Ask Me: Episode Three (What Defines A Gamer?)

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As many gamers out there can relate to, most of the people I know don’t play games. I’ve often wondered what the perception is of a gamer to those that don’t play, or who do play but with far less frequency. With the advent of mobile gaming, more and more people are some type of gamer, whether they find that to be true or not.

So I got to wondering, what do non-gamers wonder about gamers? What do they wonder about video games?

So I asked.

And here is what my friend E.P. wanted to know:

I wonder mostly how long it takes to:
A. Learn the controller, and
B. To master a game.

I mean I played Mario and Tetris but I can’t seem to hang with the new style of games.

Also “gaming” and “playing video games” sound like two totally different things. Like one is for professionals and one is for the person like me.

Excellent questions/thoughts. Here we go!


I wonder mostly how long it takes to:
A. Learn the controller, and
B. To master a game.

Interesting, and complicated, questions.

Let’s address the controller topic first.

Most modern controllers are fairly similar, with the only real exception being where the thumbsticks are placed, and what the buttons are referred to as. Some games only use a few buttons and perhaps only one thumbstick. If this is the case, it wouldn’t take too terribly long to learn the controls on that controller for that particular game.

Some games have far more complicated control schemes, and for someone not used to handling a controller, there might be a bit of a learning curve.

When I played my first real, solo, 3D game (Disney’s Haunted Mansion on the GameCube), I spent a good ten minutes looking in places I didn’t want to. I just was not used to looking around with the right thumbstick. Over the course of those ten minutes, I got used to it, but it was such an odd thing. Moving the character around with the left thumbstick felt intuitive, so there wasn’t much to that.

If you are picking up a controller for a modern game, there are the standard four buttons on the right, but on any of the three major consoles (Nintendo’s Wii U, Sony’s PS4, and Microsoft’s Xbox One) the buttons may be in the same place, but they are all referred to as different things.

For Sony, there are symbols (triangle, circle, x, and square), but to further complicate matters, on both Microsoft and Nintendo, there are X and Y, A and B, except they are flopped between the two companies. So if you are going back and forth between a Nintendo console and a Microsoft one, you might get tripped up here and there. Again, it just takes some getting used to.

I’m probably not making controllers sound very approachable, and that’s not my intention. I would love for anyone and everyone to play games that allow them to have extraordinary experiences.

Controllers are actually kind of wonderful. I like the idea of having this thing in your hands that allows you to interact with a fabricated world.

I revert back to saying if the game is engaging, the mechanics will follow. There are exceptions to this, of course, as there are certain games with completely bizarre control schemes that seem to make the entire experience far more difficult than it ever needs to be. Thankfully, most games follow the same general set of controls, and if they do not, most have the option to tweak the controls to your liking.

The second question is one that I don’t think can accurately be answered.

First of all, mastery is a subjective thing.

Second of all, there are so many varied types of gaming experiences out there. Who can say how long any one will take to master? You would have to take into account so many variables such as game type, personal skills, time spent in-game, etc.

I am terrible at driving games. I mean truly awful. For me to master a driving game would take a hilariously long time (though I am pretty good at Mario Kart, for some reason). However I am quite good at shooters. If you put me in front of an interesting shooter (Borderlands!), I am going to have a far easier, and engaging, time learning to “master” that game.

That being said, I think there are very few gamers out there who have truly “mastered” even their favorite games.

More important (to me) than mastering is having an engaging experience.

So to answer your question, I can’t answer your question. There are just too many variables on this one.

Some professional gamers spend entire 8 hour “shifts” each day just practicing the game they compete in. These people are doing their job, and they put in those hours to improve. It would be easier to assume they are far closer to mastering their game of choice than the rest of us might be at our recreational games.

Also, you can absolutely hang with the new types of games. You just need to find one that interests you, and the rest will fall into place.


Also “gaming” and “playing video games” sound like two totally different things. Like one is for professionals and one is for the person like me.

Even within the gaming industry, there is dissent on what defines a gamer.

For me, the answer is easy: it’s someone who plays games. It doesn’t matter if those are console video games, PC video games, handheld video games, mobile games, tabletop games, or card games. A gamer is one who plays games.

I firmly believe in being inclusionary! Games have a wonderful way of bringing people together, and I’m grateful to be considered a gamer.


With that, I thank E.P. for her time in posing these questions and thoughts. I genuinely love to find out what people think about things in general, and games in particular.

Cheers to more questions and the discussions they bring!

Categories: games

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13 replies »

  1. I honestly adore the way you approach things. I do feel intimidated by the controller and some games. I watch other people play and that is entertaining in it of itself. Sometimes I want to join in the fun and maybe I’ll spend some time learning a game so I can do just that!


    • Aw man, thank you. And I know, without question, you would be able to get the controller figured out.

      I like watching other people play games, too. One of my favorite shows is Replay (and Super Replay) on Game Informer. Not only is it entertaining, but those guys know their stuff backwards and forwards.

      Have you ever thought about a handheld console? Like a Nintendo 3DS or something? I could see you really enjoying that.


  2. I enjoyed the article, however, we all know that “real gamers” use a PC that costs more than a car. ;) No, really I use my Xbox 360 controller on my PC for many games that i play.


    • Oh my gosh, some of the gaming PCs I have seen are insanely expensive. The only game I’ve played on my laptop in the last year I used a 360 controller for. It worked just fine, but my laptop could barely handle the game.


  3. These are really great features, keep them coming!

    I could see how these questions can be difficult to answer, like the controller one. For someone who has stayed with video games throughout their evolution, the increments of controller advancement have been much smaller. In my mind the most difficult hurdle is the two sticks, the movement and the camera. Of course that could be because I always think of “Dan and his dad play” whenever these topics come up. So frustratingly hilarious!

    Totally agree on the inclusion. Video games are for everyone who is interested in them. For every taste or personality there is guaranteed to be games to enjoy. Of course, with so many options, finding them is the biggest challenge.


    • Thank you! Provided I can wear down enough people I know, I hope to keep bringing them to the table. They are interesting for me to think about and subsequently write about. I like fostering these discussions about gaming and perhaps, even in a teeny tiny way, help clear up misconceptions about gamers.

      I remember the first time I used a controller with two analog sticks. I was all over the damn place. It was hilarious. I picked it up pretty quickly, but the interim was…something.

      Oh my god! Those Dan and his dad segments are HILARIOUS. My favorite is still the Heavy Rain one.


      I love that there are so many games that no one is left out. My only question is, will we ever be able to catch up on our backlogs?


      • No, sadly the answer is no. I plan to be buried with my backlog. I’m thinking by that time they won’t even need dirt to fill the hole, just game cases. It would be easier if I didn’t love so many experiences that can be so time consuming (RPGs, open-world, etc.) It reminds me of something Kumail Nanjiani said in the podcast he and his wife do together, “The Indoor Kids”, when talking about TV shows. Heavily paraphrased, he said he’s happy when a movie is a B or B+ but there are so many TV shows these days, especially with Netflix and more access to foreign-developed programs, that anything less than an A- just isn’t worth his time. I think the same is true for games. There are just so many, and viable options for everyone, that perhaps we can be more choosy. If you can never really play all of the ones you want, wouldn’t it be better to make sure you at least don’t miss the ones that are the best for you and your tastes? I know I felt quite relieved when I stopped forcing myself to work through Brutal Legend. I loved the idea of it, but just wasn’t having fun. Time to move on to something else before my beard gets any grayer.


        • HA! Here’s hoping it doesn’t come to that!

          Wow, that’s a good point. There is so much content to consume out there, why have anything but the best you can?

          I’ve certainly put down games before because I wasn’t having fun, but I still spend time watching really crappy horror movies. I love them.

          Oh man, Brutal Legend was on my list. I have it and everything. Darn.


      • Well, just to clarify, I’m not saying we should limit ourselves to only the best rated games, just the best for us. I know I’ve often struggled to work through a game and try to enjoy it because so many other people thought it was wonderful, when it turned out to not be quite right for me. Heck, right after putting down Oblivion once and for all I jumped right back into Sacred 2 and that PS3 port is buuuuggggy! I’m talking frequent freezing and completely broken features. But heaven help me, I LOVE that game.

        If you’re personally interested in Brutal Legend, please don’t let my feelings for it sway you, especially if you already have it. Just recognize that if it’s not clicking for you, there are so many others that are right up your alley. While I do think there are extremes where a thing is objectively of good or bad quality, whether or not something is fun/interesting enough to be worth your time is entirely personal. And that decision should never be decided by reviews or metacritic scores, those are just good starting points I think.


        • Oh I understand. I really do. I was just over-paraphrasing.

          I will still play Brutal Legend, or at least try it out for sure. I just think Double Find has some excellent humor and I’m excited to see what I can of it.

          Agreed! That’s why I love the reviews on GI. I feel like they have the most impartial and informative reviews out there. And I appreciate that. They have integrity.

          Liked by 1 person

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