Somebody who does not play video games often won’t consider themselves a ‘gamer’. This label sends most people’s minds to the image of someone alone in their room, sleep-deprived and illuminated only by the blue light of the screen – or screens, in front of them. In their hands is a controller and they’re yelling into their headset as if there isn’t a microphone two centimetres from their lips. While occasionally this image may be accurate, it is also a stereotype, and stereotypes never illustrate the entire story.
Many people will take this stereotype of a gamer – often with disdain. The nature of it suggests a lack of social skills, and other traits mostly accredited to ‘incels’ – and immediately many refuse to associate themselves with such a label. I’m sure the average reader of the Gaming section doesn’t belong to this group, but if you’ve stumbled across this article with no idea what to expect, soon you’ll realise that you may be a gamer, too. To break that stereotype would mean that more of us would be eager to engage with games and indeed gaming in general; to cast aside this form of entertainment media would be foolish given the vast array of games available today, from narratives rich with characters to simple platformers with beautiful art and heartwarming messages. We’re so lucky to be able to watch the development of this technology and experience stories in a way that humans never have before.
Growing up surrounded by gamers (and by that I mean my sisters and my father) meant that I was lucky enough to have access to a range of games on various consoles like the Wii and Nintendo DS – and I was enraptured by them. As I grew beyond childhood, I used different consoles and tried different genres of games, and I cannot stress enough that there really is something for everyone. While the space has a reputation for not being the most inclusive, this reputation doesn’t include every gamer.
Different games do build different communities around themselves; Call of Duty may have the most famous toxic fanbase, but you can still be a gamer without having to engage with people who throw around verbal insults as if they were compliments – that is, freely and generously. Besides these metaphorical backrooms of fan communities, there will always be a group of people who enjoy the game more casually, less seriously. You can like a game without associating with a certain type of fan, just as you can enjoy a film or book without agreeing with parts of its fanbase (of course, assuming that the source material isn’t problematic in its own regard). Equally, there are games that I believe attract a more wholesome audience, and they may be for you if you’re new to gaming and want to dip your toe into a more relaxed crowd first before broadening your horizons. It’s a famous game, but Animal Crossing is easily one of the best games to entertain yourself with on a rainy day, and the people who play it always seem to be generous. The Professor Layton series is perfect for those who like puzzles and plot, and I really think more of us should be able to experience the beautiful art and brilliant detective plots. Sonic and Mario are two game series that anyone can enjoy without even braving the trek into online discussions. They are classics, played over and over again by adults and children alike. Multiversus incorporates the mechanics of Super Smash Bros, with other beloved Warner Bros characters such as Tom, Jerry, Finn and Jake.
The crucial point to make as well is that to be a gamer, you do not need to play a particular type of game. Some people, specifically those who particularly enjoy the exclusivity of the label, may insist that you’ve only ‘earned’ the title after playing particular triple A games like those from Naughty Dog or Rockstar Games. In reality, you can play anything from Stardew Valley to Nintendogs to Assassin’s Creed, and it all counts! You could only play Nintendo games for the rest of your life, and the same applies.
If you’ve not ventured out into the diverse world of gaming, don’t be put off by the reputations you may have come across, whether it be the Fortnite-obsessed teen crowd, or any reports of toxicity. The most important thing is that you have fun, no matter if you play single player or cooperative games. There are narratives out there that will make you laugh, then cry, then rethink everything you ever thought about life. There are graphics and art styles that will draw you in like a bee to nectar, and ingenious mechanics that will leave you coming back for more. An honourable mention must go to the Lego games, which truthfully have the best sense of humour in a game. Don’t be put off by the ‘gamer’ stereotype, when there’s always game for you, no matter your mood!