What Kind of
Gamer Are You?
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:
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.
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.
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…
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?