Back in 1995, I won my local Blockbuster’s Video Game Championship earning myself a year of free game rentals and a certificate showing my success. I was 16 at the time and that was my proudest achievement so far in my life. At school, I told some people in my class about it and instead of any congratulations, I was asked “How many 10-year olds did you have to beat to win?” That was the last time I brought up my tournament win.
Even though I knew most of the guys in my class were playing games on a regular basis, none of them talked about it. We didn’t talk about how awesome Chrono Trigger was or the amazement that was Mortal Kombat 2. Nope. We talked sports, girls, or for the most part, how fat each other’s momma was.
So when I see youngsters wearing gaming shirts with pride and forming video game groups in their high schools, I envy them. I envy that they can call themselves a gamer without embarassment. That their passions for gaming isn't looked at as being weird or childish. They can freely express who they are and what they love with other people just like them.
Unfortunately, some people do not like the word "gamer."
These people that have a problem with the word are not part of any conservative political group. They’re not people that agree with Jack Thompson or other opponents of video games. No, these people are professionals within the gaming industry itself.
They have multiple reasons on why that word has become a term of embarrassment for them. Some view it as a buzzword created by advertisers while others feel that it is a restrictive term that doesn’t convey properly the wide scope of video game players. For many, they simply don’t want to be in the same group as the “dude bros” or harassing jerks that are seemingly everywhere these days.
To them I say too damn bad.
My generation of gamers, and those before me, had to keep our love for gaming a secret. There weren’t conventions to go to, school sponsored gaming groups, or gaming “celebrities” to look up to for confirmation that it was ok to be a gamer. We wouldn’t dare read our Nintendo Power, Gamepro, or EGM magazines in class. If you rushed home, you did it to change, drop-off your books and head out with friends, not to go back to playing games. That was the reality for many of us.
I am proud to call myself a gamer because I love video games. The love for video games runs deep in my family with my mom, who turned 51 this year, playing games nightly on her phone, tablet, and Xbox 360. When I was able to walk on my own, my mom said that there were days I would walk right out of the house and head to the store next door simply to look at whatever game they had.
So stop shaming other gamers. Stop trying to explain how useless of a term it is. Stop rationalizing that those small groups of people that do shitty things give a bad name to us all. Stop overthinking about how the word is used in market research. Stop forcing people back into the basement just because you don’t like the word.
We have finally come to a point where gaming is an integral part of life for people around the world. Embrace it. Don’t focus on the negative, but rather, accept that if you love video games, you are a gamer.
I did not give up my love for video games back when it was not the thing to do in school, and I will not hide who I am because some people don’t like the word.
We are gamers. Deal with it.