they didn’t matter. They were also having their uniqueness replaced with this awful trope. It’s true that many gamers embraced this image years ago, that’s what people do when they are made fun of, they take away the power of bullies by embracing whatever it is they use against us. It’s a tried and true defense mechanism, but when that trope was used against us, to try and belittle a legitimate argument about journalistic ethics the game changed. It’s one thing to be ‘in on the joke’, to be laughing with people that are self-aware about their own image (or adopted image) and completely another thing to turn that joke into hate.
It’s time for this trope to go away, but only if the bullies in the media understand that, while we are their audience, they don’t have to be our views. Gamers come from all walks of life, all backgrounds, preferences, creeds, colors and ideals. We are left and right, conservative and liberal, theist and not. We are confident and awkward, friendly or shy, sometimes mean, clever, and pleasant. If you don’t get it by now, you missed the boat when you stopped seeing gamers evolving. If your image of a gamer is one of the tropes detailed above, get out of the 90’s, we reject your labels and your stereotypes. Gamers are a beautiful collection of every kind of person you can imagine and we like it that way. Don’t believe me? Browse the #NotYourShield hashtag for a few minutes and see. So many times over the last couple of months I’ve heard that gamers want things the way they were, keep women and minorities out, maintain the status quo, and that’s all outdated garbage. For us the status quo is acceptance and community with everyone that picks up a controller, or the mouse and keyboard. If that’s wrong then so be it. We’ll keep evolving and leave you behind because it’s not us that’s broken.