Too Young To Be This Old

Those who say that fear is the mind killer are wrong my friends. It's age. Age, which is relentless as a foul tempered badger and more tenacious than Elliot Ness holding an envelope of bank receipts with 'Money Al Capone Laundered' written in the margins. Age which makes the language of young people, apparently cobbled together from JayZ, reality TV and marathon sessions of huffing aerosol cans, seem like a puzzle of poorly phrased phonemes missing all the edge pieces. Age which cripples my already inconsiderable dexterity, and age which makes me vaguely excited that Matchbox Twenty has new songs coming out and completely incapable of flying a Warhawk.

I realize that my description of aging might suggest that I'm some kind of infirmed septuagenarian with bad taste and mild dementia, but subtle evidence suggests that the wiring between my brain and hands apparently now bears some comparison to corroded spark plugs on an early seventies Dodge Dart. When playing Warhawk and games of its ilk I'm increasingly surprised no one's put me on blocks in front of some ramshackle Appalachian home with a poorly written For Sale By Owner tag permanently duct-taped to my nose.

The problem may be that I'm very set in my ways, and the introduction of the motion steering component of a game like Warhawk manages to finally flummox my already questionable hand-eye coordination. It's taken me three decades to hardwire my neurons into believing that pushing forward on a tiny nub of plastic under my thumb should equate into a digital nose dive on my television, and the hubris of a developer asking me to scrap that concept and instead tilt my entire controller forward so that now my thumb can target foes during black-out inducing high-g maneuvers is staggering. While trying to force my motor controls into the paradigm of this new piloting, I imagine my brain in revolution wandering the confines of my skull carrying a picket sign reading "Down With Tilt Controls!"

I would suggest that perhaps it's less a problem with myself and more a problem with poor control design were I reasonably competent at any console game requiring fine motor control of the thumb stick. I watch people wander the streets these days thumbing their cell phones in rapid-fire text sessions, and I wonder what evolutionary leap of dexterity our opposable thumbs have undergone in the thirty-four years since I was shoved unceremoniously into this world. I can barely text message a misspelled greeting to my wife under the five minute mark, and by the end I feel exhausted and inferior, so I fail to see how I can expect to match thumb-based combat with these people. I end up feeling as though the fluid lubricating my Carpometacarpal Joint must be a substance not unlike Elmer's Glue.

So, is it true? Are gamers at a disadvantage as they age?

The answer is probably a conciliatory yes followed by an emphatic no, because the question lacks a crucial component. While it does seem to be true that gaming skill degrades with age, the assumption is that the problem is physiological, as though the trigger-twitching impulses firing between neurons are somehow distracted in the no-mans-land between synapses, perhaps by thoughts of paying the mortgage or illicit pictures of Vanessa Hudgens. There's probably little doubt that eventually motor reflexes degrade, and I only wish that I could play Halo 3 against a 75 year-old version of myself, because I'm certain I'd thoroughly kick my own ass up and down the street, but most of us long-term gamers are in our thirties and forties, so I doubt that the problem is entirely physical.

Honestly, we probably just don't have the time or desire anymore to indulge in regular eight hour sessions of Gears of War, and if we tried we'd likely find our time the following week taken up by divorce proceedings and custody battles. The fact that I'm at an immediate disadvantage when playing a new game against a foe ten years my junior despite our both having just picked up the title might be as much because he just plays more games for longer in general than I do anymore, and while I may harbor some small kernel of jade-colored jealousy, I probably won't have much time to think on the point as invariably my toddler will appear and insist he can't sleep until I get him one more glass of water.

And, besides, where else in the world is a thirty-four year-old man held to competitive standards against sixteen year-olds. Let me disabuse you all of any assumption but that a physically fit teenager would beat me in a test of any other kind of physical endurance like Oscar De La Hoya in a title match against Stephen Hawking, so why in the world do I try to compare and compete against them in the virtual arena? Were there some option within Xbox Live or other such matchmaking systems to set my social setting permanently to some kind of Codger Mode where thritysomethings slowly tried to manage weapon radial menus while crashing virtual machines of the future into virtual mountains of the future, then I'd be all over it.

I suppose I'm being a little bit starry-eyed here about the supposed superiority of youth, and I imagine when I'm fifty I'll look back on this article and think I'm exemplifying the typical self-absorbed belly-aching characterized by most mid-thirty kids. But, that guy better watch out because if they do invent a time machine, I'm coming forward in the future to totally kick his ass at Halo 7.

Comments

What a fantastic Roman orgy of metaphors we have here. I'm still not sure I know what the hell you're talking about, but I can read you typing it all day!

I'm 25 and like to think that despite not being able to converse with teenagers I can still whoop em in CS when the mood strikes. I will continue to think this way until my mouse hand has a wheelchair.

A while ago I suggested that games that run on Xbox Live should include simple hand-eye coordination tests to determine response times etc.

These would then be used in matchmaking.

My concern over this idea wasn't anything to do with its implementation (it would be remarkably simple to do), but instead its more of an intrusion of privacy than 'just' a name or address.

I find myself having to limit my gaming time due to physical constraints. My wrists and hands hurt when I come home from a day at work, and I have to make a decision whether it's worth playing through the pain, or to go off and do something else and hope my hands feel better tomorrow. It's also a big deterrent for playing FPS games on the PC. Holding down the WASD keys and the mouse for a few hours really causes a lot of discomfort, whereas playing on a console is more comfortable for the hands.

I'm only 27 years old, I feel that's much too young to have to limit your activities due to physical discomfort. I need to go back to the hand doctor and see if I can get some more treatment (anti-inflammatories and cortizone shots). I'm not really keen on surgery at this point, but at some time it will become inevitable.

There is something to be said about the ability of an early teen brain to rewire itself as necessary. There is just no substitute for having specialized circuitry. I know that I will never be able to be AWP wh*re in CS. It's a deep seeded fact of the universe. But I always prided myself at being able to compensate for lack of physical ability by tapping into my greater life experience. Or so I like to tell myself. In either case, the older I get, the more relevant the ability to hide and shoot my enemies in the back becomes.

Yer not hurt, bennard! Walk that sh*t off!

/coach

I definitely make up for my lack of skill in q3a by playing intelligently. Though of course there are limits to the benefits if you can't hit the broadside of a barn...

So how come I'm already too busy to spend much time gaming, and I'm only 24 and unmarried? I guess I just have other priorities, I suppose, but then I think that's the crux of the psycholigical change that comes as you age. I formerly didn't worry about rent or sodium content or ironing my shirts. As far as I can tell, I used that extra time for video games, pretention, and angst. Perhaps not the best use of my time, but I'm glad that I've seen those extremes and have settled into a more moderate level of them.

I'll admit, however, that I'm also becoming aware of my own mental intertia -- even when I'm not drinking. What originally was a belief that all music and government (among other things) was getting worse by the day has mellowed and spread as it has aged. Now I'm certain that everything was better before and everything new is to be considered silly and wrong until proven otherwise. This includes camera phones as readily as it includes Playstation consoles, FOX shows, and every song on the radio.

Now I leave you with evidence of how scary my present existence is: lines from a song I enjoy singing far too much.

And the white line's getting longer,
and the saddle's getting cold...

I'm not old. I can play until 10pm at night before getting too tired and needing to go to sleep. So there.

This post has been up over four hours and nobody's made a joke at my expense?

I'm shocked.

I do find it interesting that in the non-virtual gaming world we have precisely the inverse perception of "hardcore" in gaming which runs counter to the old-man-rabbit problem. In cardboard games, anything approaching dexterity as a determinant of success is considered casual and perhaps kiddy. In videogames, it's only a rare kind of beardy strategy game or single player puzzlefest where some element of time pressure and coordination is critical to success.

This post has been up over four hours and nobody's made a joke at my expense?

I'm shocked.

I'm even more surprised that no one's called Elysium out for paraphrasing Garth Brooks.

buzzvang wrote:
This post has been up over four hours and nobody's made a joke at my expense?

I'm shocked.

I'm even more surprised that no one's called Elysium out for paraphrasing Garth Brooks. ;)

Haven't I?

I'm surprised nobody's called out Rabbit for writing a list in his post, but eschewing commas! It's not the same as eschewing a coma, old man!

A filthy skimmer am I! Maybe if you'd mentioned Chris LeDoux.

buzzvang wrote:

A filthy skimmer am I! Maybe if you'd mentioned Chris LeDoux.

"God bless Chris LeDoux!"

I'm even more surprised that no one's called Elysium out for paraphrasing Garth Brooks.

And, I'm totally blown away that no one has called you out for knowing this, because I sure didn't.

MoonDragon wrote:

There is something to be said about the ability of an early teen brain to rewire itself as necessary. There is just no substitute for having specialized circuitry. I know that I will never be able to be AWP wh*re in CS. It's a deep seeded fact of the universe. But I always prided myself at being able to compensate for lack of physical ability by tapping into my greater life experience. Or so I like to tell myself. In either case, the older I get, the more relevant the ability to hide and shoot my enemies in the back becomes.

Wish there was a way to find what is lost as we age so we can take a pill to keep that circuitry charged up. I used to be a AWP wh*re and thought there was nothing better than getting kicked off a server because i was doing so good people thought i was cheating. Now when i log on to try test my skills i'm lucky to get one shot off without getting blasted. Just too damn slow.

IMHO it has everything to do with training. That time divide is a killer. If I do hamstring my life enough to get the time in, I can hold my own with my sons. And that's with all my problems with my hands and etc. Of course, you can bet how often that happens.

Focus has a lot to do with it, also. A lot of these guys only play that one particular game, or maybe just that one genre. I'm working on three very different games right now, on three different platforms. I have to think consciously to do everything in all of them, and it shows in my performance. Think about it like like touch-typing. If you switched between three keyboard layouts at random intervals through the day, what would it do to your speed and accuracy?

It's one of the reasons I spend a lot of my gaming time in turn-based environments, or gaming offline (except for the wonder that is ZombieSkate). I can play an FPS campaign against Eliza in her Tearoom commanding the Keystone Cops and do fairly well; a flock of trained, caffienated smackmonkeys is another matter. What gaming time I get needs to be actually enjoyable. I don't want to have to spend it in BASIC every time I get to pick the game back up.

momgamer wrote:

I don't want to have to spend it in BASIC every time I get to pick the game back up.

GOTO 10

If you're playing against your sons, why not hit them? You are rather ideally equipped to do so, are you not?

i'm 34 as well, perhaps due to the fact that i don't do any multiplayer, i have yet to exhibit (to conscious self) any signs of age set gaming retardation, in self.

find solace in the guaranteed knowledge, that where we're heading, others have went to, and those of today will be forcibly sent to as well.

bennard wrote:

I'm only 27 years old, I feel that's much too young to have to limit your activities due to physical discomfort. I need to go back to the hand doctor and see if I can get some more treatment (anti-inflammatories and cortizone shots). I'm not really keen on surgery at this point, but at some time it will become inevitable.

If your work is seriously causing you this much hand/wrist muscle/tendon fatigue/pain, something is very wrong in your workplace. You need to get with an ergonomics specialist at your employer's expense. If they balk, talk to OSHA. No, I am not kidding. With a properly set up workspace, regular breaks to prevent repetitive stress injuries, and the right exercises to keep your hands & wrists limber, your physical problems will go away by themselves.

If you own your own business, then sic OSHA on yourself. If your problem isn't RSI but some early-onset arthritis or other degenerative disease, you have my condolences. 27 is pretty young to be suffering like you describe, though.

--

Oh, and for the spring chicken who wrote the article:
"The average game player is 33 years old and has been playing games for 12 years. The average age of the most frequent game buyer is 38 years old. In 2007, 92 percent of computer game buyers and 80 percent of console game buyers were over the age of 18."
- Entertainment Software Association Top 10 Industry Facts

I think a lot of the phenomenon of the young beating the old can be explained by the simple fact that, the most recent generation (Generation Y or Z or Xtreme or wherever we are now) started playing games at a younger age than the rest of us. If you grow up playing video games, you're going to be more proficient at them than someone who got into video games at age 20 or 30. Plus, they've been playing games that have a lot more going on in them than Pong or Centipede ever did, so they've been trained to deal with that complexity from the beginning. But that's only part of the explanation; all the other factors we're talking about definitely have a role too.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm 21, so maybe I'm still part of "this" generation, but I have to tell you: When I saw a friend's 10-year old (or so) cousin come to a Soul Calibur 2 tournament a few years ago and whip the pants off of all us cocky college kids, I felt obsolete.

JediK809 wrote:

Plus, they've been playing games that have a lot more going on in them than Pong or Centipede ever did

They're playing on Throttle Jockey?

JediK809 wrote:

If you grow up playing video games, you're going to be more proficient at them than someone who got into video games at age 20 or 30. Plus, they've been playing games that have a lot more going on in them than Pong or Centipede ever did, so they've been trained to deal with that complexity from the beginning.

I'm 46. I started playing video games when I was 13. Now, admittedly I wasn't born with a joystick in my hand, but I think that's early enough to have developed some decent gamer synapses. I'll grant you that there isn't a whole lot going on in Pong or Donkey Kong. But Asteroids, Robotron, Defender and several of the other early arcade games got pretty intense after a few quarters!

There's another big difference:

When you're 40 being #1 on the damage meters, having more kills or having the highest score doesn't matter because you've got other sh*t to do in your life. I don't know too many 18 year olds with mortgages.

When you're 18 you basically don't know anything, don't have anything to do (sans masturbating and trying to get laid) and you're priorities are totally askew.

Being the top ranked video gamer at 18 is a feat. Being the top ranked video game anything at 40 is sad.

bennard wrote:

I'm only 27 years old, I feel that's much too young to have to limit your activities due to physical discomfort. I need to go back to the hand doctor and see if I can get some more treatment (anti-inflammatories and cortizone shots). I'm not really keen on surgery at this point, but at some time it will become inevitable.

Career change?

I'm 23 years old and I have a few of medical problems. There mostly the kind that I'm "not suppose to have at my age." The one that directly effects my gaming is the two points of tendonitis that I have in my right arm. There are days where I just can't do anything. The only treatment that's ever worked was cortizone shots and I'd be pain-free for only a month. I always have to be careful of what I do each day. If I overdo it, my arm becomes useless for a while.

The Wii is the worst thing I ever bought for myself. Fun, but painful.

It may not be as common to have a 20 or 30-something gamer who started young, jedi, but that's not quite true. I'm 38, and I've been gaming for longer than you've been alive. And not just a few months, either. I may have cut my electronic gaming teeth writing my own code for a Vic20 in fifth grade instead of sneaking off to play Halo behind my parent's backs, but I have an embarassing number of years in between where I've been whomping the crap out of games that make most of the stuff you see today look like TinkerToys.

A lot of gamers your age think current console and PC games are the epitome of complexity. You're dead wrong. Wingcommander, Mechwarrior, Red Baron, and all their ilk used literally every key on the keyboard and in combinations. There were hundreds of commands. You were working between at least 10 keys and a joystick with eight buttons, dual action throttle, twist, and a high hat to just take a step your Mech. And you had hundreds of configuration and customization options for your units at your fingertips. Not to mention RPG's, and turn-based and real time strategy games, who have bending brains with mind-numbing arrays of complex decisionmaking for even longer.

Those games are simply not made anymore. If the IP is in use at all, it's been hideously Nerfed in their most recent incarnations. Mechwarrior was cut off at the knees so bad they had to change the name to Mechassault. And you can see the paper-thin travesty known as Wingcommander Arena on XboxLive. They tried to bring some of that back with ChromeHounds and Crimson Skies. I love those games for what they are, but if you know what it should have been it's just infuriating.

And wordsmythe, that would explain a lot of what's wrong with the US ARMY. Taking it back to GWBasic. And there are rules against hitting kids. Even if they pull a blatant snipe-whore manuever and richly deserve it. I thought you knew. The "Rule of Thumb" went out with Sufferage and the Clean Air Act.

Too old? That's a bunch of crazy. Ely is vicious at HLDM Night. Vicious.

I'm interested in seeing if the second coming of a Valve Team Fortress will be the trigger for me ignoring back pain after a day at the office and lack of time in general (I can't imagine what the folks with kids do) to return to the online arena. The last time I was online gaming, there was no voice chat, we were happy when the ping numbers were barely less than 300, and 3D cards were some new Voodoo.

As for controls, my next gen system of choice is the DS. Portable last gen, with a pen, for the win.

araczynski wrote:

i'm 34 as well, perhaps due to the fact that i don't do any multiplayer

Multiplayer is a fountain of youth!

7inchsplit wrote:

Multiplayer is a fountain of youth!

Multiplayer is a fountain of pain. I have already started to treasure playing against bots in the ETQW demo because they are somewhat kinder in their decimation of thirty-year-olds.

Rather than quote her word for word I'd just like to echo Momgamer's statement earlier about the complexity of earlier generation games. Many of those games were programmed from the coin-op standpoint in that the games were made ridiculously hard in order for you to keep pumping quarters in. Couple games off the top of my head are Metal Slug and Robotron. If you were good at these games, your hand-eye coordination was top notch.

Today's games seem more tailored to the mass market and thus much easier to pick up and play. Remember the old Mega Man series? I remember the first megaman for the gameboy I wanted to throw that thing so many times because of the difficulty of the platforming. Now that franchise is a mockery in comparison.

Granted I don't do much multiplayer these days, but I'm sure I'd get demolished in whatever game I'd play. Not because they're younger or picked up gaming at an earlier age but because they just have more time and desire to spend playing it. I think desire is the main aspect perhaps all of us are lacking nowadays. I don't desire to be the alpha and omega of a particular game anymore, and my play reflects that.