[Dtoid community blogger crackedbat shares his thoughts on the Nintendo "I'm Not A Gamer" ad controversy and the term "gamer" in general. Want to see your own words appear on the front page? Go write something! --Mr Andy Dixon]
One of the great things about living in the age of the Internet is that everyone has a chance to bring their opinions to the masses. Hell, I’m writing on a blog right now that might be read by 30 people and I don’t even know 30 people. It’s a wonderful time to be alive and opinionated, and opinionated is something people around the world have had no problem being. Though it’s great that you can get your voice out, many times you’ll find yourself silenced by the hateful rants of complete strangers just because you wanted to speak up. I should know; I’ve done it myself, and it takes thick skin to be on the receiving end of such scorn.
I honestly try not to, but there are just some instances where the stupidity overwhelms my conscience and I have to refute what they are arguing. For me, this is divided 50/50 between two topics: politics and videogames. I’m sure the political rage will die down after the election, but the angry gaming rhetoric is a 365 kind of deal. So I’m always exposed to the anger, the hate, the frothing at the mouth over the most innocent of statements; the most recent example of which rests in the new “I’m Not A Gamer” ads from Nintendo.
If you haven’t seen these ads, they feature famous females who are advertising Nintendo products using the (unorthodox to some) statement: “I not a gamer. With my 3DS, I’m...” For the first ad that aired, Gabby Douglas says she’s not a gamer, she’s a coin collecting champion. The game she is advertising is New Super Mario Bros. 2, a game where the goal is to collect the most coins. The second ad has Dianna Agron saying she’s not a gamer, she’s an artist; she’s advertising the new Art Academy game for the 3DS. (In fact, Dianna Agron has run a somewhat popular blog on art for several years. She has some great photographs on there.) Finally, a third ad starring Sarah Hyland from Modern Family will air later this month. It will feature Style Savvy: Trendsetters; she’ll probably be a fashion designer/fashionista instead of a gamer.
For people who are normal, sane and rational, these are innocent ads that are reaching out to girls who don’t play videogames that often. However, the first people to speak up about these ads were none of the three. I first became alerted to the strong anti-gamer rhetoric in that ad thanks to Kotaku, where Jason Schreier published an opinion piece titled, "Nintendo Shouldn’t Treat ‘Gamer’ Like a Dirty Word".
I have nothing against Mr. Schreier, and in fact applaud the piece he wrote about developers and publishers thinking we’re all out to get them (though his comparison to the film industry is dead wrong). But no rational person would watch one of those ads and think, “Nintendo is treating ‘gamer’ as a dirty word.” Certainly not the people the ad is aimed at. My guess is that a young girl who watched Gabby Douglas win two gold medals probably saw someone she looks up to playing videogames. Said girl doesn’t see herself as a gamer, but knowing that Gabby Douglas enjoys playing games maybe she would, too. That’s who this ad is aimed at: the young girl who may look up to Gabby Douglas as a role model. Same goes for the Dianna ad. A young girl who likes art might watch that ad and think that would be a great program for her. (It should be noted that Art Academy is in fact an art program, not a "game". So we should really have no problem with Dianna saying she is not a gamer.)
Back on topic. I had hoped after reading this opinion piece that this kind of thinking would be isolated. I was wrong. The Gabby ad has more dislikes than likes on YouTube and the hate has spread to other websites. VentureBeat has a piece on it and GoNintendo linked to it yesterday. That’s where I found people arguing for and against the ad. The biggest complaint I saw was people being offended.
Offended by an ad where Gabby Douglas says she’s not a gamer, but is playing a videogame.
What is it with that word, "gamer"? Why is there so much vitriol when it comes up, and more importantly, why do we cling to it as we do? Are we offended that Gabby Douglas dares to play a videogame but doesn’t refer to herself as a gamer? Is gaming a club where only gamers are allowed? I think I might have lost my gamer ID card.
I remember a time where I did decide to identify myself as a gamer. I was in college and I had trouble defining who I was. I decided to go with gamer because I loved gaming and, looking around to my fellow students, it seemed to be an ID that no one else had claimed. "Yeah, this would be the ticket, I’d be known as 'the gamer'." Then I grew up and realized that going by a single label, or any labels in general, is pointlessly stupid. I’m a gamer because I play games, but I’m also a reader because I read books, a movie watcher because I go to the movies, and a driver because I own a car. Never in my life has there been a point where I labeled myself reader. I've never walked into a party and described myself as a driver to a group of strangers. In fact, the only label I wear now is writer because that’s what I do for a living.
But why did I get so attached to "gamer"? Why do others? Why do we feel the need to attack or defend whenever the word is mentioned? Nintendo isn’t treating "gamer" like a dirty word, but I would be hard-pressed to blame them if they were. I know that not all gamers are the same and they shouldn’t all be grouped together. It’s just hard to look past the label when self described "gamers" are sending death threats to Platinum Games. Acts like that don’t make me ashamed to call myself a gamer because that would be childish. Instead, it makes me wonder what that word even means anymore. Clearly, "gamer" doesn’t just describe people who play games anymore. We’ve fractured the word; there are now "gamers" and "casual gamers". To "gamers", the mom who plays Wii Bowling is a "casual gamer". To that mom, she's a mom and probably doesn’t give a shit about about the label regardless.
I believe that "gamers" are the only group that would be offended by an ad like this. Beer drinkers didn’t get their panties in a twist when The Most Interesting Man In The World said, “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do I drink Dos Equis.” Why? Because anyone could be a beer drinker. Who cares if Gabby or Dianna or Sarah aren’t "gamers". Gaming isn’t a club where gamers are the bouncers. Everyone can game. Anyone can be a gamer, or not. People can be whatever the hell they want. Nintendo advertising people who don’t call themselves gamers playing Super Mario Bros. doesn’t mean they’re treating "gamer" like a dirty word, nor does it mean they are attacking those who call themselves gamers. It’s no one’s fault but your own if you cling so tightly to that label.
People have called these ads offensive, particularly when Dianna Agron had the nerve to smile in an advertisement. I’ve heard people call the line “I’m not a gamer” poorly written, which it is not. Had Nintendo gone the Dr. Pepper 10 route and said these games are for non-gamers only, then I would let the hate slide. That would be a stupid ad. But this isn’t a stupid ad. It’s just an ad that’s not aimed at you.
So Gabby, Dianna and Sarah, you’re right. You’re not gamers. (We know that Gabby isn’t because no gamer would ever close their original model 3DS that fast due to the risk of permanent damage to the 3D screen.) And I’m with you. As I pop Resident Evil: Revelations into my 3DS tonight, I am not a gamer; I'm just a guy who likes playing videogames.