Gaming v.s. Playing

We’ve all played before, right? Maybe it was a card game like go fish when we were young, or a game of catch outside with an older sibling. But have we all gamed before? Do you game at Jenga with a younger sibling? What about picking up a controller when your buddies are playing FIFA? Is that gaming?

When do we game?

I’ve seen a friend sit in front of WOW for hours on end before, and he was definitely gaming. But, I’ve dabbled in WOW before, played here and there, and I believe I was just playing. This past summer, when I had some free time, I would play a game or two of Madden. It was a great way to relax, I enjoyed it, always turning of my PS3 satisfied. It was never very challenging, but that’s what I enjoyed about—the big plays and the easy win. My twin brother also played madden this past summer, and he plays on the hardest settings. He knows the NFL inside and out, making my football knowledge seem as if I was one of those girls asking “what is a down?” And when he plays Madden, he yells at the fictional players when they drop a ball and yells encouragement or just straight profanities if the game isn’t going as intended. I’ve seen him walk away from a Madden game crushed, as if he truly did just lose a NFL playoff game. But I’ve also seen him put down the controller so feeling so accomplished that nothing could ruin his day. He games; I play.

In all cases the “player” and the “gamer” both want to win or beat the game they are playing. In the example of my brother an me, we were both playing madden, and trying to win in the same way. But if we look at our relative enjoyment levels from a game in which we both won (but were both losing in the third quarter) but I was playing and he was gaming, it would look like this:

Game enjoyment levels

From my experience (beyond video games) you reap what you sow, you get what you put in. I believe this is the difference between gaming and playing. A gamer is focused in what he is doing, fully engrossed, fully affected by the outcome. A player on the other hand, is playing for leisure, to relax, without the intensity of a gamer. NFL players should be called gamers, but I wouldn’t hold your breath for that change.


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