As in any sub-culture, the first criterion that allows aﬁrmer as a gamer is time. The time spent playing of course, but also and first of all the fact of having been there before. To be among the pioneers, those who nostalgically evoke a form of golden age. This way of s aﬁrmer has a huge advantage: there is nothing to do, it suﬁt to look back to consider that one was there before. I’ve been a gamer my whole life, I’ve had almost every console possible until I got into computers, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Pocket, Game Boy Advance, the Super NES, the 64, the Play1, the Play2, and then I discovered the computer and stayed there.
(Xavier, 19)This type of console list is one of the most frequently observed ways of presenting oneself. To list the consoles is to place oneself in the long time, conrmuted by an artemisia there also very often repeated, that of the absence of mediation. We’ve always been gamers, we fell into it when we were little, “well, basically it’s since I was born” (Louise, 23). The love of gambling is thus thought of and experienced as immediate, without transmission (parental, friendly or other), an original shock and a founding element of identity. This then leads individuals to call upon this long temporality to aﬁr-see a form of authority. This is the case for Brice, 26 years old, who scours garage sales looking for old consoles and game cartridges to add them to his large collection. According to him, even people younger than him would have to be interested in them in order to claim gamer status.
This does not mean that one should, like him, accumulate a large collection, but at least be interested in the history of the medium and test the games of the early days via emulation software. There is no doubt in his eyes that “all real gamers do this, they always go back to the first games”. However, we can notice that he is referring here to games he himself played at a very young age, so the work of going back is done without effort for him while he is waiting for this effort from the youngest ones. Going back to the golden age is the center of any quest for authenticity and legitness, a phenomenon is already well known in the field of music where you have to have known a band before it became “commercial” to be recognized by your peers (see for example Hein, 2012, on this mechanism in punk culture). This attitude condemns in return those who were not there before, those who do not bet on pioneers and leads to giving a heroic Paine to the narrative of this past. The newcomers, who adopt the culture but without knowing its history and without having been there are then decried, they are hipsters, posers who “put on a belt with a Super NES buckle without having touched a real controller of the console” (Jean-Bapiste, 29 years old).
The denunciation made here is that of an opportunistic, late style and above all su-perﬁciel. Here too, studies on subcultures have largely dealt with this quesion since the 1970s, but often embracing this purity claimed from the origins as legit aﬁn, then criticizing the recovery of a cultural movement by the market. For Dick Hebdige (2008), for example, the fact that high school students adopt the clothing style of punks without adopting the whole ideological background of social protest associated with this movement, constitutes a form of swan song. By embracing a discourse held by the individuals themselves, this type of approach then leads to the essenialization of this authenticity.
In return, more recently, some researchers have called for this phenomenon to be considered as a fetish of the subcultural style, and to consider this idea of original purity as a social construction allowing those who claim to be pure to establish their authenticity (Woo, 2009). Not to consider this authenticity linked to temporality as self-evident allows us to approach it as a trace of power relationships and singularization within groups in perpetual mutation and therefore subject to the questioning of the self-esteem of the individuals who are at déﬁniion aﬁlient. In other words, if everyone is a gamer today, who am I who am déﬁnissais by this particularity that was relatively rare before?
It is not innocent in the excerpt quoted above, that it is Jean-Bapiste, one of the oldest respondents in the corpus, who mobilizes the quesion of the authenticity of those who were there from the beginning in front of the ariﬁcialité of those who make video games look like mere appearances. In fact, this separation by the age variable is clearly observable, and those who most clearly link aﬁrment to déﬁniion and what a real gamer is are generally the oldest. The question of authenticity then arises all the more as practice becomes shared by the greatest number and whether or not one was present in heroic times. When the mere fact of having access to a video game was in itself a relatively rare thing, reserved for a privileged few, the problem did not arise in the same terms.
The gamer identity: definition
When the access is wider, it is a question of showing that there are several relationships to video games and that some are more legit than others. It consisted of a career in the interactionist sense of the term (Becker, 2012), that is to say, a set of sequences that are as many stages of legitimation of oneself. It is necessary to have gone through those moments that make one say “you know you’re a real gamer when…2”, and that constitute at the same time an aﬁrmaion of authenticity and common experience, that allow ideniﬁcaion to be a community of design. This disqualiﬁe makes those too young not to have had the right experience in the right context. In fact, to recognize oneself in the aﬁrmaion “which gamer has not kept the console alight for several days in a row so as not to lose the backup” (Marion, 23 years old), is not to be alone anymore and to see in the other the equal of oneself in the quest of the original purity. Marion thus appeals to a lived experience, to a journey that she presents as universal among those who recognize themselves in the gamer’s identity, and it is from this typified universality that she draws her own sense of legality.
This link between individuals through career similarities is thus a way to become one, to form a group, and to draw a boundary with an often hostile otherness. In the context of the video game-induced panic in the 1980s and 1990s around violence and addiction in the 2000s, the fact of joining a gamer community is a way of building a common voice to address these criticisms. To have suffered mockery and mockery related to a passion that is more and more insignificant today is for the respondents the founding basis of the sense of belonging: “many of my friends didn’t understand, my family was the same, plus it was a little frowned upon, so the only ones who understood were those who also played” (Benjamin, 21). For him, as for many others, to be understood and recognized for his taste is an objective but, at the same time, to be misunderstood is a bet for the career, the heroism of the gamer’s career, and the construction of a common goal.
Art of games : suffering passion
As the scars are proof of having known the war, the moments of suffering linked to passion are proof of the authenticity of the lived experience. For the youngest, or those who didn’t have access to the medium for reasons ﬁnancières or parental prohibition, the only solution for aﬁrmer its aﬁliaion is to make up for it. It is then necessary to go through a list of classics that are part of the socially recognized history of video game art. Zelda, Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, DiabloII, Half-Life, and a few others make bets on works or series whose names are constantly coming up, both as milestones but also as markers of a good gaming career. They constitute what Sarah Thorton (1996) calls a subcultural capital, a set of founding works that create a bond even though they are not the favorites of all the members of the group ideniﬁant. In the same way that a rock music lover can love a little-known independent band and thus aﬁrmer his individuality while acknowledging the founding importance of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, or Led Zeppelin, one must know these games to be able to do his work as a singularization.
Christophe, 26 years old, expresses this sense of lack by explaining that he only recently played the Final Fantasy game saga: It’s a shame for me, you can’t miss it! We can say that it’s the archetype, the model of the Japanese role-playing game genre, […] you can’t say it’s shit, it’s not possible, you can’t like to play it but you can’t say it’s shit! So, according to Christophe, it’s quite possible not to like this series of games, but you have to recognize its importance. It is the transversal nature of the reputation of this type of game that allows us to trace the always liminal frontiers of good taste and that “makes a culture” in the sense of a repertoire of objects shared by a collective and symbolizing the values of the latter. In fact, not to have played Final Fantasy was a shame for Christophe, because he internalized the role of the historical milestone of this object which makes consensus.