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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.

Obscure Film: All This and World War II (1976)

Obscure FilmTrey TakahashiComment

In the 1960s and 1970s, movie studios began to produce some truly bizarre films that broke away from the conventions of filmmaking. Waves of art films (experimental films) saw their release to either cable networks or to theatres, and many of them so bizarre that they completely fell out of the public’s consciousness. Nowadays, most folks will cite the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine (1968) as one of these such films. A wonderful combination of the music by the legendary rock group set to a truly obscure plot and animated style. However, there is a film that also takes the music from the Beatles and tries to paint a story with it, a film so bizarre and outrageous that it bombed from the box office and remains largely unknown by anyone outside of the rock n’ roll community or an avid b-list movie watcher: All This and World War II (1976).

Opening screen from the movie All This and World War II (1976)

Originally conceived by legendary record executive Russ Regan in a dream, All This and World War II took the idea of telling the story of World War II through the Beatles’s music. Set to various clips from golden era films and newsreels, All This and World War II was poised to be a ‘musical documentary’ covering the main events of the European and Pacific theatre from start to finish. With the only dialog coming from movie clips, and visual indicators of time/era/location from newsreels, the entire project makes for a very loosely driven narrative of the war. Nearly impossible to follow for the uninitiated of World War II, the film’s only redeeming quality had to come from a strong and powerful soundtrack. Still, despite the pure outlandishness of the film from concept, design, and editing, the film was given a full theatrical release by 20th Century Fox. With a $1.2 million dollar budget and a total bomb at the box office, the film was pulled from theatrical release after only two weeks.

Album art for the soundtrack to All This and World War II (1976)

Since then the film has largely remained in obscurity, not many people have really heard about it or remember it, those who do mainly recall the film from the soundtrack which made it on the charts and was quite popular in the late 70s. Drawing from the talents of many famous musicians such as Elton John, Keith Moon, the Bee Gees, Tina Turner, Peter Gabriel, and many more, the film used covers of Beatles songs rather than securing the rights for the original recordings themselves. Perhaps this is what gives the film its interesting flair, having such tracks as “Come Together” covered by Tina Turner set to a sequence of Americans rallying for the war effort or the Bee Gee’s rendition of “Sun King” providing the background tune to Japanese kamikaze pilots flying to Pearl Harbor.

An artist's parody of Tojo on the track page for the Bee Gee's cover of "Sun King"

Since its pull from theatrical release, it was rumored to have been destroyed by Fox, being remembered as an embarrassing experiment that failed miserably. However, the film did make it to several film festivals in very selective showings, and one more recent showing in 2007 at midnight in Los Angeles. While it never was released to the public the only available surviving copies derive from one single bootleg recording from a late night cable TV broadcast. Outside of people’s hands, and outside of the public’s consciousness, the film was regarded as one of the crown jewels of missing media, until the bootleg resurfaced and copies were made and digitized. Still, only a select few know about the film, and probably fewer have come to appreciate the outlandish concept behind it. If you can find a copy of it, it is probably one of the best little films to put on in the background as people watch, scratch their heads, and wonder what this whole thing is all about.

Interested in more bits of Obscure Film? Click here

-Trey Takahashi

 

http://www.earcandymag.com/rrcase-allthisww2.htm