The Gamer Identity Crisis

Towards a Reclamation

Essay - Gamer Identity

Dr. Rachel Kowert is an associate researcher at the University of Münster where her research focuses on the social impact of online video game play. She also serves on the board of the Digital Games Research Association and the Game Studies SIG of the International Communication Association.

bio-twitterbio-blog 

[This post originally appeared on VG Researcher. It has been re-posted here with an expanded conclusion. FPS does not often re-post material but exceptions are made for timely articles that warrant increased exposure.]

Recent events have called into question just exactly what it means to be a “gamer” today. What was once a title associated with being a member of a fun loving community now seems to have become intertwined with the promotion of misogynistic and discriminatory behavior.

This perceived shift in gamer culture has been spurred by a series of recent events: the influx of threats directed towards Anita Sarkeesian following her Tropes vs. Women YouTube Series, the scripted unscripted interaction presented at Microsoft’s E3 event that seemed to condone “rape culture”, and the transphobic comments by one of the hosts of the Video Game Awards, just to name a few. These incidents have called into question what it really means to be a gamer today and has led some members of the gaming community to consider the resignation of their “gamer” title.

helloamiagamerA recent article by Dennis Scimeca, entitled “Why I can’t call myself a gamer anymore”, highlights this shift. Scimeca discusses his personal need to distance himself from identifying as a gamer. He states, “…after three years of being ensconced in video game culture long enough to be disgusted by it on a regular basis, I’m ready to give up my identity as a gamer…”, and Scimeca is not alone. A recent Statesman article by Simon Parkin, entitled “If you love games, you should refuse to be called a gamer”, expresses similar sentiments. Parkin argues that the term “gamer” is a legacy of the medium’s niche past and solely functions to reinforce negative stereotypes of the gaming community. He states, “Gamers are depicted as the contemporary nerd group…shunned by the jocks and achievers. Gamers are the losers who spend their days in darkened bedrooms furiously tapping on controllers or keyboards in a solitary pursuit…”. As the video game industry is now a multi-billion dollar market and because video games are now being played by a wide spectrum of individuals that spans across age, gender, and ethnic lines, Parkin believes this term no longer serves its original function. Exacerbated by the recent influx of discriminatory behavior perpetrated by the gaming community, Parkin calls for an abandonment of this title.

However, abandoning the term “gamer” is not a straightforward process because the label represents much more than a simple title one adopts to easily identify oneself as a person who enjoys playing video games. While the term is often used as a shorthand to organize the world into people who play video games and people who do not, self-identifying as a gamer also signifies a shared identity with other members of the broader gaming community and culture and denotes an alignment with the group’s idiosyncrasies, traditions, and social practices. As noted by Scimeca and Parkin, individuals who read books are not called “bookers” nor are avid movie goers called “moviers”. This phenomenon occurs because the term “gamer” has not only come to refer to the enjoyment of a particular leisure activity but also to part of one’s self-conception. Being a “gamer” is more than just a label given from the outside; it is a part of one’s self-conception and an expression of one’s affiliation with a group of society.

This fact likely plays a significant role in Scimeca’s explicit disappointment in today’s meaning of term “gamer” and his self-imposed detachment therefrom. He states, “[it is] a shame that the preponderance of problems in the gaming community has left such a bad taste in my mouth”.  When Scimeca makes the conscious resolution to reject his “gamer” title, he is not only removing himself from the gaming community and all that is associated with it, but he is also leaving a part of himself behind.

However, Scimeca’s decision to detach himself from the gaming community raises another question: at a time when gamers are perceived as being overweight, reclusive, and socially inept, who would actually want to identify as one?

Perceptions of Game Players and the Game Playing Community

Turn on the TV at any given hour, and you are bound to find a reference to the stereotypical “gamer”. Popular TV, web series’, and news media have all portrayed the same reclusive, socially inept, basement dwelling gamer stereotype to some extent or another. While some have taken a more comical rather than serious approach, the sentiment remains the same: gamers are social outcasts that are unable or unwilling to integrate into mainstream society.

This stereotype is not only noted in popular culture. Researchers in the UK empirically examined the stereotype of gamers and gaming subgroups (e.g., online gamer, arcade gamer, console gamer). While there was some statistical variation in the perception of gaming sub-groups, video game playing groups were generally perceived as unpopular, unattractive, lazy, and socially inept (Kowert & Oldmeadow, 2012; Kowert, Griffiths, & Oldmeadow, 2012). As summarized by Williams et al. (2008), “Game players are stereotypically male and young, pale from too much time spent indoors and socially inept. As a new generation of lonely and isolated ‘couch potatoes’ young male game players are far from aspirational figures” (p. 995).

memememAlthough stereotypes are often thought to be grounded in a “kernel of truth” (Prothro & Melikian, 1955), there is little demographic evidence in support of these stereotypical characterizations. Despite that there still seems to be a disproportionate ratio of male to female game players among representative samples (Lenhart, Jones, & Macgill, 2008; Lenhart, Kahne, Middaugh, Macgill, Evans, & Vitak, 2008), no evidence has been found to suggest that game players are substantially more overweight, lazy, or reclusive than their non-gaming counterparts (Kowert, Festl, Quandt, in press; Williams et al., 2008; Griffiths et al., 2003).

Although there is little empirical foundation in support of these stereotypes, Parkin suggests that the negative stereotypes of gamers are fueling the community’s recent intolerant and hostile behaviors.  As stated by Parkin, “The stereotype is powerful, and … informs gamers. Many gain instruction as how the world views them and the expectation becomes self-fulfilling: they play to type”.

On the surface, this claim is not as preposterous as it sounds. People are often perceived to behave in ways that conform to their stereotypic attributions. For example, a plethora of classic social psychology experiments have been conducted that investigate the self-fulfilling nature of the stereotype “beautiful people are good people”. Researchers have found that even when visual cues are absent, such as when talking via telephone, people who are thought to be attractive are rated as more friendly, likeable, and sociable than their less attractive counterparts (Goldman & Lewis, 1977; Snyder, Tanke, & Berscheid, 1977). However, living up to the expectations associated with likeability vastly differs from conforming to expectations of sexist, aggressive, or any other anti-social behavior.

Additionally, unlike the “beautiful people are good people” scenario, individuals do not particularly perceive the stereotype of online gamers as being an accurate depiction of the online gaming community. A recent study found that neither self-identified gamers nor non-gamers endorse the stereotypes of the online gaming community to the same degree to which they think other individuals, gamers and non-gamers alike, believe the stereotype is accurate (Kowert, Griffiths, & Oldmeadow, 2012). In simpler terms, they believe “others” generally see online gamers in a much more stereotypical way than they do themselves. While this study was limited to examining the portrayal of online gamers, there is no evidence to suggest that the same would not be found when looking at “gamers” more broadly.

As the stereotypes of gamers are not perceived, or found, to be particularly accurate, it is highly unlikely that the recent influx of bad behavior perpetrated by “gamers” can be attributed to individual gamers conforming to the negative stereotypes that society has imposed upon them, any more so than they conform to other stereotypical expectations of how they should look, live, or act (e.g., overweight, lazy, reclusive, and aggressive).

doingsomeom

Quantifying “Gamer”

All this discussion about gamers and gamer culture seems a bit presumptuous when it is not exactly clear what one means to convey when they employ the term “gamer”. If I were to qualify my personal self-identification as a gamer, I would provide  examples of my video game playing experience, knowledge of classic games, participation in game related activities (both in and out-of game), and my fashion preferences. For me, being a gamer is more than just playing and enjoying video-game related activities; it is about being part of a broader community, participating in game-related events, and displaying my membership to the community through my choice of attire. The degree to which I consider myself to be a “gamer” is contingent upon a range of factors.

This self-definition is a vastly different approach than is taken by a number of researchers and even other members of the gaming community. Some gamers are quite fervent in the conviction that there are unofficial prerequisites that one must fulfill before one can adopt the “gamer” title, such as having experience with certain games or consoles or boasting a long history of game play. Do a quick search of Reddit, and you will be sure to find numerous threads discussing what it is that qualifies an individual as being part of the gaming community.

wonkagameThere are also numerous differentiations of the “gamer” title. For instance, Wikipedia discusses eight types of gamers than can be quantitatively and qualitatively differentiated: casual gamer, core gamer, hardcore gamer, pro gamer, newbie, retro gamer, girl gamer/gamer girl, and gaymer. Other categories like online gamer, console gamer, and arcade gamer are also commonplace.

In scientific research, the distinction between those who play video games and those who do not is often the criteria used to differentiate between “gamers” and “non-gamers”. While some researchers adopt a simple play-pattern (playing or not playing) approach, other researchers differentiate by play-frequency (i.e., whether or not individuals dedicate a certain amount of time a week to gameplay). Variations of play pattern or frequency measures have likely become the standard for distinguishing between gamers and non-gamers due to the ease of assessment (i.e., simply asking “Do you play games?” and “How often do you play games?”) and their intrinsic relationship with video game involvement, as playing many video games, or a higher frequency of play, indicates greater exposure to video game environments.

In my opinion, this is a troubling standard to retain. This one-dimensional distinction is far too simplistic as self-identification with any social group is inherently multi-dimensional. The reliance upon frequency based assessments within the scientific community excludes the potentially more important role of other factors that contribute to the extent to which an individual feels and identifies as a member of the gaming community: for instance, the extent to which players engage in gaming related activities, how involved they are with gaming related news, their level of interest in professional gaming, the extent to which gaming defines them in relation to other adopted social identities (i.e., adopting gaming as their primary identity rather than one based on other aspects of themselves), etc. While the importance and pertinence of these variables in understanding how exactly one is involved within the gaming community remains unclear, researchers need to be mindful of the potential importance these extraneous factors may hold.

Kowert & Oldmeadow (2013) made the first attempt to develop a composite measure of video game involvement comprised of both behavioral (i.e., play frequency and variety) and psychological (i.e., social identity) measures. This new quantification of what it means to be a more involved “gamer” provides a more systematic evaluation of video game players across a broader spectrum of game involvement than has previously been utilized. Researchers are encouraged to remain mindful of the multi-dimensional nature of the title “gamer” and to develop and enlist similar composite measures in order to more accurately assess one’s level of involvement within the video game community

The Future of the Gamer

In a time when the gamer identity seems to be in flux and shifting towards a community characterized by misogynistic, discriminatory, and rude behavior, people are abandoning their affiliation with the gaming community. While no one would want to be associated with such behavior, it is likely the sensationalization of the aforementioned recent abhorrent acts (e.g., the backlash directed towards Anita Sarkeesian, Microsoft’s disastrous E3 event, etc.) by the media that has led society to believe that this behavior is disproportionately typical of members of the gaming community as there is no evidence to suggest that gamers are “living up” to the negative expectations associated with the stereotype.

multi-lives

I believe that gamers are, at their core, people who love to have fun. We love exploring new worlds, meeting new people, and achieving what one thought would be impossible. We remember the rush of getting our first epic weapon in World of Warcraft, the heartbreak when Aeris drops her basket of flowers in Final Fantasy VII, and the tune that plays when you slide down the flagpole in Super Mario Brothers. In general, gamers have historically been a group of inclusive, friendly people who are equally excited to discuss Starcraft strategy as they are to understand why your shirt says “The Cake is a Lie”. I believe that it is time to reclaim our community — to begin the shift away from negative stereotypes and discriminatory behavior and towards a community that is seen as a fun-loving, inclusive, and diverse group of people from all walks of life.

…well this sounds great and all, but what is the first step?

Changing the perception of a community is no easy task, but it will start to shift if we begin to take a more active role against the negative stereotypes and discriminatory behavior. In the words of Sam Killerman, the founder of Gamers Against Bigotry, “For culture to shift, behavior has to shift.” For those who are not familiar with Gamers Against Bigotry, it is a non-profit organization that strives to make gaming environments a more welcoming place for everyone. To date, they have recorded over 5500 pledges to not use hateful speech towards other players based upon their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.

Vowing to not contribute to this culture of bigotry among gamers is great and a good first step in the right direction. However, there is still more that can be done. For example, a lot of us remain guilty by idly standing by whilst other players spew misogynistic, hateful, or sexist commentary towards others. The presence of these kinds of comments has become so commonplace that they are dangerously close to becoming an accepted (and expected) aspect of the gaming community. This includes homophobic and racist slurs, any sentence that includes the use of the word “rape”, and any form of commentary that could be featured on Fat, Ugly, or Slutty. As a community we need to become more vocal that this kind behavior is not welcomed nor tolerated. No member of the gaming community should be discriminated against, threatened, or made to feel unconformable due to their gender, sexuality, or nationality, in the name of “having a laugh.” Far too often these behaviors are brushed off, possibly because of a communal desensitization to these kinds of comments or a general complacency with the presence of this behavior within “gamer culture,” or both.  If we can commit to taking a stand, by not actively participating in this kind of behavior and by becoming more vigilant in combating this behavior from others, we will begin to see it diminish and eventually fall out of favor. I look forward to the day when the gaming community, my community, returns to one that is not only welcoming, inclusive, and primarily defined by the desire to have fun, but also recognized by others as such.

Works Cited

Anonymous. (2012, June, 25). The R Word. The Escapist. Retrieved from http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/features/9766-The-R-Word

Brown, A. (2014, February 17). How Trolls are Born: A Beta-Tester’s Notes [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://amlbrown.com/2014/02/17/how-trolls-are-born-a-beta-testers-notes/

Goldman, W. & Lewis, P. (1977). Beautiful is good: Evidence that the physically attractive are more socially skillful. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 13, 125-130. DOI: 10.1016/S0022-1031(77)80005-X

Griffiths, M. D., Davies, M., & Chappell, D. (2003). Breaking the Stereotype: The Case of Online Gaming. Cyberpsychology and Behavior, 6(1), 81–91. doi:10.1089/109493103321167992

Kowert, R., Festl, R., & Quandt, T. (in press) Unpopular, Overweight, and Socially Inept: Reconsidering the Stereotype of Online Gamers. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. doi:10.1089/cyber.2013.0118

Kowert, R., Griffiths, M., and Oldmeadow, J. (2012) Geek or Chic? Emerging Stereotypes of Online Gamers. Bulletin of Science, Technology, and Society, 32(6), 471 – 479. doi:10.1177/0270467612469078

Kowert R. and Oldmeadow, J. (2012). The Stereotype of Online Gamers: New Characterization or Recycled Prototype? Nordic DiGRA: Games in Culture and Society conference proceedings. Tampere Finland

Kowert, R. and Oldmeadow, J. (2013). (A)Social Reputation: Exploring the Relationship between Online Video Game Involvement and Social Competence. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(4), 1872-1878. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2013.03.003

Lenhart, A., Jones, S., Macgill, A. (2008). Adults and Video Games. Pew Internet & American Life Project (December 7, 2008). Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2008/Adults-and-Video-Games/1-Data-Memo.aspx

Lenhart, A., Kahne, J., Middaugh, E., Macgill, A., Eans, C., & Vitak, J. (2008). Pew Internet & American Life Project (September 16, 2008). Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2008/Teens-Video-Games-and-Civics.aspx

Meunier, N. (2010, January, 13). Homophobia and Harassment in the Online Gaming Age. IGN.com.  Retrieved from http://www.ign.com/articles/2010/01/13/homophobia-and-harassment-in-the-online-gaming-age

Parkin, S. (2013, December 9). If you love games, you should refuse to be called a gamer. NewStatesman. Retrieved from http://www.newstatesman.com/if-you-love-games-you-are-not-a-gamer

Prothro, T. E., & Melikian, L. H. (1955). Studies in stereotypes: V. Familiarity and the kernel of truth hypothesis. Journal of Social Psychology, 41, 3 – 10. DOI: 10.1080/00224545.1955.9714248

Scimeca, D. (2014, January 2). Why I Can’t Call Myself a Gamer Anymore. Salon. Retrieved from http://www.salon.com/2014/01/02/why_i_cant_call_myself_a_gamer_anymore/

Snyder, M.,  Tanke, E. D., & Berscheid, E. (1977). On the self-fulfilling nature of social stereotypes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35 (9), 656 – 666. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.35.9.656

Williams, D., Yee, N., & Caplan, S. (2008). Who plays, how much, and why? Debunking the stereotypical gamer profile. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication Monographs, 13(4), 993–1018. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2008.00428.x

 

  • visticuffs

    This is a question I often find myself coming back to — about a year ago, I had a very emotional vlog/conversation with a friend of mine about this, and I find that my opinion is much the same as it was then. Intellectually, I agree with everything that is said above: there is a problem with the connotations of the “gamer” identity, and the best and only way to fix it is to have kind and wonderful people who love games be visible as gamers. Emotionally, though, I just can’t get to that point. For me, the term is so addled with the baggage of (as I describe in my vlog) jerkfaces, that it’s not worth the struggle to reclaim the word. Sometimes I think that it would just be better if everyone had “who plays games” as a kind of secondary (or tertiary, etc…) identity. Gaming is no longer the purview of the shut in (if it ever was), and I’ve found that the people who make me feel most comfortable in the “gaming community” are people who identify strongly as a combination of other things: feminists, womanists, anti-racists, scholars, artists, writers, and so on.
    But, of course, I’m speaking from the position of someone who never found comfort in the term “gamer” — I played games as a child, but they were never video games, and they were never the games that isolated me. I played games like tag, “pretend”, and (grudgingly) Monopoly. So I never experienced the moment of belonging that I know many people do when encountering a community of gamers. For me, it’s easy to dismiss the term as unnecessary, and be content with calling myself someone “who plays games”. As wordy as it is, it is an accurate depiction of my life: games are not even close to the most important thing in my life, and any games that I do play, I play as a feminist, a scholar, a fan, an activist, a queer person, a writer, and all of the other things that form the nebulous identity of “me”.
    So, I can’t begrudge anyone who wants to work to reclaim the term gamer, because I think it would make it easier to bring people into the community if that term were destigmatized in all the ways that you suggest. I guess what it comes down to, for me, is that I won’t be part of that struggle. I’m happy being me, who plays games.

    – Elise

    Here’s a link to the playlist of our discussion, if you’d like to watch me struggle with words! http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLVcE9dbqWbMLgHLsf_U8VocyEbR1TUT07

    • Steve Wilcox

      I see where you are coming from. I too never really identified as a gamer, despite playing videogames for most of my life. But if not ‘gamer’ then where do we stand our ground? I think that’s the impetus behind the article–to use the word ‘gamer’ to focus initiatives on improving the culture that that term represents. And I think it’s a good rhetorical strategy for mobilizing that initiative. Why?

      1) Because ‘gamer’ serves to reflect the progress made towards that goal of a ‘welcoming and inclusive’ community. If connotations shift, if ‘gamer’ begins to be circulated in a non-pejorative, but also positive, inclusive manner, then this merely reflects the ground gained towards reclaiming gamer culture. If the culture shifts in the ways Rachel has described above, then perhaps it becomes a point of pride to identify as a gamer.

      2) What’s more, it’s a word that has permeated our culture, our common sense. If we don’t challenge that interpretation it is not simply ‘gamer’ that we will lose but perhaps a larger role in determining what we value as a culture and what common sense beliefs we’re willing to accept. Put differently, if we do not contest ‘gamer’ as misogynist/racist/homophobic (despite efforts to combat such trends in other forums) then we risk losing would-be gamers and potentially the very people that would enrich the community. At the end of the day I don’t think its semantics, so much as it is the practical function or value of that term in our culture [Steve used ‘Structuralism’…It was mildly effective]

  • Jason H

    I don’t mean to derail the discussion, but doesn’t this just come down to letting people identify however they want? Why do we need a catch-all label for people who happen to play games? I really like Rachel’s “range of factors” approach to self-identification. I think that’s the way to go.

    If some people are comfortable identifying themselves as gamers, who am I to tell them they shouldn’t, or that “gamer” isn’t a valid identity marker? That was my major problem with the Parkin piece (or it’s title anyway). It’s condescending to be so prescriptive in regards to self-identification.

    It’s come up in the post-Parkin discussions quite a bit, but this same problem applies to any label. Christian, Muslim, atheist, liberal, academic, entrepreneur, etc., all have potentially negative connotations and there are shitty people using those monikers. To say that any of these terms in and of themselves are homogeneous or filled with “those” people is to grossly generalize. Like anything else, the term “gamer” isn’t fixed; it means different things to different people. So it’s ok that Elise or Parkin don’t feel comfortable using the term. But it’s also ok that some people do (including non hetero cis white guys).

    Obviously we need to make gaming culture more inclusive and less scummy, but I don’t see what the label “gamer” has to do with any of it. And that’s not to say I don’t think this is an important discussion, because I think it is. We should always interrogate the language we use. But I think we’re conflating a rhetorical problem with a cultural one here. It’s the culture and many of the individuals in it that are the problem, not the label.

    • Steve Wilcox

      I have a good head-cold on the go right now, so maybe I’m not seeing things clearly but I feel like my reply above argues that how the term ‘gamer’ is used *is* a representation of the cultural problem. It speaks volumes that people do not want to identify as gamers. It has everything to do with the culture.

      Here’s an example that may or may not work. I’m reading Elizabeth Emens article “Disabling Attitudes,” which is about how common sense beliefs regarding the word ‘disability’ have actually hindered the application and enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The act was later amended to try and resolve those issues but Emens still believes that until public opinion shifts, the law will continue to fall short of protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.

      Now, the stakes are obviously different but there are similarities. For instance, disability scholars work to expose ableist rhetoric so as to remove the stigma associated with disability, whether people identify as being ‘disabled’ or not. Similarly, how ‘gamer’ is interpreted reflects the broader public’s understanding of people who play games, whether individuals identify as gamers or not. And like the exposure of ableist rhetoric, there is work to be done to dissociate ‘gamer’ from misogynist, sexist, etc. connotations. Not to purify the name ‘gamer,’ not to reach some essential meaning, just the opposite–to prevent it from being reduced to a negative, hateful moniker. This was Emens issue with legal interpretations of ‘disability’ in the ADA: they were *too narrow,* they precluded identification because it was reduced in the mind of the judges down to its tropes. The issue with ‘gamer’ isn’t about assigning a label but pluralizing it, by opening-up what it represents, by resisting its reduction. Not because the label is worth saving but because what it could (and arguably should) represent is worth fighting for. I know we’re all on the same page about changing the community but lets not divest rhetoric from culture.

      • Jason H

        I’m not trying to “divest rhetoric from culture;” I’m just not conflating the two. Gaming culture and the labels we attach to it deeply inform each other, but they aren’t identical. Just like visual rhetoric deeply informs procedural rhetoric without the two being the same thing.

        I think the grossness of the culture is just one of many, many reasons why people might choose not to refer to themselves as gamers. I’ve played games all my life but never thought of myself as such. Games are just one small part of my life, that’s it. Conversely, many women, for example, do refer to themselves as gamers, even if the public at large has a certain perception of what “gamer” means. For the record, I think the public’s perception of “gamer” is still much closer to the nerdy loner than misogynist, but that’s just my take.

        Like I said, if people aren’t comfortable identifying themselves as gamers because of the toxic culture, then that’s completely understandable. But to think that’s the sole or even major reason why people would choose to don that label or not is reductive in my view.

        Now whether or not it’s worthwhile or even possible to somehow “rescue” the term gamer from public perception, I don’t know. I think the best we can do is be more inclusive generally and perceptions of gaming culture will hopefully change over time. But again, whether the term is “gamer” or “people who play games” or “shabadooers” or anything else is secondary to changing gross behaviours and attitudes. I’m just not convinced reclaiming the term “gamer” has anything to do with that.

        Just as an aside as a response to your Derridean rhetoric, I do think you are trying to pin down an essential “gamer.” You’re trying to assign to the term a degree of inclusivity and multiplicity. That’s still a position you’re taking. It’s an admirable and worthwhile position, obviously, but you are trying to make “gamer” connote certain things and not others, make no mistake about that.

        Anyway, good discussion Steve! We should do more of these on later posts.

        • Steve Wilcox

          I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. For while I agree with what
          you’re saying, I think it’s not very practical. The fact is ‘gamer’ is
          the term being used, not “people who play games” or “shabadooers.” Perhaps the problem is differing definitions of rhetoric.

          I’m coming at this issue using Vico’s praxical rhetoric. His position is covered by the maxim verum ipsum factum (the truth is made). Meaning is not given in language but made through communication. He calls for students of rhetoric to study sensus communis, which for him means studying the language of the community. Through this study rhetors ‘come to terms’ with how words are being used, and ultimately how truth is being made; not b/c some words are true and others are not, but because individual, lived experiences shape our interpretations of words. We glimpse those experiences by observing how common, re-cognizable words are used to ‘make sense,’ sometimes in uncommon ways. In this respect Vico is anti-Cartesian, saying that truth cannot be communicated in abstraction from common language and that removing oneself from the community (as Descartes argued with solitudinal, rational thinking) leads to ‘odd and arrogant behaviour.’

          This is because, for Vico, it’s presumptuous to think that we can express our ideas without being cognizant of language and how each of us has differing connotations and associations with words. If you do not remain attuned to language use, you risk developing beliefs that you cannot communicate. They may be true for you, but in order to make them true for others you must be aware of common perceptions of language (which is also, in some respects, common sense–meaning here common sensation or experience).

          Therefore, we cannot ignore the common sense usage of ‘gamer’ any more than advocates for the rights of persons with disabilities can ignore the usage of the word ‘disability.’ If we are to change gamer culture the result (not the means) should be a change in how the word gamer is used. Thus, while none of us in these comments identifies as a gamer, it is through this word that we can communicate truths or beliefs about gamer culture. Language, rhetoric, community, and culture all converge in the sensus communis here, the common, practical use of language.

          Perhaps (ironically) I’m not being very persuasive but I believe Vico is. If you get a chance check out the essay “Vico’s Rhetorical Model of the Mind” by Paul D. Schaeffer (http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/40237282?uid=2&uid=4&sid=21103501932711). It’s completely changed how I look at rhetoric, language, and communities.

          [PS If I’m coming off rather ‘motivated’ here it’s because this is the subject of my dissertation (which actually argues that Derrida pays too little attention to rhetoric)].

          • Jason H

            No I definitely get what you’re saying Steve. I get that the language we use matters, it’s constitutive, etc. etc..

            I guess the question is, are we sure what the general public associates with the term “gamer?” I don’t think misogynist and homophobic would be the first things to come to mind. As Rachel puts it in her article “video game playing groups were generally perceived as unpopular, unattractive, lazy, and socially inept.” There’s no mention of misogyny or anything in there. If anything, I guess we should be more active, more tanned and have more friends IRL to dispel the popular stereotypes (or common sense usage of the term), not be more open to demographic diversity.

          • Steve Wilcox

            I guess I’m concerned ‘gamer’ connoting ‘sexist’ is the updated version of the trope (at least, that’s what I told everyone during the SSHRC Storytellers competition :P). And if we don’t move on that now (à la feed-forward scholarship) then it will come to pass. Anyway, thanks for talking this out with me. I don’t know how useful it was for others, but it helped me clarify my own points and reminded me of other perspectives on this that I should keep in mind.