Who Are The Real Gamers?

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone with eyes or ears that elitism exists within the gaming community. The phrase “filthy casuals” is a joke to most people, but it cannot be denied that there are plenty of people who feel that casual gamers are inherently less valuable, or less “real,” than those who grind for hours on end, those who have mastered a game at its hardest difficulty, or those who have managed to get 100% completion. Now, of course, not every gamer is like this; in fact, there are plenty who aren’t, to the point where I would argue that the group I am discussing here is a vocal minority. But one has to wonder, what drives a person to think this way?

Steam didn’t exactly help with the “achievements” thing since EVERYONE can see them.

Is it a “boys will be boys” type of thing? I don’t think so. For one, depending on your definition of "gamer" (based on research in this article and this one which bring mobile gaming into the mix), women can outnumber men as video game consumers. Falling back on old stereotypes of “gamer culture,” where the only people who play games are sweaty white dudes living in their mothers’ basements, doesn’t help to solve a problem like this. Additionally, the individuals in this group tend to be those who consider themselves to be “intellectuals” and look down (outwardly, at least) on this type of excuse. The folks who do this sort of thing view themselves to be above typical shows of masculinity, largely by rejecting the most outward expressions of it, those being athleticism and an oversexed interest in women. While there are plenty of issues with regards to toxic masculinity in gaming, none of the most obvious issues apply to this particular issue.

Yes, you could argue that these individuals collectively have a “superiority complex,” but I think that unnecessarily vilifies people. Most people, at their core, are good, even if they may do or say things that are hurtful. That’s just how people are. Using a label to immediately shut a person down is convenient if you are trying to protect yourself, but it isn’t helpful for trying to answer questions and solve problems. Additionally, from my experience, most people are also wounded in some form or another and, like a trapped animal, lash out at others to protect themselves.

My favorite DnD class is ‘Armchair Psychologist.’

I think that the “real fan” complex these folks have comes from a need for validation and a sense of purpose. Nerds know that, while parts of their culture are for popular consumption (Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, the complete and total dumpster fire that is The Big Bang Theory, etc.), for the most part, being into nerd stuff is viewed as childish, weird, and not something that Good, Responsible Adults™ do. So, in order to feel validated in their heavy interest in something, and to feel in some way like a Good, Responsible Adult™ despite the rest of the world telling them that they are inherently not, these folks dive headfirst into their games, aiming to succeed at them in a way that even outsiders would have to acknowledge as impressive.

So often, we tell ourselves that things are not worth doing unless we are inherently good at them, and that being inherently good at something is not worth anything unless we are the best at that thing. And so, to feel whole in ourselves and tell that voice to shut up, we spend hours in our games, trying to be the best at them. How many of us spend hours on games we aren’t good at? Or, if we do, how often have people made fun of us for it? Or, if we have stopped playing a game because we couldn’t get past a certain point, or finished a game on the easy mode, or didn’t stop to get every little coin or achievement? You remember at least one person’s reaction to that? How they ridiculed you, or showed off their achievements in a way that made you feel small, or like you weren’t a real fan of something you enjoyed a lot? And that felt pretty bad, right? Nobody wants to feel bad. Nobody wants to feel like their time is being wasted. Nobody wants to be made to feel small or worthless.

We all have a deep need to prove our own worth, forgetting we have inherent worth to begin with.

There is an easy solution: rather than playing games for a sense of validation, we need to remember that games are supposed to be fun. We’re supposed to enjoy ourselves, first and foremost. Are there some folks who make their living off of being the best at a certain game? Yes, and more power to them! But most of us are not them, and for most of us, games are a pastime. And that is really, really okay. It’s okay to play that game on easy mode. It’s okay to not get every achievement. It's okay to fail sometimes to fail at a board game, and not spend measure out every single move. It’s okay to not spend hundreds of hours playing to become the best. If that’s what gives you real happiness and fun, then go for it! But if it isn’t fun, if you aren’t enjoying yourself, if you find yourself doing it just to say that you can, then maybe you should stop and put it away.

And if you find yourself making fun of somebody else for doing any of these things, maybe you could instead stop and appreciate that they know how to have fun, and that it’s okay if your kind of fun is different than theirs. It costs exactly zero dollars to be nice and to let people have their fun, just like you want to have your own. We’d all be a lot happier if we could play together nicely, or at the very least, coexist peacefully playing our own games.

Just be a good person and you’ll be good to go!