Observations made behind duck blind.
One of the things I have learned about gaming is that others don’t approach games like I do. As much as I’d like to believe the world is as obsessed with my favorite hobby as I am, the reality is that very few people closely identify with gaming. Furthermore, among those that do, they often don’t do it my way. This article is an attempt to categorize the various approaches I have seen. For the record, no one approach is better than any other.
Grazer – A grazer enjoys of a large number of games on a fairly superficial level. Grazers are more concerned about a wide variety of experiences rather than focusing on a particular game or even genre. New and unique experiences matter more than the development of a concept and heavy skill games, such as those that populate the esports world, aren’t given additional weight due to their depth. That’s not to say that a grazer doesn’t hone in on a game now and then; it’s just that they aren’t interested in learning a single game as their primary gaming experience.
Disciple – The opposite of the grazer, the disciple plays only a few games, but plays them rigorously. A disciple wants to know a game inside-out and is willing to devote considerable time to achieving mastery over the game’s many systems. Disciples gravitate towards high skill games with a heavy focus on gameplay over story or atmosphere. In fact, the aesthetic qualities of a game can annoy the disciple if those qualities get in the way of gameplay. Disciples also value game progression as a personal attribute by choosing to see improvement as measured in their own skill rather through story.
Social gamer – The social gamer views video games primarily through the lens of interacting with friends. For the social gamer, the game acts as a medium through which friends are gathered, stories are shared, and achievements are earned. The quality of the game is only important insofar as it facilitates that social engagement. A social gamer certainly wants a fun game, but they may be more swayed by the game that all their friends are playing rather than the game they’ll enjoy most individually.
Nostalgia gamer – Some of the games of the past are excellent and the nostalgia gamer knows it. They remember the heyday of Mario, Sonic, or [enter favorite game character here] and seek to recapture the magic of a bygone time. The nostalgia gamer seeks out experiences like the games they fondly remember and strongly values remakes and spiritual successors. In some situations, the nostalgia gamer may condemn the whole of the modern games scene as degenerate for not reflecting past glories. As such, the nostalgia gamer is rarely plugged into the most recent developments and likely to drop out of games entirely should the industry stop producing games just like the ones they remember.
Highlander – Highlanders have found their one game or series. Some odd confluence of events has brought together all their ideal gaming qualities into one perfect package. A highlander may also seek mastery like a disciple, but they could just as easily be a casual player who happened upon a game that really connected with them. Highlanders aren’t connected to the gaming world because they really aren’t interested in games beyond their favorite. In the end, there can be only one game for a highlander.
Observer – Observers know of games, but only through the gamers in their life. They acknowledge games as a thing and have a few talking points on the topic, but they have decided that games are not for them. This is not to say that an observer never plays games. On the contrary, they can occasionally be enticed into a round or two of what their friends are playing. The difference is that observers have no additional interest. Video games are things others do, not observers.
There are, of course, many other ways people approach games. Furthermore, none of these categories are exclusive and they all allow for gamers who switch between them or follow multiple patterns at different times. Though incomplete, this list shows how varied people’s approaches to games are. It also suggests that the traditional dichotomy between “casual” and “hardcore” gamers misses considerable nuances. Gamers look at games beyond just the number of hours they’re willing to invest and the kind of games they play. Developers, critics, and fans should all appreciate and embrace that diversity.