The Premium Player

By Chris Federico

(November 1999-- Revised May 13, 2011)

The following article was written in November of 1999. I no longer liked it, but Adam recently found it among the old documents that he's saved over the years, and was able to give me an objective (and surprisingly positive) opinion of it. I suppose that whatever purpose it might have beyond reading enjoyment can be summed up in an e-mail exchange from around that time, which he quoted to me as part of his insistent vote against deleting any completed old material:

Adam: You know you are a Real Game Player when you need to modify the video-game vocabulary to include yourself.
Me: Well, I thought that people like you and I [sic] should get an official Classic Game Dictionary entry.

I've cleaned it up a bit, and returned it to Adam so that he can work his CSS magic on it (he's been toiling to improve the readability of our entire website...thanks, Adam!).

So...enjoy, maybe! CF, May 2011

Reading the publications and websites dedicated to video games, I've often come across the term "professional gamer." For some reason, this is usually meant to indicate someone who plays his favorite games with outstanding ability, and attains higher scores and levels than someone less adept at wielding a controller. It implies that the player harbors immense knowledge about games on many platforms; this usually involves the actual history of video entertainment (depending on the context).

Many of us fall into that category; you might yourself. But it's always seemed an unsatisfactory term to me. Consider the word "professional": It means that you do something for a living (hence the smaller word "profession"). A professional gamer would be someone who got paid to play games. Only recompensed play-testers fall into this category.

So I've taken it upon my conceited self to coin (so to speak) a new term describing those of us who would be trillionaires if we indeed got paid for playing video and computer games. The most fitting word I've arrived at is "premium." It describes it all: superior, zealous, and knowledgable, with all of these pertaining to skills that anyone not extremely interested in video/computer games would find trivial; enthusiasm, which the non-obsessed would find baffling; and a base of reference points and technical awareness that takes into account the history of electronic entertainment.

Granted, it makes us sound like cuts of meat or vats of fuel, but it's much more accurate than "professional." Premium gamers don't engage in bouts with microchips to achieve innocuous diversion, like the average commoner who might allow himself a round with one of the coin-ops in the movie-theater lobby. Premium players are interested in the nuances and feel of each and every game they come across, before even deciding if it's any fun; they keep track of their high scores, consider progressed or completed sessions to be personal accomplishments, and concentrate on the action to the sweaty, angry (or elated) extreme. The focus and dedication of these people represent the human spirit at its most motivated.

The fiction of the world in the game, from the most claustrophobic to the most vast, transcends to some extent into the mental reality of the participant controlling the action. The premium player allows himself to indulge in an everlasting fascination with the basic mechanics, extras and even glitches inherent in every case of this science-turned-entertainment on the screen.

Certain skills are well developed in the premium gamer, placing him leagues above others in these areas. Highly evolved hand-eye coordination is only part of it. An ability is developed to look for certain common elements when learning a game and devising personal strategies -- an attentive, long-experience-based wisdom regarding the manners in which these worlds are put together. The premium player is always searching for ways that deviations from the prototypical aspects might be exploited.

Exploration prowess is also exceptional, and the premium gamer can hold more information in his head than the average person, regarding physical relationships: layouts connecting locations, multiple simutaneous speeds, and all on-screen minutiae.

Adults obsessed with the hobby are, even now, occasionally slighted as arreseted-development nerds who take electronic entertainment out of context and into the zone of overseriousness. Well, what about participants in local baseball or soccer leagues who don't get paid, but consider their top-form days among the finest moments in their lives? How about the guy merely WATCHING others play, irrelative to the action but taking every call so seriously that he's in a good mood if "his" team wins, and he takes his girlfriend out to dinner in celebration?

He's not being interactive with the games. Shouldn't his approach be considered inferior, if we're doling out unsoliticed judgment? Television is passive. Video/compuer games are interactive. There you go.

For that matter, how about people who get drunk, gossip about their alleged friends, and come to be considered fundamental players on the court paved of superficiality, artifice and comparison that hosts their social circles?

The game must go on, my friends. The achievements that mean a lot to you are irrelevant to how others perceive them. There are those who will be jealous in one way or another, because you've found a way to enjoy yourself in the moment.

There are dozens who won't be able to identify. It doesn't matter, because you can kick their asses. As long as they're willing to venture into your kingdom, which is far neater than any football field or rat-race sidewalk, they asked for it. Keep doing what you love to do. But if you're gonna play, PLAY. You won't even have to wear a shirt with a tennis-shoe company logo on it.