The Definition of a Gamer

I've been concealing a shameful secret: I'm pretty sure that I haven't purchased a new video game in almost a year. During that time I've picked up a few used PC games here and there under the pretense that I may one day get around to playing them -- though thus far I have not. I still play games on a regular (and even nightly) basis, but lately I've been reconsidering the extent to which I am entitled to consider myself a gamer.

Is there such a thing as a movie fan who neither ventures to theaters nor rents or purchases movies to view at home, but who instead only watches some select favorites from her past? Likewise, is there such a thing as a gamer who does not purchase games (or the hardware on which they depend), but who instead merely cycles through a few classic titles -- titles acquired in a bygone time when the gamer actually participated in the industry as a consumer? Or is it enough simply to be able to say, "I play games"? Perhaps that does suffice in some sense, but I also drink wine on occasion; does that make me a connoisseur?

If I am still a gamer, then I am a gamer whose love of gaming has vastly diminished (or, as I often like to think, has been diminished) in recent years. This marks an important personal change; for as long as I can remember, I have at least partly defined myself by my love for games. In light of the apparent fact that I am not what I used to be, I am impelled to consider that question that lies at the heart of the matter: What remains of me, as a gamer, when I am stripped of my enthusiasm?

My enthusiasm began to wane as my computer began to age. Having been constructed in the summer of 2000, my "gaming" PC is now over five years old, and more than two years past the point when I could expect to run new releases successfully. When Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 were announced, I told myself that I would upgrade in order to play them, but as 2004 dragged on I was surprised to find that my need to upgrade became less and less urgent. Even now, I have the means to upgrade; I simply lack the will. I also lack the confidence that a computer upgrade will be adequate to address my disinterest and usher in a period of renaissance. Something within me has changed irrevocably, and the games of the near future, the present, and the recent past have little more appeal to me than a pile of wet ashes. Instead I've diverted my gaming energies ever backward to the games with which I grew up -- the games that introduced me to gaming -- as well as to the many older games that, for one reason or another, I failed to play when they were new.

For the last two weeks I've kept a log of all the games that I've played, along with their years of publication. Those numbers alone will suffice to illustrate my point: 1999, 2000, 1998, 1996, 1999, 1992... For the last two weeks (and indeed, the last two or more years) I've been grasping at my past in a desperate attempt to find an anchor for my enthusiasm before it slips away entirely. I've also been pretending that all is well, and that I shall soon emerge from this gamer's slump and be rejoined with my hobby in toto. I no longer harbor such illusions. What perturbs me is the realization that not only is gaming now dead to me, but I am also equally dead to gaming. The former fact I had long recognized and hinted at in prior articles, whereas the latter is something of a novelty.

The origin of my dissatisfaction is straightforward enough. There are at least two separate conceptions of games: games as an extension of narrative art, and games as an extension of non-narrative sport. The very best games show us that these conceptions are not mutually exclusive, and that, on the contrary, they may serve to reinforce each other. But I've always been most interested in games as a potent storytelling medium, and in this regard the industry has lost its way. I guess I've just grown tired of waiting for them to find it again. For it seems that there is an unwieldy third conception of games -- i.e., games as executive-padding, idiot-pandering exercises in cross-licensed sequel-crafting -- which keeps getting in the way of better things. Perhaps some day soon we shall experience a joyous schism.

Until such time, I shall persist in my efforts to relive my formative years; though that effort alone will not entitle me to remain in the clan of Gamerdom. The "gamer" appellation stands (or ought to stand) for something beyond the merely literal. What made me a gamer in the past is that I cared about games in a way that no longer holds true, and with a constancy now punctuated by long periods of apathy.

But do not confuse my apathy with depression. If anyone needs me, I'll be in the corner replaying The Secret of Monkey Island for the twentieth time, merrily humming along to the tunes.

Comments

My definition of a gamer is "someoe who enjoys the act of playing video games" thats it... if you play nothing but MS Hearts and enjoy it... hey you're a gamer.

Much less of my spare time is dedicated to gaming, I too seem to prefer re-enactions of old games or old games alltogether. Then again; what IS old? If you watch a movie from 1994, say Pulp Fiction (or was that 1993, ey well) are you watching an OLD movie? If you play a 1998 game, is that game OLD? In terms of graphics certainly yessiree, but in terms of gameplay?

I'm a gamer, cause I follow up what goes around in the gaming world, I love talking about games - and defending games as an art if necessary, and I love playing games - old or new, what's the difference... Actually, if you feel like a gamer you are one I believe.

Confining yourself to games of a certain era makes you no less than a gamer than someone who stays fanatically up-to-date. You feel the '92-'00 games appeal to you, great.
I understand that feeling of "I used to define myself as a gamer, but that has slipped away somehow". I know it's a sort of identity crisis... and I went through a small one myself. And I know that interest in dem newfangled games and franchises tends to drop off and before you even know it you're feeling a bit out of the loop and "old". But I assure you, something "modern" will come along that will reaffirm that core Gamerness.

PS. upgrade shmupgrade - time for you to go console, mate

Lobo wrote:

What made me a gamer in the past is that I cared about games in a way that no longer holds true, and with a constancy now punctuated by long periods of apathy.

That's the entitlement I'll use to still categorise myself as a gamer - that I still care about them, even though I don't buy a new one every week.

I am fortunate in the sense that I will most likely never be able to not care about games. The visual aspect of games intrigues me greatly, and with that only getting better as time marches on, my continued interest is guaranteed.

Thankfully the appreciation demands (and is enhanced by) a level of participation, so in addition to caring I'll most likely keep playing 'em too.

If I ever were to be robbed of the above, it would be a most sad day indeed.

Lobo, I disagree with your basic premise that because you no longer buy new video games, you are somehow less of a gamer. I don't see how that follows. You still play video games - they just happen to be ones that you've already bought and played. Seems to me you're not less of a gamer - you're just less of a consumer.

Perhaps you may want to try something new, though. Maybe your tastes have been slowly, subtly changing underneath your eyes. You're mainly a PC gamer, from what I can tell; perhaps you may want to try a few console games that, normally, you wouldn't give a second glance. There's always the [obligatory pimp] Sly Cooper games or the Katamari series for the PS2; I liked Pikmin and Windwaker for the Gamecube; and I'm sure there's something besides Halo for the XBox that is worth a play. Try getting a handheld and a few quickie-games (I'm thinking Meteos, Lumines, or Wario Ware). Just pick up something so radically different than what you'd normally play (Harvest Moon instead of Half-Life), and it might just breathe some fresh air into your sails.

Oh. Yeah. Good article, too, as always.

I consider myself a gamer, yet in the last year the sum of all my gaming time( with the occasional blip here and there for rented x-boxes and games) has been WoW. Prior to that I was caught up in the RTW saga. As a gamining parent I am left with approx 2 hours of game time a night( 9-11 ). I find within that time frame I can only commit to 1 mistress, her name be WoW.

So a question, if I was not dedicated to our sacred union, would my 2 hours a night allow me a broader range of games? Probably, but for now I continue to pursue 60.

Nice essay, Lobo.

I'll chime in and agree that, just because you don't buy the "latest and greatest" in games or computer hardware, it doesn't make you any less of a gamer.

To me, it's all the mindset; if I'm involved in, and care about, what is going on in the game...my best/favorite gaming moments of the last year have been mostly in older games- "Warcraft III", "Fantasy General", "Total Annihilation: Kingdoms"....not to say I haven't had a blast with "Guild Wars" and "WoW"....but there is a tremendous play/game value/satisfaction in the older games as well.

Katerin, I think that you've hit the nail on the head.

Seems to me you're not less of a gamer - you're just less of a consumer

<- exactly
Lobo, dude, I think that (for a change) you should follow Katerin's advice to experiment. As long as you stay away from all that Final Fantasy crap, you'll be fine.

Keep in mind that Lobo isn't saying he's a failure of a gamer because he doesn't buy games; he claims this is so because gaming has made him apathetic. I think the difference is quite important. Remember, he argues that it is gaming itself which has worked to change him.

I have another thesis.

Lobo is less of a gamer because he has missed our last three scheduled gaming sessions, including Heroes and Serious Sam 2. You suck, Lobo.

Katerin pretty much said it the best way possible...

...besides not buying new games not necessarily mean that someone has developed lack of interest in gaming! It all could boil down to this!
IMAGE(http://img357.imageshack.us/img357/3610/debtskint2007fb.jpg)

Lobo wrote:

What made me a gamer in the past is that I cared about games in a way that no longer holds true.

So, is it that you no longer care about games in general, or that you no longer care about new games? If it's the former, then, yeah, it's time to hang up the hat and change your shingle to read, 'Guy who happens to play the occasional game'. If it's the latter, no worries. It's love for games that makes you a gamer, not obsession about what's hot and shiny. WoW was the last game I bought as well; for all that I haven't played many new games in the last couple of years, I still consider myself a gamer.

Clinging to old favorites of a hobby or interest is not uncommon behavior. It doesn't signify one's disinterest in the hobby - usually, it just signifies that one is getting old.

Lobo, interesting thoughts and in many ways similar to my struggles over the past few years. I don't play games like I used to and I often wonder why. I'm in my 30's but I don't have kids and am not married so neither of those convenient excuses can be applied. I think I'm just getting old. I've been more active with work and social activities but neither of those can explain my lack of motivation to game on a daily basis. I just have other things that I am more motivated to do than play video games. Unlike you, I do still buy new games on occasion. However, after splurging last year on four or five new titles, I think the only game I have purchased so far this year has been Dungeon Siege 2. Gone are the days when I rush home from work early to play the latest game. Gone are the days when I stay up until 2 am playing Quake, Diablo or Counterstrike and stumble into work the next morning exhausted but satisfied.

Lobo ... what is the last new game that you purchased? Have you actually tried any of the newer PC games or console titles? If so, are you given them a chance or is your mind already made up that your not going to like them? I think your statement that the industry has lost its way may be a personal viewpoint more than a factual statement. I know you've touched on this issue before in your previous musings and I agree that gaming is a personal experience on many levels and what I experience when playing a game may be drastically different from what you experience playing the same game. However, I would encourage you to try to look at the industry and more recent games with a fresh perspective. There's a lot of good stuff out there that you are missing out on.

*Legion* wrote:

Clinging to old favorites of a hobby or interest is not uncommon behavior. It doesn't signify one's disinterest in the hobby - usually, it just signifies that one is getting old.

Bingo!

Welcome to getting old. Fun isn't it?

EDIT: Did not mean for this to be an "I'm more jaded than you" thing, but honestly it's been a long time since I did not feel let down by a new game.

I'm with the Wolf on this one. I am old, and have plenty of money to spend on new games, PC and console. I have most of the major new releases.

They all suck.
Let me rephrase that, they don't keep my attention.

The current vogue of FPS shooters bores me witless. I have BF2 and played oh, 45 minutes, total. Been there, done that since Unreal. The original Unreal. Doom 3, 2-3 hours. Half-Life 2 , best of the lot, about 3-4 hours or so. I still pick HL2 up once a month or so and play for 15-30 min. Then I'm bored. Ditto Far Cry. Far Cry was pretty though.

Consoles, don't start me. Rented Jade Empire this weekend, as I was recovering from a minor procedure and had to stay off my feet for 24 hours. 45 minutes tops. Endlessly tapping the A and X key doesn't entertain me. Don't have time for sports games online, that seems the best use of consoles to me. Enjoyed Halo for a few hours.

MMORGs? If you like WoW, great for you. I burned out on EQ and never got into WoW. Let's see what Vanguard can do.

Strategy? RTW, please, the AI is a joke. That one amused me for a few hours anyway, until I figured out that Equites and Wardogs would allow me to conquer all of Europe. Imperial Glory? A few hours of arcade style fun.

RTS? RoN is pretty cool, but the basis of RTS have become who knows more short cuts and can click faster. Still have some love for them though it's been 6 months or more since I've played.

What is still fun? Combat Mission series, and Free Space 2. Civil War: Bull Run from Mad Minute Games (indie). Sometimes Homeworld.

I'm an old fart. Now don't start me on this crazy music these kids are listening to today..

The last 3 games that I have played are BattleField 2 (2005 - totally current), Final Fantasy: Tactics Advance (2003), and Baldur's Gate (1998).

I feel your pain, Lobo, on the lack of narrative in modern games, but I feel things are getting better. It's funny that the earliest games were either simplistic, story-free games like Pong and Asteroids, or completely-story text adventures. Perhaps this schism has always existed?

Gaming as a medium is still very young. We are still in the equivalent of the black and white era of movies, if not the silent era. I think that as technology becomes less and less an issue, the _art_ of game creating will begin to develop more and more. All games will have great graphics, physics, AI, etc., and games will have to get better in order to differentiate themselves. One of the way that they will do so will be through better storytelling.

If Msrs. Rein and Jaffer have any truth to their words, then, Lobo, you're an enemy of the gamers everywhere, as well as an enemy of the gaming industry at large. Not only you're replaying old games ad infinitum, you're also buying used ones without kicking back to the starving developers and publishers. You're kicking the gaming community right were it hurts, Lobo. You, sir, are a traitor.

You know, Lobo, I went through a similar phase shortly before my last major PC upgrade. It's easy to be cynical about the game industry when the emphasis so often seems to be more on the industry than the games. Couple that with the frustrations that stem from an antiquated PC and any enthusiasm you may have had for new games will slowly bleed away.

Here's what I think: In spite of the overwhelming tide of mediocrity, there are still great games being made today. Many of them are available on PC. Some of them are even sequels (see Half Life 2). You're desparing at the flimsiness of narrative in today's games: I'll bet Indigo Prophecy would run perfectly well on your machine. Then you've got your indie games like Darwinia, Mount and Blade, Space Rangers 2, etc...all of those games are evidence that inspired, intelligent game design is still alive and well, you just have to seek a little to find those diamonds in the waste.

It's easy to despair when most of your information on current games is based on second hand feedback, much of which is inevitably complaining. If you want to rekindle your excitement for games, I think you should take the plunge, upgrade your hardware and test the waters. You may be surprised to find that they are actually quite pleasant.

But I've always been most interested in games as a potent storytelling medium, and in this regard the industry has lost its way. I guess I've just grown tired of waiting for them to find it again. For it seems that there is an unwieldy third conception of games -- i.e., games as executive-padding, idiot-pandering exercises in cross-licensed sequel-crafting -- which keeps getting in the way of better things.

Games as vehicles for storytelling/exploration - that's always been the main draw for me, as well. I think there have always been vast amounts of crap games released, and I'm not sure the industry is any more lost right now than it has been in the past. Finding titles that genuinely scratch that itch for compelling new experiences takes some work, but they're out there.

Dr. Fly prescribes a PS2 (or other console of your choice) and a Gamerang account. There's some real joy to be had in digging through old console releases and playing those gems that you've you've heard about for years but never played.

Thanks for all the encouragement, folks. I'm sure that in time some pleasant breeze will clear the smoke and fan the embers in my heart. Thanks for the Indigo Prophecy suggestion, Podunk. If I do buy a new game any time soon, it'll be that one.

KaterinLHC wrote:

Perhaps you may want to try something new, though. Maybe your tastes have been slowly, subtly changing underneath your eyes. You're mainly a PC gamer, from what I can tell; perhaps you may want to try a few console games that, normally, you wouldn't give a second glance.

Interesting that you should mention this. Know what the game from 1992 was? Street Fighter 2 for the SNES. Someone recently gave me a copy of Paper Mario for the Gamecube, and I'll probably give it a whirl in a few days when I catch a day off from work.

DrunkenSleipnir wrote:

Keep in mind that Lobo isn't saying he's a failure of a gamer because he doesn't buy games; he claims this is so because gaming has made him apathetic. I think the difference is quite important. Remember, he argues that it is gaming itself which has worked to change him.

I have another thesis.

Lobo is less of a gamer because he has missed our last three scheduled gaming sessions, including Heroes and Serious Sam 2. You suck, Lobo.

Thanks for noting that distinction. Your ability to get inside my head is as uncanny as ever. One other reason why I'm feeling like less of a gamer is that as time goes on, and as other gamers continue to share in a wealth of communal memories to which I am not privy, I feel like a lesser part of the set of all gamers. Maybe *Legion* is right; I'm growing old at a young age.

As for those other things that you typed, DS, well, uhh, I was too apathetic to read any of it. Sorry.

Copingsaw wrote:

Lobo ... what is the last new game that you purchased? Have you actually tried any of the newer PC games or console titles? If so, are you given them a chance or is your mind already made up that your not going to like them?

My last new game was Resident Evil 4 for the Cube. Not a purchase I regret, but nor did it rub me in all the right places. It was a masterful exercise in atmospheric world-crafting and "cinematic" action (for lack of a better term), but it insisted on foisting a plot upon me, and that plot was ill-conceived and dull. As for more recent games in general, I'm not wholly ignorant of them, having played many on the computers and consoles of friends.

One other thing that comes across to me and no one has mentioned it (or at least I failed to see it) is that Lobo appears to be missing the Adventure game. And sadly these are in decline with RTS and FPS gobbling up space. There have been some notable exceptions, but again, a rarity it seem's to me.

Good article Lobo, but it makes me question my own right to be on a site called "Gamers" with Jobs...thanks alot for unmasking my poor qualifications and jeapordizing my position here. As Pigpen said when he suggested I join the site and get into the discussions, "you're sort of a gamer, I mean you play some games". I've always played some games, never have I been without a console of at least one type, but I've usually played one game at a time, and it may take me months of finding the time to play and actually finishing that game. I guess I sort of told myself that, yeah, that makes me "sort of a gamer". So, I encourage you to loosen up on the definition.

As I was writing this I realized that since I've been visiting this site, I've begun to look forward to reading everyone's impressions on games, even games I'll likely never try, so I guess that puts me in the "cares about games" category, so maybe I'm a gamer after all. Or maybe I just have latent gaming tendencies?

Larsson wrote:

Enjoyed Halo for a few hours

Amidst a long list of games I would just call not fun, theres this Halo comment. What more can we ask of a game but to be entertaining for a few hours at a time? Sure I remember twelve hour stints way back when... but I don't think thats because the games were better, it was because I was fifteen years old.

"Been there, done that" is the key. I share the sentiment. Walking into EB Games just yesterday, I browsed through the games on the shelf. WW2 Turn-based. WW2 FPS. Another WW2 FPS. Car sim with tuning. FPS, FPS, FPS... RTS with fantasy world setting. RTS with sci-fi setting. An occasional adventure game or two...

Where did all the creativity go? Each time I enter EB or Bestbuy and the games (at least PC Games) become less and less appealing, because I know they're just going to give me the same stuff I've been exposed to in my past years of gaming experience. So lately i've been wanting to play Clive Barker's Undying (awsome creepy game), one of my first FPSs. You're not alone there Lobo, and I don't think it's you getting old. I'm 20 and have probably less than half of your gaming exp. What does that make me? It's got to be the industry. The pioneering days of game development is over. People like to make money so they stick to the formulas that work. It's no news, and it sucks.

I'd like to try that Rag-doll Kungfu thing though. That looks fun.

This article/thread is very attuned with my attitude toward games. Also, Warcraft III does not count as an "old" game. Come on.

I think that this could go both ways, but the sameness of the industry will eventually wear on the regular, less picky folk as well, and we'll see a revival of the independent shareware.

Its already starting... unfortunately so far the independent shareware is mostly limited to generic clones of isometric slashers and generic clones of 2D shoot-em-ups. But, I want to believe.

I think perhaps Lobo had associated gaming with some other part of his life that is now changing and thusly is also bringing about a change in his gaming habits. I would compare it to someone who may act and dress like they're stuck in the 80's. There are modern versions of fashionable or timeless clothing that normally serve as replacements for the dated clothing. But only the dated clothing is the "same" clothing that someone may have worn that special night they busted their first nut. Their old clothes and their first nut are essentially the same.

Perhaps Lobo held essentially equal amounts of passion for what the games represented as well as the games themselves.

Why do fathers seem to hold more passion for music that's a generation behind their children's music? I think it's in the associations made.

I progressed from the arcade to the Vic 20, to the Commodore 64, to the Commodore 128, to the Packard Bell 486, to various computer upgrades, to all of the current consoles and so on. I plan to buy the PS3, 360, Revolution etc. when they've dropped to a price I can accept. I have an interest in videogame play regardless of current technologies and trends but this just means that my needs of gaming are different from Lobo's. We are both gamers. Imagine a high five right about now.

Perhaps Lobo is coming to realize that he had initially been mistaken about which of his needs were being fufilled by video games.

By the way, "Hungry Like The Wolf" was released by Duran Duran in the 80's.

That roughly translates to, "Hambriento Como El Lobo."

A few years back, I got into the same sort of funk that you appear to be in, Lobo. During the period following Ocarina in Time (1997?) up to sometime around 2002-2003, I played very few new games and tended to replay older ones.

It seems telling to your "gamer status" that you still play and enjoy older games - it indicates you have not outgrown games, as I have seen friends do from time to time, but are more uninterested in what current games have to offer. That is to say, you are not "dead to gaming," but more sleeping, waiting for a special game to come along and rouse you from your slumber.

Judging from our respective periods of game apathy, it looks that the pendulum of game production has swung away from what you enjoyed and toward what I enjoy. Perhaps in the future it will swing back and leave me out in the cold again.

you, my friend, have simply 'grown up'. life has a tendancy to change one's priorities, plus it doesn't help that most of the games these days are just plain old crap for young kids with the attention span of someone with ADD.

I remember my 'young days' as well, but since getting married, buying a new house, and having my first child, well, lets just say time is finitie, and i'm responsible enough to cut more of my personal gaming time then cut my duties as a husband/father.

while my rig is of medium quality ([email protected][email protected]+) i'm to the point of just 'not caring' to upgrade it for the next 'cool' games anymore, i'm getting tired of the stupid overclocking, its not fun anymore, and i'm getting tired of looking at just plain spit-in-your-face-insulting prices for (of quality) graphics cards/motherboards/processors/etc.

its getting to the point where i see myself in a couple of years either saying 'screw it' to the pc gaming world, or getting a stupid console.

My dad came home one day when I was maybe 7 or 8, with a brand-new NES and a copies of Paperboy, Rampage and Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and i've been hooked ever since.

However, since then, i've gone through my phases as a gamer. I'm still very young, but i've been at this for a decade and a half, and some wear and tear is starting to show. This year's E3 bored me to the point of bordering on out-and-out hatred, and I, like Lobo, find myself looking more into picking up games 2nd-hand, to lessen the impact on my wallet should it turn out to be a dud. Moreover, my selections of titles has become a great deal more picky. I only now choose games that I seriously feel I will come back to in a year's time.

That said, I still enjoy games. I consider Street Fighter - Anniversary Collection to be one of my best purchases to date, and am looking forward to UFO Aftershock, DOA 4 and CoD2. I still have a passion for good games that can entertain and involve me. I just recently grabbed Jak III and i'm having a blast completing the saga. I hope to play Indigo Prophecy very, very soon.

But somewhere, in the back of my head, I can forsee a day when i'll be bitter and angry about the industry, and treat everything new with a level of derision, begging for those "Good Old Days" of yonder when everything, as it is apt to be, was better. And i'm desperately afraid of that day.

I hope I never stop being a gamer, and I can't see it happening. However I don't think that a slavering allegiance to all that is new and shiny is definitive of being a Gamer. A man who surfs through catalogs of music from the 50's and 60's, looking for the best Jazz, at its height had to offer is still a "Music Fan". He is a specific type of fan, but he is a fan nevertheless. I think what you are turning into here Lobo, other than just getting Old (and mind you, that is happening. It's one of those unfortunate circumstances) is a much more specific type of gamer.

Moreover, I don't think anyone's really underlined the importance of a person's taste in games. Being a "Good Game" and a "Bad Game" can hinge in myriad ways on a person's specific tastes in gaming. I have a dear friend who loves Soul Caliber, and hates Virtua Fighter. I feel exactly the opposite. If no games being made today suit your particular tastes, be them for a driving narrative or for a proper level of balancing, you'll like nothing. I know my standards are significantly lower, so a reasonable amount still appeals to me. Not as much as when I was young, but still some.

I think I'm more a gamer now than I've maybe ever been.

In the past I've always focused on just consoles, or just the PC. Never, until I stumbled on GWJ, did I have a bunch of games that I was playing for both consoles and the PC.

This site was part of what drove me to buy a new PC in the first place.

I'm trying to play through two or three games on my PC, and I have three games on my Xbox that I'm playing through right now too.

With FEAR and Quake 4 coming next week, and the 360 just a short way off, the amount of gaming I'm likely to do nothing much but work, buy, and play games for months.