Still Playing Video Games as a 40-Year-Old
Video Games Age Better Than We Do
It occurs to me that video games are about the same age as I am. I distinctly remember playing the game Pong back when no one I knew dreamed of such a thing: turning a dial on a wired controller, only to watch deliriously as a blip of a line moved up and down accordingly. That single ball bounced back and forth, back and forth, and my love for video games was born. I couldn't believe that I was controlling something on a television screen. I think it must have been that element of control that first drew me into video games, back when video games really didn't contain much video. It seemed like I had crossed a forbidden threshold, one that had only come into being to captivate me.
Now I'm married with children and I have a steady job as a teacher, but I like to boot up the XBOX and play single player and online multiplayer. My wife has grown used to my erratic habit: at times, I'll play for lengthy sessions, and at other times, I'll ignore games for a few weeks straight. Regardless of how long or often I'm playing, however, I'll invariably begin to question myself. Sometimes during a Call of Duty multiplayer match, I'll hear an opposing player speak in a little, high-pitched voice and it all comes crashing down. Am I getting too old for this? How old is too old?
Too Good to Be Too Old
According to The Entertainment Software Association, the average gamer age is 34. At first, I had a hard time believing this, but then I realized that various games for the IPhone, Wii Sports, and Kinect workouts all count. This isn't what I like to play. Oh, I'll play Wii-type games with the kids, but they aren't my true passion. I wonder what the average player age for an FPS (first-person shooter) is. Judging from what I've seen and heard, I'm guessing it's just south of fourteen. This is for good reason, too: much of this genre is a run-and-gun, mindless, visceral experience. Things explode, you explode. Everyone explodes. You shoot your weapon and your enemy shoots his. Sometimes, I like to hide like an old man in the brush and watch everyone else exploding. The sounds of bullets rip through the speakers, and I am lost in a ridiculous primal world of reaction. Eventually, when everyone is a good bloody mess, a final tally pops up and someone yells something to the opposing team about being owned. That's how you know the game is over.
Most of these players have no idea that the game they just lost is derivative of a host of earlier games, many of which I played when they first came out. I'm like a walking time capsule, overly aware of my place in the larger scheme of gaming. Sometimes I feel like I'm from the Stone Age, but then again, I'm actually pretty good. I think I'd be more comfortable if I weren't. If I were a bumbling fool, consistently losing badly to a group of teenagers, I could laugh off my investment of time and money as a goof. Unfortunately, I'm still good enough to wonder how in the world I fit in.
How Does One Fit In?
What started out as a love of control grew into a love of escapism. Arcades and Atari blossomed, and I did as well; I saved my quarters and spent hours accomplishing nothing more than bragging rights in the neighborhood. Asteroids, Missile Command, Defender: games became increasingly focused on survival, and the visceral nature of combat-oriented games provided the perfect release of stress and the weariness of everyday living. Years later, I played Duke Nuke 'Em and Half-Life on my PC, and home gaming became a reality. The XBOX 360 evolved to the XBOX One, and that's just my latest venture. Though spare time is often at a premium, I try to play video games at least every now and then. My life has changed tremendously and my bedtime has gotten earlier and earlier, but my love of gaming has survived.
I know I'm not alone at my age playing video games. I know there are people far older than me playing better than me. The sensation of being an anachronism, however, is nagging. How does one fit in comfortably to a new age of technology? How does one mesh with a new generation of gamers? Ultimately, graphics and realism have evolved a thousand-fold since the days of Pong and Pac-Man. Can I evolve, too?
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