Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The joys of middle-age gaming.

As I write this, it is closing in on the final seconds of my 41st birthday. Not so monumental an age as some, it is nonetheless quite a milestone, and one that brings with it cause to think. A year ago, I hit one of the big ones, but felt nowhere near the way I do today. Some small part of me still held on to the decade prior, as if 40 was merely an extension of the 30's. However, 41 has a finality to it.

In this fifth decade, I can look at myself and ask a few questions that may lead to uncomfortable answers. The most glaringly obvious one is "Am I too old for this shit?" Videogames are designed primarily for the young; they are marketed quite ruthlessly to a teenage demographic. The internet, home of all things game commentary, is also almost universally aimed squarely at the libidos and prejudices of young males. It's all about tits and guns, with the occasional side helping of insecurity and macho posturing. Things that I basically outgrew a very long time ago.

So much of videogames today leaves me shaking my head in dismay. So much is devoid of merit, desperate to fit into some predesigned metric, and terrified to step out and find its own ground. Genuine innovation is held back in favour of yet more soldiers with yet more guns, only this time they are in a city near YOU!

So, why then am I still trying to be part of this scene?

Why, then, do I still join multiplayer lobbies knowing full well that all I will be hearing is the same tired insults and brags?

Why do I continue to play, when I will almost certainly never win again? These fingers don't do what I used to tell them at quite the same speed as they once did. For several years now, I have settled for "Not last" as a quite good placing.

Why, in short, do I bother at all?

Because, even at 41, I still have the luxury of finishing in "Not last" place!

Because, I can see through the blatant and sad marketing and happily ignore it all.

Because, I can listen to the insults and hear a little of my past self in them. I was once a loudmouthed and somewhat obnoxious teenager, who felt that I knew better than everyone else. That it was true in my case means nothing, because it did not stop me being at times unlikeable by any devent folk. I was once as insecure and desperate to fit in as games themselves are these days.

The thing is, I grew up. I got better. Which means that there is hope for all the other menchildren out there as well.

Growing up is a beautiful thing, and nowehere near as scary as I once thought it would be. For with maturity comes freedom. Freedom to allow yourself to enjoy whatever you like. Freedom to sail a different branch of the river to the rest of the crowd. Freedom to spend your money your way, and not just how this weeks new releases tell you to.

Freedom to indulge in fun without fear of what your peers will think. Freedom to let yourself go in colourful and cartoony locales. Freedom to just try silly and stupid things with no care for consequences.

Freedom to LOSE! And freedom to enjoy trying to improve. I know that I would much rather struggle to finish 2nd-to-last than be terrified to finish 2nd.

Despite the over-riding opinion, despite the masses that will try and show you otherwise, gaming is not a young man's ... um ... game. It is for everybody. But the young men who are the most vocal and active? They are not the ones having the most fun. No, the fun is being had by people like myself, who are basically allowed to have fun. Those of us who no longer have anything to prove, and are happy enough just doing whatever it takes to have a good time. Those of us who are equally at home in Johto, City 17, Sera, the Mushroom Kingdom, and the Arena Eternal.

Gaming is the most fun in the world, and amazingly it continues to expand as you get older. You youngins? The best is yet to come. Sooner or later, you'll let go of your preconceptions. You'll relax. You'll loosen up.

I can walk into a game shop, and buy ANY title I see on the shelf. I have no need to restrict myself to any particular type of game, or games for any age range. I have the full spectrum on the shelves available to peruse. I can pick up mature 18-rated games, or I can pick up silly-looking childrens games. I can even pick up non-games. I am not limited to just sports games, shooting games, fighting games, and driving games. AKA "Boy's games." There comes a time in every mans life when he no longer wants to associate with these childish desires any more.

That is when your true adventure will begin. On behalf of myself and all the other gamers of my age - We look forward to your joining us.

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