Recently, I posted a piece on my mental health and gaming as it applied to the WHO’s classification of “gaming disorder.” The piece meant a lot to me since I became a larger part of the gaming community and began calling myself a gamer after becoming ill. I am proud to call myself a gamer and a comic book nerd. They are two mediums I have become very passionate about. And two things that shouldn’t go together are gaming and gatekeeping.
However, while it was not published, someone I know left an anonymous and vaguely threatening comment. The comment itself suggested that I am a liar, I have never been a casual gamer and instead only interested in the gaming world because it was now considered cool. I have an inclination that the comment is from someone I know based on the way they spoke about my childhood and the fact they ended it with “see you soon cuz.”
The implication of this comment on my piece is that I don’t belong and I am lying about my place in the gamer community. As if I somehow haven’t earned it. I am not allowed to be a gamer now because I haven’t always been. But who gets to decide who belongs? And why does it matter? While I do not owe anything to anyone, I wanted to address it. I owned a PS2 as a child and very few games because my parents didn’t want me playing games too long or games with any inappropriate content. I grew up in a fairly strict household.
In my piece, I specifically said I did not become a hard gamer until I became ill. Becoming chronically ill was a pivotal moment in my life. I had to find new hobbies because a lot of the things I used to do where exhausting or I no longer had the money for it since a new portion of my pay was going to large medical bills. Gaming and comics were easy. They allowed me to escape into worlds where someone was overcoming a challenge. To tell me my experience of finding gaming isn’t valid is ridiculous.
Gatekeeping is the act of attempting to control, and usual limit, general access to something. More or less, discouraging people from calling themselves gamers or implying they haven’t done enough in gaming to be a gamer is gatekeeping. It’s bullying and it’s bad for business. New gamers are born every day, maybe they just tried the Witcher 3 and are now hooked or maybe like me, they got sick and needed something to fill their time.
Last I checked being a gamer isn’t a real club, there are no rules and furthermore, no one is collecting merit badges. Some of us only play single-player games, or only play Call of Duty and other of us replay one or two games over and over again because they are our favorites. There is no right way to be a gamer but being a gatekeeper, is the wrong way.
Gaming communities have been built around different games, consoles, and even developers. There are different types of gamers but overall it is a self-identified term. Unlike citizenship or the girl scouts, there is no government body or merit badges determining to who is and isn’t a gamer. Furthermore, people who decide to act like a government body and discourage people from calling themselves gamers or gaming, in general, don’t deserve the title themselves.
Gaming is becoming more accessible for casual gamers or individuals who may never have considered picking up the controller. AAA developers are creating mobile games at a faster and larger rate, like Elder Scrolls: Blades. Systems like the Nintendo Switch are built on both nostalgia and convenience, there are no lines to be drawn in the sand. There are just people who game.
Game companies like Xbox are even investing in making affordable adaptable controllers which allow for more inclusive play for those who are unable to use traditional controllers due to a disability. Cross-platform play is picking up steam with big consoles advertising together, and as the gaming community comes closer together, there is no room for gatekeeping in gaming.
I know I am not the only person to go through something like this and it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart that there are people out there who are hell-bent on telling others they do not belong in the gaming community or any community. I will forever stand by my principle that if you play a game, you are a gamer.