I think that video games have been a part of my life since pretty much when my memory begins. As a small child we had my dad's Intellivision on which we would play Kool Aid Man, Bomb Squad, Snafu, Poker, Football, Astrosmash, B-17 Bomber, Bowling, Soccer, and a tank related game that I'm totally losing geek points for not being able to name. At my grandparents we would frequently play the Summer Olympics game on their Commodore 64. They also had that little handheld version of Mrs. Pacman. I wasn't particularly good at any of these games.. the Olympics game mostly consisted of us making up silly names for our characters, and then watching the diver do belly flops and laughing at him.
We got our Nintendo a little later than most kids, I think. I seem to recall that Super Mario Bros 3 came out not too much later after we had gotten it. We had that one, along with the requisite SMB/Duck Hunt, Dragon Warrior (Free with Nintendo Power, of course), Cabal, and RBI Baseball. We also rented games for it constantly. My ability was improving with my age, though to this day I've still never beaten Super Mario Bros, warping or not. I also never really understood just what you were supposed to do in Dragon Warrior back then.. it seemed to be mostly a guessing game to see what direction you could move in before you got to enemies that could kill you in one or two hits. I remember pushing down on the A button so hard in the hopes that maybe I would score a critical hit. I don't think I ever got past the point where I was able to kill the ghosts and warlocks.
Both my brother and I played NES so frequently that I think my parents were much more willing to spend the money on the Super Nintendo at an earlier release date. I'll never forget that we got it on my brother's birthday, and that he literally fell to the floor in a dramatic display of excitement. (He'll probably tell you he doesn't remember that, and that I specialize in remembering "embarassing" moments for him. But I just think its cute.) Once again the games we had were few: Super Mario World, Mario Paint, and eventually Mortal Kombat II and Final Fantasy 3 (that's 6 to you kids today). We rented Link to the Past, Final Fantasy 2 and Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest so frequently that we probably should have just bought them and if it wasn't one of those we were trying something else. I was apparently becoming a better player too because I know I at least beat all but the last two of those games as well. Mario Paint doesn't really count, unless you include that fly swatter game as something you can beat.
By the time the Nintendo 64 came out I was dating, and the b/f actually got me the special green one that came with Donkey Kong 64. He may have been the same guy who yelled at me for reading my comics instead of talking to him, but video games were one of our common grounds, and we played both the 64 and his Playstation quite frequently. We even played MajorMUD together along with a good portion of our friends (think World of Warcraft, but all text and on a local level). This was of course the on set of 3D into gaming, and so my skills took a step back and suddenly jumping from platform to platform became a lot harder.
I eventually got all three Playstations and the Wii, and with my tastes I tend to mostly own a lot of fighting games, JRPGs, puzzle games, and the occasional platformer. I bought Metal Gear Solid 4 but have never played it.. I'd rather let someone else play and just watch the story. In what I can only describe as temporary insanity, I bought Grand Theft Auto 4 because everyone was talking about how great it was. See, it's insane because I hate those games. I hate GTA because very few people I know actually play the game, and even among those who do, they love to waste hours of time randomly stealing cars and running over pedestrians, beating people up, etc.. and to me that's just boring. I'll play a racing game if I want to drive a car and I'll play a fighting game if I want to beat people up, and I won't have to worry about having cops on my trail the whole time. The only thing that would possibly be more insane for me is if, say, I went out and bought Modern Warfare 2. I've never been able to get into first person shooters of any kind. I can't handle the controls and the games never seem engaging enough for me to want to try. I chose a PS3 over an Xbox 360 because it seemed to me like the vast majority of exclusive titles on the 360 were FPS, while the PS3's were a bit more varied. Occasionally a game will come out for the 360 that will make me stop and think if I want to be one of the few that owns both, but I just can't do it for monetary reasons more than anything else.
I would consider myself a gamer, without any question. The thing is, I'm fairly certain a lot of people within the gaming community would try to dispute me on that. FPS games shatter records when it comes to sales, yet I don't like them and don't play them, so can I really be a modern gamer? If online play is any indication, I'm also not anywhere near as good as the average gamer, regardless of what type of game we are talking about. So if I'm not any good, can I call myself a gamer? As I've described above, I'm not that good at the old stuff either unless its SNES era.
I own a bass guitar and a keyboard, but I'm no where near proficient enough in either and would not be so presumptious as to call myself a musician. Of course, I also go months or years without ever touching the things. The PS3, on the other hand, gets turned on at least once a week. The Wii gets turned on at least twice a month. As long as I'm playing video games, is it ok that I'm not getting any better? Does the genre of the games I choose to play make me only a casual gamer and not a hardcore one, regardless of how often I'm playing? They're valid questions, I think, in an industry where so many people do not even consider the Wii as competition to the PS3 & 360 solely because of the type of games it has and it's lack of HD graphics.
When it comes to labels and titles, I think everyone has the right to choose their own. Even if you only play Bejeweled Blitz, if you feel passionately enough about it to want to call yourself a gamer, go ahead. Fanboy hate can make you angry or upset if you let it but in the end it's just some idiot judging you unfairly. How we choose to identify ourselves is a big part of who we are as individuals.
Expect me to post the occasional video game review as they come up.