Monday, February 20, 2006

Gamer: A Definition

I was at a game convention this last weekend, playing hours and hours of board games with friends who "loosely" satisfy the term, gamer; nonetheless, do attend conventions and do play a great deal of games.

In fact, an interesting discussion arose (however brief) regarding the term and what makes someone a gamer vs. someone who games.

For instance, it is possible to drive a car without being a driver, build a shed without being a carpenter, and serve the common good without being a martyr. Definitions are not labels and vice versa, but we often use nouns and adjectives to identify ourselves to a) establish common ground, b) extricate the frauds, c) save time.

The term gamer is used at conventions, shops, small-talk with associates, and any (anti-)social gathering designed to make banter seem more important than it is. It's a helpful tool, but not really a quality gauge of the "hobbyist."

Let me explain further.

There is a huge class of gamer who enjoys ren faire, living city games, monty python quotes, princess bride trivia, bards, puns, referring to their dice bag as a furry sack, and anything star trek/buffy/bab 5. They think arguments about kirk and piccard are important and often repeat a bad joke several times because they assume the lack of laughter in the room means no one heard it the first four times. They consider themselves above anime and anthropomorphic fans, spend copious amounts of money on kilts, volunteer their opinions when they hear you talking about something nearby, make jokes about CHA 19, mix Italian and English renaissance at will, have no knowledge of Sir Francis Bacon, and detest manners.

This is the stereotype that gets mocked on television. It's the stereotype that exists whether you like it or not. And it's the stereotype that continues to foment it's own bad behavior by rallying in tight circles at RPGA and IFGS events, and your local game store's Saturday night open game tourneys.

They are a puzzle to me and I have spent years avoiding them.

If you are among this group, do not take it personally that I will never game with you. Don't think for a second I look down my nose at you. Don't get yourself going into a self-esteem shame spiral on account of my words. Chances are if you're reading this, you're not among this "group." And if you are, you think I'm talking about someone else, anyway.

I don't expect this trend of gaming to go away. In fact, because gamers as a whole are so accepting (after all, we need people to play with/humiliate in our game sessions), this group of aspergers sufferers is only going to get larger.

So what's the point of all this and when are you going to post about DnD again?

The point is that I don't really satisfy many definitions of gamer. I don't watch television, I don't like sci-fi, I don't read R.A. Salvatore, I don't care about the borg or the klingons, I don't own more game books than clothes, I don't own any foam weapon, I don't eat a bag of doritos inbetween combat sessions, I don't make Str 18, Wis 3, Cha 3 fighters named Brak, and I don't complain about how the Bard: Swashbuckler I kit in the 2nd edition of FR: Harpers isn't as good as the Rogue: Swashbuckler III kit in Ruins of Zhentil Keep: The Semi-Lost Levels.

I don't even own a dice bag.

I love games. I love stories. I love designing. I love the hobby. I love world-building. I love hanging out with artists at GenCon. I love arguing game theory and movies with Ken Hite (who knows too much about everything... so secretly I hate him). I love the fact that Chris Pramas and I have been friends for nearly 10 years and we've never gamed together, let alone discussed our characters.

And despite this rant, I love about 50% of the people I game with. I really do enjoy the company of some of these misfits. Wayne, Chris, Farrell, John, Rob, Aaron. If you're reading, this means you. But, I've got to tell you, there's one thing I don't have any patience for:

Gamer Drama.

[See next post.]


Herb said...

I have a dice bag. It's a plastic bag, very wrinkled. It's the plastic bag (like from a supermarket but smaller) I got when I purchased the dice. Then again, having over 50 dice is more than I'm willing to carry by hand.

As far as definition.... um.... okay?

Dave said...

Have you noticed how closely the average adult D&D night resembles the archetypical Poker Night? Maybe yours is different but mine, but if it was being viewed by someone who didnt understand the language it would seem very similar.

You sound like an anti-gamer, which ironically is a type of gamer who thinks that if they distance themselves from their hobby as much as possible while still being involved in the serious aspects of it, they can mitigate the negative aspects (geekiness, antisocial tendencies, unattractiveness to females) balance it with common sense, and achieve a zen-like superiority to other gamer types who embrace the hobby in other ways. Despite a slight degree of hypocracy, they do actually achieve what they set out to do in varying degrees.

I am similar another type of gamer. I'm a casual gamer. One who simlarly appreciates a balance between other activities and gaming, explores all the aspects of gaming in turn (cons, design, writing, art, tourney player, fan, collector among others) to a shallow degree, but never seems to find any particular aspect worthy of sacrificing outside activities for. I feel I have a wide knowledge of gaming, while in fact I have very little in depth experience. Sometimes I come across sounding teachy, or know-it-all smart, and I *am* a teacher and know-it-all, to a certain degree. I am perfectly willing to do other people's heavy thinking for them, which can be problematic if egos get involved. Push the ego aside however, and the casual gamer can be an asset.

Labels 101. Fun! I could do this all night. Heh.

Dave said...

By the way, I have a couple requests for Raavnia when we get back to it. I'll post them over on the "What Works" post, since that seems to be the most appropriate place.

jim pinto said...

One. This post was supposed to be funny and informative. I think the funny got lost.

Two. I'm just a guy who likes to game. I really don't get involved with the other aspects of the hobby.

Three. I have no problem being a nerd, or a geek, or a dork for that matter. But if my desire to make gaming something MORE makes me look "superior," so be it.

Four. It would be really cool to game with some of you guys sometimes so we could all learn something from one another.

DM_Jeff said...

I get what Jim is saying. For years back in the 90's my group of non larping, thin, fit, folks who avoided ren fairs and watched TV only casually, my wife and I insisted in gatherings we call ourselves "gaming enthusiasts".

However once "The Gamers" movie came out, and we literally laughed our asses off, we just shruged and said "whatever". And now we're gamers.

We still couldn't argue the finer points of Star Trek and we don't have any min maxed fighters named "Thak" or anything, but to each his own!

-DM Jeff