Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
 
Real gamers

Advance warning: If you consider yourself a "real gamer", you might not want to read this post.

Apparently there has been a heated discussion on Twitter and the games blogosphere about what defines a "real gamer". Basically there is a group of people out there who would like that to be some sort of exclusive label, some sort of badge of honor, some sort of true achievement. The discussion then starts because anybody who even wants to be included in the definition of "real gamer" then wants basically that his own level of skill/expertise/hardcoreness/dedication/whatever you want to call it is still included in the definition of what a "real gamer" is, while anybody who is slightly less skilled/expert/hardcore/dedicated/whatever should definitely be excluded and be branded a "fucking n00b" instead.

The whole exercise is so pathetic, it kinds of makes one sad. Just imagine it, there is somebody out there who is extremely proud that he beat some game at a higher difficulty level than you did. THAT is his greatest achievement in life, the thing he is most proud of, the defining feature of his self-worth, and how he sees himself. What kind of a loser does one have to be if the greatest thing one achieved in life is being good at a video game?

Social Identity Theory is full of this sort of behavior: A) We want to belong to a group, but B) we want to group to be exclusive and see it as being better than any other group. That already causes enough problems if the group is well defined, if by your passport, origin, or religion you can without doubt say to what group you belong or don't belong. But it gets completely silly if you need to apply fuzzy adjectives like "real" in your definition. Reminds me of an episode years ago where somebody in chat was looking for a group, but only wanted "serious" players with a gear score of at least 6,700. Guess what gear score he had. If everybody defines "real" or "serious" as "me, and everybody better than me", we never even get two people to agree on one definition of who is member of that group and who isn't.

Defining yourself as a "gamer" in the most general and most inclusive definition of the word can actually serve a purpose. There is market research that is quite interested in the question how many people would be interested in spending at least part of their disposable time playing games. The overall number of "gamers", if you define it as people who are willing to buy a game or otherwise spend money on one, is growing; and that has consequences: If there are more "gamer" potential customers, more games get produced. And yes, you can sub-divide that group of "gamers" into sub-groups that also make sense from a market point of view. How many "console gamers" are there? How many "mobile gamers"? How many "PC gamers"? Or even how man "first person shooter gamers"? If you have an answer to these questions and could track the evolution of these numbers somehow, you would have information useful in deciding what kind of game to develop.

In comparison to all that, a definition of what a "real gamer" is just serves no purpose at all other than stroking the ego of the person who twisted the definition to include himself in it. What kind of sensible game design or marketing decision can you make based on that definition? Sell T-shirts that say "I'm a real gamer, but you're a n00b!"? Being marginally better than somebody else in playing a specific videogame under specific conditions just serves no useful purpose at all in life. Everybody else who sees you in your "real gamer" T-shirt will only translate the term into "basement-dwelling no-life loser", even if that is obviously a crude simplification as well. The very idea that anybody could possibly look up to you because you are a "real gamer" and they are not is completely idiotic. On any scale people tend to despise the people above them at least as much as the people below them. "Real gamers" don't impress anybody.

Comments:
"What kind of a loser does one have to be if the greatest thing one achieved in life is being good at a video game?"

http://uk.ign.com/articles/2014/07/21/dota-2-newbee-wins-the-international-4-championship

What losers right?
 
Except that's 1% of gamers. That's the exception not the rule. For the other 99%, yes if their greatest achievement in life is what they do in videogames they are indeed a loser.
 
Except that's 1% of gamers.

That is an extremely generous estimate. I am pretty sure that the number of gamers able to earn money in video game tournaments is less than 1 percent OF 1 percent of gamers.

Furthermore, two questions: If that guy is such a real world winner, then why isn't his real name even reported? And if in a few years this person will write his CV for a job application outside the gaming industry, do you believe he will put his title on that CV?
 
@Tobold
And if in a few years this person will write his CV for a job application outside the gaming industry, do you believe he will put his title on that CV?

Possibly. http://massively.joystiq.com/2014/08/18/riot-games-starting-programs-to-help-support-retired-esports-pla/

In areas where being able to class yourself as a something matters guilds of like-minded people are established (of variable quality) which prescribe specific requirements that their members must fulfill requirements before those members can call themselves an x of specific guild.

Until I see some sort of gaming establishment handing out qualifications are useful, I think I'll just settle for a t-shirt that reads "I am slightly better than you."
 
Couple of points on the points and counter-points:
- I doubt professional players are the ones talking about "real gamers"
- The percentage of players who can make money from it is small, sure, but that's the same as any sport.
- The real name of the players wasn't reported in that article because they were team names not individuals. But for LoL the top players don't hide their real names, even if they typically are referred to by their gamer nickname.
- And sure, I would absolutely put on my CV that I competed to be the world's best at a sport or eSport( not that I am ). Would it help me get the job? That depends on the job and the person doing the hiring. All else being equal, if it were me, I would hire the person that was a champion video game player over one that wasn't, because it shows drive, which is a valuable trait
 
To be honest, I would be fine with a definition of "real gamer" that is limited to career pro-gamers, though I'm sure that those who worry about who is and is not a "real gamer" would not be.
 
If you play games you're a real gamer. The real question (and the one that people who spend their time talking about "real gamers") is who is a competent gamer? The guy with a 4,600 gear score only looking for people with equal or better gear is attempting only play with people who are equally competent or better than him using gear as a crap-proxy for skill.

I like games. I don't like playing a 30 minute+ game of league or a dungeon in an mmo only to lose/wipe repeatedly on the last boss/last 5 minutes of the game because one of the five people I'm playing with doesn't understand how to play the game.

People that stand in the fire, don't know basic mechanics, can't play their class better than 25% of the theoretical top performance for their gear, can't last hit in league/dota or position even remotely correctly waste my time. Sadly the choice is to not play these games or play a game like Eve where you can get nearly total information about fellow pilots and select to play with only the competent pilots.


 
Tobald, where have you been for the last 4000 years? People have been aspiring to be "real gamers" both as an in-group and out-group identifier since record-keeping became "a thing." You may have noticed that some games have an elaborate record-keeping system which allows the players to classify their contribution to the game in terms of direct comparison to other people that play the game.

No, I'm not talking about League of Legends or DOTA. I'm talking about chess, about mancala, even about poker – all of which have had extremely elaborate ranking systems put in place so that competitors can have dick measuring contests.

It's hard to even be surprised that such things might happen in video games, where record-keeping is trivial and – as in all diversions – so little of importance is on the line that it is perfectly "acceptable" to say and do ridiculous things in defense or posturing in the pursuit of them.

In-group versus out-group definition happens in every single social group. It's even observably happening in this comment thread right now. I'm not sure that "a heated discussion on Twitter and in the blogosphere" was ever NOT happening on the issue. It's something that has been constantly brewing since we could pass words. I will note that particular debate hasn't been happening in the portions of twitter and the blogosphere I'm reading, so maybe you're just hanging out in a bad neighborhood.

Like everything else on the Internet, give it a week and they'll find something else to bother with.
 
I think the pro gamers can make big money argument is analogous to saying that some people winning big bucks in the lottery proves the lottery is a wise investment.

With the exception of perhaps top in the world, I see the argument that being a real gamer or at least being very proficient in a game is a net bad thing; that someone spent enough time on their entertainment is probably a waste. Surely they could find something more productive to do with their time involving earning, family, exercise, reading, even politics or religion? Like watching TV or listening to Spotify, isn't someone who spent 5 hours a week playing video games badly doing "better" than someone who spent 20 hours playing very well?

----

If you really want to poke the "real gamers", point out platforms. I.e. the hated EA said they had iirc 140 million players on EA Mobile. When the target audience is hundreds of millions of players instead of the dozen million MMO players, it means they will see new whole new levels of casual.

 
"THAT is his greatest achievement in life, the thing he is most proud of, the defining feature of his self-worth, and how he sees himself. What kind of a loser does one have to be if the greatest thing one achieved in life is being good at a video game?"

And how do you know that? I am not here as a real gamer since I usually finish the games at easy level and sometimes with cheat enabled but just because someone teases you that he completed the game in harder mode doesn't that mean that this is the only thing he is proud of.

When you find someone in a game, this is what he will be proud of...imagine you play wow and find someone who say that he has a faster car than you...makes sense? Of course he will brag about his gaming ability..
 
The problem with your argument is that you're assigning your own values to actions and benchmarking against them. Other people don't necessarily make the same assignations nor use the same benchmarks. You're using much the same process of definition that you're satirizing at the end of paragraph three.

Also, everything you say about gamers could be applied to just about any interest group. That's just what being human is like.

As for the idea that "the greatest thing [a real gamer] achieved in life is being good at a video game", that's a huge assumption to make. Why assume the person who is egotistically proud of his video game achievements has no other achievements he's equally egotistically proud of? Some people are really good at a variety of activities and immodest about their achievements in all of them.
 
just because someone teases you that he completed the game in harder mode doesn't that mean that this is the only thing he is proud of.

...find someone who say that he has a faster car than you


I have yet to meet anybody in life who, having a faster car than me, tells me that he is a "real driver", and I am not. People who are proud of their game achievements are apparently much bigger jerks about it than people proud of something else. Presumably *because* in reality there isn't much to be proud of in a game.

 
People seem to be getting awfully defensive here. Is the gist of the post, that people who think themselves superior (and, most importantly, try to ruin your good time) because of video game prowess are annoying and lame, really that controversial? Why would you stick up for someone like that?
 
Firstly: "the greatest thing one achieved in life is being good at a video game" <-- total straw man.

It would be completley possible to build a fortune 500 company, bring up five healthy children and still feel that 'real gamers' is a relevant distinction.

Where does this ad hominem come from Tobold, you are better than this.
___

'Real gamer' vs. 'fucking n00b' is just another straw man. While there are probably people out there who feel these two are the best fit as opposites , we here should be able to ignore this.
___

Now why 'real gamer' serves an actual purpose: The opposite of 'real gamer' is obviously not 'the fucking noob' but the 'casual gamer' - and from a marketing perspective these two groups are different in a great many respects.

It is also important from a group-building perspective. Just look at sports: Football is played in leagues and differentiated by age. If you would force all the football teams to compete in the same tournaments you would get the exact same flaming you have now in computer games.

The problem is not the discussion about 'real gamers', the problem is that different groups of gamers with different needs, playstyles, worries and preferences very often have to play together without any obvious way to recognize likeminded and otherminded players. Thus chaos and flaming ensues.
___

The last time I played WoW, gear score didn't exist. But from what I figure the player asking for co-players with a minimum gear score is doing it right: He knows what style of play he wants and he has a clear, transparent and easily communicable criterium to get this. The margin for misunderstandings is real small with him.
___

To sum it up: Why allow trolls to define the term 'real player'? It's only about epeen comparison when you allow it be about epeens. Try to define the term in a better way et voilà: useful distinction.
 
I have yet to meet anybody in life who, having a faster car than me, tells me that he is a "real driver", and I am not.
That's probably because you never confronted a Formula One driver with amateurish theories about how best to design a specific curve. If you did he might just tell you: "That's nice, but since you never drove a 'real race' you are not really qualified to judge...

I could understand a top one percent player who i tired of getting told by casual players how his game should be balanced.

Doesn't matter if it is computer games, cars, sports, theater, art, politics or raising kids: Those who have done it longer and with a lot of success usually are more competent than those who just dabble a little...
 
I'm a basement-dwelling no-life loser. But you're a basement-dwelling no-life NOOB loser. So ner!
 
Justin wrote: "I don't like playing a 30 minute+ game of league or a dungeon in an mmo only to lose/wipe repeatedly on the last boss/last 5 minutes of the game because one of the five people I'm playing with doesn't understand how to play the game."

This kind of post/comment annoys me - it implies that the author knew how to do everything perfectly before even wading into their first encounter. Which in large simply is wrong.

How do these people learned how to be competent? By doing it wrong. By standing in the line of fire, by not playing their equipment to its abilities, and suffering defeat. By being the one-in-five who everybody else was rolling their eyes about, but were still willing to help by showing /and/ telling.

But if such people really don't want to "waste their time", they have always the option of joining a guild/clan/outfit of competent players instead of bothering with random pick-ups.

…or they could consider the presence of sub-optimal gang members a challenge to pulling off a win regardless. But of course that would require :effort:.
 
I could understand a top one percent player

This "pro" or "top 1 percent" thing is largely an illusion. The jerks that are trying to define "real gamer" are more likely to be in the 37th percentile, arguing that the 37th percentile is still "real", and the 38th is not.
 
have yet to meet anybody in life who, having a faster car than me, tells me that he is a "real driver", and I am not.

I have actually, a lot of them. When I was in my 20s having a kick-ass car and driving really fast wad something people would brag about, they were the real drivers and everyone else was a 'pussy'

What you're describing is happening in all skill based leasure activities.
 
Where does this ad hominem come from Tobold, you are better than this.

You might want to look up "ad hominem" in a dictionary. I do not mention nor link to a single specific person in my post.

Saying "people who behave in a certain way are jerks" is NOT an ad hominem attack. If you consider that as an attack on YOU personally, that says more about you than about me.

In Germany you'd say "Der getroffene Hund bellt", but there is no English equivalent for that saying.
 
The opposite of 'real gamer' is obviously not 'the fucking noob' but the 'casual gamer'

The opposite of 'real gamer' is obviously 'real person'. The opposite of 'casual gamer' is 'hardcore gamer'. The use of 'real' is an inherent insult (which is why the 'real person' joke works), with the group applying it to themselves stating that the other group "isn't real".
 
I certainly agree that top performers, the world-firsts, tend to not be near as worked up about a lot of things than the 37 percentile.


But I think the F1 analogy shows the problem. F1 races are designed for F1 drivers. But in spite of what they frequently think, mass-market MMOs are not designed for the 1%ers. Games are not a test for Valhalla or epeen; they are for profit businesses. If the top 1% most skilled gamers left your game, that would represent 1% of your income. They just don't matter near as much as they think they do.
 
But I think the F1 analogy shows the problem.
Like most analogies it is not without problems. But still the F1 is a for-profit business as well and their money doesn't come from the drivers but the masses who watch. And when you listen to them, more often then not will you get the impression that most of them would be the absolute best drivers and race designers if only someone let them...
Yet they discuss with each other and not usually with the actual drivers.

The use of 'real' is an inherent insult
Interesting. I don't see the insult. For example I like to programm in Java from time to time, but I definitely wouldn't call myself a real programmer.

But then I do assume that your post was an answer to some unlinked flamewar in which the term was probably used with the intent to insult and you felt like the proverbial german dog who got hit?

The opposite of 'real gamer' is obviously 'real person'
Because if one is a 'real person' one can't be any other 'real [member of a group]'?! Or is it just gamers who can't be persons as well in your opinion?
 
Interesting. I don't see the insult

You don't? But yet you reacted aggressively to my "real person" joke. So you must have felt the insult enough to cause you to reply angrily.

Look at it from my point of view: I have spend an estimated 40,000 hours of my life playing games. I have spent over a decade to write nearly 5,000 blog posts about games. Why would I not be annoyed if somebody told me that I am not a "real" gamer? That, because I'm not "real" my opinion should count for less, and that game companies shouldn't take notice of my needs when designing games?
 
To offer a more constructive view:

Let's move away from where we define 'real' by success towards where we define 'real' by the underlying mindset.

A real gamer then would be someone who sees games in general or even only a specific game not as something to just have fun with but as an actual challenge.

There are many non-digital cases of this behavior. Cat owners who go to competitions instead of being okay with the cat just purring, coffee-aficionados, drinkers of outragously expensive wines, you see it often in amateur sports or with collectors.

They bring a professional mindset to something they don't actually do professionally (i.e. they don't get paid for it). They treat it like it was a profession and in doing so it becomes, in a sense, more 'real' than something they only do casually.

'Real' then would be comparable to 'serious', and this is indeed the way I would intepret the term 'real gamer'.

This is why I find the opposite "fucking noob" so completely wrong. Where this is not just meant as an insult but as an actual description, a noob as just a beginner, a fucking noob an obnoxious beginner. Wether that noob is a 'real' gamer will show over time. My guess would be that "fucking noobs" are generally more likely to become 'real gamers' than harmless noobs...
 
You don't? But yet you reacted aggressively to my "real person" joke.
I was insulted by the statement's failing logic ;-p

Look at it from my point of view
See my post above. In my book you would obviously be a 'real gamer'.

That someone who attacked you just applies a useless definition of the term, that doesn't necessarily mean that the term itself is useless.
 
A real gamer then would be someone who sees games in general or even only a specific game not as something to just have fun with but as an actual challenge.

Nonsense. What on earth would seeing something as a challenge have to do with the adjective "real"? If you consider your homework as a challenge, would that make you a "real" student? If you consider going to work as a challenge, would that make you a "real" worker?

And as it has been shown by various studies that people play games for millions of different reasons, why would ONE of those reasons be more "real" than the others? Why not use another adjective that actually has something to do with challenge, like "hardcore"?
 
Would sombody who uses cheats on their games and says it's alright, I only used it on a whole game(different version of the game) and half of another be considered a true gamer? They use cheats on all their other stuff to so would they be worthy of being a true gamer?? This is bugging me and my friend happens to be this fake gamer I'm talking about, I need others opinions to seal the deal of if I'm right or not.
 
That's the problem with partial quotes. If it *only* was about challenge you might be right. The challenge part was only the first step in my argument...

What I like about the adjective real is twofold: Firstly it implies persistency and secondly it implies that something has a relation to someones reality.

Applied to 'real gamers' that would mean: Even if you don't play a game *right now*, the game or gaming is still a relevant part of your life (maybe you blog about it, maybe you analyze it, maybe you read up on it or are part of a community).

You can drink and party hardcore for a while, but that wouldn't make you a real drinker. Hardcore to me is about intensity (and by the way far more excluding and thus 'insulting' than real: The number of real gamers is theoretically unlimited, but hardcore implies not only that there is a core but that there is a hard core and a weak core. By definition hardcore must exclude the majority or the term would be without defining value.)

And while intensity surely is an aspect of the mindset I spoke about, it is not enough. To much intensity might even lead to a sense of false reality, in which case you wouldn't be a 'real gamer' but an 'insane gamer'.

@Rythmi:
'true' and 'fake' is another interesting couple of adjectives. How would you define 'true gamer'?

When it comes to the term 'real gamer', I would say someone who consistently uses cheats to brake the games he plays is not a 'real gamer', someone who does it to further explore the game or experiment with it is. It's about the underlying mindset.
 
Tobold, this is the same everywhere, not only in the gaming community.

I have repeatedly seen people at work who define "senior" as themselves + people above them and then this is a moving line as they go up in the organization.

That's just sad people who fool themselves believing they are better than others. Not much anyone can do about it.
 
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