By Michelle Peterman
Yes, Everyone Is A Gamer Now — And That’s A Good Thing
Over Christmas break, I heard my mom refer to herself as a “gamer.”
She was talking about all of the games she played on her phone and on her laptop: Candy Crush, Angry Birds, online bingo. I was a little shocked. Was this the same woman who told me, as a teenager, that I was spending too much time playing computer games? If I had a time machine, I would take my mom back to 1997 and make her watch as her younger avatar told me to stop playing so much Diablo.
The joke back then, of course, was that games would “rot your brain” or “make you lazy;” now, as it turns out, people are proving precisely the opposite. Playing computer games and smartphone games actually improve cognitive function, especially in older adults. (My mom, of course, loves this news.) Likewise, it’s been proven that gamifying tasks encourage people to exercise more, eat better, sleep more regularly, and even become better romantic partners.
Even fantasy slasher games like World of Warcraft don’t make you stupid, lazy, or antisocial. Instead, they encourage teamwork and leadership skills. More than one gamer has put “World of Warcraft guild leader” on a resume.
But there’s that word again. Gamer. When I use it, you probably know what I mean: someone in their 20s and 30s who is seriously committed to PC gaming or console gaming. Someone who has devoted hours of his or her life to the massive games that are considered the foundation of the contemporary gaming world. WoW. Mass Effect. Skyrim.
When my mom uses it, she means herself and her friends. When my little cousin uses it, she means going online to play Club Penguin. I even heard one of my coworkers use the term “gamer,” and he was referring to tabletop games.
In 20 years, the word “gamer” has gone from identifying people who were exclusively devoted to long-form PC and console gaming to “a person who plays games.” It’s not a group term anymore. It’s just an adjective.
And that’s a good thing.
Why? Because it makes all games better. ALL of them. Whether you enjoy playing bingo games online or Elder Scrolls.
Now that everyone is a gamer, it means that there will be more job opportunities for game developers. It means that there will be more talented people working in game development, for all kinds of games. We’re already on the path of improvement; casual gaming, the stuff my mom likes, has come light years since Farmville. We’re in a world where, in PC gaming alone, Left 4 Dead 2 can exist alongside Minecraft and This Is The Only Level and Club Penguin and WoW and Luckity.
Having something for everyone makes gaming better for everyone.
There’s one more reason why everyone being a gamer now is beneficial. It means that kids no longer have to defend their love of computer or console gaming. It means that parents and educators now realize that Minecraft teaches math and physics, MMORPGs teach strategy, teamwork, and executive thinking, and even casual games help stimulate the brain and encourage hand-eye coordination and neural plasticity.
I’m glad my mom is a gamer. I’m sad that there’s no longer a special word for me and my other serious game nerd friends, but it also means that we have what we always wanted: a world where games are mainstream, where everyone understands their importance, and where we are set up to have new, bigger, and better game worlds to explore.
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