Lately, I've been reading a lot of user blogs, as the GI staff news stories just can't keep up with my interest for reading about video games and the industry as a whole.  Unfortunately, I've found it a little troubling how many people make comments about who is or isn't a "true gamer".  Admittedly, some of these comments are light-hearted and surely not meant to offend or be taken seriously.  However, there are others who definitely seem to take the elitist stance that some video game enthusiasts are more deserving than others of being considered "gamers". Some seem to look towards how many different games people have tried or how long they have been gaming.  Others put stock in the difficulty of the challenges that gamers put themselves through or try to test readers overall video game knowledge.  Now, I may only be a lowly level 6 GI member at the time of writing this, but I'm here to make my opinion clear to all of those veteran members who have come before me (mainly the ones who think they have reached some level of gaming conscienceness).  This attitude is crap.  Not only is it crap, but it has the potential to hurt the very industry that you claim to love so much.

As a 33 year-old gamer, I look back and remember how it was when I was younger.  I began gaming when the original NES system hit the shelves.  My single-mother mom couldn't afford the bundle which came with Duck Hunt and the gun peripheral.  So, until I could afford a new game (which was a long time off) I was more than happy to master the sublime yet simple platforming of the original Super Mario Bros.  My aunt eventually bought me Mike Tyson's Punch Out (still one of my favorite games of all time) as a gift and this quickly became my new obsession.  As time went on, I added greater challenges to my video game library, including; Legend of Zelda, Kung-Fu, River City Ransom, and other various classics.  It felt as if I played all my free time playing video games, but I didn't.  At that time, my friends and I manged to play our favorite video games without losing our love for getting outside and playing football, kickball, and basketball. or just wandering the neighborhood terrorizing the older citizens with the sounds of our favorite cassette tapes blaring from an over-sized boombox.  However, there were still plenty of late nights spent fueling our gaming obsessions, begging our parents for more time to beat Metroid or inputting the now infamous code that allowed us all to finally see the end of Contra.  Gaming quickly took up more and more hours in our days and nights.  I remember my poor, little NES controllers and how much damage they sustained from being thrown and chewed on (yes, chewed on) in frustration as many or the insanely difficult NES games beat me again and again.

Flash forward a few more years - The Super Nintendo entered our homes and we were all amazed by what it was capable of compared to the previous generation.  Unfortunately, our parents were also the price of games!!!  Super NES games came out for a ridiculous seventy dollars a piece, and the used game market had not yet been realized.  My mother simply couldn't afford the extra thirty dollars per game and I can't even remember how long it was before I saw a new game after Street Fighter II.  This was the first, but not last, crippling blow to my time spent with video games.

Flash forward, again - The original Playstation finds a home on my television stand.  I loved this system and have been a dedicated Sony gamer ever since.  There was only one problem.  Games were changing.  Completely new genres were being created, developers were experimenting with new, more complicated control schemes, and 3-D gaming had changed gaming's entire outlook.  I wanted to try everything, but I found that much of what was becoming popular just didn't match either my interests or gaming skills.  Tekken blew my mind graphically, but I had trouble making the transition to a more complex move system than the previous generation of fighting games. I loved the scares of Resident Evil and the new survival horror genre that it popularized, but I found I just couldn't wrap my head around the concepts of ammo conservation and continuous back-tracking.  I quickly became frustrated with these games and eventually found myself spending most my time with sports games, which were great, but quickly offered no real challenge at all.  


Last Flash forward (I promise) - Now, I'm getting ready to be thirty and enjoying the power of the PS3.  I love gaming more than ever and graphic capabilities have finally reached the point I had always dreamed that they could.  I've also found my personal niche in gaming, third-person open-world action.  Grand Theft Auto and The Getaway stole most of my time with the PS2 and GTA IV simply amazed me with the improvements they had made to the series.  However, there was a lot of other, more major events in my life, as well.  I had had a son (Dante', I love you, buddy!) who was now in school and needed my attention more than ever.  Also, I had decided to finally get back to school, myself and begin my college career.  Not to mention, my job as a veterinary technician, which was already requiring my full attention.  I may have loved gaming more than ever, but it had also been tempered greatly by the increasing responsibilities of becoming a responsible adult.  Before I knew it, my gaming had decreased from several hours a day to a few hours a week, and I had began to miss out on many of the now revered titles of the last two console generations.


My point with all this is that I never stopped being a gamer.  I just had to become other things, as well.  I became a responsible, adult member of society.  I became a student, again.  Also, I became a proud father.  Likewise, it required me to spread my time out between all of these activities and often gaming got left behind.  Did this make me less of a "true gamer".  I don't think so.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, of course.  However, if your opinion is that in order to stay a true gamer, I would have to have ignored my son's need for a father, ignored my need to study for school, or ignore my need to get a decent night's sleep so I could actually function at work the next morning, then I think that's incredibly sad and misguided.  I think it's snooty, gamer elitism.  I would also be bold enough to suggest that these gamers have missed out on a lot that life has to offer.

Besides feeling a little personally insulted, I think this attitude is harmful for the industry, as a whole.  Players know that the face of the average gamer has changed greatly over the years.  The average gamer is much older now and video games themselves (well, some of them) have found much deeper levels of story-telling and production quality.  However, gamers have to realize that there is still a large part of society that sees adult gamers in a very negative light.  We are still often seen as a bunch of sad, withdrawn anti-socialites who would rather spend our adult years working on our kill/death ratios in our parent's basements, than to see the light of day or experience so much as a single breath of fresh air.  They still see us as a bunch of pale, zit-faced kids (just much older zit-faced kids) wearing our favorite Slayer t-shirt for far too many days in a row.  Is this an inaccurate picture of the average gamer...OF COURSE IT IS!  However, listening to some bloggers, I can't always tell.  Sometimes, this is exactly what you sound like, and it's only perpetuating the stereo-type.  

The worst part is, this doesn't do gaming any favors, either.  Certainly, the industry has expanded its audience greatly over the years.  However, as long as gaming elitists add fuel to the fire of this negative outlook on adult gamers, the industry will always miss out on a huge, untapped marketplace.  If we could just be willing to temper our love of video games with the realism that there are other responsibilities to be tended to for some (like maybe you want to turn on the news or read a book every now and then), then an even larger amount of adult gamers can enter the fold, no longer thinking that they have to feel like big dorks for enjoying gaming into their thirties and forties.  The larger, more diverse the audience, the better gaming is going to become.  The better the profits for hardware and software developers, the better the technology and gaming quality will be that we get to enjoy.  The more diverse games themselves will become, allowing everyone to find their personal gaming niche.


So, please, don't think that I'm writing this as some angry rant as a frustrated "gamer hater".  I LOVE VIDEO GAMES.  Also, I want to be able to be proud to call myself a gamer.  I would like to be able to mention the great game I played this weekend to my co-workers, without half of them getting the wrong impression about how I prioritize my responsibilities or without making misguided judgments about who I am.  If this still happens, no big deal.  In the end, I don't lose that much sleep at night over what other people think about me.  However, most of all, I want every person of every age, lifestyle, and culture to FEEL FREE TO CALL THEMSELVES A TRUE GAMER.  MAY THE ONLY REQUIREMENT FOR MEMBERSHIP BE THAT YOU LOVE VIDEO GAMES...and that is all I'm trying to say.