I Don't Wanna Grow Up

Forty feels nothing like what I imagined forty would feel like.

Even into my early thirties, I imagined someday I’d probably just stop playing video games. I imagined this in the context of some fundamental and inevitable change that I would undergo as a person. At some point, I imagined, I'd finally get the appropriate psyche that you'd expect for an old person and with that I’d just put away these childish things and start reading newspapers more often, and maybe walk around talking to other old people about how tragic it is that no one reads newspapers anymore.

In hindsight it’s a pretty naïve way of thinking about age and identity, but until you'd have lived it, you just don’t know. When I was young I looked at people ten and fifteen years older and I'd wonder what was the thing that finally dragged down the edges of their mouth and made grim their expressions. The answer is "gravity," I suppose, but what I didn’t know was that, regardless of wrinkles and grey, they were probably the same person they had been when they were my age.

Thing is, I feel young. Arguably, at a mere forty I am still young. Sure, my bones make slightly different complaints than they once did, and my beard looks like a dingy snow bank, but if I go long enough without looking in a mirror, I’m always slightly surprised to not see the once-familiar young face there. It’s not just nostalgia, it’s that on the inside I really don’t feel much different.

That’s a pleasant discovery.

I’m at an age normally reserved for good, solid midlife crises, and if I’m honest I now understand why they happen. I don’t think, like a lot of people seem to, that it has to do with someone finally coming to terms with the certainty that someday — and it’s not as far from now as it used to be — the world will happily spin without them alive on it.

No, I think instead, it’s just that we of middle-age live in a moment between simply not being able to afford a whim and having lost the desire to do the whim. My own personal midlife crisis activities are pretty much plastered all over this front page already. Largely, if you just walked into my life without context and found me writing about video games and playing enough of them to justify that writing, you’d be forgiven for thinking that I must be trying to recapture my youth.

Well, no. I don’t have to recapture anything. That youth is still bubbling at a good, rolling simmer on the inside. When I see the stereotypical older person in a relationship with someone much younger, I don’t find myself automatically assuming there’s anything intentionally prurient there. It’s probably just a reflection of how that person still sees themselves. If you gave me enough time, I’d be able to forget that I was 40, that I wasn’t still in college, that I had to know what my cholesterol level was.

With some caveats around not doing anything unreasonably stupid, I think it’s probably healthy for people to avoid acting their age the older they get. There’s the whole young-at-heart cliché, which is only a clichéd because it’s mentioned a lot and not because it’s untrue. It’s just that I think making a conscious decision to put away these things that sustain your energy and enthusiasm is pointlessly self limiting. The idea that I want to learn to play the guitar and start a band with some of my other old-person friends isn’t the desperate cry for help that I might have suspected when I was in my twenties. It’s just on the list of things to do that I haven’t been able to get to until now.

There should be a primer — a realistic, experiential guide that helps you know what’s coming. In many of my most grand experiences in my life (and certainly aging is among them), I can find out the facts of what will happen before they come along, but rarely do I see someone come along and say, "This is what it might feel like. This is what you might think. This is what the human experience will be."

Or maybe they did tell me, and I just wasn’t listening.

It’s encouraging, though, for me to think that as my body grows older, that growth doesn't mean that the source of "me" has to grow older as well. I can see the temptation for obsession over the idea of being a young person trapped in an increasingly fragile and frail casing, but if the outside is bound to decay either way, I’d rather at least get to experience the ride as the version of me to which I’ve grown accustomed.

Perhaps this is all wrong. Perhaps when I turn 43 I will cross that “I’m old!” threshold and pack away the Steam account and my guitar. Maybe it will at some point be as I had always suspected, that the person you are on the inside begins to grow tired as well. I hope not, though.

I kinda like being a big kid.

Comments

BOTH URLS ARE GOOD.

MilkmanDanimal wrote:
Anyone who is 44 years and 9 days old? You're just right.

I'm 44 years and 28 days, so ... *internethighfive* ?

MilkmanDanimal wrote:
I'm going to die with a mouse in my hand.

Yes, mouse. PC 4 LIFE YO.


FTFM

cartoonin99 wrote:
Team 1973, represent!

Another 73'er here. I think we were the first generation to really grow up with videogames, experience their evolution from arcade to Atari, NES and beyond. Like generations past who only had balls and sticks to keep themselves entertained and who kept that love of baseball, football etc well into their adult years and which was totally socially acceptable, we are the new paradigm for entertainments we grew up on which have evolved along with us, to keep our imaginations engaged along with audio/video immersion.

Anyway I totally get the point that you are always just yourself as you get older just fighting against the stereotypes and social forces that make you think you should somehow think or behave differently because of your age, but for gaming in particular we are have been riding the cutting edge of this wave our whole lives and who is going to take a spill now because folks ten-twenty years our senior never got a surfboard as kids to get them going?

AcidCat wrote:
cartoonin99 wrote:
Team 1973, represent!

Another 73'er here. I think we were the first generation to really grow up with videogames, experience their evolution from arcade to Atari, NES and beyond. Like generations past who only had balls and sticks to keep themselves entertained and who kept that love of baseball, football etc well into their adult years and which was totally socially acceptable, we are the new paradigm for entertainments we grew up on which have evolved along with us, to keep our imaginations engaged along with audio/video immersion.

Anyway I totally get the point that you are always just yourself as you get older just fighting against the stereotypes and social forces that make you think you should somehow think or behave differently because of your age, but for gaming in particular we are have been riding the cutting edge of this wave our whole lives and who is going to take a spill now because folks ten-twenty years our senior never got a surfboard as kids to get them going?

This.

I'm sneaking up on forty, because when I started pushing thirty thirty started pushing back. But I don't think I'll ever get tired of video games. They've been too important in my life.

I think my parents still think one day I'll outgrow this infatuation with the toy they bought me when I was little because the doctor said it would help my lazy eye (it did, and 30 years later the latest version of that toy did the same for my daughter). But to me the only thing that's changed is the breadth of games I play.

Not just schmups or platformers. I now have the patience for some strategy games, puzzle games, RPGs and on and on.

Though I can't lie; I'm still a sucker for a good brawler.

EDIT

I just wanted to add that the best part of being a parent is being able to visit Toys R Us with impunity again.

Have you guys seen what they've been doing with Nerf guns? Swoon!

As another proud member of team 73, I've been gaming my whole life, and I don't plan on stopping. It's what I do with my spare time. Now I only need to find more spare time.

Random old guy memory: in the 80's, Nickelodeon gave away a "Toys R Us Shopping Spree" where a kid had 5 minutes to grab anything they could. In the ads, they always showed an excited kid grabbing toys off the shelf, shoving them into a cart, and running to the front of the store. The kid always headed back to grab a bike as well. As a child, I daydreamed about winning that prize. Back then, to buy a videogame at Toys R Us you picked up a paper slip, got it stamped at the register, and then brought it to the pick up window. In my dream of winning the prize, I just ran down the videogame aisle, grabbed every slip I could and shoved it in my cart.

Aristophan wrote:
Random old guy memory: in the 80's, Nickelodeon gave away a "Toys R Us Shopping Spree" where a kid had 5 minutes to grab anything they could. In the ads, they always showed an excited kid grabbing toys off the shelf, shoving them into a cart, and running to the front of the store. The kid always headed back to grab a bike as well. As a child, I daydreamed about winning that prize. Back then, to buy a videogame at Toys R Us you picked up a paper slip, got it stamped at the register, and then brought it to the pick up window. In my dream of winning the prize, I just ran down the videogame aisle, grabbed every slip I could and shoved it in my cart.

They continued that into the 90's I think, because I have that same memory. I could have ALL THE GAMES.

Well written Elysium. I turn 40 this July and have been feeling super old lately. One of the problems I need to own up to is I need to get in better shape. But otherwise I feel a lot more grounded mentally and emotionally than I did in past decades. My 20s were especially hard - I may have been in peak condition but had plenty of problems with relationships (women relationships especially). And as lower enlisted in the Army I had like zero professional prestige and little career satisfaction.

As far as midlife crises go, I am trying to capture my old PVP glory although on a much more limited basis.

Wow, lots of 73's here. 40 just breezed by for me last year.

For me, it's certain life experiences that kept making me think I should feel older, but actually never really did. I keep thinking of an xkcd comic where someone's thinking something like, "how can I buy a house when I still think about Batman and Lego every day!"

I'm the same person I've always been, just with kids in college, a mortgage, and a little less time for gaming.

I am 35 now and I am getting a bit tired of videogames. It somehow has to do with age because right now everybody is having kids or too busy with their family life. Not me though, my girlfriend and I are still without kids. Recently, I found that my social life was virtually non-existent and needed a swift kick in the pants.

I'm not getting tired of videogames necessarily because they're not entertaining or I'm not passioned about them anymore-- it's really what they're giving me in return that's the problem.

I always had a gaming system for as long as I can remember but in my teens I started playing a lot of miniature gaming (Blood Bowl, Warhammer fantasy and 40k, etc.) which kind of drew me away from videogames for a while. I really got back into gaming in '99 when the Sega Dreamcast was launched. I rented it to try it out and immediately bought it. People would come over to play Soul Calibur, king of the hill style. We must have put over a thousand hours in that game minimum.

As the years went by I kept playing videogames but less and less people would come over for that and I don't blame them: most games now are not split-screen or anything. In fact most games I own are not co-operative at all. I did play MMOs but if I have to kill one more mob to get 10 pelts I'll throw my computer out the window. I don't play online at all right now but the main problem is that I also haven't had someone over to play videogames in the last 2 years.

Introduce Agricola. What's that you say? Well it's only the best evening I've had with friends at my house in a long time. Agricola is a boardgame that reignited a passion in me for boardgames I thought I didn't have anymore. I've since bought a ton of games and I'm trying to have a game night every week. Agricola is not the main course and hasn't been since that first evening but I did get plenty of classics such as Carcassone, Risk, Axis and Allies and new ones like Ticket to Ride, Arkham Horror, Munchkin but also completely new games like Takenoko, Smallworld, Descent.

I love what I get from boardgames. I get to see some people I hardly saw anymore and some friends even bring new people into our game nights. They're even more ''democratic'' because everybody I know are willing to play them whereas a lot of girls in our friend circle don't play videogames. Also, the actual playing of boardgames is a lot more social than videogames ever could be. You actually talk and look at each other at all times. Videogames were isolating me from my friends. I can only blame myself for that though, it was me all along but I think I may be moving on. I'm still excited about upcoming games but I'm probably not going to be a day 1 buyer anymore.

I really value these posts, Sean. It helps to be reminded that there are others like me.

I'm 42 and have always been a gamer, hopefully always will be at heart. Still, I have to admit that my relationship to gaming is changing:

1. I have children, and though I am loath to admit it, limiting their game time (and mine, effectively) is a regrettable necessity of responsible parenting.
2. My wife is not a gamer and is actually relatively hostile to the hobby. My gaming is mainly relegated to the time after she goes to bed or it is something that is done instead of spending time together with all the drama that entails.
3. I suppose I get enough gaming in aggregate given my legitimate real life obligations, but I very very rarely get to game for long periods at a stretch like the good old days. Those deep 4x strategy games I love are not as satisfying in 1-2 hour doses every 24-48 hours.
4. Work and family life involves relationships with far fewer people of my own choosing, and in our generation that means spending a lot of time with non-gamers and non-nerds. It is really hard to find people to share any nerdy hobby with (and who also have any time to spare).
5. I have been playing games for a long long time, and though this is truly a Golden Age of gaming, it is getting harder to find games that are truly fresh and engaging. I do find myself getting bored much faster with new games that would have enthralled me 10 years ago.
6. I have developed a fascination with the new generation of board and card games due to their combination of gameplay innovation and social interaction. Alas, this is also a hobby that requires much more "me" time that I can spare.

Gaming and other intellectual activities have become acts of defiance for me nowadays. They represent my unwillingness to completely submit to the role society expects me to play as a middle aged father, husband and boss.

interstate78 wrote:

I love what I get from boardgames. I get to see some people I hardly saw anymore and some friends even bring new people into our game nights. They're even more ''democratic'' because everybody I know are willing to play them whereas a lot of girls in our friend circle don't play videogames. Also, the actual playing of boardgames is a lot more social than videogames ever could be. You actually talk and look at each other at all times. Videogames were isolating me from my friends. I can only blame myself for that though, it was me all along but I think I may be moving on. I'm still excited about upcoming games but I'm probably not going to be a day 1 buyer anymore.

I think that depends on where you are. A lot of what I loved about LAN cafe gaming back in the day was that it was extremely social. You play a round of CS, and when you die, you push back from the terminal and kibitz around the players who are still active. Most of the time, you and your buds go out and have dinner and hours of post-game talk, or maybe go on a date with a fellow team member or something.

Rather than be a wall that isolated me, playing SC, CS, and things like DOTA are bonding games - they keep me connected to people I would otherwise never see at all.

Lennox wrote:
6. I have developed a fascination with the new generation of board and card games due to their combination of gameplay innovation and social interaction. Alas, this is also a hobby that requires much more "me" time that I can spare.

You know, a lot more people than we think are willing to try board games if they're not too intimidating, so it doesn't have to be about your ''me'' time as much as inviting friends over and playing with your wife and kids.

Games like Takenoko or Ticket to Ride for instance are games non-gamers can understand within minutes and that are enjoyable for the whole family

I can't believe that no one has posted this yet:

“We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing”

― Benjamin Franklin

PaladinTom wrote:
Wow, lots of 73's here. 40 just breezed by for me last year.

For me, it's certain life experiences that kept making me think I should feel older, but actually never really did. I keep thinking of an xkcd comic where someone's thinking something like, "how can I buy a house when I still think about Batman and Lego every day!"

I'm the same person I've always been, just with kids in college, a mortgage, and a little less time for gaming.

Wait your kids are off to college and you still don't have much time for gaming?

Here I was hoping to hold out just another decade or so and things would finally pick up.

Sad panda...

LarryC wrote:
interstate78 wrote:

I love what I get from boardgames. I get to see some people I hardly saw anymore and some friends even bring new people into our game nights. They're even more ''democratic'' because everybody I know are willing to play them whereas a lot of girls in our friend circle don't play videogames. Also, the actual playing of boardgames is a lot more social than videogames ever could be. You actually talk and look at each other at all times. Videogames were isolating me from my friends. I can only blame myself for that though, it was me all along but I think I may be moving on. I'm still excited about upcoming games but I'm probably not going to be a day 1 buyer anymore.

I think that depends on where you are. A lot of what I loved about LAN cafe gaming back in the day was that it was extremely social. You play a round of CS, and when you die, you push back from the terminal and kibitz around the players who are still active. Most of the time, you and your buds go out and have dinner and hours of post-game talk, or maybe go on a date with a fellow team member or something.

Rather than be a wall that isolated me, playing SC, CS, and things like DOTA are bonding games - they keep me connected to people I would otherwise never see at all.

I'm like this; I play board games with a few friends semi-regularly, one who I met via Ratebeer and then we connected on Xbox Live, and now we're good friends who get together all the time. Another guy actually just randomly looked at my profile while in a lobby waiting for some ME3 multiplayer to start, and noticed he lived in the same suburb as me, and we started talking. Video games have been the source of almost every significant friendship I've ever had, and I find that even sitting in my basement at night, I'm connected to people like I've never been before. I hadn't seen a friend of mine from grad school in about 20 years, and after reconnecting on Xbox Live, we talk all the time.

A lot of my fellow parents in our social circle think of video games as this isolated, lonely thing, and, to me, they're the exact opposite; they're how I've always gotten to know people and how I hang out with them. I do it now with Titanfall, I did it 20 years ago with my Genesis, I did it 30 years ago with my Colecovision.

jdzappa wrote:
PaladinTom wrote:
Wow, lots of 73's here. 40 just breezed by for me last year.

For me, it's certain life experiences that kept making me think I should feel older, but actually never really did. I keep thinking of an xkcd comic where someone's thinking something like, "how can I buy a house when I still think about Batman and Lego every day!"

I'm the same person I've always been, just with kids in college, a mortgage, and a little less time for gaming.

Wait your kids are off to college and you still don't have much time for gaming?

Here I was hoping to hold out just another decade or so and things would finally pick up.

Sad panda...

One's commuting from home, the other is having a really rough end to his senior year, but he's set for the fall and things are looking up. Then, on to a whole new world of worry for my wife and me!

Don't get me wrong, it gets better as they get older, but I now understand the stress and worry of being a parent never goes away.

Call your Mom today everyone!

This is a fantastic article. The input from the community has been equally amazing as well. I've learnt a lot, and continue to, from this fine community. There's also an undeniable peace of mind that comes from being a member here. It is a great aid to know that certain worries to do with age, relationships, children and even stereotypical social expectancies pertaining to each need not cause havoc with one's mental health.

I'm 29 and turning 30 has been causing me to rethink my choices as if there were a timer counting down to a moment where nothing new could ever be achieved. It's the first time I've ever felt older and been somewhat self-consciousness of how I must compare to others of my age, and to those looking in who are aware of my age.

I need to watch a movie with the wife now. Incase my post comes across as incomplete.

Aristophan wrote:
Random old guy memory: in the 80's, Nickelodeon gave away a "Toys R Us Shopping Spree" where a kid had 5 minutes to grab anything they could. In the ads, they always showed an excited kid grabbing toys off the shelf, shoving them into a cart, and running to the front of the store. The kid always headed back to grab a bike as well.

This brought a smile to my face: I would SCREAM "get the video games!" at our television whenever those kids wasted precious time shoving bikes and hula hoops into their cart. I mapped out our local Toys R Us in a notebook so I could plan my route on the glorious day I won the Nickelodeon contest.

IMAGE(http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/grownups.png)

This is the one that got me excited. So. Damn. Excited.

McIrishJihad wrote:
IMAGE(http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/grownups.png)

I always wondered if the heart in the last panel meant they were having sexy times in the ball pit.

That's a heart? I thought it meant they were just talking about butts.

TheHarpoMarxist wrote:
That's a heart? I thought it meant they were just talking about butts.

The way to a man's heart...

Thanks for this article Sean! I'm only 30 myself, but I feel exactly the same way so far regarding the whole getting older thing.

Tanglebones wrote:
TheHarpoMarxist wrote:
That's a heart? I thought it meant they were just talking about butts.

The way to a man's heart...

...Is through a ball pit?

Gosh, and I thought I'm a geezer in gaming years. I'm not quite 40, but I'm getting there! I don't think I'll ever stop playing video games even when I hit my golden years. In fact, I'm looking forward to more gaming time in my retirement! And maybe some deathmatch with my future grandkids.

Consolegamr wrote:
Gosh, and I thought I'm a geezer in gaming years. I'm not quite 40, but I'm getting there! I don't think I'll ever stop playing video games even when I hit my golden years. In fact, I'm looking forward to more gaming time in my retirement! And maybe some deathmatch with my future grandkids.

The thing I most look forward to in retirement is time for more games of the video and tabletop variety.

Retirement homes in the future are gonna be awesome!

"The thing I most look forward to in retirement is time for more games of the video and tabletop variety."

Yes! It should be a great time to do tabletop. When I was a kid, my friends and I lost hours and days playing tabletop D&D and it wasn't ever enough.