Why I’m not a Gamer


I understand anger. I understand vitriol. I understand projection.

It’s a perfectly reasonable response to lash out at something that you feel threatens you, that disrupts the status quo. Hell, that’s the entire platform of conservatism. To preserve what you feel is the primacy of culture, to stalwartly defend what is available to deny that hurdles within the established culture prevent the creation of a better world, a less toxic environment for fellow men and women.

There is no use critiquing. The battlegrounds have been set. And Gamers – or at least the young people who conflate their head space with delusions of entitlement using the outlet that Internet culture provides – are really not the type of people I’d like to be associated with.

Again, I understand why self-identified Gamers feel this way. To be threatened by change is a very real and socially pervasive thing. To be challenged on ideas of masculinity, to be told that the ideas that you’ve grown up with and accepted as societal norms are wrong is strikingly difficult to accept – especially among a group who feels marginalized, who doesn’t feel that they live up to masculinity in a traditional sense.

Masculinity, in many scenarios, is used as a tool of comparison. How many women a man has slept with, their salary and interests, and their base of friends are all quantifying factors that prove a man’s manliness on a sliding scale, a so-called objective metric.

Gamers who feel saddled by these self-imposed burdens of masculinity but beholden to this identity despite rarely conforming to it are angry. And I understand that anger, that vitriol, and that projection.

They are held up to a standard that is impossible to achieve except for the most physically fit and mentally sound among us, and video games, as a pastime, do little to further these goals. While competition is gaming certainty does exist, it’s not the type of competition that fulfills the tenants of masculinity; it will not garner the type of objective praise and ego-stroking that is required for something like masculinity to exist.

In the 21st century, we live in a culture where masculinity is simultaneously celebrated and maligned. We subscribe to gender roles while only beginning to question them. Many women – rightfully so – see feminism as an outlet to vent their frustration, since it tends to fight against tangible injustices that affect all women. Just take a look at social satirist John Oliver’s segment on the gender wage gap to see what I’m talking about.

Men – particularly those that feel rejected by masculinity but simultaneously feel beholden to it – see something like that and reason that the so-called patriarchy is not about them. Like men and women in general, this is not a giant monolithic group that only subscribes to one point of view. As an entity, any social group doesn’t do anything while holding hands and acting in unison, and most men at the top aren’t thinking about how to advance the cause of men while belittling women – they are simply thinking of the bottom line.

In that regard, Gamers are men with complicated relationships to masculinity and not just people who enjoy games without any of the baggage that is associated with it. And while it’s an issue that I’ve dealt with personally and still grapple with to this very day, it doesn’t change how I enjoy games.

I don’t watch Anita Sarkeesian’s videos and feel my maleness threatened. She’s a social and political thinker; she challenges masculinity in storytelling, yes, but that’s not a challenge against anyone’s specific maleness.

I don’t play Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest and feel that her personal details in any way impact my enjoyment of the game. I just don’t have the energy.

Identity – as a starting point – is a place where we feel connected to others due to shared  life experience, and every identity feels threatened  by the emergence of another. It’s just not easy to be a person. It never has been.

And while I understand the anger, the vitriol, and the projection – these are, after all, legitimate aspects of feeling marginalized, they are ultimately pervasive. They don’t promote change in a meaningful way, they don’t allow us to examine issues of masculinity and feel trapped by their expectations.

Just as I am not defined by my masculinity, I am not defined by my love of games and its conflation of Internet culture and entitlement. I am not a Gamer. Neither am I someone who subscribes to the traditional tenants of masculinity – at least not any more.

If not a Gamer, then what am I? I am a constantly evolving self. As the writer Earnest Hemingway, known for his own battles with masculinity, once said: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

To that end, it is much healthier, both for your own mental health and wellness, and for the world around you, to disengage from the Us vs Them or You vs I paradigm.

Instead, rather than feeling confused or conflicted by the expectations of masculinity, just decide whether you want its toxicity to define you.

In other words: Don’t be a Gamer. Be your own person.

Daniel Horowitz

Daniel Horowitz

Daniel doesn't just play and write about games, but he also writes his own comics. He can usually be found arguing with Dale about who the best member of the X-Men is (it's Jamie Madrox, obviously)
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  • Spartanlemur

    This whole thing is just a consequence of cultural Marxism, which pits women (proletariat) against men (bourgeoisie) in some naive dialectical conflict.

    But, while I disagree with him, at least Marx had an argument in that he pitted the many slaves against the few who “stole” from them. This is just 50/50 men vs women, and so there is no natural victor (physical might making right is the only political and social reality, which is why numbers are important).

    Thus, feminism must be built on the grounds that it directly benefits men as we are. If Sarkeesian wants to change games for men she has to convince us that the changes will make things better for us, or seek to direct her effort away from judging male gamers and towards attracting new women to gaming.

    Right now, all I see her doing is identifying tropes which I (and I assume “gamers”) like and support. Oh, that and insulting us by calling us “misogynists”, which is etymologically an incorrect term. Journalists call us names and it’s only right that we should speak up and not sit there and nod in shame. Because they don’t have the moral high-ground. Nobody does.

    What matters is when games see a press dissonant with their readers and then change their game design as a result; which seems to have happened with Bioware in particular recently.
    People are free to try and change minds, to attempt to align interests, but to do so they’re going to have to use the carrot and not the stick; perhaps by explaining to men how strong female characters are more attractive..or how female protagonists can be nice to look at…or even how thicker armour is realistic (but not insulting men for wanting to look at a female in skimpy clothes; I refuse to feel guilty for liking women with little in the way of clothing). You might see these things as “misogyny” but I see them as men, who make up the majority of gamers being comfortable with their own thoughts, and not self-loathing.

    As for the pay video you showed; equal pay for equal work is important (but only because it shows that capitalism is functioning effectively, and recruiters are making rational decisions which improve market efficiency which benefits all of us), but that man compared one anecdotal example to the fact which economists try to drive home whenever they get a chance to share their peer-reviewed findings. In other words don’t believe it.
    The rest of the points are not even worth consideration; men and women have different paths of least resistance in social roles, but as long as happiness is equal, I don’t see why we can’t let them evolve naturally (American women work less hours in the week than men at present, taking into account shopping, childcare, household chores and their job). They also have financial security from divorce law granting them half of the husband’s earnings (same goes for men with their wive’s earnings). So in terms of happiness, I’d say women are about as pleased with quality of life as men at present, which is all that matters.

    So I conclude by agreeing with your own conclusion. Let’s stop with the ideology and start talking, compromising and tolerating each other and the types of games we want to play no matter what they are. Let’s try to work together to find mutual happiness rather than fighting and trying to dominate the other group.

    It’s important to keep in mind that “gamers” sprung up in reaction to increasingly aggressive judgmental articles from SJWs in recent months; stopping the reaction is futile, and it’s only going to lead to further misery and dissent as the majority of gamers no longer have games made to their tastes. The only way to kill this conflict is for journalists to listen to the people they’re condemning, their readers; to acknowledge that some people simply disagree with them and try to argue their points in a kinder way which accepts us for who we are and what we like. They could also perhaps actually use more debate and less preaching; maybe hiring a few writers who don’t share their views would be beneficial.

    In a defence when questioned on his assertion that Conservatives would blindly oppose any policy the Liberals vote in favour of, even if it were conservative in nature, John Stuart Mill explained:

    “I did not mean that Conservatives are generally stupid; I meant that stupid persons are generally Conservative”

    But his definition of stupid was not exclusive to right-wing people. It was that people whose beliefs can be inferred from those they surround themselves with are stupid, as they are seemingly incapable of independent thought, be they of any political or ideological belief. Perhaps some diversity of opinions in gaming journalism would lead to a more enlightened atmosphere; people must have their beliefs challenged and engage with such criticism in order to grow intellectually.

  • Moe Elkewedi

    Can I please share this quote ” Identity – as a starting point – is a place where we feel connected to others due to shared life experience, and every identity feels threatened by the emergence of another. It’s just not easy to be a person. It never has been.” Thanks, and beautifully written.

    • Daniel Horowitz

      Absolutely 🙂 I’m really glad you enjoyed it!

  • Mike Jones

    gamer isn’t even a real word….ask 50 people what it means and you will get 50 different answers….but hey good job jumping on the waaahbulance bandwagon,and failing to realize that internet trolls are not only a tiny minority of the overall internet,but also a tiny minority of people who play games

    • Dale Christopher Morgan

      As it so happens, we have an article on the way examining what the word “Gamer” even means; but it’s fair to say that on some level or another, and as a term for the broader culture and community surrounding videogames, most people use the term “gamer”.

      • Mike Jones

        which sounds like the most vague “definition” i have ever heard

        • Dale Christopher Morgan

          Hence why we’re working on the article. You can expect it later this week.

          • Mike Jones

            well good luck i guess….though i think its going to be impossible to get any more detailed than you just did,without it turning into your(or whoever else is writing the article) opinion,which of course if not a very compelling basis for a definition

          • Dale Christopher Morgan

            Well by definition it will be an opinion piece. But anyway, keep an eye out for it; I’m sure you won’t hesitate to let us know what you think!