Little: A call for acceptance of “gamers”

With the holiday shopping season starting soon – a season in which video games purchases will surely rise – it’s important to revisit the topic of video gamers and how society reacts to them.

After three decades of increased interest in video games among more and more people, from toddlers and teachers to college seniors and senior citizens, is the continuing media and public discrimination of gamers still valid? Considering one game alone can have as many monthly players as a quarter of the population of Spain, the answer is a resounding “no.”

When the gamer stereotype – specifically that they are predominately middle-aged men with poor hygiene living in their parents’ basements – first emerged, there was some truth to the thought that those playing video games all through the night were not the majority and thus not desirable.

Many of the earliest developers and players became interested in gaming through role-playing tabletop games that in turn brought about the extreme nerd cliche.

Since then there has been a massive expansion of online games, such as “World of Warcraft,” and console-specific games, like “Mario Party,” in affiliation with and in response to a “population boom” of gamers. As the number of genres and platforms grew, so did the variety of people playing them.

In 2012, which brought the addition of social networking to the gaming community, the term “gamer” simply no longer supports that old stereotype. Anyone who has played more than the demo of “Angry Birds” and anyone who is still visiting a farm every day on “Farmville” can be called a gamer.

Thus, when a video gamer can be of any age, gender, race, nationality or social status – many celebrities openly embrace gaming – or when a game portrays a realistic simulation of the National Football League, an abundance of swords and magic or just dancing and singing, is there any justification for using gamer as a title to detach people from mainstream society?

Media coverage of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre is an example of how discrimination against gamers can be taken to the extreme. While it is certainly true that the killers played violent games such as “Doom” addictively and were thus highly desensitized to violence – also caused by movies and propagandist media – it is unfair to claim that their gaming pastimes were a cause for their horrific actions.

Last year, in April 2011, Tristan van der Vlis shot 23 people in an Alphen aan den Rijn, Netherlands shopping mall, killing six of them. Much of the focus was placed on Vlis’ love of “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” and how eerily similar the events at Alphen aan den Rijn were to a portion of the game. In both cases, there should have been much more scrutiny on gun-control laws and these young adult’s addictions before blame was placed on video games.

Instead of labeling the gaming community as violent for playing excessively violent games, media coverage should instead encourage parents to take a more active role in their children’s lives. A few rotten apples, which were extreme cases of addiction, do not represent a population that has surpassed the billions and is still growing with each new game.