Opinion: What Does it Mean to be a Gamer?

Just today, a friend, Marcus, asked on the 04401 Gaming boards:

Philosophical question for the evening. What does it mean in your opinion to be a gamer? What sacrifices have you made in the name of gaming?”

Well there are two answers to that question.

It means I find a vast, fascinating relationship with the game itself and from the game I find my own strengths, weaknesses, ideas, and beliefs. Sometimes, gaming can be more than just playing the game. You can look back at past adventures and successes to see where you as a person stand. You can see how and where you would make decisions and from that you gain a bit of foreseeable insight on the future. Sometimes you can even be inspired to take a dive into real goals with games at the core of that inspiration. In short, gaming can make you realize who you are, how you do things, what you might do in the future and they can inspire you to bend your will to strive to bigger and better things.

An example is that in middle school and high school I always wanted to be a video game critic. I wanted to write about games. Near the end of high school, I lost a lot of that inspiration because after thorough research on the subject, many game journalists basically flat out say “You have to be really, really lucky.” This caused actually caused some depression for a bit (which I drowned out with more video games) and lead me to push towards more traditional goals, like opening a game based store.

Well, after I read a brilliant article on 1up.com (I can’t for the life of me find it, if I do I will place it hear. It’s a great read, I really wish I can find it again), I realized there isn’t much more to it than being a game writer. If I want to do it, I need to just do it. That’s why I write this blog, that’s why I started 04401 Gaming and that’s why I write for Mainegamer.com I do all of these things for one thing – I love games. That is the key to success in the world of game journalism. The 1up article made me realize that if I ever want to be successful in the field, all I have to do is do it. Even if, in the end, I wasn’t an iconic writer for IGN, 1up, or Gamespot I would still be successful as a writer to myself. I’ve put a ton of pressure on myself lately and the inspiration has all come from the games I love to play.

That is the first answer.

The second answer is a bit different.

It’s about the community. I love my fellow gamers. I see them as more than friends, but like brothers and sisters. A lot of you feel like family to me. It’s even more than just sharing the same passions, beliefs and hobbies. It goes much more indepth than that. When I go to PAX East and watch the Penny Arcade Q&A, I hear from fellow gamers some of the most inspiring, amazing, and emotional stories. The great thing about it, is that many of the times I can relate in ways that most people wouldn’t be able too. I’ve been in their shoes, I’ve shared the same experiences, we’ve played the same games and have walked towards the same goals. That is a big part of it, is the overall sharing of a goal. When I talk to a friend about a new game, we will have incredibly long conversations about different parts of the game. That connection is something that nothing can sever, because even if there is a fallout in the friendship, we always have something to fall back on and bring it back together.

Look at the work I’ve done with 04401 Gaming. I didn’t do this for myself. I did this for all of you. I put this group together to welcome gamers new and old. I want everyone to feel welcome to the group whether they are a Hardcore gamer or just someone who plays occasionally. You’re always welcome here. It’s the kind of goal I have had since I was little. Bring people together to enjoy themselves. What is life without enjoyment? I feel this is my way of giving back to the community, since you’ve all done so much for my (whether you know it or not).

Not only the visual community though, you also have to think about the “hidden” community. The game developer isn’t always hidden, but a lot of them are relatively quiet individuals. As a company, they may be noisy, but as a person they are usually quiet. However, as a gamer, you definitely have a connection to some developers whether you like it or not. Through the game the devs tell you a story, with that story they base a connection. They put thoughts, ideas and struggles inspired from their personal life, and make the player go through the same struggles (but with less punishment). Not only that, but sometimes they even put different methods of defeating said struggles based on how more than one person may or may not do it, or based on how they may have done it differently. Also think of recurring objects, themes, ideas and jokes in games. That puts more emphasis on your experience in the game. If you were to ever meet a developer, or someone else who has played the game, you can discuss the things you did and judge how differently you tackle struggles compared to the other person. This is a bit different than connecting through other media, because other media tells an unchanging story, one with a single path that everyone experiences. They may not take the experience it exactly the same, but it is the same experience. In games it’s different. It opens paths for larger connections.

All that leads to…

Gaming means a lot to me (obviously). It has inspired goals, challenges, friendships, paths, life decisions and habits. It has forged my life more than any other thing I’ve experienced has, even beyond my experience in schools and work. I’ve made many sacrifices for myself, my future, my friends, my community and *regrettably* my health (stress and long nights aren’t the best thing to do to your body) to help forge a local community. Games have always helped me through my struggles, and I think everyone who dislikes games should give them a second chance and look at how they can help you discover yourself and build advantages in their life.

So do what you can to help the community. To quote Wil Wheaton, “Don’t be a dick [to fellow gamers].”

Next time you’re mad that someone spammed you with a lightning bolt, or drop shot’d you, step back. Don’t use derogatory terms and crude insults. Instead of calling him a “shit stained garbage digger” make sure you set an example for the rest of the community, even if he is a dick. Try to bring light to where he was wrong in his actions (of calling you a dick, not because he cheaped you to death). Gaming makes up most of the population of the United States, if gamers start to bring peace among each other, they will also bring peace out of the virtual world and into the real world. In other words, gaming and gamers can change the world.

Let’s fucking do this.

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