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

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. Maybe we can bring Elysium and rabbit in to talk about the changes in our bodies we're not going to be prepared for.

Wait wait wait waaaaiiiitttt... 30 is NOT "old men"! Just cuz you won the Gold in men's hockey does not mean you can .... oh wait

PAR

"I found more to live for than new spells and corpse runs."

Wonderful writing, great article.

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.

Apparently 1980 was a great year. And 1970 to a lesser extent.

Or maybe 1979 and 69 were good years for conception, sending the decade out with a bang, so to speak.

"I’m dangerously close to turning 30 and "

LOL.... I am dangerously close to turning 38 and let me tell you - life goes on, you still can date girls below 30 and you still can make fun of old people!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4Onh...

PS: Dont forget: Beards make you feel older
PPS: Out of curiosity: Who is the oldest GwJ user?

IMAGE(http://img19.imageshack.us/img19/373/left4deadconfusion.jpg)

Great article, Certis.

Turning 30 isn't that big a deal. Have some children, then you really grow up!

You kids and your "Oh, geez, I used to play that Everquest" stuff, you don't know nothin'. When I was in grad school I discovered MUDding. Graphics? All we had was text! Text! You wanted to go north, you didn't hold a key down or move a mouse; you typed "n"! You wanted to kill a monster, you typed "k [monster]"! I spent every available moment when I wasn't studying for my comp exams using my 2400 baud modem to connect my 286 to the school's network and play through my crappy Unix client! It was like glorified multiplayer Zork, without the humor!

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

It's funny, because I should feel like I'm past my glory days (I'm married and have a child and we're about to buy our first house), but I'm the happiest now that I've ever been. These are my glory days.

Stele 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.

Apparently 1980 was a great year. And 1970 to a lesser extent.

Or maybe 1979 and 69 were good years for conception, sending the decade out with a bang, so to speak. :hump:


FTSFY (fixed that smiley for you)

sapman wrote:
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.

This is precisely how I managed to play EQ during college.

In truth, I never actually failed out entirely. I had enough sense to recognize my inevitable academic descent, and I decided to bail out in order pursue my EQ career full time.

I ended up going back and graduating, but my GPA never recovered. For some reason, they wouldn't accept EQ addiction as a medical hardship and strike that year's worth of Fs from my record.

Shaq Fu Thug wrote:
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.

This has been my experience with any community that grows around a specific game. While you're playing, these people are like brothers in arms, comrades, friends. After the glory days of that game have passed and people move on, what then? I've been with groups that tried to stick together into other games ... it was never the same, some folks like game X, some folks only play a month then move on to game Y ... entropy rules. What did you really have in common with those people other than a love of that first game that brought you together?

I've heard of guilds staying together through many games, people sticking together as friends... just never been my experience. And that's fine with me too, I enjoy meeting a whole new group of people in a new game. Forum groups such as GWJ seem to have more cohesion because they don't form around one single game.

Great article. I just turned 30 and am having a similar experience. I just carved out way too much of my life to make room for a binge run through Mass Effect 2 and felt kind of vacant afterwards. I used to love playing games non-stop like that but these days I feel bad about neglecting life. I guess when you are younger games are that much better than everything else, but they can't stack up to the good things you bump into later on.

I remember when I used to laugh at those commercials on TV for those "Greatest Hits of the 60s" compilation albums. Years later I started seeing "Greatest Hits of the 90s" commercials... It makes me wonder if GWJ is destined to become one of those "websites for old people" that the kids make fun of when they're jacked into the extranet holofeed.

As we get older, could there be a bit more forgiveness here around skimming. It may not be skimming at all but the forgetfulness of our deteriorating minds

I enter carousel to be renewed turn 30 next year and it's one of those thing I'm noticing about my playing is the amount of things I don't have patience for that I would have a few years ago.

My main bugbear is grinding to get items needed for access to all the gameplay on offer, COD4 and BF2 onwards being examples. I can understand keeping a wide range of options disabled temporarily as to avoid overwhelming new players, but once the training wheels are off access to the whole armoury would give a much more interesting game.

MMOs are the prime offender as the design is as a timesink to keep your subscription, although the games vary in how much you have to do before getting to the fun bits.

Michael York is a terrible shot.

I have 2 Cds FULL of Everquest 1 screen shots. Its awesome but can be very depressing. I watched a video called Everquest memories once on You tube and it made me ball like a little girl....

finalhour wrote:
Great article. I just turned 30 and am having a similar experience. I just carved out way too much of my life to make room for a binge run through Mass Effect 2 and felt kind of vacant afterwards. I used to love playing games non-stop like that but these days I feel bad about neglecting life. I guess when you are younger games are that much better than everything else, but they can't stack up to the good things you bump into later on.

Definitely a good way to put it. Like a lot of people posting in the thread, I'm finding I get the most dividends about of my games when I keep it confined to three hours or so, max. After that I feel kind of numb and go on auto-pilot. I don't game purely for escapism, so I don't really enjoy them as much when I hit that kind of stride. I'd rather be alert and soaking it in for a couple hours and then go do something else.

Probably explains why I've played more Bad Company 2 multiplayer than I've done in a long time, and I still haven't cleared nine hours of play time since launch. We have dudes over 24 hours played now, it's amazing.

This was great

MilkmanDanimal wrote:
You kids and your "Oh, geez, I used to play that Everquest" stuff, you don't know nothin'. When I was in grad school I discovered MUDding. Graphics? All we had was text! Text! You wanted to go north, you didn't hold a key down or move a mouse; you typed "n"! You wanted to kill a monster, you typed "k [monster]"! I spent every available moment when I wasn't studying for my comp exams using my 2400 baud modem to connect my 286 to the school's network and play through my crappy Unix client! It was like glorified multiplayer Zork, without the humor!

Hey, I think he wants us to get off his lawn.

Great article. I just turned 40 and you have put into words what I've been feeling for years.

I was recently stunned at Andrich's ability to just sit down and finish a new game over a weekend and then go "brag" about it on the podcast like it's a good thing. Good for him I guess. I feel jealous for about a minute.

Love the article, but I definitely have a different reaction to it.

I see the EQ screenshot and think: "11 years ago I made that game and now I can't get a job, been out of work since November, and I'm losing my house."

http://www.linkedin.com/in/briancanary

B_Canary wrote:
Love the article, but I definitely have a different reaction to it.

I see the EQ screenshot and think: "11 years ago I made that game and now I can't get a job, been out of work since November, and I'm losing my house."

http://www.linkedin.com/in/briancanary

If you have any programming experience give Garage Games (Torque) a call. I see you are in Reno, they just moved their Headquarters to Las Vegas. Not sure if you want to commute (no idea the distance) but you seem to have focused your career in the Gaming Industry, theyre the only ones I know in Nevada.

Just a thought =/

Edit: OOPS! Just saw you are in San Francisco not Reno (guess it was your degree that confused me).

Well, GDC was just there... not sure of the game companies there but man there are tons of them in that area. I wish I could help out more bro

PAR

Great article. I personally have a mixture of feelings about EverQuest. On the one hand, I had a great time playing it. On the other, it soaked up so much of my free time in High School that I essentially became a shut-in, and it's part of the reason that I have such a complex about my personal physical fitness. I gained about 40 pounds in the 2 or 3 years that I played the game, going from super-skinny 185 to a gooey 225 (I'm 6'7".) While I played, I didn't think I was doing any harm. I had fun when I played, so why should I care about anything else? I stopped playing when I realized that I wasn't getting anything accomplished, and that my physical health was seriously suffering (before getting into EQ, I was a Cross-Country and Track runner, Swimmer, and Basketball player.) I quit and turned the bus around. I don't blame the game, in fact, it taught me the great lesson of "everything is fine... in moderation." A lesson I forgot with WoW, but at least I kept working out for the one hour that I wasn't in Azeroth.

I know the feeling, as a kid the time spent grinding out the Gold Chocobo in Final Fantasy VII was exhilarating. Now with a kid, house, job, diabetic cat, life, etc... the thought of sinking a man-month into that makes my unproductive sense tingle.

I'm 32. I actually spend more time playing games these days than I used to as a kid, mostly because as a kid I had all of these other, very time-consuming hobbies such as pen and paper roleplaying games, Games Workshop miniatures, art and so forth. Everything else has fallen by the wayside, but videogames have stuck and indeed gained ground as I have much more disposable income these days.

I am gifted with a games-playing wife and I work in game development. We don't have kids, so that explains a lot, I guess. I've recently picked up playing the guitar to further delve into boyhood fantasies and gain some counterbalance to all the games.

Regardless, there's the same observation as with many: the tolerance for the grind has become pretty much zero. I wish they made more games where I could get all they're offering right now.

Some parts of this i can relate to but i have a sort of Peter Pan job as an ESL teacher. And i'm not married. Being at work till no later than 8:45 and not having to wake up before noon has kind of regressed me in some ways.

The older I get, the more likely I am to put a game on "Easy" and play it, rather than slog through on a harder difficulty. Frankly, there are too many good games out to play to get stuck on one of them, constantly reloading my last save game because I want to challenge myself.

Really, who am I kidding? Challenge? It's just a game. If I want a true challenge I can try hiking the Grand Canyon (which I did twice), water skiing or having children.

Neat article.

Here Here! I remember playing Diablo and my then girl friend told me to stop playing or she was going to leave me... I told her to not let the door hit her where the good lord split her. Jump forward 16 years - I just recently became an owner in part of the business I have been working at for the past 13 years. Between that a wife, 4 kids at home, 1 in college (don't ask), sports for the kids and the list goes on and on. I find that I have less and less time to revel in my hobby anymore! I have a $4k gaming rig at home that is almost a year that I hardly touch. Now I will be turning 40 this September! I think I feel the beginnings of a gaming "Mid-life" crisis coming on. I need a drink!

I was 44 this week - and I celebrated by playing Eve

Like they say, you have to grow old, but you don't have to grow up...

f*ck GROWING UP

It can be pretty cool, depending on how you mean it. But yeah, sometimes, it sucks hard.