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What Kind of Gamer Are You?
Written By:
J. Michael Neal

I spend a lot of time thinking about video games, the gaming industry, gaming culture, all that sort of stuff. Along the way I have observed that although gamers seem as diverse and heterogeneous as can be, there are actually only three “kinds” of gamers. These are:

The Non-Gamer

People who don’t play video games at all (duh). If you are reading this you probably aren’t one. Non-gamers may have had a passing interest in games at one time, i.e. those who lived through the Pac-Man invasion, but are currently (and happily) clueless. I have found that with each year non-gamers become fewer and fewer.

The Casual Gamer

I have found that there are four degrees of Casual Gamer. These are:

  • The Mono-Gamer Level 1: People who aren’t “gamers” per say, but they have one game that they have adopted as their own and play the crap out of it. Typically these are parents, siblings, or significant others who have been coaxed (one way or another) into trying a game and were hooked. However, true “Level 1s” are actually rare, as anyone who falls in love with a game eventually moves on to other games, even if it’s within a small circle of similar titles. These are known as…
  • The Mono-Gamer Level 2: Ok, so I’m not Mr. Creativity when it comes to these classification names. Sue me. Anyway, Level 2s are people who play, and enjoy playing, one type of game or game franchise as oppose to just one specific game. How much time and interest they invest can vary wildly.

    One franchise Level 2-dom is a natural progression for most Level 1s. They are still considered a “Mono-Gamer”, though to them their interest in gaming often seems expansive, and quite honestly is by comparison. For example, many have fallen in love with the Sims, own ever expansion pack, frequently download new additions, and consider themselves fans. They can be classified as Level 2s. How much interest, or knowledge, they have in the Sims Online or the Sims 2, however, varies greatly from person to person. Millions of people have become absolute Dance Dance Revolution fanatics. They own all the games, have pumped hundreds into arcade machines, own the pads, perhaps even expansive ones, and maybe even frequent conventions or tournaments. A lot of these people, however, play no other game. They can be considered Level 2s.

    Some Levels 2s branch out from just a single franchise and call entire genres their poison, maybe lightgun games, or racers, or fighters, or shooters, or sims, or puzzle games; whatever they choose, no matter how deep they get into their respective “fields”, they remain “Mono-Gamers”. This flavor of Level 2 is probably the most difficult to spot, as they often give the appearance of being more “involved” in gaming than they really are because they follow and entire category of game. Also, some highly respected genres, the first person shooter, the sports game, the strategy game, the 2D fighter, the RPG, are known for having wildly separatist fans and aren’t thought of in the same regard as grandmas who really love casino games.
  • The Mild Gamer Level 1: Mild Gamers are a step up from Mono-Gamer Level 2s. They are usually people who progressed from franchise Mono Level 2s and discovered “hey, there’s a whole world of great games out there!” They dabble in just about everything, but they aren’t very refined yet. These are people that maybe like video games enough to call themselves a “gamer”, poke around in EBs and Best Buys every now and then, maybe thumb through a magazine or talk to a cashier about something cool they just found, but as a rule this type of gamer has incredibly unrefined tastes, minimum gaming knowledge, and a lack of experience. I would say a typical Mild Level 1 is a dad who discovered gaming through his kid, as males are most susceptible to video game’s charms, or children who have just set out on their long journey to the Hardcore. Think – people who are satisfied with just about anything and still have to look down at the controller to remember where the X button is.
  • The Mild Gamer Level 2: I would say this group is the most common among gamers. If you walk into a video game store, 9 out of 10 people will fall under this category. These are people who are a little more refined than Mono Level 1s, maybe they have a subscription to PSM or Game Informer, been gaming for years, and could hold a decent conversation on the subject, but they are still the kind of people who would buy a game sight-unseen based on cover art or the recommendation of a game store clerk. Often these are people too busy to get really deep into gaming, but too interested to level it alone. Sometimes they are adolescents slowly growing into the third, and final, stage…

The Hardcore Gamer

These fellahs need no introduction. Hardcore gamers are the life-blood of the industry. They work the stores, they print the mags, the run the sites, the make the games. They can be brutally unforgiving or eternally loyal. Not a game’s released they don’t know about, not a console on the market they don’t own, not a developer they aren’t familiar with. They could break down the fine points of hardware, overclock a video card in their sleep, or spam a message board so fast it’ll make your head spin. They’d rather spend a Friday night home with a good game than out on a date (though the choice is rarely offered) and entire paychecks are spent in their local haunt, i.e. game store or arcade. There are degrees of “Hardcoreosity”, but there is no real yardstick beyond age and experience. It’s best not to sort out who’s more Hardcore than who though, as such discussions have been known to come to blows. The most you can do is ask yourself what kind of gamer are you?

Posted: 1-25-03
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