Future Uncertain

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.

Comments

Man, I ****in' hate kittens.

My wife is due with our first in November, and this feeling keeps gnawing at me too. It feels like reverse osmosis or something (if that doesn't make total sense, sorry). I feel compelled to go back to the simple interests mirroring my influence on my child's growth (i.e. street and pond hockey, little league, board games, reading, playing a musical instrument). Realistically, I love video games too. I just won't play 1-2 games a month anymore. Oh well. I'll probably enjoy gaming even more now that I won't have the pressure of needing every triple-A title that comes out.

My dad hates two things to this day: MTV and video games. Fortunately, I'm not my dad. That said, I hate texting and social gaming, two things my kid will probably adopt without fail. The cycle continues! HA HA!

Great article, made me ponder my own situation. I'm only in my mid twenties, and I've already seen a drop off in the amount of time I spend playing. Nary a day goes by that my PS3 isn't booted up, but it's much more likely to be for Blu-Rays and iPlayer than for gaming, even though FFXIII sits right next to it. I'm also more likely to stand up from my PC after several hours having done very little other than surf the net or work, rather than having spent hours playing TF2 like I did less than eighteen months ago.

I'm what is laughably called a "young professional", and the increasing demands of my job mean I think about gaming less than I used to, and so I do it less. What worries me slightly is that this may degenerate into a sequence of ever decreasing circles - my PC is rapidly becoming unable to cope with new releases, and I can only justify an upgrade if I am going to use it regularly. The less I play, the less likely I am to budget for the equipment that will let me continue. The day when I put my "gamer" status out to pasture may be nearer than I had previously imagined.

Oh well. I'll probably enjoy gaming even more now that I won't have the pressure of needing every triple-A title that comes out.

I'd say when you start describing it as "pressure" to play new games, there's something bad going down

Generally, if I don't want to play it, I don't care to play it. I don't feel any pressure beyond that. If 300 games come out in May and I want to play 1 of them, all the better.

Usually I only play stuff after it's been out a month or two anyway.

PyromanFO wrote:
Oh well. I'll probably enjoy gaming even more now that I won't have the pressure of needing every triple-A title that comes out.

I'd say when you start describing it as "pressure" to play new games, there's something bad going down

Generally, if I don't want to play it, I don't care to play it. I don't feel any pressure beyond that. If 300 games come out in May and I want to play 1 of them, all the better.

Usually I only play stuff after it's been out a month or two anyway.

You're right. It is bad. I'm Nelly K and I'm a gam-a-holic, hehe

Having hit 50 this year, I can say that I still like a good game. I don't do consoles, and I haven't since Golden Eye on the Nintendo 64. I mastered using two controllers for that one, but haven't really bothered since. Well, OK. I did get part way through Halo on somebody else's Xbox. I have pretty much been a PC gamer since the days that meant an Apple IIe and then a Commodore 64. I build my own, now.

I've had my adventure game years, but true adventure games have rather disappeared (although I thought Bioshock and Bioshock 2 were not far off as well as some parts of STALKER that had that feel). I've been a tend to go for FPSs or other action titles. I can tell that I'm not quite as quick as I once was, but I also tend to use a bit more caution than I used to. Interestingly, I find as I get older, games seem to reward me more for thinking it though. Going in guns blazing isn't always the right answer. But sometimes, it is.

Then there was the WoW years .. literally years .. when "end-game" meant level 60. I got to 60, raided three nights a week and finished almost all the "good stuff." Then the expansion and level 70 made all that work nil. So I leveled to 70 - using a brand new character on the other faction, got to level 70, started raiding 3 days a week and finished almost all the "good stuff." Then another expansion made that work almost nil. So I leveled my character to 80 .. and then decided I really needed to get to that stack of other games I had .. and retired. I might go back to take a peek at the next expansion, but then again, I might not.

It's as true for me as it was for several other posters in that there are lean years. I had entire stretches of years that I played games very little. The kids in elementary school years. The getting the masters degree years. The flying to a different city ever week or two for work years. The kids are in college years. Etc. Now that my kids are out of college, and I'm pretty set in my work, I actually have more time to play than I have since my 20s. On the whole, the games just keep getting better. If there's anything that's really changed about my play-style, it's that I've lost my tolerance for crap. I used to put up with craptastic games in the hope they'll get better. Guess what? They don't. (Or rarely do.) I love the fact that games now are more realistic and more immersive. I expect they will only get better. So chin up young man. Extend your arms to your keyboard and/or controllers. I think you'll be fine.

Elysium wrote:

Man, I ****in' hate kittens.

I do too, but you're missing the point.

I have lulls in the years where I play less and some years where I play more.

Like any art form, there are good years and bad years. And frankly, the last 5 years of remakes of RTS, 3X, and FPSes seem to me not like new games but like repainting an old car. Sometimes you are repainting that wonderful 1988 Ford Mustand you loved so much. However whether its red or black, its still just a car.

Tastes change in art as well. I have been ridiculously happily married for almost 5 years now. When we got married I could play for 6 hours in the evenings sometimes. Now though I typically play for 1-2 hours on only 2-3 nights a week. The rest of the time is spent irritating the wife or reading or making someone else rich by working for free.

Geez, I'm 40 and trying to get back into gaming now that the kids are older. Don't make me feel so old!

Just a couple months shy of 39 here and pretty much in the same boat. Over the last 12 months the ..drive? Seems to be going south. I'm still gaming but sometimes it seems a bit like thats simply auto pilot, I'm seemingly not as into it as I used to be.

I've got titles I bought in the last steam sale I still havent installed. Stupid. I still play a little WoW but I think I'm only bothering with being in a guild so I dont get spammed, and I'm too lazy to make a '1 man band' guild'. Which is a bit pathetic but anyway. I'd no sooner go on a raid than pull out my toenails. I just like plonking round the world as Mr Solo, terrorising respawning quest mobs. Leave the big jobs to the young 'uns.

The plus side is I've managed to expand my non gaming interests a little, I took up guitar last year and that is providing a lot of fun, even if I still suck. I can't see myself quitting gaming in the forseeable future, but I can see myself really altering my play (and buying!!) habits pretty dramatically.

As I become older (late thirties now), my interest in games is not so much abating as balancing.

I'd love to play games more - truly I would, but work and other hobbies tend to get in the way. When the choice is fighting another few hours of Icewind Dale 2 and having a bike ride in the sunshine or a weekend kayaking, I'm going to go with the option that means I get more exercise and meet people.

As so much of my time is taken up with non gaming activities, I'm distinctly more wary about starting sprawling games that take hundreds of hours to complete. Unsurprisingly, flawed games (That's *you* 'actually the optional battle practice isn't optional' Beyond Divinity) tend to get played less as my gaming time is precious.

My interest has actually started to shift from playing games to making them. I'm not expecting to be the next EA, and certainly know enough about the industry to turn down flat the idea of working for a game company. However, some of the Indie crowd have made a reasonable living, so it's probably worth trying a few things.

Syllopsium wrote:

As so much of my time is taken up with non gaming activities, I'm distinctly more wary about starting sprawling games that take hundreds of hours to complete. Unsurprisingly, flawed games (That's *you* 'actually the optional battle practice isn't optional' Beyond Divinity) tend to get played less as my gaming time is precious.

This sums my feelings up nicely. I'm stingy with my gaming time. Many, many games go back in the gamefly envelope as there are two few gaming hours and too many games. Perhaps that ember would be better stoked by raising the bar above Saint's Row and more WOW.

It's good to see how many other "older" games have answered here already. I'm celebrating my 37th birthday next month. Having 3 kids and a full time job stoping gaming still isn't an option. Actually I discovered gaming in a new way though my kids. This way I do even play a lot of great games I would never have played on my own like Banjo Kazooie Nuts and Bolts, Little King's Story or Chibi Robo.
Some of my friends gave up gaming in their early 30s, even those who used to blog about games.
I do really enjoy that I was there from almost the beginning. I started gaming on one of those pong clones and it's now that I see gaming becoming more and more relevant every year. We're maybe the first generation to see such a rapid rise of a medium within one livespan. I enjoy being a part of it and I don't see me stopping gaming just like I don't see me stopping reading or watching movies.

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.

I think this presumes that gaming doesn't change.

"when we look at this 10 years from now, we’re gonna see that all these new niches opened up and that what we thought of the game industry is now a very small fraction of what we now consider the game industry." - Will Wright

Yes, perhaps sitting on the couch with your gaming laptop or another play-through of Lego Avatar in 3D might not be where you're at in the future, but if that's all the future of gaming has to offer, I'll be disappointed too. Somehow, I'm certain that fate isn't likely.

saxtus wrote:

This sums my feelings up nicely. I'm stingy with my gaming time. Many, many games go back in the gamefly envelope as there are two few gaming hours and too many games. Perhaps that ember would be better stoked by raising the bar above Saint's Row and more WOW.

(why isn't quote working? Because I haven't posted much yet?)

I also tend to have a 'no online games' rule. This may make me rather odd, but I prefer single player games with a solid narrative.

I know all games are essentially escapism and wastes of time, but I prefer to be able to finish one game and move on to another. I see online games as a never ending time and money sink!

Syllopsium wrote:

I know all games are essentially escapism and wastes of time

I disagree!

Well, sometimes I suppose they can bring people together, teach you something a bit more profound or expand your brain a little.

Mostly, they're escapism though, surely?

I tend to think they're more like the cave on Dagobah: The only thing in there is what you bring with you.

And then, there's always stuff like this, about how play is a primary way our brains develop.