An Old Guard Gamer
The first game I remember playing was sonic the hedgehog on an old Sega game gear handheld device that chewed through batteries so fast, my dad had to hide them from me so I wouldn't take the ones he would use for work. I loved that Game gear, and eventually in an attempt to save money, we got the external battery pack. Needless to say, there was a time when I had to bring it to my dad and beg him to repair the power cable because I played it so much; it ended up wearing the jacket off and rendering it useless without his expert care. I don’t know where that old thing got to. I want to find it though, just for the sake of nostalgia. My Sega seemed to weigh about as much as one of the modern consoles today. There were a lot of consoles between then and now, but suffice to say that it seemed like the progression of the technology crawled along like a snail. That is, until it didn’t.
As I type, I sit here playing a flying game with my daughter that isn’t even really fair to compare to sonic. It’s like watching a completely different world come to reality. She was shouting with joy about how the F-18 would roll and pitch with the slightest touch of the stick, asking, “daddy, I crashed, can I try again?” This made me tear up a bit, as she didn’t get frustrated with the difficulty, and was determined to zip around on the map, exploring wherever she could. I remember my Grandpa taught me a love of aviation at a young age with another flight simulator game. He was a tail gunner in Korea, and as a serviceman, loved most things military. I think that game was his way of reaching back into history a bit, and instilled a love of it in me. It was really a surreal moment to be standing in his virtual footprints, watching my daughter struggle the way I did. I felt a swell of pride in the same determination to accomplish her mission, like I’m sure my grandpa felt for me at some point.
I went to the mall the other day, looking for inspiration for my business. As I rounded a corner I was musing on how there once was an arcade that I spent much of my teen years at, winning tickets and impressing friends. When I looked up, I knew things were different. There, in the same mall where I had spent a substantial amount of my adolescence, was a virtual reality arcade. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Well lit, modern, and completely immersive. I felt my age immediately, but didn’t care, and had to find out more information about this establishment. It turns out that they put you in a sort of high walled cubicle, give you a headset and two controllers as a way of interacting the world you are about to be immersed in. I was with my 6 year old child, so I couldn’t bring myself to try it out at the time. I did sit and observe younger people playing. What struck me was that they weren’t shouting with glee, or excitement, but rather talking and smiling while they played a co-operative zombie survival game. I got most of what they were saying, but every once in a while they would drop a phrase or some reference that went entirely over my head. I can only imagine what they sounded like to someone who wasn’t steeped in nerd culture and gaming like I am.
The reason why I felt my age so suddenly was because I had a sudden realization that I am leaving the target demographic for a lot of game developers. I loved the split screen multiplayer experience, even though it was impossible not to screen peek. It just came so suddenly, I didn’t get a chance to really appreciate the progression. Thinking about how much things will change in my daughter's time makes my head spin. If I am already seeing a commercial application of a virtual reality experience, how long will it be until one enters my home? I suppose all I can do is smile, and know that there are going to be younger veterans of the human covenant war. If I could tell them one thing, it would be that you should appreciate the time you have. I don’t know what day it will be, but eventually you too will round the corner and come to a realization that you will be standing on the shoulders of giants. I hope you will have as many fond memories as I have, and give ‘em hell!