Why do people identify themselves as gamers? No one else seems to identify themselves by their favorite hobby: movie/television watcher, music listener, etc.
Social identities are a funny thing. Søren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher and social theorist, was one of the first to really stress the importance of one’s self in relation to the world. He was famously quoted as saying, “Once you label me you negate me.” It was his contention that labels, while offering a level of personal social security, ultimately destroy individuality and constrain a person’s being to the boundaries and connotations of the label they are assigned. Therefore, all who accept that label for that person have limited that person’s perceived ability to grow into a more dynamic individual.
I know that is a wordy social scientist explanation, but all that’s really being said is that we tend to write people off based on subjective experience and how they choose to identify themselves. This is why many intelligent people try to dissociate themselves from labels completely. Very few people are fond of the only describing themselves as “film/TV watcher” or “music enjoyer” because those labels, when used alone, lack context and only represent one side of you. By only attaching yourself to one or two very narrow labels, you, by proxy, dissociate yourself from dozens of other labels that could also describe you. This begs the question, “If labels are damaging to individuality, why do some groups of people – like gamers – ascribe to them?”
There are three main reasons why I believe people who play video games like to refer to themselves as “gamers” (outside of the fact that it’s a very apt categorization). The first is cultural context. Playing video games, unlike listening to music or watching films/TV, is a form of media enjoyment that is considered “niche.” Many people enjoy music or films/TV, but not many people play video games on an active or regular basis. Like any small cause, groups of those who participate try to rally support for this medium by embracing it as a large part of their lifestyle.
The second reason these individuals who ascribe to the “gamer” label aligns with the first – there is a social camaraderie that comes out of that culture. Regardless of whether those who play games do so with others or not, they all have a tendency discuss the medium actively between each other. Fans of music and film do this as well, but the “gamer” moniker lacks the same social stigmas as those medias due to the unique cultural pride attached to the niche of gaming.
The third and final reason relates to an attitude of indifference. Not to generalize, but I’m sure some individuals who would identify themselves as gamers don’t care what other people think about them. Not to infer that gamers are social misanthropes, but when you’re already known among the populous as a dork, geek, nerd, or freak, which gamers often are, also being known as a “gamer” isn’t really monumental.
That said, the acceptance and subscription to any particular label is atypical. The only comprehensive reason as to why so many choose to identify themselves as gamers is that their social culture induces and/or allows this behaviour.