Last week, Paige and I were lucky enough to be featured in Intel’s Gaming For Everyone Pavilion. Not only that, but I had the honor of speaking with Tanya of #INeedDiverseGames on the Journalism For Everyone panel that same weekend. If you’re interested in catching our talk, check out the video on our YouTube channel! Not to worry—we’re in the process of transcribing the panel for those of you who might prefer that, so hang tight and keep an eye on our social media.
We met hundreds of amazing folks at IndieCade who were kind enough to answer the question we posed with enough colorful sticky notes and assorted permanent markers for everyone to choose from. What was the question? I’m glad you asked.
In answer, we received a whopping 500+ responses! It was truly humbling when the responses started rolling in with increasing speed. From directly inside Intel’s tent to our #FemHypeAsks tag on social media, you rallied together in order to make sure our community was heard loud and clear. Thank you, sincerely, to everyone who participated in our little event inspired by the amazing people at the IndieCade festival. We couldn’t have created this study without you!
To be perfectly honest, Paige and I weren’t sure what kind of response we’d receive when we first posed this question. Would it spark a purely straightforward discussion, or would it entice people to offer more about their personal gaming experiences? The question itself was incredibly broad for a reason: we wanted the festivalgoers to dictate the conversation with very little prompting from either us. Interestingly, we were asked on more than one occasion to define the word “gamer” before many felt comfortable enough to proceed with their game of choice.
What you’ll find herein explores the definition of a “gamer,” or rather, the ever-changing culture that surrounds the word as it’s adopted by new generations. You’re also welcome to answer this question, too! We’d love to continue this discussion further in the comments.
Overall, the games that were overwhelmingly cited as the defining experience that started it all were (several variations of) Super Mario, Final Fantasy, and The Legend of Zelda. In a close second, Pokémon and Megaman were also frequently mentioned, though not quite as often. I’m sure it’s really no secret to anyone that Nintendo defined the childhood of so many gamers. When Satoru Iwata passed this year, the outpouring of fanart and creative writing was proof enough that a generation was reared on the whimsical, comforting experience that games like Balloon Fight and Kirby offered us. It’s with that in mind that we’ll be examining another similar trend in terms of the answers we received at IndieCade.
@ArchivistBecks: Myst. My 1st game ever, the one my dad said he was teaching me so I’d love video games like him & I did.
(For a clearer list of the responses featured above, see our handy PDF!) There’s an unequivocal sense of community that video games inherently foster. It’s more often than not a communal activity—at least, that certainly seems to hold true for many—where our gaming experiences are intimately tied to the people we care about most in our lives. The above were just a few responses that exemplify the fact that many of us, young and old, were introduced to video games through a loved one. Perhaps that’s why so many of us feel like we see our lives reflected in games more than any other medium. To game is to tap into ourselves, but it can also leave a unique imprint on our lives when that memory is tied to another person (whether we’re sitting next to someone or gaming from thousands of miles away).
In terms of the festival itself, we met a significant number of young people attending IndieCade with their family members. Many were parents and their children, but some included siblings and even extended relations. What was really heartening, though, was the fact that each group approaching our table seemed excited to share their stories with each other—and more often than not, they were surprised to hear that their influence had left such an impression on someone close to them. This, more than anything else, reminded us why we love what we’re doing right now.
So if video games bring us together and bridge the gap that divides us, why the issue with the word “gamer?” We’re all aware of the stereotype that has since festered into an unfortunate connotation in recent years, which might be part of the reason for the very clear aversion. Many people we met with at IndieCade this year spoke about how they play games, attend gaming-related festivals, but don’t consider themselves to be a Gamer with a capital G.
@topshelf_gaming: I’ve always been a gamer. It has always been a part of my life just as much as sports and music lessons.
(Again, for a clearer list of the above responses, here’s another PDF.) In no particular order, these were some of the long-form responses we received that were super interesting to us. There were a few people who asserted their identity without pause—they approached our table with their answer at the ready, sharing it as easily as they shared the sticky note. Then, of course, there were others who took their time, preferring to sit with us as they toyed with the word “gamer” and tried to decide if it even suited them. Were they always a gamer, or was this something that arrived later in their lives?
To “make” someone a gamer is to provide a defining, potentially life-altering experience, one that illuminates a newfound love for gaming in and of itself. For many, this was broadly interpreted (the evidence of which can be explored above). Whether this defining moment centered around the capable lady protagonist in Tomb Raider, the rate at which Chrono Trigger was played, or even a moment far more physically defined by the Atari through Decathlon and Space Invaders, it was an eye-opening experience to find just how vastly different video games could effectively “hook” a player. Or, at least, how that precise moment or string of moments was interpreted.
What about you? What game made you a gamer?
Now that the heavy is out of the way! We’d like to take a moment to showcase all the lovely art that many festivalgoers were inspired to create at our table. It was super endearing to see so many talented artists who felt compelled to draw when they read our question. Our shared love of video games carries over into all art forms! 💕
Thank you, again, to the wonderful IndieCade and Intel teams for believing in our work here at FemHype and making room for us at your table. We’re so thrilled we had the opportunity to meet all of you!