Like it or not, the days of video games being played exclusively by children or middle-aged men living in their parent's basements are long gone. Yet, the picture that the mainstream media paints of gamers has not. "Non-gamers" still view people who play video games as extreme geeks, who sport anti-social behavior and bad body odor. Little do these "normal" people know, they're most likely gamers too.
You don't have to own an XBox, Wii, or Playstation to be a gamer, and you don't have to know the importance of W-A-S-D. All you need is a few spare minutes a day, and something like a smartphone app, or the internet.
According to this report, there are over 132.4 million unique monthly users of King.com's 'Candy Crush' game. You say you don't play 'Candy Crush'? What about the 'Farmville' series? Any Popcap.com games like 'Chuzzle' or 'Peggle'? If puzzle games aren't your thing, maybe you like 'Lucky Slots' or 'Doubledown Casino'.
Whether you realize it or not, if you play any type of time consuming game on your phone, tablet, or Facebook, you are a gamer, my friend. No, you may not spend hours in front of a computer conquering dragons, or focused in on your TV trying to escape from a horde of zombies. You are a casual gamer. Once in awhile you like to pop into your app, play a minute or so, and pop out. Just like someone who may look at their local sports team's score every so often, but doesn't feel the need to go to every game.
The ESRB has come out with a really nifty infographic that breaks down some statistical data regarding "gamers" as a whole. More women are gaming now, making up 40% of the demographic. And gamers are also older, with the average age of a gamer being 34 years old, and having around 12 years of experience with playing games. Oh, and as for it being a more exclusive hobby, that's out the window as 67% of US households play video games. So, if gaming is so rampant in popularized electronic entertainment, why is it still stereotyped as a hobby for people with no lives?
Maybe the answer lies in the criticism.
Unlike other fans of different forms of entertainment, gamers are labeled as "uncool", "antisocial", "having nothing better to do with their lives", and supposedly are being warped by the constant stream of violence in video games. You'd never see a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers being cast as a person who doesn't have a social life. You'd also never see New York Rangers fan get criticized for watching the violence in the rink. It's also fair to say that someone attending a car show won't get mocked for liking cars, or not being a "true" car lover.
That's right, gamers, the fight also lies within ourselves. Unless we can stop trying to label ourselves as "true" or "fake" geeks, nerds, gamers, etc., then we can't expect the rest of the world to change the labeling for us. If we don't want people to get the wrong idea about games and gamers, then we need to not only speak out about it, but prove them wrong with our actions. Soon, just as with television, there will be extremely few people who have never touched or seen a video game. Let's welcome the populace into our culture, instead of pushing them away. If "non-gamers" actually get to see what they've been missing, then maybe misinformation won't give them the wrong idea about games, and us.