Lamer is a jargon or slang name originally applied in cracker and phreaker culture to someone who did not really understand what he or she was doing. Today it is also loosely applied by IRC, BBS, and online gaming users to anyone perceived to be contemptible. In general, the term has come to describe someone who is willfully ignorant of how things work.
The term is derived from lame. A lamer is widely understood to be the antithesis of a hacker. While a hacker strives to understand the mechanisms behind what he or she uses, even when such extended knowledge would have no practical value, a lamer only cares to learn the bare minimum necessary to operate the device in the way originally intended. Thus, a lamer is usually indistinguishable from someone who is too lame to understand why something works even if they wanted to. A lamer's attitude is summed up by the phrase, "I don't care how it works, just that it does".
The usual definition of a lamer is someone who acts lame. That could be using tactics that are generally accepted as overpowered, "camping" (another gamer term) which means lying in wait all the time without necessarily accomplishing anything useful, jumping around with no purpose. In fact, almost all negative gaming terms fit under the term lamer; the exceptions are terms that apply to newcomers or players who are bad at playing.
In phreak culture, a lamer is one who scams codes off others rather than doing cracks or really understanding the fundamental concepts. In warez culture, where the ability to wave around cracked commercial software within days of (or before) release to the commercial market is much esteemed, the lamer might try to upload garbage or shareware or something incredibly old.
This term seems to have originated in the Commodore 64 scene in the mid 1980s. It was popularized among Amiga crackers of the mid-1980s by ‘Lamer Exterminator’, the most famous and feared Amiga virus ever, which gradually corrupted non-write-protected floppy disks with bad sectors. The bad sectors, when looked at, were overwritten with repetitions of the string “LAMER!”.
Common new uses
Lamer is now commonly applied to individuals perceived to be contemptible. The proliferation of computer-mediated communication media such as IRC or BBSes may be partly responsible for bringing the term into common parlance.
Lamer has become a word used in the same way that stupid, idiot, and retarded are used to describe something contemptible.
Generally, the more specialized and developed the culture, the more lamer is used as it was defined originally. In less exclusive cultures such as online gaming and IRC, the term has lost its original meaning.
Lamer can also be synonymous with, or at least similarly defined to, griefer in certain gamer circles; whereas a griefer plays the game solely to earn enjoyment from the frustration of other players (including and especially their teammates), a lamer's only reason for playing the game is to earn points (usually by killing an opponent) even if they use dirty tactics to get their way.
- Definition of lame - Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
- Lamer - Another description of a lamer.
- Definition of Lamer - Jargon File - Origination of term lamer.