The BBC estimates that 100% of British teenagers play video games in some form or other. Within the next century ‘gamers’ will be a term that encompasses every gay and transgender person, every girl and woman, every politician in the cabinet, everyone with a title in the House of Lords, every teacher, nurse, banker, social worker, dustman and paedophile. Video games and their players will be acknowledged as ubiquitous, and the medium’s commentators will be free to move from advocacy (the endless articles and television programmes that, beneath the angle, exist primarily to plead the case that games matter) to more rounded criticism.
But for now, gamers are dishonestly classed as a standardized tribe. Who gains from maintaining the pervading stereotype? There is an argument to say that the game-makers and publishers benefit: they are more easily able to target their marketing to a large and discrete group (“this is for the players” states Sony’s current advertising campaign for its PlayStation 4, for example). But this isn’t quite true: see Nintendo’s gargantuan efforts during the past five years to reach people outside of the traditional gamer demographic. In truth, it’s gamers who fit within the demographic that benefit the most: here, within the artifice of a ‘community’ they find a place to belong, a place where they fit, are understood and are free to be themselves and, together with like-minded people, enjoy a sense of collective power.
There is nothing deplorable about this; the urge to form groups with like-minded people is a universal one. But when that collective power is turned against those on the margins of the group, or those who present valid criticisms of its unifying subject…it becomes problematic.