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Do ‘Real’ Gamers Play to Win or for Fun?

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The way I see it, there are two primary mindsets at play when we sit down to play a video game. Your classic logical right brain type will immediately begin assessing the best possible way to go about making the game of choice their bitch. The more creative left-brained individual will instead be taken with the imaginative experience and will likely spend their time on flights of fancy or set out to find what the virtual world can offer them creatively. I will call them Type A and Type B, respectively. I totally just made those terms up myself just now.

Now that we’re all occupying the same digital space thanks to our internet connections the clash between these two approaches is happening more and more often as opposing mindsets are paired with and against one another in online play and discussions. Sure there were arguments about how best to play games on the couch way back in the day, but modern gaming is so much more of a widespread social affair than it used to be and has grown from a mere pastime to a full-blown cultural force. And with that comes the controversy: what’s the correct way to play video games?gaming chart

So let’s hash this out. Who are the real gamers: the ones who take it seriously as a competition and challenge, or the ones who just want to relax and have a good time? Obviously, the only answer that matters is the one that corresponds to your personality type (which can be determined by the Bartle Test, here), so let’s take a look at each set of values and see what virtues (if any) they yield.

There’s something to be said about Type A’s philosophy of utilizing every aspect of a game to give yourself every advantage in order to obtain optimum results. These gamers are often divided into camps known as “killers” and “achievers”, with killers focusing on multiplayer dominance and achievers on single player proficiency. Achievers are the people who plan their RPG builds with great care and don’t waste a single experience point. They do the math to determine which choices will give them maximum advantage and they carefully choose only the best equipment, which they farm for constantly, and they chase down every in-game laurel they can find. Their goal is to be so unstoppable that they make a joke out of the game itself and accomplish every goal set before them with the greatest of ease.

Killers are often considered the least pleasant breed of gamers due to their hyper-competitiveness. The desire to win at all costs may lead to some play tactics that aren’t exactly kosher with other players. Spawn killing, glitching, and camping in first person shooters comes to mind. They’ll spend hours exploring each level to find exploits to use to their advantage; maybe a glitched spot on a sheer rock wall that allows them to climb to the top of the level and snipe with impunity or a hiding place where they are practically invisible so they can lie in wait for other players to cross their path for easy kills. They’re the corner trappers in Street Fighter and the ones who choose Sentinel in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Should you encounter these individuals, they may, on occasion, ask you if you even lift and/or question your sexuality.

To other players, this kind of stuff kills the experience. It’s not FAIR! This sucks! It’s booooooring! THIS ISN’T FUN. The inevitable response: winning is fun. That is to say that Type A measures their success entirely on their ability to come out on top. “Fun” is a buzzword for losers. If you’re going to play, why not play to win? Life is competition where you can be an alpha or a beta. Who chooses beta?

gamer type relationship chartType B does. Sure, you could bust a blood vessel trying to beat the Youtube speed-run record on Grand Theft Auto V. Or you could, you know, have some fun. Go make it rain in the strip club and then start a fight with the bouncers before busting out and leading the cops on a crazed high speed sidewalk chase all the way into the ocean. Grab a parachute, hike to the top of the highest mountain, and enjoy the view all the way down. Put on a monkey mask and go try to punch a shark to death or binge watch Kung Fu Rainbow Lazer Force. With so much fun stuff to do, who gives a crap about accomplishing anything?

Type B subtypes include “socializers” and “explorers”. The latter revel in the freedom to experiment, create, and experience new things. It’s an existence beyond their existence where they can do what they want and be what they want without real world judgments infringing. This whimsical attitude towards both virtual and real life assures they’ll probably never be CEO’s, Senators, or marine drill sergeants, but they enjoy the worlds of fantasy fiction on a whole other level compared to their counterparts.

Socializers are usually pleasant individuals who see multiplayer gaming as a way to meet new people and hang out with friends. The game acts as a virtual medium where they can meet and greet other people like themselves and share a good time. They are consummate teammates, but may not be the most skilled players. The game itself is secondary to the social experience. They may hound you incessantly with invites after friending you.

Type A views a video game as a piece of software to be bent to their will. Type B sees it as a world to be inhabited, explored, and enjoyed to its full potential. Who is right? This is like asking someone the meaning of life. Is achievement more important than enjoyment? Is being the best at something worth it if you’re unhappy or is it better to be a loser who can scrape satisfaction out of the smallest things? It all depends on your perspective.

On one hand, there are people who believe that if they are going to do something, it should be taken seriously and done to the utmost of their ability. On the other are those who seek personal pleasure and fulfillment. Which are the real gamers? Well both, I suppose. Video games are certainly pieces of software often meant to challenge us, and they also often represent imaginative worlds to explore. They are there to be whatever we make of them. There’s arguably no wrong way to go about playing games, only different attitudes and alignments. For example:gamer alignments

Sure, left-brained folk are the ones who really inhabit and appreciate these worlds and some of them have been doing so since they were getting picked on and ridiculed for loving video games in leaner times -often by the same people who now inhabit Call of Duty servers. But gaming is changing. The concept of an e-sport is a pretty new one, and in some ways it signifies the legitimacy of gaming as a pastime. But what it also does is open up competitive gaming to people who only see it as a way to beat other people at things and maybe get paid for it.

The fact of the matter is that more people are playing more games now than ever. Gaming is a business and an industry, it’s a hobby and it’s an obsession, it’s entertainment and art, it’s a lifestyle and a sport and a culture. Whichever aspects are the ones you relate to; gaming is something all types have in common. How you approach it is entirely up to you. All you need to do to be a real gamer is game.

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About Nick Verboon

I am a guy on the internet who writes stuff sometimes. Try and keep up. I used to write reviews Amazon and other sites under the moniker trashcanman before semi-retiring from my unpaid career for a while. But now I'm back in action writing columns for Unreality and Gamemoir. Enjoy. I

2 responses to “Do ‘Real’ Gamers Play to Win or for Fun?

  1. majormexx

    Really well written. Nice job! Although I’m not sure there’s a looming question of what a “real gamer” looks like, another way to look at the arguements you’ve raised is “who’s playing their games the way they were supposed to be played?” A killer, by your definition, could absolutely take an RPG and find a way to make a horse race out of leveling their player faster or have the best (insert metric here). On the other hand, this comes at a risk: it’s easy to miss out on some of the enjoyable intricacies of a game when approaching a certain genre with your archetypal blinders on.

    • Thanks. I’ve been back to thinking about this topic while playing Destiny and reading about people who are spending all of their time finding low-level enemy spawn points like the fabled Loot Cave and camping there to try and get the most gear the fastest while complaining about a lack of content in the game. But if you are willing to spend all of your time on the first level shooting into the same cave because of an exploit, it doesn’t really matter how much content is in the rest of the game anyhow since you’re just glued to the one spot. I’d think if all you want to do is max your level with the best gear and call it quits, you’re kind of missing out on the whole “fun” thing, you know? But maybe that’s just me. No wrong way to play, I guess.

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