Elitism: The Selfish, Destructive Heart of Gaming Culture

By Tate Steinlage

Are you a real gamer?

Isn’t it fascinating that one single question can conjure up a range of emotions, from skepticism to apology? We long to be a part of something bigger than oneself, but we also stoop to a level of selfishness that puts that yearning to shame. Human beings within community inevitably find themselves pursuing exclusivity and elitism.

FamilyGamerTV’s Andy Robertson recently posted a thoughtful video that raises the question, “Are videogames the next big religion?” In it, Robertson notes several similarities between religion and gaming; one of them being exclusivity and how both parties often attempt to distinguish authentic followers from imitators, perceived as wolves in sheep’s clothing.

“Who here has been born in the world of the player? You may think you have, but have you really? Do you really have a genuine relationship with video games? Can you pull off a headshot? Can you strafe circle a boss? Can you melee attack a grunt? Do you, like Kevin Butler, stay up until 4AM to win a trophy that isn’t real, but is? Can you distinguish Master Chief from Master Chef? Do you know that all your base are belong to us now? Could you pick out the N64 kid in a crowd? A true gamer could tell in an instance whether you’re really part of the gaming faithful or just an interloper.”

This statement is convicting, but not insincere or deceitful. Our gaming culture is founded on the fragile whims of elitism, the sense that we must challenge everyone who says they’re one of us, and that it’s imperative that we defend our own fan-hood when challenged no matter who it distances, or hurts. Something is wrong here.

"Our gaming culture is founded on the fragile whims of elitism, the sense that we must challenge everyone who says they’re one of us"
Whether it’s something widely-talked about like past vicious attacks directed at women in the industry or something as ingenuous as an anonymous Internet posting, little by little we reveal our culture’s immaturity. More and more people are being turned away by elitism, whether it’s how we challenge other players and their gaming knowledge (or lack thereof), or how we talk about the very games we play. We envelope ourselves in experiences, and present ourselves as untouchable experts – a level a newcomer could never reach.

We’re not as welcoming as we’d like to think we are, and our need to “prove” ourselves and challenge newcomers with an elitist, narcissistic approach only feeds the beast.

Exclusivity has also alienated gamers from the rest of the world. Our culture was born as the bastard-child of social apprehension. Many still act as though gaming positions them as a social outcast, when in reality its growth has surpassed this assumption. We’ve nonetheless allowed ourselves to become outcasts by our own elitism and exclusivity; acting as if this a club that requires pages and pages of prerequisites before you can ever join, while our culture begs and pleads to be socially accepted. Society as a whole, though, doesn’t understand us, not because they’re apathetic or averse to us, but because we won’t let them in our circles to see why we’re so deeply connected to these on-screen experiences.

How do we fix this problem? Are we so hopelessly selfish that we want to see our industry flourish and grow, but not at the expense of losing our level of elitism that really isn’t there?

I don’t believe so. We need to examine our motives and ask ourselves why we play games in the first place. Games mean different things to different people, but whether you play to discuss with others, walk in the shoes of a character to gain a better glimpse of life, for competition, or to kill time, all of those impulses are a part of what it means to be a gamer. All of these impulses stand on their own. They are enough.

photo credit: Taylor.McBride™ via photopin cc

Written by Tate Steinlage

Tate Steinlage is a freelance writer whose work has been seen on GameZone, GamesRadar, Video Game Writers, The Daily Wiz, XXXCHURCH & more. Tate is currently a student at Manhattan Christian College and Kansas State University, studying Bible and Journalism, respectively. You can find him on Twitter at @SteinlageT.