I’m not a gamer.
Recently I was re-listening to Game on Girl’s great interview with author Genese Davis (episode 62) and was struck by their conversation about the term “gamer.” They were discussing how culture often perceives “gamers” as anti-social misfits living in their parents’ basement and playing non-stop. This is a fairly common discussion in gaming circles – how do we explain that not all people who game are addicts, just as not all people who drink are alcoholics.
However, here’s my radical thought: is the real challenge we’re facing here a problem of linguistics or language? We’re fighting to have society in general recognize that a gamer is just someone who plays games, not someone who’s addicted to gaming, right? So let’s take a moment to look at other terms of addiction:
Someone who drinks occasionally or in a reasonable, controlled manner is socially acceptable. Someone who is addicted to drinking and lets it control their life is not – and we call them an alcoholic. Someone who gambles occasionally or in a reasonable, controlled manner is socially acceptable. Someone who is addicted to gambling and lets it control their life is not – and we call them a gambler. I think that perhaps the average person’s resistance to self-identifying as a gamer is a version of this: Someone who plays the occasional video game – generally thought of in terms of Facebook or mobile games – is socially acceptable. Someone who is addicted to gaming – generally thought of in terms of console or PC games – and lets it control their life is not – and they have traditionally been called a gamer.
If we accept this idea – and feel free to disagree with my premise – then is it any wonder that the general populace is reluctant to self-identify as gamers? Now I’m not saying that we can’t – or shouldn’t – redefine the term gamer. I’m just suggesting that redefining the term of addiction has left a linguistic gap. If a gamer is just someone who games in a reasonable and balanced manner, then what do we call someone who is addicted and allows gaming to destroy their life? And if we could come up with a new noun to indicate gaming addiction, would that make the term gamer more acceptable?
I don’t actually have an answer – just wanted to throw the question out there and see what you think. Feel free to offer alternative addiction nouns in the comments.