I’m 50 years old, and I play video games.
Sounds like I’m introducing myself at an AA meeting, doesn’t it? Among people in my age group–in my mind, at least–this admission that I play, and enjoy playing, video games seems to carry the same sort of stigma as admitting other uncontrollable addictions. Even when I’m talking to younger gamers, I’ve been inclined to call myself a nontraditional gamer. A sort of tacit admission that I’m too old to be playing with children’s toys.
But, it’s all a lie. I’m not a nontraditional gamer at all. While it remains true that I am not the type of gamer who will stand in line outside GameStop for a midnight release of a video game, and then miss a day or two of work while I swill Mountain Dew and play the game nonstop until I defeat it, I am still a gamer. Sure, I might play the same title for six months, if I like it, until it has almost no trade-in value at the aforementioned GameStop; I’ve never had or desired bragging rights for how quickly I can finish a game (at $60 a pop, I want it to last). Games that I really enjoy, I will play for years, finishing them more than once. I will play Mass Effect forever, for instance, as well as it’s sequels. If they remaster it for the PS4 before Mass Effect: Andromeda releases, I will buy that as well. NCAA 12 and Madden 12 are other examples: I just like the games.
Rather than being just an older gamer, I am instead a traditional gamer, because I was around at the beginning. I caught Pac Man fever. I enjoyed the simplicity of those early Atari cabinet games in the arcades. I was a Space Invaders champion at the local Quick Stop. Donkey Kong expanded my world in terms of storytelling (okay, it was King Kong throwing barrels, but there was still a story), and later Super Mario Bros. ate a lot of my quarters until I was so good I could make a single quarter last as long as I was willing to stand in one spot (which was always way longer than the guy behind me waiting to play wanted).
While I never owned a home console as a kid, my grandparents had one of the first Atari systems for my uncle, who was only three years older. Of course, I played that.
After college, I took a long hiatus from video games, buying the Nintendo 64 in the late nineties. Since then, I moved on to Playstation and its offspring, and am currently playing on the PS4.
During the interim, video game arcades have all but vanished, and games have matured greatly. With the new Star Wars Battlefront, I have finally realized the dream I had as a starstruck 12-year-old of flying an X-wing fighter in combat. And, I am realizing other dreams that I never had, because immersing yourself in a game is like dreaming while you’re awake. If you’re not already a gamer, it will be difficult for you to understand that. If you are a gamer, then you already know.
I am a traditional gamer. I know.