Tobold's Blog
Friday, September 05, 2014
 
The downside of exclusivity

Am I a "gamer"?

It is kind of weird that this is an actual question under debate. Not about me personally, but certainly about "people like me". I did a rough estimate of how much of my life I did spend playing games, and came up with a number of around 40,000 hours. Apart from sleeping, playing games is probably the activity which I did most in my life. These days in a typical week I do more working than playing games, but I started playing games much earlier in life, so my work hours haven't caught up to my play hours yet. I also spent over a decade writing nearly 5,000 blog posts about games. The "15 minutes of fame" in my life are certainly related to that activity. I play games pretty much every day. It would be weird to have a definition of gamer that excludes me.

But that definition that makes me not a gamer not only exists, but is widely used by people on two different sides of an argument.

It started with a certain group (I usually call the "core gamers" or "hardcore") expressing their belief that people who do not satisfy certain criteria are not gamers, or at least not "real" gamers. You don't play game X at the hardest difficulty? You're not a gamer! You don't like free-for-all PvP? You're not a gamer! Basically these people didn't like the fact that these days pretty much everybody plays games, and they wanted a definition of gamer that is far more exclusive, and limited to people with a specific attitude towards games.

Now your attitude towards games is not to 100% determined by your sex, age, or race. But there are strong correlations. There isn't much demographic overlap between the people playing Battlefield and the people playing Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. If you define "gamer" as "everybody who at least occasionally plays games", you get rather broad demographics. If you use the proposed very narrow, very exclusive definition of what a gamer is, the demographic is also a lot narrower: It is more male, younger, and whiter.

This is why I wasn't in the least bothered by the recent spate of articles that "gamers are over", "dead", or "extinct". They obviously weren't talking about me. Some even said so: "Note they’re not talking about everyone who plays games, or who self-identifies as a “gamer”, as being the worst. It’s being used in these cases as short-hand, a catch-all term for the type of reactionary holdouts that feel so threatened by gaming’s widening horizons. If you call yourself a “gamer” and are a cool person, keep on being a cool person.". And because I write, I also clearly understand the use of hyperbole. Gamers, even by the narrowest possible definition of the term, are neither dead nor in any danger of going extinct. The authors use those words as substitutes for "less relevant".

There is an obvious downside to defining yourself as belonging to a very exclusive club: By definition there aren't very many of you. And at some point the others will turn up with a sign saying "We are the 99%" and be right about it. And unlike the 1% of richest people against which the 99% of less rich people protested in the Occupy Wall Street movement, the 1% of most hardcore gamers wield a lot less influence. Okay, they wield more than 1% influence, because they hold key positions in the game industry. But in the end games are a consumer product subject to market forces, and the 1% are far from spending the most money on games. The 1% have fought an endless battle for example for game developers of MMORPGs to keep making mostly content exclusively for them, and they have lost that battle. The 1% have fought against Free2Play games, and they have lost that battle. The 1% have fought against casual games, and they have lost that battle. And today the 1% are fighting against political correctness in gaming culture, and they are losing that battle as well.

I am a gamer. I would even go as far as to say that I am a voice in gaming. But only if you define gamer as everybody who plays games. I am not part of some elite club of core gamers, nor do I want to be. Because that sort of "gamer" is if not dead then at the very least becoming increasingly irrelevant. They are just one small market segment whose wishes is being considered amongst the wishes of other market segments. If they cry out because they feel left behind by the gaming industry or by gaming journalism it is because they increasingly are. That is the downside of exclusivity, you can't be both exclusive and the majority. It is easy enough to have an exclusive club of people who collect pink garden gnomes, but you can't expect the rest of the world to give special consideration to that club. The more people you exclude from your definition of what you are, the more lonely you become.

Comments:
I hated the occupy movement, because they had the gall to claim they spoke for me. I'm not in the 1%, I'm at around the 60% mark. But I have little in common with those people chanting that they represent the 99%.

I believe that the majority response to all these supposed controversies is one of utter indifference. The people who take pride in being exclusive and the people who feel they are somehow qualified to represent and speak for the entire community both strike me as just completely asinine.
 
I would like to belong to the exclusive club of people who own miniature blue quaggans.

DOWN WITH PINK GARDEN GNOMES!

Also:

Green must fight Purple. Purple must fight Green. Is no other way!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcBTOU7RvbU
 
they had the gall to claim they spoke for me

I think that is a much larger and rather universal problem. It has to do with statistics and the way democracy works. Basically you constantly end up being grouped with people who statistically are like you, or live in the same country, or have other commonalities with you. Even if you aren't at all like them.

So if you are a white American, you get blamed for slavery, even if obviously nobody is alive any more who owned a plantation run by slaves. As German you get blamed for the Nazis, even if you are younger than 80 and couldn't possibly have contributed. And depending on your education or income you can be grouped with for example "the middle class" in an argument which in reality is far from your concerns. You'll get blamed for the silly laws or customs of groups which you only statistically belong to.

Everything I write, and I guess pretty much everything that is written, period, is a personal expression and not speaking for any group except "the group agreeing with this opinion".
 
"Gaming" is an activity not a state of being. "Gamer" is a label. It describes something you do, not something you are. There appears to be some confusion over the correct usage of thee terms.

Once we get that cleared up perhaps we can all calm down and get on with playing games.


 
When they talk about "gamers" dying, they are referring to AAA "white CIS male" gamers and not the MMO definition of hardcore.

The evidence seems to indicate that this market is very healthy, booming in fact.

I see you use "hardcore" and "core" to refer to one group?

I know we often use the term "hardcore" in the MMO sense when we discuss the organised raider booking his raids on a calendar and playing for 5 hours a night 4 nights a week.

These are the people concerned with what difficulty level you play.

The wider media don't use that definition. They define a hardcore player as someone buying AAA console games - usually with young white males inaccurately stereotyped (e.g. you and I aren't "young"). Crucially that includes the "casual" players who get a third of the way through on "easy" before quitting and buying the next game.

Those of us with an MMO culture background should be careful with terms. We would probably be best referring to the "AAA white CIS male patriarchy" as "core" rather than "hardcore".

I.e. the medias "hardcore" = our "core".

Anyway the "hardcore" (in the MMO sense) are becoming less relevant. Their power is diminishing but gaming isn't a zero sum game. The rise of one group won't prevent production of games in another niche. I actually believe the hardcore segment is shrinking due to changing lifestyles.

The "core" (the media's "hardcore) are most definitely not in decline but are in rude health. The media are simply wrong and contradicted by sales.

By the way, I think whether you view yourself in the "gamer" demographic they attacked is irrelevant.

I think many of them would consider you to be in that demographic.

If you are a white male and not a staunch feminist then in their own words "you are against us".

Also "all men must die" etc. I think you would have a hard time convincing them that you are not a part of the "patriarchy". To be a "cool" person you have to be "cool" in their eyes. They determine what that definition entails, not you.

Ultimately no one will be left before in a free market. What will happen is that the budget allocated to your preferred genre will change depending on the market size.

Hardcore MMO gamers can't expect games on the scale and polish of WoW dedicated to them any more.

The core AAA gamer can expect small growth of their already huge budgets but perhaps fewer original titles due to the risks involved at those levels.

The social justice crowd will have a lot of original titles but they will typically be quite low budget.

Gone Home scored 9's and 10's and was heavily hyped but only sold 250k copies. A game with the budget of Tomb Raider is deemed a failure at 3.5 million.

Clearly it can't be considered "discrimination and exclusion" if we don't see a AAA budgeted Gone Home any time soon.

Games like Beyond Two Souls (another game I loved) also had mediocre sales figures so the middle ground that bridges the two is a pretty small market too.
 
I've heard similar arguments but in tabletop game space as well as board game space.

The edition wars are a giant case in point, where there are a lot of different sub-factions that are pissed at each other for merely preferring a different version of D&D than they do. The underlying subtext of the hardcore fighters in the edition wars, that you're having bad-wrong-fun (or "yr doing it wrong, L2P noob" in MMO lingo) keeps the fires going.

Boardgamers have their own brouhaha in the Euro vs. Ameritrash debates and the "OMG WE HATES MONOPOLY AND IT'S NOT A REEAAAL GAME" crowd.

@Jeromai-- I thought you were talking about the old Tomorrow People episode of The Blue and the Green, but I guess I'm just getting old.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyEPMIT4P90
 
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There is a problem here: let's say that I played as much Football with my friends as you played video games. 40000 hours. That makes me a Football player, right?

If you ask FIFA, they say no as I was never a registered participant of any team, even in the local league.

The Football World Cup is a much bigger business and much bigger real world news than the gaming industry. Remember the photo of Merkel, Putin, an African president and the Hungarian prime minister in the audience. I doubt they'd show up in the League of Legends final.

Yet Football players acknowledged by FIFA is much smaller group than the "real gamers".
 
What you are really remarking on isn't the word "gamer" but the adjectives used to describe the "gamer". The adjective that you seem to find particular offensive is "real" since it presumes that other gamers are not "real".

Of course, that's just the latest in a long series of inflammatory descriptions of which all sides are usually guilty. When in doubt, use an ad hominem attack to disparage entire groups who have a different viewpoint.

It's really no different than attacks like "care bear" but with the notable difference that it's more difficult to accept that label. In other words, there are lots of people who will freely call themselves "care bear" despite the fact that it's original intent was derogatory.

Another fine example of such labels is "themepark" which originally used in a derogative way has now become accepted even by those it was meant to impinge.

But you can't really do that with "real gamer" because otherwise, you are admitting to being a "fake gamer".
 
None of the articles I linked to used the adjective "real". I'm not sure it is important in the wider discussion.

Yet Football players acknowledged by FIFA is much smaller group than the "real gamers".

So where exactly are the "real gamers" registered?

I am pretty certain that there are more registered FIFA football players than there are people who earn money playing video games. Which would be the only definition that would make any sense. If you don't base the definition on anything objective, it becomes a shouting match of "I'm the real gamer!", "No, I'm the real gamer!".

Apart from playing video games professionally, what would make another gamer more real than me?
 
The FIFA example is flawed in that the number of people which FIFA counts as players doesn't have any bearing on attention it receives in the media. FIFA is a big deal because there are millions, if not billions of fans who are interested in attending and watching sanctioned games as well as buying mountains of branded merchandise. The players are not actually customers.
 
None of the articles I linked to used the adjective "real". I'm not sure it is important in the wider discussion.

The larger point is that it's nothing new. Same argument, slightly different verbiage.

There is no value in the discourse as neither side is interested in reasonable debate -- only propaganda.

What surprises me is how often the person or group being disparaged will embrace a label intended to mock them.
 
Maybe one can be a gamer, and then stop being a gamer.
 
It started with a certain group (I usually call the "core gamers" or "hardcore") expressing their belief that people who do not satisfy certain criteria are not gamers, or at least not "real" gamers. You don't play game X at the hardest difficulty? You're not a gamer! You don't like free-for-all PvP? You're not a gamer! Basically these people didn't like the fact that these days pretty much everybody plays games, and they wanted a definition of gamer that is far more exclusive, and limited to people with a specific attitude towards games.

Tobold,

What, exactly, is wrong with the establishment of sub-cultures within gaming circles? People have a right to identify with whatever groups they so choose, and they have the right to "change" these groups as age, experience and comfort zones also change. The great thing about real-life™, is that it allows us to employ discernment in choosing who we support and identify with.

Just because I choose to associate with successful, professional people in real life does not mean that I should be shoe-horned by someone outside my cultural sphere into a self-serving position(for them) where I am defined(by them) as a result of the tell-tale effects of their own perceived exclusion.

If a cultural sub-set of gamers wants to establish a definition of what they consider to be "hardcore", then who are you or I to deny them the right to do this? That does not mean we have to agree with or even support them, but if others do agree and support them, then the impetus would be on us to possibly rethink our positions. I mean, God forbid we tell all of them they are wrong, right?

Is there really that much harm associated with the use of "core" or "hardcore" as descriptors of gamer sub-cultures, or is this nothing more than exclusionary "butthurt" syndrome?
 
Is there really that much harm associated with the use of "core" or "hardcore" as descriptors of gamer sub-cultures

You and me are intelligent enough to use limiting words like "core". But the people who want this exclusive club call themselves either "gamer" or "real gamer". And the journalists attacking them then call them "gamer" too. This is Gamergate, not Coregate or something.

If the core would admit that they are a sub-culture and not representative for the rest, that would be okay. But the way the discussion is going the general audience won't be able to make the difference between the sub-group and the mainstream group. It becomes yet another episode which makes it difficult to tell your colleagues Monday morning at the water cooler how you spent the weekend playing games, because they'll think you're part of that sexist terrorist group they read about.
 
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It becomes yet another episode which makes it difficult to tell your colleagues Monday morning at the water cooler how you spent the weekend playing games, because they'll think you're part of that sexist terrorist group they read about.

This is where you and I differ on perception. I'm a professional in real life, and the water cooler conversations do include my gaming endeavors without fear of judgement because I have chosen to surround myself with like-minded people who, mostly agree that this issue is nothing more than a bad case of butthurt driven, knee-jerk reactionism.

I would much rather have an intelligent discussion about female enrollment numbers at places like The Guild Hall, and such, and see if there are supportive trends to allow intelligent debate of these topics. The industry is more likely at fault than the gamers who have continuously drank the same kool-aid for the past 30+ years.


 
I'm still not entirely sure we are clear on terms. The "core" in gamergate are AAA game buyers both casual and hardcore. The media are rallying behind figures that attack the content of the large AAA games.

AAA gamers aren't a subculture. They are the still the dominant culture.

The "hardcore" in MMO's are a small subculture.

The media in gamergate are not mistakenly confusing the Dark Souls crowd with Joe or Jane Bloggs popping into Tesco and grabbing a copy of Destiny when heading home from the office on Tuesday.

Gamer is being used to refer to the traditional market. In AAA games the large majority of purchasers are males aged 15 to 35.

Statistics that claim older gamers and women are now big players are misleading as they include the mobile segment and all your farmvilles and candy crush type games that the public and media don't associate with "gaming".

I didnt think Tobold played AAA games? I thought you were in a subculture playing niche titles?

I actually class the Anita Sarkeesians of this world in the same category as hardcore WoW players.

They seem unable to accept the workings of a free market.

They can't accept that the spending power of their niche doesn't cover the cost of modern AAA games dedicated to their tastes. Money at the til counts for more than swamping forums with their group think.

Rather than accepting lower cost niche titles, they want to hijack the big expensive titles that were directly targeted at the majority audience that paid the big money.

The 3% of WoW players demanding that the game be designed around their tastes and not the 7 million casuals that paid for it (and would walk away) are no different to the Sarkeesian supporter I argued with on Gevlons blog who believed that a game marketed at 5 million people as a seedy underworld assassination game should not have a level based in a strip club but instead should have a segment based in an RSPCA animal sanctuary....
 
You could really have the same considerations for many groups. Gevlon mentioned footballers but that works for so many other hobbies/sports. You could also ask "What's a golfer?".
Someone who knows how to play golf (I don't)? Someone who plays golf twice a week? A professional player who participate in world-class events?
What is a "gambler", a "foodie", a "stamp collector"?

There is no definition for "gamer" or for those other things. The best way to define from my perspective is the relative importance of the activity in your life, which is pretty much in line to what you explain about yourself.

Someone who plays candy crush in the bus going to work probably isn't a gamer because that's not an important part of their life. It's just a way to pass time when they can't do the thing they like.

The key question is whether in addition to there is a certain amount of skills is needed as a qualifier as well. If I play golf 2 times a week for 6 hours, that probably would qualify as a being a golfer but I completely suck a it maybe that disqualifies me. I see a point to that argument. Of course the threshold of skill will be hard to define. For me that shouldn't go higher than the bottom 10-20% of performers, if not less. So it definitely not something that should be elitist.

Anyway this debate is probably a bit sterile given that there isn't any definition and that different people will have different view.
 
Tobold, ask yourself: when you read childish articles about gamers being dead or extinct, is the term 'gamer' being used by those who would call themselves 'core gamers', or by those who want to attack them or their culture?

If your colleagues on Monday mention some copy-and-pasted drivel rehashing how somebody got harassed on Twitter, point out that there are indeed many millions of gamers, and that the tiny minority engaged in internet spats on both sides are best ignored.
 
They're also a market segment that hates spending money on game. They bitch about game prices even though they've barely gone up in the past 30 years and so are historically very cheap when adjusted for inflation. They love sub MMOs because it lets them play cheaply, and hate F2P because it would cost them money since time played mostly correlates with how much money you spend.

Who you think is pirating all those games? Casuals? Doubt it.

Loud, obnoxious, annoys the other customers, and cheap. If they were in a restaurant they'd get told not to come back.
 
I have a console and I own AAA games like GTA on the console. Plus I buy many AAA PC games. But that was never the criterion when people bragged how they are the "real gamers" and everybody else is not. And buyers of AAA console games are still a far broader demographic than the narrow "gamer" sub-culture that is currently fighting their culture war (mostly against women).
 
Tobold,

The problem with your message is that in your post you are decrying the 1%'ers as the ones behind this "gamergate" situation, yet you make statements that "they" have lost the battle..wtf? You do realize that in order for there to be a battle, there has to be two sides, right? You've been quite adept in demonizing the 1%'ers based on supposition, as you have put forth nothing but speculation about some kind of "ulterior motives" and some kind of "secret boys club" that is responsible for whatever "X" issue crops up next that needs a convenient whipping boy.

I would ask that you prove to me that the gamers on the "other" side of this supposed culture war represents more than 1% of their own cultural base.
 
You do realize that in order for there to be a battle, there has to be two sides, right?

No, it needs "more than one", which isn't the same as "two". Already what the Gamergaters call the "social justice warriors" is not one organization but a bunch of them. And the reason they are losing is not that they are against one thing or one group of people, but they are against everybody.

They are against everybody from casual players (already far more than 1% of those) to people who would like public online speech to be political correct (another big group). They are against the mainstream, against the mass market, and by definition that means that they are against the majority of other people playing games.
 
They are against everybody from casual players (already far more than 1% of those) to people who would like public online speech to be political correct (another big group). They are against the mainstream, against the mass market, and by definition that means that they are against the majority of other people playing games.

I think you might want to review your information regarding what #gamergate is about...

The single most egregious bit of misinformation relating to the misogyny angle flies in the face of the facts as provided by the ESA, which reports that nearly 50% of gamers are women. Yet there is a small sub-culture of less than 1% of females involved with the SJW movement attempting to speak for the masses as if all women are rallying behind them. They are not. Both sides involved with #gamergate are just as at fault as the other when it comes to politicizing the issue while ignoring factual information.

Are you declaring the winners by virtue of who you support most, or what?
 
No, I listed the issues the core gamers were against and where obviously they failed to stop the tide of time. Are you denying that the market for video games is moving in a direction that the core gamers hate? Free2Play, casual gaming, "censored" chat and forums, name me ONE battle that the core gamers actually won!
 
Are you denying that the market for video games is moving in a direction that the core gamers hate?

I'm denying that the often stated <1% are representative of the "core" gamer culture. Full stop. We have been over this countless times here on your own blog, where the most vocal, yet minority representation of the gamer culture is continued to be given more creedance than what even you have stated they deserve. I do not see this as a means to validate a mechnism for determining a loss or victory for either side, because the majority of posts I am seeing deals with the mistrust of current gaming journalism's ability to accurately report and represent an unbiased set of facts or opinions relating to gaming.

Until that trust is restored, gamers will never be rightfully served in any matter of socially relevent gaming news.

I will make a prediction: Out of all of this there will be attempts to create a moderate voice in gaming journalism, but as long as a vocal minority from any segment of the gamer culture is given creedence due to political correctness, activism or whatnot, a moderate voice in gaming journalism will, most likely, never be had.
 
So you are saying that up to now not a single moderate voice in gaming journalism exists? I don't believe that.
 
I would say that up until today there has been no moderate reporting of the #gamergate debacle. Hats off to Mr. Tito for having the courage to put the Escapist into the limelight surrounding this issue.

The postmortem will be an interesting read for certain.

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/137293-Exclusive-Zoe-Quinn-Posts-Chat-Logs-Debunking-GamerGate-4Chan-and-Quinn-Respond
 
Even the Escapist agrees that Gamergate started with jealous boyfriend posting a fake "good review for sex" scandal story. Manufactured outrage. I doubt that there would be much outrage if we knew all the facts, which are more probably a lot less harmless. Really innocent actions like journalists crowdfunding a game have been blown totally out of proportion. And most of the stuff people got most outraged about probably never happened.

People who make games and people who write about games both share a passion of games. And when they meet at expositions and the like, they hang out and talk, because it is nice to talk to people who share your hobby. 99% of that is really, really harmless.
 
The latest allegations from yesterday show the potential for racketeering. There were serious conflicts of interests involved given the money flows.

People will be friends sure, but this is why full disclosure is so important. We can't trust these people to recluse themselves under the current secretive system.

Quinnspiracy was a bit different to gamer gate because the sjw debunkers were involved.

Quinn (not her real name) also writes publicly about social justice issues.

She had expressed strong views about infidelity and claimed that sleeping with a partner without informing them of the infidelity was non-consential and therefore an act of sexual violence.

This made her sex life and infidelity a legitimate public interest story (by UK press laws) for the sjw debunking movement that was semi allied to gamers as they been debunking sarkeesian.

So what you might see as a focus on irrelevant sexual allegations is actually the blurring of two separate groups calling out two separate issues.

As a gamer my interest was purely related to the lack of disclosure over conflicts of interest and gamergate moved the topic away from Quinn.

I am still only concerned with matters of disclosure and journalists reclusing themselves where appropriate.

Being friends is fine. Writing glowing reports on friends titles with no disclosure of personal relations is unethical and in breach of the codes "real" journalists follow. You might not think it important, but real journalists do.

If I were an indie dev and had paid to enter these allegedly rigged contests I'd be consulting my lawyers.
 
As I understand it, the boyfriend posted some stuff (there are no indications that any of it was fake) portraying her as a manipulative liar, but doubted that there was any explicit trade of good reviews for sex.

Others pointed out the connection with the reviewer and with others. As the popcorn-spewing debacle progresses, other links between journalists and their subjects have emerged.

You like the word 'fake', Tobold - you also referred to 'fake porn'. The only links I saw appear to be to a site still selling the porn!
 
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