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Opinion

Opinion: What is a "Gamer?"

OpinionTrey TakahashiComment
 Image:  Haley Rae

Image: Haley Rae

I play video games. I play a lot of video games. Most days I will find myself playing video games by myself, or more often than not with friends. Sometimes it will be a quick game for a few minutes to unwind; some weekends it can be an entire day to the activity. On the busiest days running around taking care of errands and exchanging my time for a bit of cash, I could be spending a few moments of downtime playing a mobile game of sorts. Most weekends there are hours dedicated to spending time with close friends playing grand tabletop strategy games, or during the winter the occasional scary game in a dimly lit room. Some of my closes friends I met playing video games online; and last year I even found myself in attendance of the very first Playstation Experience convention. Despite all of this however, I do not consider myself a gamer.

Wait, what?         

Before I jump into explanations, let’s first jump into the heart of the issue. What exactly is a gamer? The term has existed for decades, describing those who simply play video games on some level. From individuals who dedicate their time to learn, collect, and complete games in their entirety to those who simply play casually in their downtime. Admittedly, that is quite an ambiguous term, one that strings together people from all lifestyles because they share one thing in common: they play video games. There have been numerous studies over the past few years that have provided an insight on who gamers are (as a whole). One particularly robust poll performed by the Entertainment Software Association (PDF link) found the average “gamer” to be 31 years old, and nearly equally split between genders (52% male versus 48% female).[1] Even women who play video games over the age of 50 have been increasing dramatically year after year.[2]  Taking this into account, playing video games is something that is becoming increasingly more popular and accessible to anyone of all ages. In a spread across the board most people from the millennials to generation x can agree: most people play video games.

Back in the earliest days of video games, looking back into the late 1970s and into the 1980s, accessibility to video games was low. The first Atari home game system the Atari 2600 (originally Atari Video Computer System), often regarded as one of the first home consoles, retailed for $199.99 in 1977—a whopping $786.48 in 2015 with inflation.[3] Video games were expensive, just as were computers during the same period. Rather than being introduced to video games at home, many people would flock to arcades to play the latest and greatest offerings when home video game ownership was low. With lower numbers of people playing video games as a hobby, let alone regularly, the term gamer could easily be used to describe those who have a genuine passion for playing video games. Those who are dedicated either to the craft, making a name a serious enthusiast or as someone who frequently plays to pass time as a hobby. Both of these groups I would argue find themselves involved in a restively niche culture at the time. But that era has died—

Rather than having limited access, a study in 2000 found that 67% of homes with children have at least one video game console of some kind.[4] With the rise of personal computers as an essential device in every household, that number can only have ballooned in the last 15 years. Add the fact that nearly every cell phone has some basic form of video game loaded onto it, and that there are approximately 6.9 billion mobile phone owners worldwide (that’s 96% percent of the world’s population).[5] Add in the fact that in Europe and the United States there are more phone owners then there are people makes an argument to accessibility a moot point.[6] Accessibility and availability of technology has fundamentally changed the world around us, and with that the idea of terms to describes groups needs to shift with it. Calling someone a gamer in the 21st century is like calling someone a reader—most people do it and it really does not hold significance anymore.

It is not just in the realm of video games where the core of this argument lies. What about other once limited trades that now are available to everyone? In one period the idea of being a photographer came a great dedication to an art. Dedication to understanding light, optics, and chemistry was essential, and the process itself was incredibly time consuming, delicate, and of course expensive. With the rise of digital cameras and free photo editing software, everyone with a smartphone or point and shoot camera can call themselves a photographer—so what about those who practice the older chemical processes involved? What distinguishes those who just take pictures to true enthusiasts, hobbyists, and professionals?

There are new terms on the horizon, ‘casual gamer,’ ‘hardcore gamer,’ and of course, ‘pro gamer’ which are helping to distinguish different groups of people who fall into different categories. The people who play video games on the side and just use them to unwind might fall into the designation of a ‘casual gamer’ whereas the more dedicated and skilled gamers might be better described as ‘hardcore’ or ‘professional’ depending on what they are competing with their skills. However, I still have a problem with this designation. It still fails to ascribe those who are dedicated toward gaming culture, those who are fully immersed and actively follow news and events in the industry. What about those who are in love with the culture and have memorabilia scattered about? What separates a casual game player who follows the news and loves the culture from the casual gamer who plays solitaire and Tetris on their mobile device? This is where the use of gamer to describe someone falls short. There are many of us who play games; there are many of us who are not gamers.

I play video games; I am not a gamer. I do not watch E3 Convention broadcasts. I do not follow or pre-order games with gross excitement. I do not follow all of the new events in the industry. I do not buy into fandom or watch fan made videos or buy game related merchandise. I play countless hours of video games a year because I find them to be relaxing, a great social pastime, something that I greatly enjoy as most people around the world do too. Those who have an unfettered passion and love for video games; those that partake in the culture surrounding it; all those who genuinely make video games part of their lives. Let them have the term ‘gamer.’ Let the term have meaning, let it carry more weight and be something that people can own. Let us give the term back and understand what it really means to be a ‘gamer.’

  1. “Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry: 2014 Sales, Demographic, and Usage Data,” Entertainment Software Association (April 2014), http://www.theesa.com/facts/pdfs/esa_ef_2014.pdf
  2. Ibid.
  3. “Atari History: 1972-1984,” https://www.atari.com/history/1972-1984-0
  4. Kaveri Subrahamanyam et al., “The Impact of Home Computer Use on Children’s Activities and Development,” Children and Computer Technology 10, no. 2 (fall/winter 2000)
  5. “Global Mobile Statistics 2014 Part A: Mobile Subscribers; Handset Market Share; Mobile Operators,” MobiThinking (May 2014), http://mobithinking.com/mobile-marketing-tools/latest-mobile-stats/a#subscribers
  6. Ibid.

Film History: A History of French Cinema (Part 2) - A Story of Passion, Seduction, and Survival

Film, Opinion, HistoryTrey TakahashiComment

Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo in jean-Luc Godard's À bout de souffle (1960)

If you have deeper look at what films France produces each year, you will discover that we release rather clumsy comedies and dull dramas. I will never say that all French films are all bad, but they simply do not compare to those we produced in the past. Simply take a moment and go on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) and look at the highest rated French films. There might be a few from the 21st century, but looking at when a majority of the films were released, you will know what I mean.

Luc Besson at Wondercon. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

 Nowadays, French films are somewhat interesting, but not exactly entertaining. Who goes to the cinema without expecting any form of entertainment? I am the first one to choose the latest movie of the Terminator franchise rather than a movie pointed out human misery and that makes me feel absolutely miserable. Films you can find in any Paris cinema can be divided in three categories: American blockbusters, critically acclaimed award winners, and the “others:” Luc Besson’s movies (And, he could represent a category alone to me), indie films, low-budget comedies, dramas, &c.

Of course there are few exceptions. This is how the cash machine works:

The French like making films about what they know best: France, their most iconic singers, designers or actors. Unlike Marvel that seems to target a very specific kind of viewers, French producers try to target a larger public. The larger, the better, eh? They know that we, French people from 10 to 80 y/o, can afford to buy a ticket to see a biopic about Yves Saint Laurent rather than paying for Guardians of The Galaxy (2014). But how about the power of French films abroad? Are Americans as excited as we are when a movie about Cloclo comes up (“Who’s Cloclo?”). Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo in The Artist (2011)

I am the first one to admit that The Artist (2011) from Michel Hazanavicius was risky but a breath of fresh air at the same time. La Môme (2007) from French film-maker Olivier Dahan became unexpectedly very famous across the world, which did not happen since Amelie (2001). The reason? Telling the story of a worldwide-known deceased and iconic singer. Everybody knows Edith Piaf. And if you do not? Perhaps the songs “La Vie En Rose” and “l’Hymne A l’Amour” come to mind. I believe that Piaf still represents a fundamental aspect of popular culture. Numerous songs are used in films and other media such as Nolan’s hit Inception (2010) and the military epic Saving Private Ryan (1998). Sometimes when I meet foreigners, I ask them three words that best describe France or French culture. Piaf is always mentioned. Perhaps not her full name, but at least one of her songs.

Audrey Tautou in the famed film Amélie (2007)

Let look at some other examples of how France seduces American culture. But first let me ask why is Amelie (2001) one of our biggest success abroad? Simply because there has always been this fantasy about France, about Paris, capital of love. Jean Pierre Jeunet who directed this film succeeded in making people fantasize about our country. On behalf of French people, I apologize. Living in Paris isn't like Amelie (2001).

Marion Cotillard. Photo credit: Studio Harcourt Paris

French cinema survives through the careers of its best actors. There is this passion for French actresses and actors that makes me sometimes, proud of contemporary French filmmakers and their works. I remember that particular evening I was watching the Academy Awards when Marion Cotillard was a nominee for her role in La Môme (2007). I stayed up almost all night due to jetlag just watch the show (and dozed off the next day in class).

The day after, I carried the attitude: “Yup guys, bow down… bow down, we won!”

I then became a fan of the actress. It’s terrible to like an actress only because she got the top prize. I idolized her for years. Any news saying that she was casted in an American movie made me even happier.

Until I became a movie expert and had a deeper look at her acting (and that particular scene in The Dark Knight (2008). You know which one--I know you know.)

Working in the film business made me grow up in my approach to French film. Now I follow the careers of actresses who truly astonish me with their acting, hoping and praying that they get recognized for their talent someday. The French actress Eva Green is one example, and I would recommend everyone immediately binge-watch series Penny Dreadful.  She is the daughter of the acclaimed New Wave actress Marlène Jobert. I recall reading an article where she stated that she does not understand why Eva Green plays roles in indie movies, movies that “nobody watches.” I did watch Cracks (2009), the first Jordan Scott’s feature. I did watch White Bird in a Blizzard (2014) from Gregg Araki too. And trust me, it was awesome.

Recently, another French actress made her debut in an American movie. Well, not exactly her debut, since she has a small role in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011). But she gained a lot of attention thanks to the success of Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013). Lea Seydoux has not only a famous name and grandfather, she is also talented—very talented. I believe that her performance in the next James Bond movie Spectre (2015) will surprise us. In a good way.

Truth is, French cinema is no longer exciting. I had numerous appointments with screenwriters. I read many scripts over the past years. And what I felt wasn’t disappointment, but sadness.  Sadly, everything is so controlled that it is very hard to make a film nowadays in France. We no longer have the freedom to create and experiment--

Something has died, an element that is, I believe, the most important thing when it comes to movies: creativity.

To follow along with this series, click here

To check out Part 1 in this series, click here

-Allison Launay