Sorry, I should be more professional, but you see last month I turned 40 — four friggin' decades old. They say life begins at 40, but you try telling that to Paul Walker or Chris Benoit! Ooh, sorry. Anyway, being 40 in 2015 means that I was born just before the start of the golden age of arcade gaming, I grew up through the 8-bit and 16-bit eras and I came of age just as the internet connected PC gamers from all around the world for unprecedented levels of virtual mayhem and carnage. I was still young enough to thoroughly enjoy the online console explosion and the Xbox 360 ranks as one of my all time favourite game consoles. For the past five years I've been prattling on about my favourite arcade games and occasionally I've talked about modern games, but those articles are now few and far between. I've defined myself as a gamer since before that was even a term and I've spent more time gaming than almost any other leisure activity. Unfortunately, a couple of years ago things started to change. As work and family life took up more and more of my time, I found myself almost resenting the time required to indulge in certain hobbies and I have to confess, gaming was one of them. The reason for this was simple: few hobbies require as much of a time commitment as gaming. Just take the recently released The Witcher 3, for example; the developers, CD Projekt RED, have said there are around 200 hours of gameplay in it. 200 hours? That would get you about a third of the way to learning French or Spanish and that's just one game.
It's because of this time commitment that I gave up playing online after Gears of War 2, but even single-player gaming needs more time than I have spare and it all started to feel a little pointless. I may have played over 200 hours of Skyrim back in 2012, but since then I've only completed two games: Mass Effect 3 and Diablo III. In my various game libraries I have a lot of great games waiting to be played, including Dark Souls, Bioshock Infinite, Borderlands 2, The Witcher (1), Kingdoms of Amalur, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Dragon Quest IX, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Super Mario 3D World, L.A. Noire, Metroid Prime Trilogy, Legend of Grimrock, Legend of Zelda: Spirits Tracks, Brutal Legend, Trine 2, New Super Mario Bros Wii, Mark of the Ninja and both Mario Galaxy games. And I have countless more downloadable games going stale on the hard-drives of my Xbox 360 and PC. There is no way I will finish even half of them.
But despite all this, I still like video games and I still feel they have a lot more to offer than people give them credit for. So what is a 40 year-old gamer to do? About a year ago I thought I'd jack it in altogether, but in recent months I've had a change of heart and there are two reasons for that:
- I got out of a job that was killing me with overtime.
- My kids are now both old enough to play and they love gaming.
At Christmas, my kids got their first console (as opposed to hijacking mine), a Wii U and we all love it. Nintendo has put out some fantastic stuff and I've already played it far more than I ever played on the Wii, despite owning one for nearly 8 years (SteamWorld Dig is my current jam). The half-tablet/half-joypad controller is great for keeping the kids quiet when the wife or I want the TV (even if we just want the TV off). And despite the fact it is already facing its twilight years, with games like Splatoon, Xenoblade Chronicles X and the new Zelda still on the horizon, I reckon we'll be enjoying it for some time to come.
|Is Splatoon a genuine, family-friendly |
alternative to the big military shooters?
I know there are some gamers out there who will mock the direction my gaming has taken and say that I'm out of touch, that not a real gamer. But listen, I really have down the rabbit hole with this hobby for most of my life.
|Homeworld was great on these|
So, I have been what people would now call a "hardcore gamer", but that time has passed for me, like going clubbing or owning a hot hatch. And I say what people now call hardcore gamer, because back then we were just known as gamers. Back then, there was us and them, the non-gamers, and that's it. Now, people who play games can be split up in to all sorts of groups. There's a divide between casual and hardcore, a divide between console and PC gamers, a divide between online and single-player gamers, a divide between simulation and arcade gamers, a divide between retro and modern gamers, a divide between indie and AAA gamers, a divide between games played by enthusiasts and those played by people who don't even think of themselves as gamers and a divide between people who love artsy games and pretty much everyone else. If you talk to people from any one of these categories you will find some who think people on the opposite side of the divide are downright crazy. Take single-player and online (multi-player) games. Even in games that offer both, such as the Halo series, you will find people who never explore and experience one half of the game.
|Dear Esther is a strong argument for games as art and has no gameplay whatsoever|
|Marvel has mastered mass appeal|
What I'm getting at is this: what we, as gamers, need to do is show our maturity, especially those of us who are part of the old guard. We need to accept that there are difficult types of gamer, without making a big deal about it, in the same way most of use will happily watch Max Max: Fury Road, Avengers: Age of Ultron and the Minions movie without putting ourselves in a particular movie goer pigeon hole or verbally abusing someone who isn't in the same pigeon hole. Because there is no us and them when it comes to most other entertainment mediums, because with time and greater diversity comes mainstream acceptance. And I don't know about you, but I think games and the people who make them, deserve to be considered normal and worthwhile, not just niche and nerdy. Games are brilliant and game developers and some of the smartest, most talented and hardest working people you'll find in any industry. They and their work deserve better from society and it starts with us.