The Games We Play (Part 1)

Gaming, in all it’s various forms, is a multi-billion dollar industry. From conventions like PAX and Gencon, to organizations like GAMA, and retailer sneak peeks like Toyfair and E3, the importance of games as entertainment is everywhere. But can it really be called a “culture” in and of itself? Are any of the stereotypes that people typically associate with gamers actually true? What, if anything, does it mean to be a “girl gamer”? How many different types of gamers could there possibly be? This post and the next will cover these topics and more, so please…read on!

Gamer Culture
Let’s start with what the term culture is defined as. The most common usage seems to be “A group of people who share common characteristics and beliefs”. In my mind, this fits very well with the concept of a gamer culture; our central belief is that games are a valid source of entertainment and/or relaxation, and our shared characteristic is that we play these various games on a casual, moderate or hardcore level. (If you believe that all gamers are antisocial dweebs who live in their parents’ basement…it is safe to say you aren’t part of this culture.) But who is considered a gamer nowadays? Well, like any other culture, gaming has it’s own subgroups which may or may not overlap according to the individual. Let’s take a look.

Types of Gamers
-The Videogamer: This is the gamer that most people are familiar with, or know personally. Due to the huge use of electronics for gaming purposes (consoles, computers, tablets, phones), I’d be tempted to argue that nearly everyone under the age of 40 in the US falls into this category on at least a casual level. With everything from Atari to Colecovision, Xbox to PC, and Wii to iPad, there are so many generations of videogamer to consider nowadays.

-The RPGer: Despite still being openly mocked in our media, the pen-and-paper gamer is in no threat of dying out. RPGs, or Role-Playing Games, are still published en masse by companies like Paizo, Sword and Sorcery, Green Ronin, and Wizards of the Coast. These gamers are content to sit down at a table, have snacks and describe what their character does while the GM (Game Master) weaves them a story. Often they make use of various books, some of which are made solely for the GM and others that can be shared with everyone. If you have a friend who knows what THAC0 is, owns many different shapes of dice, and understands that dungeons do, in fact, often contain some sort of dragon…chances are they play RPGs.

The LARPer: The lesser known cousin to RPG is LARP, or Live Action Role-Playing. If you’ve ever been to a Renaissance Faire, then you have tasted a small piece of the LARP pie. Though you play as a character same as in RPGs, this type of gamer actually dresses up and acts out what their alter-ego does. In some cases, this just means wearing Victorian era clothing while pretending to stop the Elder Gods from awakening. More lively LARPers will actually create/buy realistic armor and weapons to enact battles outdoors. Of course, there are many different levels of this, depending on how much free time and finances the player has.

Board/Cardgamer: Once thought of as the pinnacle of casual or family-oriented gaming, the board and card game community has come a long way. No longer is this gamer restricted to Monopoly, Risk and Solitaire…the last 35 years have seen a steady increase in media, making this a quickly growing field. Some card games like Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon, UFS, and Yugioh are taken so seriously by hardcore followers that they can make money by playing at high level tournaments, much like poker players. Boardgames are nothing to sneeze at either. Staples in hobby stores include Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan, Munchkin, Dominion, Alhambra…the lists go on for miles and range from a 15 minute game of Fluxx you can play between class periods to 10+ hour games like Axis and Allies. Indeed, the modern board/card gamer has a cornucopia of delights to choose from.

Miniature Gamer: Last, but certainly not least, we have the gamer who loves nothing more than waging intense battles that decide the fate of entire civilizations…all on a single table top. Often considered a forerunner to RPGs, miniatures players are a vast group in their own right. They tend to be very dedicated to their games, perhaps because of the time taken to assemble, glue, paint and flock their troops. And what troops they are! Ranging from the historical Flames of War and Bolt, to the science fiction of Infinity or Warhammer 40k, the horrifying steampunk of Malifaux, and the dual fun of Warmachine/Hordes…the choices are nearly endless. Is it any wonder that the typical player spends upwards of $200 on foam and cases to protect these carefully crafted minis?

I hope you enjoyed reading about the various types of gamers out there, and perhaps see yourself in one or more of them. As always, you can ask me questions about the above topics…though for more in-depth coverage I recommend checking out your own FLGS (Friendly Local Gaming Store).

Next week I’ll be talking about the stereotypes involved in gaming culture, and whether female gamers are as rare as people think. See you next week!

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