251 – Wood For Sheep

251 – Wood For Sheep

So I finally played a full game of Agricola. My GSAS-grad roommate says I’m the quickest person he’s seen to pick up the game.

This leads me to a lot of thinking about what it means to be a gamer, and whether or not the word “gamer” applies to me. I’ve said previously that I don’t consider myself a gamer, mostly because I can’t play 3D games without getting horribly seasick. My definition of “gamer” may be skewed heavily because I’m surrounded by not only hardcore gamers, but games majors who spend their time analyzing game mechanics. I can’t sit by a copy of Dominion and figure out which cards should be taken out to make the game more balanced, so I don’t feel like I count as a gamer.

Anyway, I’m curious what you guys’ opinions on the subject are. What is a “gamer” to you, and do you feel you count as one? Discuss!

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Discussion (35)¬

  1. colt says:

    I feel like you know plenty to consider yourself a gamer, if you think you are one, and that those games majors and such aren’t the best judges or comparison of gamers or even games, only the technical side of them. After having considered it for the past few days, I’ve decided that (at least in my own opinion) someone is a gamer if their playing any sorts of games takes up a majority of their free time, whether or not they care/know about balance, or min-maxing, or what a King-maker is 😛 or any other specific topic. I do consider myself a gamer.

  2. LordPaido says:

    “….and such aren’t the best judges or comparison of gamers or even games, only the technical side of them.”

    Of course, since games are nothing more then arbitrary constructions of rules made up in such a way as to be interesting and fun to their players (with things such as narrative added on to make things interesting, as opposed to stories that have game-ish elements tacked on), one could argue that being skilled in the technical side of games means you are the perfect judge of such things.

    (Or I could just be being pedantic. Whatever)

  3. Joseph says:

    Gamers are not the same as game designers. You don’t have to know anything about game design to be considered a gamer, and in fact designing games doesn’t in itself qualify you. (That said, most people who design games do play enough games to be considered gamers.)

    Similarly, you don’t have to play/like 3D games to be a gamer. I personally call myself a gamer, despite tending to prefer 2D games.

  4. LordPaido says:

    ^Thinking about it some more, I suppose a better way of putting it is that rules are the one thing that you simply *cannot* take away from a game, and that a fundamental understanding of how game rules work is necessary to truly understand how games work; in the same way that you cannot understand how humans (in a physical sense, anyway) work without understanding a skeleton. Things like story add tone and depth to a game; you can generally play without them, but it’s simply not as interesting.

    (Ramble ramble ramble)

  5. LordPaido says:

    Joseph: No argument on your first point; most gamers don’t understand (or care to understand) game design beyond a truly practical, instinctive sense. I’m not sure about your second point, mostly as I have *never* met a game designer who does not also play games. I think it’s technically possible, but I’m not sure how that situation would come about.

    And in no way, shape, or form do you need to play 3D games in order to be called a gamer. Plenty of gamers never pick up a controller at all. (Like the kinds of people who play German board games 🙂 )

  6. colt says:

    I wasn’t trying to deny a game major’s abilities to judge or design commonly-accepted-as good or bad games, or implying that someone who analyzes games can’t also be a gamer. I was just expressing that there are far too many specific tastes to accurately judge a game on the technical aspects alone. While I’m sure there are technical definitions of what is a game that I fail to believe myself, it seems as though anything can count as a game with the correct context/mindset, so it is very dependent on the individual and situation.

  7. mneme says:

    I wouldn’t say “majority.” You can be a gamer, a SCAdian, an active pagan, a programmer-for-fun, a reader, a sf fan, an origami folder, a dancer, a filker, and an anime/kung fu action movie fan at the same time (to pick a not-really-all-that-random set of activities), and thereby have to divide your time among them (and, you know, relationships, work/school, etc) without losing your identity in any given category. A gamer is someone who plays games for fun–particularly, hobby games, not “kid games” or “the games I learned when I was 12” — though it’s entirely reasonable for someone who only plays such games to consider themselves a gamer.

    I’d actually consider “computer gamer” or “console gamer” to be different categories than “hobby gamer” — even though I consider LARPer, RPGer, and board gamer to all be under the “hobby gamer” category — but that’s mostly a result of how the appropriate communities tend to cluster themselves.

  8. LordPaido says:

    colt: That raises a pretty interesting point, which is kinda (in a roundabout way) what I was trying to say with my second comment; you could break something like Agricola down into nothing more then a set of rules. Improvements and Occupations could only be named by numbers, their effects summed up in a very few words, the board just some paper and cards with no pictures, and it would be in every technical sense the same game.

    It’s just not very fun.

    Now, as far as your final comment, I’m not trying to say what *is* a game so much as I’m saying what’s *not* a game. A game without rules of some kind isn’t a game. Those rules don’t need to be written down to exist, and if they were removed, the game would fall apart just as quickly as if they were written down. Now, you can have fun and even play without a game; two kids just throwing a ball back and forth is plenty fun for the kids without a single rule. But it’s not a game. It’s just a good time. 🙂

  9. colt says:

    mneme: Rather than majority I should have said something more along the lines of the mode of one’s activities. My reasoning though is that when I think of the term gamer I use it as one of many categories, so if one did more programming than games, I would refer to them as a programmer rather than a gamer, without trying to imply they gamed more or less than even those I do define as gamers. This isn’t to say my definition of gamer is right, but that is what the word represents to me.

    LordPaido: But even in just saying that about the kids with the ball you set the rules. Simple rules would be that it would no longer be throwing a ball back and forth if you had fewer than two kids, or removed the ball, etc., yet undefined rules would be something like the kids shouldn’t light one another on fire. Even if you remove some rules from a game, it still has rules of some form or another (I’m saying rules, because rules is what you want as evidence that a game exists) and so would just be a different game, but a game nonetheless. The same would apply if new rules were later added. Not that everyone would consider it a game, but I think it’s fair to say one could consider it and anything else a game if they felt like thinking about what was defining the situation. I’m also not arguing that something such as a pile of cards with numbers is fun, just that it can be a game, and yes, even fun to the right audience.

  10. shade390 says:

    heh if you like to play video games and devote some time to it you are… or if your able to finish half of super mario 64 in less than four hours… I love summer vacation 🙂

  11. LordPaido says:

    Colt: And here’s where we fundamentally disagree. The situation I’ve described has no rules. There are no such thing as undefined rules. I think the word you are looking for here is “implied”. Most games have implied rules of the “don’t light people on fire” variety, but they’re still defined by the game; there are no implied rules that I can’t take all the little tokens in an Agricola box and put them in front of my board outside of the game, but if I tried that inside the “magic circle” (look it up) of a game, I wouldn’t get very far. The implied rules you have mentioned are not defined by any game, but by social settings. There is no game there; there are no rules. To say it’s not a game is simply incorrect, in the same way I cannot say 2+2 = 5. You can disagree all you want, but in the same way an author can define what a “story” is and a painter can define what a “painting” is, I can define what a game is.
    (I even have a piece of paper that says so. 😛 )

  12. LordPaido says:

    *wince* Ok, one correction.

    To say it *is* a game is fundamentally correct.

    No more debating at 3AM for me.

  13. LordPaido says:


    Fundamentally INCORRECT

    Gorram it. I’m going to bed.

  14. OceLemur says:

    If you read, think about, discuss ad nauseum, or play video games, you are a gamer. If you read, play think about, go on RPG.net and discuss tabletop Role-Playing Games, you are a gamer. If you own an entire set of Dark Eldar ships for Battlefleet Gothic, you are a gamer.


    Technically, if you play the stock market, you are a not a gamer. Some would argue otherwise. we should test their geek levels.

    Umm, that’s all for now. Goodnight.

  15. Bob says:

    What is a Gamer?

    You’re a Gamer if… (why is this sounding like a Jeff Foxworthy skit?)

    …you know that a perfect 3d20 roll results in an instant kill.
    …you can talk someone’s ear off about a MMO class and stat system.
    …you understand that the best defense is a Zerg Rush.
    …your party consists of Edward Elric, a Ninja squirrel, a tiger barbarian and a teenage wolf girl who can out bench the barbarian.
    …siege time is more important than anything else, including eating, drinking and sex.
    …you’ve ever ported “Lights-Out” to a graphing calculator.
    …you bought a DS just to play Ragnarok DS.
    …you’ve ever packed a moving van like you were playing Tetris.

    …Huh. Looks like I’m a gamer by my own joking definitions.

  16. E.L. says:

    Gamer: Someone who enjoys playing games on a regular basis.

    Not everything in life has to be complicated.

  17. Freak says:

    The real question, is why wouldn’t you consider yourself a gamer, (or a geek), if there are more hardcore gamers, (or geeks), around.
    It’s not as though we’re a exclusive society with a members only sign.

  18. SQLGuru says:

    So, I consider myself a gamer…..however:

    1. The last FPS that I was any good at was Doom II. Once they introduced the mouse as a required input device, my skill started lagging. So I don’t play them a lot.
    2. I do ok at RTS but I only enjoy them when playing with groups of friends (and I sort of suck at resource management). And with kids, I don’t have a lot of opportunity to play with groups of friends. So I don’t play them a lot.
    3. I love RPG games (esp. Super Hero or Fantasy). But, back to no time because I have kids. So i don’t play them a lot.
    4. I don’t play a lot of the obscure board games that consititutes been a “cool” gamer. I know about them (and even live in Austin where they are easy to get), but I just don’t have a geeky enough circle to play them. So I don’t play them a lot.
    5. I pretty much just play FB games and casual games (such as those on MSN) because they don’t require a big time commitment. I hate most of them, but you play what you can.
    6. When I do get to play the Xbox360 or the Wii, it’s usually “girl friendly” games such as Rock Band or American Idol or Just Dance or Press Your Luck because I have three girls and a wife who aren’t gamers.

    So, if you looked at what I actually played, no one would consider me a gamer. That being said, I have the heart of a gamer and if it weren’t for family life, I’d probably spend hours upon hours playing RPG games. I do at least keep up with gaming news. I know all about the latest games (that I’ll probably never get to play; I just bought Oblivion a couple of months ago — I’m about 3 hours in). But looking from the outside, I’m not a gamer……..but I’ll always be a gamer.

  19. Kestralyn says:

    Do you like to play games? You’re a gamer, as simple as that.

    Now, it sounds like you’re surrounded with a lot of Gamers – the skill, knowledge, passion and focus do make a difference.

    But if you like games, you don’t have to be able to tear the game apart and rebuild it to be able to count yourself a gamer.

  20. Andrew says:

    What is a gamer? Someone whose default response to the question of “Would you like to play a game?” is “Yes” (even if tentative). You’re a “hardcore” gamer if playing games is your default activity, and you spend lots of time thinking about them.

    Don’t be fooled into thinking that “real gamers do FPSs” (or other game style). There are lots of people who are seriously into gaming who rarely play FPS games, or even computer games.

  21. colt says:

    Okay, another correction to mine after reading SQL’s comment, I should have said someone who *would* spend more time playing games than most other activities if given a reasonable choice.

    LordPaido: Yes, we already know you and I disagree in various other ways when it comes to games, so I know we aren’t likely to agree on any of these theories either. I looked up the magic circle but I don’t really understand the idea behind that agricola reference. I would say that “social settings” are just some rules that happen to be around irl, not different from the rules of a game, it just depends on how one chooses to view life. Saying that you can best define what a game is gets into a different argument altogether, although it is reasonable in that you *can* define what a game is in your own opinion, just like anyone can define words to mean whatever they want when they personally choose to use them, but everyone else, other games majors included, can also define what a game is, so there’s no definite definition, just one a majority of people are willing to follow. Pieces of paper of that variety only mean you survived a certain curriculum, and imo most importantly, that you will be more highly valued when being hired by those who know about the paper.
    It’s all about the fact that you can say that ‘2 + 2 = 5’ if you want to, and you can also decide for yourself whether or not it is defined as true under your own systems and definitions, it just probably won’t be accepted by anyone else.

  22. L says:

    Perhaps your a gamer by association?
    I wonder if Vader ever played board games?

  23. LordPaido says:

    “…you can say that ‘2 + 2 = 5′ if you want to, and you can also decide for yourself whether or not it is defined as true under your own systems and definitions, it just probably won’t be accepted by anyone else.”

    …..my work here is done?

  24. Sexay - Partay says:

    Oh oh oh can I start a flame war?

    Ok here goes.

    *achem* World of Warcraft is…. Not…a game. there is no end goal.

    Dost thou agree?

  25. Russ says:

    Anyone who plays games is a gamer.

    The dirty secret is that everyone likes games, people just don’t want to call themselves gamers.

  26. Alania says:

    *at Sexay – Partay* To really clarify it, World of Warcraft is a MMORPG, and the end element of a RPG is exactly what warcraft is.

    On another note, the true gamers know who they are, as someone else has listed on here. Nothing wrong with considering yourself a gamer because of only playing 1 type of game. I have plenty of friends who only play 1 type of game and consider themselves gamers, granted I dont include FPS into the requirements of calling oneself a gamer, thats just my personal fellings.

  27. colt says:

    ooh, I can post your comments too!

    “…..my work here is done?”

    Silly LordPaido, as though you’ve proven anything. I know I’ll never change your mind and you should know you’ll never change mine, even with a piece of paper saying psychology.

  28. Sildraug says:

    I’m one o’ those game majors you mention, and, after reading things like VGCats’s rant on the topic, I’ve settled on my own definition. The broad one.

    If you enjoy games, and you play them every once in a while, you are a gamer. You don’t have to be hardcore dedicated to playing games whenever you get the chance. So long as it’s something you do on a relatively frequent basis, by choice, I think you qualify. Type of game is irrelevant. PC, console, tabletop, verbal, crossword or other puzzler–it doesn’t matter, no geek cred required. If you enjoy it, and you partake in it every once in a while, as far as I’m concerned–that’s enough.

    So, Mr. SQLGuru, as you mention–you play FB games and MSN games. Much of the hardcore crowd would likely recoil in revulsion at merely the loading screens of such titles, but that’s irrelevant. They’re games. You enjoy them. Therefore…

  29. FriedGold says:

    Great discussions about this question in this podcast: http://deadworkers.com/network/?p=2262. Which asked the community here for responses: http://deadworkers.com/network/?p=2212

    I define gamer as anyone who enjoys playing games on a regular basis. Be it the so called “hardcore” gamer, a casual gamer, or a board gamer, they are all gamers to me.

  30. LordPaido says:

    Colt: Well, that’s rather the point. Your last statement shows:

    A. I can’t change your mind.
    B. You’ve adopted a position *you know* a vast majority of people will not agree with.
    C. You have made your peace with and accept this fact

    *shrug* Really, what more can I say?

  31. The real question is:

    To what purpose are you trying to define “gamer”.

    Are you trying to figure out who is part of a particular social group?

    A marketing category?

    A defined elite?

    A deliberately inclusive unifying set?

    A generalization that describes how some subset of the existing users of the word use it?

    Without context, there’s no purpose to a definition and no reason to decide on one definition rather than another.

  32. Kali says:

    All the world’s a game, and all the men and women merely gamers.

  33. Joseph says:

    The following used to be the signature of Slashdot user morgan_greywolf. I felt it was relevant to this comic’s title text.

    Please carefully proofread your posts. Typos are one thing, but sentences completely lacking verbs, nouns, subjects or predicates

  34. corvuscorone68 says:

    what i want to know is, where did this “join dark side, get a cookie” theme come from? i have encountered it elsewhere as well and now i’m curious

  35. Mage of Chaos says:

    You are not a gamer if you fall into TWO OR MORE of the following Categories
    1) You hate games.
    2) You are Amish.
    3) You are incapable of having fun.
    4) You follow every rule society gives you with no intention of ever breaking them (even in games. Such as, the No Killing Strategy in an FPS. Or not breaking rules in games in which rule-breaking makes it more fun)

    This makes the list much shorter.