Oh Sh*t, I've Grown Up

I’ve been staring at this screenshot from the original Everquest for what feels like hours. The graphics are dated, of course, since the game has been out for a decade, but that’s not what has me so transfixed. This screenshot is like looking through a wormhole into my past and seeing a younger, less hairy me slumped in his dingy computer chair and trying to retrieve his corpse before sunup.

It was a time when I was still single and jobless. Aside from phoning it in on some computer classes, I didn’t have a whole lot going on in my life. I was 18 years old, living in the big city in a house full of crazy people, and my only real concerns were leveling-up my Wizard and whether I was going to eat Subway or McDonald's for lunch. It was an existence devoid of any lasting meaning or direction.

It sucked, but it was awesome.

If I wasn’t playing Everquest, I was reading about playing Everquest and connecting with the community at large. I knew everything a man could know about the game in an age where most of the information was gleaned from the official forums and the Everquest Vault website—there was a Vault page for nearly every major MMORPG at the time. I didn't know what lead designer Brad McQuaid had for lunch every day, but I was so naive back then I didn’t even realize I wanted to know that yet. Thanks Twitter!

Deeply immersing myself was the only luxury a young and dumb kid like me could afford. I found a great deal of satisfaction in becoming an expert Everquest player and scholar, because there was nothing else I’d rather have been doing, given my lack of funds and access to the first DSL service in the city. My entire life up until then had revolved around school, and that was always more about getting by than becoming an expert at anything. I spent those days playing games alone, and listening to girls I wanted to date complain about their boyfriends on the phone.

Once I got online and out of my home town, I found my relationships in games were less fraught with drama and personal baggage, too. We were just a bunch of people playing together with a common goal of discovery and having a good time—it was like camp without worrying about getting a date for dance night. Finding out some dude in your Rainbow Six clan was old enough to be your dad was like sneaking out to the woods to smoke with a group of the cool, teenaged counselor. The old guys always spoke jealously about my relative freedom to play as much as I wanted and not having to worry about raising kids or even finding a real job anytime soon.

Being told I had it so good made it so for a year of my life, but eventually Subway lost its appeal and I realized the pot of gold at the end of the gaming-every-spare-moment rainbow was just the high regard of the rainbow makers and a few peers who shared my perspective on the importance of proper room-clearing techniques in Rainbow Six. I also started dating the woman who would eventually be my wife. In other words, I found more to live for than new spells and corpse runs.

Starting a website during my seven years of self-employment was a way to carry forward the feeling of being a master while acknowledging that the days of being an expert in any one game were over. Everquest taught me that playing one thing to the exclusion of most everything else didn’t really pay the dividends I was looking for, aside from the friendships I’d made. With a little more money in my pocket, I discovered that I'm an experience-hound when given the choice, forever snuffling through the underbrush, trying to scare up the next new thing to surprise and delight me.

But even that’s changing now. I’m dangerously close to turning 30 and losing my “make fun of old people” card. I own part of the business I started working for nearly three years ago, and my days are just packed with responsibilities and Things I Should Be Thinking About™ every day. The thought of visiting a McDonalds on a daily basis, let alone once a year, turns my once-invincible bowels to jelly. Where I used to dig into every game and scrape every bit of flavor out of it like a dog with his head in an ice cream bucket, now I mine them for the good bits with a surgical spoon. Once all the chocolate pieces are thoroughly rooted out, I toss it aside and look for the next one. It’s the most efficient way to experience the medium and all it has to offer without letting it take over more of my busy life than I can afford to give.

So why do I feel like I’ve lost something in my mad rush for adult legitimacy? Staring at that Everquest image didn’t bring to mind playing the game so much as it reminded me of the friends I made and the experiences we shared together. Mining a game for the good bits and then tossing it aside ignores perhaps the most compelling reasons to play anything—the chance to be skilled and get to know people. For all that I run a successful website filled with thousands of awesome game playing adults, I rarely linger on a game long enough to really reconnect with anyone who I don’t touch base with every day on an IM program during work or at the occasional gathering.

Maybe that’s just what it means to be a grownup: convincing yourself that all the relationships and pleasures you’ve sacrificed are the chaff in an otherwise rich harvest. As I look back on the last ten years, I think that, for the sake of playing, I’ve sometimes let the small variations in gameplay take precedence over the gamers who play them. Maybe it’s time I remember who my friends are.

Comments

I'm in a very similar position to Certis. Recently married, edging closer and closer to 30, and responsibilities didn't so much creep up on me as feel like they suddenly overwhelmed me. That said, I'm very lucky that my wife and I have our own hobbies that gives me time to game, when we're not dealing with the stresses of living. We're considering moving back to the small home town where we grew up to be close to the schools and our parents, in preparation for little ones. The importance of friends and family seems to grow as you get older, something I wasn't really expecting, and am having trouble dealing with. Hopefully there will be some good folk in Almonte as I hate to be from Ottawa when I have so many relationships here.

Rallos Zek, represent.

Certis, it's uncanny how similar my response to your screenshot is, although you've articulated it far more clearly than I could have. I know those people - some of those actual people.

Or, at least, I used to.

When I think about Everquest, I think about somebody else: somebody who lived in the game, who begrudgingly left it only out of the most dire necessity. Everquest was more compelling than any game I have played since, although certainly not for any technical superiority; rather, I simply surrendered myself to the game in a way I could never do again, and I allowed its inhabitants - both real and virtual - to encompass nearly my entire existence.

Certis wrote:

So why do I feel like I’ve lost something in my mad rush for adult legitimacy? Staring at that Everquest image didn’t bring to mind playing the game so much as it reminded me of the friends I made and the experiences we shared together. Mining a game for the good bits and then tossing it aside ignores perhaps the most compelling reasons to play anything—the chance to be skilled and get to know people. For all that I run a successful website filled with thousands of awesome game playing adults, I rarely linger on a game long enough to really reconnect with anyone who I don’t touch base with every day on an IM program during work or at the occasional gathering.

Remove those rose colored glasses, son.

The relationships built from a single game are flimsy, ephemeral things, dangling by a tiny common thread that's just waiting to snap. Those people I remember from Everquest, just as the person I remember myself to have been, are gone. I've moved on. They've moved on. We're all better for it; it's a young man's game, and there are plenty waiting in the wings to replace us.

You've got something better, anyway: you've got Gamers With Jobs. You've got us. And, face it, we're pretty damn awesome.

Gorilla.800.lbs wrote:

Is the use of expletives in article title (a front-page one, no less) indicative of a new direction for GWJ in terms of tone and style?

A more mature direction maybe? Hmmmmmm?

garion333 wrote:
Gorilla.800.lbs wrote:

Is the use of expletives in article title (a front-page one, no less) indicative of a new direction for GWJ in terms of tone and style?

A more mature direction maybe? Hmmmmmm? ;)

No wai! Wer xtreem!

nice Article!

Is it me or are there a ton of people turning 30 and 40 this year? I swear if felt like 4 people who said they were 40 within the next 4 months.

Cheeto1016 wrote:

nice Article!

Is it me or are there a ton of people turning 30 and 40 this year? I swear if felt like 4 people who said they were 40 within the next 4 months.

When you're that old, you start rounding to make the math easier.

You're casual now, Mr. Andrich. You'll need a Wii to go with that.

MrDeVil909 wrote:

I can't relate to this article at all.

So you never grew up.

Gorilla.800.lbs wrote:

Is the use of expletives in article title (a front-page one, no less) indicative of a new direction for GWJ in terms of tone and style?

Let's hope so!

wordsmythe wrote:
Cheeto1016 wrote:

nice Article!

Is it me or are there a ton of people turning 30 and 40 this year? I swear if felt like 4 people who said they were 40 within the next 4 months.

When you're that old, you start rounding to make the math easier.

That sounds about right.

Very great article Certis. Very relatable.

I've learned from back then to not take things so seriously now. With UO (my first love) and then EQ, I made a lot of friends that really have no equal now. The common goals of exploring and having fun were all we needed to be together. I don't miss the long days of grinding, but it is funny how back then I thought new games would mean new friends and that I would never grow old.

Sorry, Certis, you're not a grownup until you can grow some proper facial hair.

Cheeto1016 wrote:

nice Article!

Is it me or are there a ton of people turning 30 and 40 this year? I swear if felt like 4 people who said they were 40 within the next 4 months.

Add me to the 30 this year pile. I still don't feel old, though.

Reading your article and the responses reminded me of one of my favorite relationship theories/analogies.

A relationship between 2 people has 3 parts. e.g. Husband, Wife, and Couple.
If anyone of the 3 peices/legs suffers, the others will suffer too.

When you are young, you have 1 peice to keep happy.

When you find a Signifcant Other, you have 3.

When you have your first child, you have 5.

and so on and so on.

These add peices are what gives our lives depth and breadth. The former priorites that we drop are signals of the importance of our new peices.

I'm in a slightly different situation - I'm revelling in large swathes of game-time, making the most of the last year or two before we start a family of our own. I'm under no illusions that nearly all of my gaming time will evaporate shortly before we have our first kid. I'm looking forward to it, but I'm most definitely enjoying my 'freedom' while it lasts.

Of course, I'm saying this through the fanboy-glee of knowing that FF13 is waiting in my mailbox for me to come home to, and I've pre-apologised to the wife for her being a JRPG-widow for the next couple of weeks.

Cheeto1016 wrote:

nice Article!

Is it me or are there a ton of people turning 30 and 40 this year? I swear if felt like 4 people who said they were 40 within the next 4 months.

I too will be 30 this year. I too was an EverQuest addict at 18. This article is a close representation of how my life has moved in the past 12 years. No wonder I knew this was the community for me as soon as I found it.

MilkmanDanimal wrote:

"I’m dangerously close to turning 30 and losing my “make fun of old people” card."

You dang kids, get offa my lawn.

My thoughts exactly! LOL.

I'm just on the other side of 30, and the article is a pretty good read from over here too. You hit the nail on the head with this one, Certis.

Jonman wrote:

I'm in a slightly different situation - I'm revelling in large swathes of game-time, making the most of the last year or two before we start a family of our own. I'm under no illusions that nearly all of my gaming time will evaporate shortly before we have our first kid. I'm looking forward to it, but I'm most definitely enjoying my 'freedom' while it lasts.

I'm another one turning 30 this year, and getting married next month. The next logical step will be sooner than I might like (i.e., <∞) but there's me being selfish. So I will rock the DINK-time Jonman-style while I can. Wow I can't even think about having kids enough to make jokes about it, I think I'm starting to hyperventilate.

Well I can't grow proper facial hair either, so when the time comes I guess I'll just be a beardless mom.

I was going to say we should start a "Turning 30" support group, but it's clear the site is riddled with 20-somethings on the verge of turning into old men already. Maybe we can bring Elysium and rabbit in to talk about the changes in our bodies we're not going to be prepared for.

Agreed, great article. It actually coincided nicely with an article I was reading over here at the ArtofManliness - http://artofmanliness.com/2010/03/07...

Although that article talks about fond memories of playing sports and going to parties rather than spending marathon sessions in the realm of your favourite MMO, some of you might enjoy it's flavours nonetheless.

For me personally I do miss the gaming freedom of my early 20s, but I find now that even when I do have time to devote to a game, whether it be a whole weekend or even just a block of hours, I just can't do it. Maybe it's a guilt thing, but I feel like I should be doing something more productive even though I'd rather be gaming and I end up limiting my time in-game even when I don't have to. It's a sad state of affairs.

Almost 30? That makes me feel young! I always thought Certis was a LOT younger than me, but it really is just a lack of melanin and follicles, isn't it?

I'm older than Rabbit. There. I said it.

It was an existence devoid of any lasting meaning or direction.

That's because you were playing Everquest and not Asheron's Call.

Good read. I'm 40 and wish I had more time to game. Try to squeeze in a few sessions a week, but it means sleeping 5 hours instead of 8.

Certis wrote:

I was going to say we should start a "Turning 30" support group, but it's clear the site is riddled with 20-somethings on the verge of turning into old men already.

"Turning 30"? "Old men already?"

You @#$!!! kids, off lawn, etc. etc.

MilkmanDanimal wrote:
Certis wrote:

I was going to say we should start a "Turning 30" support group, but it's clear the site is riddled with 20-somethings on the verge of turning into old men already.

"Turning 30"? "Old men already?"

You @#$!!! kids, off lawn, etc. etc.

I haven't turned in my Make Fun of Old People Card yet, sucker! Mwahaha.

garion333 wrote:
Gorilla.800.lbs wrote:

Is the use of expletives in article title (a front-page one, no less) indicative of a new direction for GWJ in terms of tone and style?

A more mature direction maybe? Hmmmmmm? ;)

ack! as long as its not mature in the sense of The Much awaited Boogle Dating thread.

I find I feel like I have time to game the busier I am. If I have nothing to do either by chance or choice, I feel guilty gaming.

gore wrote:

Remove those rose colored glasses, son.

The relationships built from a single game are flimsy, ephemeral things, dangling by a tiny common thread that's just waiting to snap. Those people I remember from Everquest, just as the person I remember myself to have been, are gone. I've moved on. They've moved on. We're all better for it; it's a young man's game, and there are plenty waiting in the wings to replace us.

You've got something better, anyway: you've got Gamers With Jobs. You've got us. And, face it, we're pretty damn awesome.

The truth. Sometimes I like to become all teary eyed over my time in EQ, but as fond as my memories are, I don't talk to those people I played with back then ever. Even though I raided with them every day and spent more time with them than I did with my family and friends in real life, those bonds were held together by one thing: EverQuest. Take that away and you're left with a chat room that's filled with very different people.

But I really enjoyed the article. I too was eighteen, feeling fairly aimless and devoting a sickly amount of time to EverQuest, so I can commiserate. And as much as I sometimes think I miss those EQ days (/shout LFG LGuk!), I really do enjoy being able to sample a bit of everything. Why order the dependable steak when you can take a chance and order the delicious fried sampler that could possibly induce diarrhea?

When I was 18, I didn't have any sort of fast internets, but my slow decline(ascent?) into adulthood really started around 22. I was also single and swinging, working full time but spending all other spare time involved in FFXI, then WoW, and life was grand. Then I got married, which involved jumping into the role of husband AND father all at once, and I suddenly found myself drowning in responsibility. 13 months later, I found myself an ecstatic father of three, and wondering where all my free time went.

As the last year and a half since then has rolled by, I've moved twice, bought a house, and my ascent into adulthood marches on. I find that as the weeks grind on, slowly catching me up like Judge Doom, days like today are far more frequent than the days where I have time to spend playing some game or other. I can definitely emphasize with the feeling of loss; but I think that's more to do with mourning a lack of time to partake of a long favored hobby.

All of that, coupled with the thought of turning 29 in a month and a day and the new-found knowledge that I get to be a father again this October definitely lends to the amazement that somehow, someway, I'm not a kid any more. I go to work day after day, and thing about the young Airman I supervise as 'kids'. Men and women only a few years younger than myself, some single, some engaged, others beginning to step into leadership positions as the result of promotions. And every time I have that thought, I marvel that I was in their shoes 2, 3 or 4 years ago. Tempus Neminem Manet, Time Waits for No One.

But as much as I longed for time to slow in days gone by, and as much as I'm slowly coming to acceptance now, I find that those times I get away from the kids, the wife, and skitter away to join the Builders League United, or hang out with Zoey, Francis, Bill and Louis, or lead the Space Marines to victory all the better. As those times are fewer, they're much more appreciated than they were when I was 22 and 23 spending more hours a week than I could realistically count in Vana'diel. One or two nights a week playing TF2 is a blast, and a game or two of L4D coop is more of a hoot than ever.

So have I lost something? Yea, I have. But I've gained an appreciation for quality over quantity, and despite the folks who I enjoyed spending time with in FFXI, WoW, EVE and elsewhere, the few precious hours I have now matter so much more.

tboon is really old, btw.

Add me to the turning 40 this year list. Been a crazy ride.

Have no idea how you kids all managed to play EQ during collage. I would have failed out in no time if EQ was around in my day. I barely made it through with the orginal Civ taunting me constantly for my Junior and senior year.

In the end all these things pass away. In some ways the transitory nature of video games are what I like best about the medium. Sure there is always emulation or private servers or what naught but that inital rush you and the crowd feels will never last. Was true for EQ and Civ and WOW and the next one.... The wave crests and crashes and it all starts over again.