A subculture is an association of people belonging to an organization with a common purpose. It is this common purpose that binds them together to create and identify characteristics that differentiates them from others. In reality, a subculture belongs to a bigger culture and yet, because of certain symbolisms, language, actions, behaviors, and beliefs, a subculture creates its own identity separate from the rest. For this paper, the focus of discussion is on computer gamers and what attributes they have that makes them a subculture of their own. Computer gamers are a remarkable group to study because of the growing interest in computer gaming, not only by youths, but by adults as well. Computer gaming has transcended the barriers of age and gender and thus, it is interesting to note what their beliefs and convictions are. Computer gamers are considered as a subculture because of certain characteristics and behaviors they exhibit that distinguish from the rest of the population.
Computer gamers are often typecast as teenage boys who spend hundreds of hours playing computer games at home or in computer shops. Often, they can be seen with game controllers in their hands and are either playing individual or multiplayer games with friends or unknowns. However, this is already changing. The market for computer games is diversifying not only in terms of age but in gender as well.
I interviewed four certified computer gamers through separate chat sessions and came up with interesting facts about computer gaming. Magnus Cole, 22 years old, has been playing computer games since he was 13 years old. Cole admits playing video games as a five-year old kid. However, because his parents set limitations on his use of video games, he did not become a certified computer gamer until he was teen years. Based on previous studies, adolescents who played more violent computer games were more hostile, were more involved in physical confrontations, and got into more arguments with teachers (Gentile et al., 2004). These adolescents also seemed to perform poorly in school. The study found that mediating factors play an important role in assessing the impact of violent video games. I asked Cole if violent video games lead to violent behavior. He says,
“I do not think that violent computer games lead to crime, despite existing indications that this is the case. I like playing violent games and I am not violent or use violence to solve issues with other people. However, I might agree that violent people like violent games and it is not right to say that playing such games cause violence.”
What may also be a surprising fact about this is that the disparity between male and female computer gamers is narrowing down. Statistics show that 49% of the computer gamers are women and 51% are men. If trends continue towards this path, then the year 2013 could be the year when women computer gamers exceed the population of male computer gamers (Lewis). In my chat interview with Luisa Jimenez, 29, she says she never thought she would be a computer game enthusiast. She says she never understood the language that gamers spoke. I asked her about her thoughts on computer gaming language. She has this to say.
“Computer gamers use specific language that only they understand, thus, Field of View (FOV), Heads Up Display (HUD), and Line of Sight (LOS) were all alien words for me. In terms of language, I have caught on already and can claim that I now understand computer gaming lingo” (Jimenez).
Jimenez further asserts that gamers are often tagged as too geeky because they speak nothing else but games and strategies. However, it is this “special language” that computer gamers share that sets the culture of camaraderie among gamers. For one, the terms they use in gaming do not necessarily mean anything to everyday living. Jimenez now understands, uses, and speaks the same language as other gamers do. I then asked her, “What are the things that bind computer gamers together? Are there any physical manifestations that would give a hint about the gaming subculture?” This was her reply.
“What binds us together is our love for computer games. While there are those who like playing war games, there are also the groups who are into Japanese Anime computer games. These are those who imbibe the Japanese culture (apart from playing the game) by adapting Japanese hairstyles, dress code, and foods, including makis and sushis. Regardless of computer games preferences, the understanding and connection among gamers is universal” (Jimenez).
Andrew Kim, a friend of Cole’s whom I also interviewed, shares that in Asia, gamers are predominantly males and can be seen playing computer games mostly in computer shops where rows upon rows of computers are lined up. These are places where you do not typically find women playing computer games, whereas, men do not have qualms about staying in stench-filled computer shops just to enjoy the camaraderie of playing with fellow gamers. I asked Kim, “What are the typical attitudes and gaming norms that computer gamers follow? What are the negative effects of computer gaming?”
“As a subculture, computer gamers follow certain decorum when playing. Most games need concentration especially those that require strategy apart from strength and power from the protagonist. During these times, you will see that gamers are just busy playing their own individual games. However, you might hear some shouting at the top of their voices or people playing as a group of friends stay behind the player’s back cheering him up – but that’s about it when it comes to computer gamers. Unlike other subcultures that can easily be identified through their clothes or make up, we look normal and dress up the same way as the regular Joe in the next street. In terms of attitude, extreme computer gamers have a tendency to become anti-socials as we sometimes focus too much on our games. Some of us lose focus on our studies and prefer to play rather than build relationships with others.” (Kim).
While puzzles, board games, and card games comprise 44% of games being played online, persistent multiplayer universe and action/sports/strategy/role playing games take 16% and 21% of online games preferred by computer gamers respectively (Anthony). I then asked William Mason Paul, a 46-year old gaming enthusiast, “What are common symbols that computer gamers use? What is the significance of these symbols?”
“These mind games, strategy games, action-packed games, and others represent the symbols that define what a computer gamer is. We gamers believe in the values of competition and achieving what we want, which embody some of the beliefs of the American culture when it comes to pushing ourselves to reach our goals” (Paul). Paul also identified the most common symbol as triforce, which signifies power, wisdom, and courage.
As a subculture, computer gamers possess a distinct style and identity that somehow defies what society dictates as the norm. They have social rules that strictly classify them in the way they talk and act in public. Aside from their depth of knowledge when it comes to the trends in computer games, new strategies on how to play certain games, and computer games speak, what sets them apart is their affinity to certain attitudes and attributes of computer games they play. They are guided by norms expected from a computer gamer, with emphasis on their position and beliefs towards games they play. Though society typecasts men as the embodiment of a computer gamer, women are slowly breaking that notion as they slowly define themselves as computer gamers as well. These characteristics are bound to vary again as time changes and according to the dictates of the dominant culture. Whatever comes out as result, subculture will always create their interpretation of the dominant society.
Anthony, Sebastian. “PC Gaming vs. Consoles, the Infographic.” ExtremeTech. 2011. Web. 26 Sept. 2013. <http://www.extremetech.com/gaming/97705-pc-gaming-vs-consoles-the-infographic>.
Hartney, Elizabeth. “Characteristics of Addicted Gamers.” About.com. 2012. Web. 25 Sept. 2013. <http://addictions.about.com/od/lesserknownaddictions/a/videogamewho.htm>.
Lewis, Helen. “Are Computer Games Being Taken Over by Women.” The Telegraph. 2013. Web. 24 Sept. 2013. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/10086627/Are-computer-games-being-taken-over-by-women.html>.
Murphy, Conor. “Game Speak and Acronyms in Gaming.” Big Fish. 2010. Web. 24 Sept. 2013. <http://www.bigfishgames.com/blog/game-speak-and-acronyms-in-gaming/>.
Gentile, D. A., Lynch, Paul J. , Linder, J. R., & Walsh, D. A. (2004). The effects of violent video game habits on adolescent hostility, aggressive behaviors, and school performance. Journal of Adolescence, 27, 5-22.
Cole, Magnus. Personal interview. 24 Sept. 2013.
Jimenez, Luisa. Personal interview. 24 Sept. 2013.
Paul, William Mason. Personal interview. 25 Sept. 2013.
Kim, Andrew. Personal interview. 26 Sept. 2013.