For large swaths of my life being a gamer has been a basic part of my identity. It fit as a primary self-identifier right along with qualities like freakishly tall, obsessively competitive and devastatingly handsome. Gamer is, with the exception of a brief fall from grace during my high-school years, just who I am.
It has only just begun to occur to me, however, that it may not be who I will always be.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love playing video games. The right game at the right time can transport me to my childhood as cleanly and effectively as eating an unevenly microwaved bowl of Beefaroni or listening to The Touch from the only real Transformers movie ever made. In a year that has included Mass Effect 2 and God of War 3, it may seem ridiculous to even imagine a day when gaming will be less who I am and more something I might occasionally do if the time is right.
But, I can feel it coming on the horizon, and the truth is that there’s a part of me that doesn’t fear that change.
I’m always hesitant talking about the end, because it may come off as though I’m cheering it on like a nihilist the day before the Rapture, and that’s not my goal. At the same time, I think I need to acknowledge that someday there will likely be an end — that someday I will just not have enough time and enough enthusiasm to keep the dying ember of my passion for gaming stoked.
When I glimpse the hazy vision of myself at 40, at 50 and beyond, I’m not sure I see a controller in my hand or a mouse under my palm anymore.
In my twenties I firmly believed that my professional destiny was inevitably intertwined with the gaming industry somehow. I always kind of figured that I’d either end up writing about or maybe even for the games that seemed so symbiotic to my identity. I didn’t have any kind of clear pathway to achieve that effort, but it just felt right. It felt like who I would be.
Now, I talk to my friends in the industry, and though I hear the passion they still have for the job and the way that passion carries them over what sounds like an endless parade of challenges and disappointment, I am unerringly grateful that my professional life took a different turn. I realize that a lot of people get into writing about games with at least the vaguely unformed hope that someone will take notice and hire them into the industry, and many of these people succeed and go on to lead happy enough careers. For me, the more I write about games, the happier I am that I don’t rely on this industry for the well being of myself and my family.
The point is not to slander the gaming industry, a job that seems not to need my further assistance. The point is that as I look back, I see a growing distance between what I thought would be my life as a gamer and what I now know as a life deviating slowly but irrevocably from that vision.
I suppose it’s a silly thing to take so seriously, but it is also something that has been a defining factor in a life for now creeping up on forty revolutions around that hoary old sun. In some ways I’m still as close to gaming as I’ve ever been, popping up here as I do most weeks to wax contemplative on whatever issue has sat on the front of my brain and demanded attention, and in other ways I am increasingly disconnected and uninspired by things that would once have been momentous.
The thing is that the idea doesn’t bother me like I might once have thought it would. It seems right that someday gaming can just slip away, like a forgotten childhood friend who once was bound to every corner of your life. When the time comes, I think I will be at peace with it.