My first gaming console was a Flame Red Game Boy Advance SP. I got it for my birthday one year with a copy of Pokemon Sapphire. It sparked my unending love of games. But to many of the people in the community, I wouldn’t count as a “real gamer”.
I grew up on handheld consoles (specifically the Nintendo line) and didn’t get my first console until around 2012 with my Wii. I still only have a Wii, Gamecube, 3DS, and my DS Lite. I don’t even have a gaming PC/laptop.
I consider myself a hardcore gamer but most people don’t. The stereotypical “hardcore/real gamer” has a gaming PC, the latest triple A title, and a superiority complex. I would be what is considered a “casual gamer” (also known as a “filthy casual”). Someone who doesn’t take games seriously, plays game just for fun instead of for glory or challenge, or just plays on handhelds. Which, for me, is wrong in one context but it is still a harmful stigma to have for various reasons.
The first glaring problem with the stigma of handheld gaming/casual gaming is the superiority complex that some gamers have. You have to know every game to the very smallest detail in order to be a true fan of the series. You have to be able to min-max the weapon and armour sets to truly enjoy the game. You can only play super serious games or else you aren’t a “true gamer”. Games like Pokemon, Animal Crossing, or Stardew Valley are considered casual games even though they can be as hardcore as you want to make them with challenge runs and complex under-the-hood math.
I couldn’t and still can’t afford the price tag that comes with PC gaming or console gaming. A decent gaming PC costs as much as I pay for one semester of college. A console like the PS4 will run you around $300. Gaming is a very expensive hobby but handheld games are the second cheapest option (the cheapest is mobile if you have the right phone). It is just plain classism.
Finally, handheld gamers aren’t thought as people who take games seriously. People like to ignore that very popular games like the Persona series, the Metriod series, and the Monster Hunter series were made so popular from handheld (accessible) releases.
In conclusion, don’t be rude to people who play handheld consoles, we are just as “true” of gamers as you.