Video games aren’t the exclusive domain of nerds and geeks anymore. Sure, your average Joe probably isn’t playing WoW or keeping track of e-sports, but everyone plays video games these days, and it doesn’t look like that’s about to change any time soon.
But maybe how we’re playing those games will. Mobile players will account for half of the industry’s money by 2020. We’ve seen moves to and from various platforms, but this represents a serious change for the gaming world. Clearly, more people are flocking to play mobile games at a higher rate than people are committing to consoles or gaming PCs.
So then why do many gamers believe that mobile gaming doesn’t count? Believe me, this is far from an unpopular opinion, but does it have any merit?
What is a “Gamer”?
Technically speaking, a “gamer” is just someone that plays games, but that emcompasses a huge percentage of our society today. Seventy-eight percent of American teens have a cellphone, and you bet that they’ve all played at least a game on that device, even if it’s only solitaire. So do they all count as gamers?
We need to look past the technical definition. When people talk about the gaming community, they are not including everyone that has ever played a video game. They are talking about a subset that is intensely committed to their hobby, relate to each other over their shared experiences, and choose to identify themselves by their hobby.
Are Mobile Players Gamers, Then?
Now, there are “hardcore” mobile games, and to really play them, you do have to invest a lot of time and money. There’s been a lot of criticism that mobile games are ruined by microtransactions, but then again, more traditional gaming isn’t free either. You might think it’s dumb to spend hundreds of dollars on microtransactions, but they might think it’s ridiculous that you spent hundreds of dollars on a console when you already have a perfectly good phone.
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The fact of the matter is that mobile players absolutely can invest a lot of time and money into their games. They can relate to each other over their shared experiences, and they absolutely can identify based on their hobby. So, yes, mobile players can be gamers.
It’s just that most of them aren’t.
Two-thirds of mobile players don’t even consider themselves to be gamers; according to Tapjoy’s study, the majority play casual puzzle games while watching television. Not only do they not identify as gamers, but they don’t appear to be invested in the hobby either. Which, let me clarify, is absolutely fine. It’s okay not to be a gamer, and most mobile players seem to be totally cool with that.
Isn’t This Gatekeeping?
Gatekeeping is when traditional members of the community (read: PC and console gamers) claim the right to exclude nontraditional members (read: mobile players) from the community. This has especially been a problem for women who want to become a part of the nerd/geek culture.
Gaming may have opened up to pretty much everyone these days, but we still have this idea of the quintessential gamer: an overweight teenage boy who isn’t athletically or socially gifted. For years, people were bullied for being a gamer. Not everyone instinctively knew what buttons to press or popular gaming tropes. But then gaming became cool, and schools started using video games, thus teaching everyone some gaming basics. So when everyone suddenly wanted to be a gamer, it left a sour taste in the community’s mouth.
Now, gaming is not a closed club. People go in and out of it every day as priorities and opportunities change. It is wrong to decide that someone can’t go in, period. Saying that women don’t belong in gaming or that certain platforms don’t count … that is gatekeeping.
On the other hand, if someone claimed to be a voracious reader, and then you found out that they only read one book a year, it’s not wrong to call them out. It is not wrong to recognize that some mobile players might be misusing the term “gamer.”
Chances are, if you are infuriated by this article and consider yourself to be a gamer even though you only play mobile games, you’re not who we’re talking about. If you care enough to be angry, then you do probably dedicate a good portion of your time towards gaming. But recognize that you are probably an exception, rather than a rule.
There’s nothing wrong with not being a gamer, just like there’s nothing wrong with not being a biker or a gardener or something-else-that-people-do-for-fun-er. Heck, most mobile players don’t even seem to care if they’re counted as a gamer or not.
So let’s just count this as the article that solved the entire debate, and move on with our lives. We’ve got games to play.