Popular Gamers

Video games are some of the most diverse forms of media and entertainment. Games have evolved so much over time that it’s often difficult to describe how much the games themselves have changed as well as the people who play them. The graphics have improved significantly just in the past 5 or so years and it’s rapidly becoming a form of entertainment for millions of people across the globe. Games aren’t only 2D anymore like Pong or Pac-Man. We’ve entered 3D quite a while ago and now we’re even seeing virtual reality that immerses the players in the game even more than before. What is a gamer then? I wouldn’t say that anybody who has played games before is a gamer. My 59 year old dad has played games but there’s no way he’d consider himself a gamer. I’m a gamer and I believe that many people might be ashamed to call themselves a gamer because of how gamers are portrayed in popular culture. It’s made it difficult for gamers to say that they’re proud of their interest in video games because of how other people view them.

Let’s take a step back and analyze what a gamer is. Gamers by definition are people who play games regularly. That’s essentially all it takes. Gamers enjoy and play games on a regular basis. You don’t have to play a certain number of hours a week to be considered a gamer, I think it just boils down to playing games and enjoying the time spent playing them. I like games because they give you control of the character. Like movies, books or TV shows, there’s a story to be told but games allow you the player to control the characters and environment. There is a very wide range of different games that appeal to different people. The large majority involve role playing, and then there are games where there are no characters at all like puzzle games. I’ve been playing video games ever since I can remember. I think that as a kid growing up in the 90’s, I was growing up in a prime time for video games emerging into what they are today. Today, I play fewer games than I used to as a kid, but that’s because I have more responsibilities as an adult. I still enjoy games a lot. I have favorite video games like Zelda, Halo, Dead Space, and many others. I believe games have made a big impact on who I am today because they’ve taught me to appreciate the art that goes into making them enjoyable. However, popular culture and the media don’t really care about the positive things about games, they often highlight the negative things. I think this is because it’s not very interesting to have a character who enjoys playing games and continues being a normal person during other activities. Popular culture portrays gamers as a specific personality rather than a culture.

I think that gamers are portrayed in a lot of different ways, and I’m curious to see if how I view gamers is similar or different to how the media makes gamers seem. I think that gamers are much more capable and diverse than how the media portrays them. On the surface I notice a few stereotypes. Gamers have poor diets, and this comes from the numerous sponsorships that game companies have with junk foods like Doritos or Mountain Dew. I also get the feeling that many gamers are anti-social and live at home with their parents. I think that many people assume because gamers are involved with this hobby/interest, they’re incapable of getting a job and moving out on their own, they’d rather stay home and play games. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to get a career in playing games. The closest you can get to that is to play competitively in tournaments. Which involves playing games full time to practice for the chance to win cash prizes. There’s no hourly wage; you’re reliant on your experience/skill to pay off in the end. I’m interested to see if these stereotypes that I’ve observed are similar to how the media portrays gamers. Since I’m a gamer, I can tell you that not every stereotype is true, but I do relate to a couple that are popular amongst gamers. I don’t have a poor diet. I live at home. I have a life outside of video games, and I think that popular culture assumes that video games are the only things that gamers have an interest in which I think is not true.

One movie that I want mention how the media portrays gamers is Grandma’s Boy (2006).

I think that this movie is a good example of a diverse amount of gamer stereotypes within one movie. Grandma’s Boy is a movie about a 35 year old named Alex (Allen Covert), who is a video game quality assurance tester that moves in with his grandma while working on video games, including one of his own. It’s a comedy that I think just about any audience can enjoy it because of its raunchy humor, even if they don’t play video games. There’s a lot of interesting things to be seen in the movie and it reflects some stereotypes I’ve noticed in other media. The video game references are obviously present, but it’s interesting to notice certain behaviors for each character just because they are gamers. The main character is a white male, he hasn’t been paying rent so he has to move in with his grandmother. He’s actually pretty normal socially, but he’s surrounded by gamer stereotypes throughout the movie. One of his coworkers (Nick Swardson) lives at his parent’s house, and Alex would live on his own but he was evicted so he has to live with his grandmother (Doris Roberts) for the time being. I think that the “lives at home” stereotype is something I can relate to. I still live at home because I work part time to afford school. The gamers in this movie don’t have any other responsibility besides paying the rent. That’s something I can’t afford to do while also paying for school. Also most people in this movie are white and male. There’s a female character that is Alex’s love interest but she’s not really a gamer.

I’ve noticed that most gamers in media portrayed as white and male. There’s not really any reason for it. I know plenty of gamers from other ethnic cultures, I also know some female gamers.  But those are apparently the minority for the gamer culture according to movies and TV shows. It’s true that many gamers are male, including myself. But I don’t think there’s any statistical evidence that most are white, even though I myself am both a white and male gamer. In fact, studies by the Internet Advertising Bureau show that over 52% of gamers are actually female. Yet we don’t really see females in the media being portrayed as gamers. Why is that? I think that part of the reason is because there are gender roles at play. Our society has a set of norms that classifies men and women based on their attitudes, actions, and personalities and these are what we call gender roles. An example of this would be how there are more men in engineering fields, while there are more women in health care or educational services. Men are more interested in technology and it has been that way for a long time now until pretty recently. More women now are getting the jobs they’re interested in no matter what field but it’s still a struggle to fit in. I think that many females don’t feel like they fit in with other gamers. I’ve seen many people stereotype female gamers online as being inferior at playing the games when they’re really just as good as everyone else. I’m sure there are plenty of other reasons why we put women second in situations like this. One reason is testosterone and violence.

Violence in video games is a very controversial topic all the time. One of the reasons this is an issue is because there’s a constant assumption that violent video games cause people to act violent in real life. This topic is brought up frequently because of tragedies where someone has shot people such as school shootings like the V-Tech Massacre or Sandy Hook elementary. News media (namely Fox News) has blamed this violent behavior time and time again on video games despite not having any credibly sources. Simply because the killer has played video games in his/her past that have violent behavior like Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty. However, there have been numerous studies that have debunked this theory. A long-term study published in the Journal of Communication by Christopher Ferguson at Stetson University shows that there is no connection between violent media (movies, video games) and real life acts of violence. It’s a very common stereotype and I understand where it comes from. You would think that watching violent movies or playing violent video games would make it seem like this is okay behavior. Especially when you’re playing as a character that is committing these crimes. However what Christopher Ferguson found was that there’s no correlation between the two. It’s not an issue of violent video games causing people to become killers, it’s an issue of mental health. These specific killers just so happen to play or played video games at some point. I’ve seen gamers portrayed in violent movies before. The movie Gamer (2009) is a good example of this.

It’s set in the future where a professional gamer is in control of a real life convict (played by Gerard Butler) that has to battle through an arena. The gamer is spoiled, lives at home, has a poor diet, and is really popular because of his reputation as being the gamer in control of the convict. Again, there are some common themes of other movies that show up here, but it’s really about the convict trying to escape the “game” and less about the gamer. The gamer isn’t the violent person in this movie, but he is controlling a violent character. Violence isn’t something that affects me when I play games. I play a wide variety of games, violent ones included, I enjoy them just as much as any other genres. I even play the games that are often perpetrated by the media as making people violent. Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, Postal 2, Manhunt, Mortal Kombat… These are all violent games, but the one thing they all have in common is that they’re rated M for Mature. These ESRB ratings are there for the same reason there are rated R movies by the MPAA. Kids aren’t meant to play violent video games just as they aren’t meant to watch violent movies. It’s up to the parents to decide what is right for their kids to watch or play. Even then, there aren’t any significant studies that say violence in media creates violent people Video games aren’t a reflection of reality, they’re an escape from the real world into something imaginary like a book, movie, or TV show.

I think that gaming is becoming more accepted now in society since more people play them worldwide.  There are people like me (or older) who have grown up playing video games and there are newer generations of kids doing the same. But the media still over exaggerates how gamers are and behave. There are more shows involving gamers now such as The Big Bang Theory or South Park which reference video games frequently. However Hollywood productions like to make it seem as if the characters are obsessed about games and doesn’t have any other interests. Like any stereotypes, they often have a reason for being a stereotype in the first place. We give credit to stereotypes in the way that we act as people of different cultures. I see the gamer culture making more progress as becoming the norm in our society, but it will take some time for everyone to accept it as if it’s any other normal hobby. I still play games, and I still like to call myself a gamer, but I can understand why some gamers might be ashamed to call themselves a gamer because of how the media portrays gamers in negative ways. I believe that it’s better to view video games for the positive things. Video games are a hobby enjoyed by millions of people and they’re not defined by who plays them but by how they’re played. Despite how the media portrays gamers, I will still call myself a gamer because that’s part of who I am and what I enjoy.

 

Works Cited

Callaway, Ewen. “Gamers Are More Aggressive to Strangers.” NewScientist Life, 28 Sept. 2009. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. <http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17868-gamers-are-more-aggressive-to-strangers.html&gt;.

Gamer. Dir. Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. Perf. Gerard Butler, Michael C. Hall, Ludacris. Lionsgate, 2009. DVD.

Grandma’s Boy. Dir. Nicholaus Goossen. Perf. Allen Covert, Linda Cardellini, Shirley Jones, Doris Roberts, Nick Swardson. Happy Madison, 20th Century Fox, 2006. DVD.

Gutierrez, John P. “No Link Found between Movie, Video Game Violence and Societal Violence.” EurekAlert! N.p., 5 Nov. 2014. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. <http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-11/ica-nlf102814.php&gt;.

Jaccarino, Mike. “‘Training Simulation:’ Mass Killers Often Share Obsession with Violent Video Games.” Fox News. FOX News Network, 12 Sept. 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2015. <http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2013/09/12/training-simulation-mass-killers-often-share-obsession-with-violent-video-games/&gt;.

“More Women Now Play Video Games than Men | IAB UK.” Internet Advertising Bureau, 17 Sept. 2014. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. <http://www.iabuk.net/about/press/archive/more-women-now-play-video-games-than-men&gt;.

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