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We Need To Let The Word 'Gamer' Die, Here’s Why

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We Need To Let The Word 'Gamer' Die, Here’s Why

Fans of video games. Video game players. People who like gaming. Gamers. There are many, many ways to refer to the people populating the ever expanding gaming community, but one term stands above the rest for all the wrong reasons. 

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Every day (Monday to Friday, that is) I wake up and write lots of words about video games, and the people who play them. It’s great fun, I promise (and no, I’m not being forced to say that). But I reckon a fairly solid percentage of all the words I put out are the result of me trying to find ways around calling people gamers. Why? Because most people these days hate calling themselves that. Believe me, I get it, because so do I.

It's a good job that esports players don't have a name that's widely disliked by most of the community, since professional gaming is taking off more and more these days - take a look at the video below to see how a pro's training stacks up against a pro footballer's.

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This has been recognised by the games industry more widely, too - last year, the vice president of EA, Elle McCarthy, claimed that the term “gamer” is no longer representative of most people who enjoy video games: “There's really no such thing as gamers at all and understanding that will be crucial,” she said. “The recent rise in more lo-fi live service games allows faster integration of culture than ever before. This is a huge opportunity for marketing and forces a more audience-first and fluid approach for brands looking to engage authentically.”

It’s not just her opinion there, mind you - she also backed this up with statistics. Apparently, only 14% of people who play video games actually call themselves gamers. For women specifically, that number is even lower, at only 6%.

So, why is this? I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that the term has managed to earn itself some very negative connotations over the years. It’s become practically synonymous with less than spectacular personal hygiene, and in many cases, questionable views about women and minorities - it’s undeniable that there’s a certain sort of image that comes to mind when the word is used. Thankfully, those things are mostly stereotypes. Mostly.

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Needless to say, no one really wants to be associated with that. ‘Gamer’ is almost exclusively used as more of a cringey meme phrase than anything else these days (or on the kind of gaming related merch that your grandma might get for you at Christmas), and I don’t know about you, but saying it in a remotely serious fashion just leaves a bit of a nasty taste in my mouth. Or keyboard, as the case may often be.

Significantly less women than men actually call themselves gamers. Credit: Matilda Wormwood via Pexels.
Significantly less women than men actually call themselves gamers. Credit: Matilda Wormwood via Pexels.

Getting back to McCarthy’s point, negative connotations aside, the term is basically almost useless now, anyway. Gaming as a hobby continues to grow massively every single year - in 2021, it was estimated that there were around 3.24 billion video game players and counting (thanks, Statista), which is a massive proportion of the Earth’s population (which clocked in at around 7.8 billion in 2020). To put that into perspective, it was estimated that last year, there were around 1.72 billion TV-watching households in the world (again, via Statista). Now, keep in mind that that’s households, not individual people, and a lot of people now watch their shows on streaming services, and only on mobile devices and computers, but still. As fun as watching TV may be, we don’t have a special name for people who enjoy doing so, primarily because it feels like basically everyone does it. It’d be like having a special name for people who drink water - it just doesn’t make sense to have one.

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Do you see what I’m getting at? Gaming is mainstream now, it’s undeniable. Obviously, it wasn’t always - even in my own lifetime (which many on the GAMINGbible team would argue hasn’t been very long) there was a time when it was considered a more niche hobby. Sure, some people arguably take their gaming a lot more seriously than others (there’s a whole can of worms there about whether mobile gaming counts as ‘real gaming’ or not, which I’m not going to touch on this occasion), but regardless. It makes sense to have a name for fans of something that’s a little bit out of the ordinary or just, y’know, not shared by almost half the world’s population. Think Trekkies, Whovians, or even furries - you don’t just expect a huge amount of the people you meet to fall under any of these categories, but gaming is another matter altogether, as indicated by those stats further above.

More people are into gaming now than ever before. Credit: Stem List via Unsplash.
More people are into gaming now than ever before. Credit: Stem List via Unsplash.

The thing is though, the shift to mainstream isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s amazing for everyone involved - more people get to experience the fun that comes with a good video game, and more people buying games means more money going into the industry, and in theory, better games coming out as a result. I’m sure that there’s a minority out there who’d disagree - much like your favourite secret hang-out spot being discovered by everyone else as a kid, things can feel a bit less special if it seems like everyone is already in on it. But honestly? Surely I shouldn’t have to tell you why it’d be a bit weird, presumably as an adult, to react to this like a six-year-old would.

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I digress. The point is that gamers are going extinct, in a way. Which is ironic, given how much more popular gaming is now, more than it ever was. But, given the associations that the term has managed to garner over the years, I can’t imagine that there’ll be many people too upset about leaving it to die. So, let’s bring on the age of “people who like gaming”, and may I swiftly find a more concise way of writing that in articles.

Featured Image Credit: Rockstar Games, Echo Kells via Instagram

Topics: Opinion

Catherine Lewis
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