Do You Have To Actively Play To Be A Gamer?

Prior to my mid-twenties, I gamed a lot. At home, at school, in the library, on the field during lunch, on the front porch, at the dining room table, in classrooms, sitting underneath the stairs, in the car, on the bus. Every single place we could sit down and have room for some books, paper, and dice, we’d play

For the adults in the house, it was probably a bit like this

But, of course, as career and family and other things came up, I slowed down. For the past 15 years or so, I’ve averaged about one game every couple of years, lasting from a few months to a year in length. Aside from dipping my toes into play testing some things year before last, my last regular game was five or six years ago. I now have a regular Tribe 8 Fate Core game going, but that’s relatively recent – and want to try to commit to additional regular, but shorter term, games once we get it stabilized.

At no time, though, did I ever feel I wasn’t a gamer. I participated in gaming forums, tinkered around with various game systems, and otherwise kept myself in the loop. The thousands of hours I put into playing during my adolescence and young adulthood gave me a very good foundation for how games work. It’s a lot like riding a bike – you might be a bit rusty after not doing it for a while, but you don’t just forget.

We all know this is what happens when you try to game after a long hiatus

But the idea that whether or not someone is gaming, or hasn’t gamed within some nebulous period of time, shouldn’t be considered a “gamer” – which seems to be the point when I’ve seen it come up – is bullshit. It’s nothing more than an attempt to try to discredit…something. Someone’s opinion, a design choice, or whatever agenda the person putting forward the notion has. It’s the idea that there are people out there – players, game designers, you name it – that are screwing up the hobby but don’t play games. They need to be stopped at the bridge for the protection of True Gamers, and how much gaming they’ve done is obviously the way to do it.

When was the last time you played?
What game did you play?
What is the probability of curve of 3d20-d12+5?

Exasperation with people giving opinions but have never played any game at all is a little understandable, but given most of the discussions I’ve seen revolve around social issues – table consensus, social contract, player agency, how to actually go about the playing of games – I’d say that someone who hasn’t actually had a chance to play any games is still likely to have some insight. They’ve likely dealt with similar in non-gaming situations. Even then, I’d say that people in a perpetual state of not-playing – either by never having played anything at all or due to other circumstances – are pretty rare. Certainly rare enough that anyone worried about whether or not someone else is actually playing games  is just an attempt to be petty. If someone identifies as a gamer that’s good enough for me. I’m not going to demand they pull out their Gamer Timecard so I can verify when the last time it was punched.

As a postscript, I’m not referring to this phenomenon in terms of individual games, rather gaming as a whole. I do believe you have to play a game in order to truly understand all of the nuances of the system, how smooth it is in actual play, what works and what doesn’t, etc. It’s possible to judge a game purely on a read through – but that’s limited to content, quality, and the overall rules structure (sometimes you can identify a “broken” rule before playing a system).

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