Opinion:  Some perspective on being an older gamer

Words by Greywolfe

I was born into a world of rotary-dial telephones. Back then, “technology” meant the distinction between having an eight track tape and regular magnetic tape. Vinyl as a means for distributing music was still a going concern and the war between VHS and Betamax was in full swing.

The point I’m really making is, that I have been around the block a handful of times. I have seen different computer standards come and go. I have witnessed the rise of home consoles and I was there when the arcades started to crumble.

I am what you might politely term an “elder gamer.”

My perspective on the hobby might be very different to yours. And I think that’s worth discussing.

In the bad old days, we used to use rotary telephone systems.  This meant that to dial a telephone number, you needed to pick the number and

Hello? Is it me you're looking for?

As you get older, things change

While there are a number of fantastic new games that utilize some very old ideas – Shovel Knight springs readily to mind in this context – a lot of the new games trying to emulate old games aren’t quite the same. For those of us who were there and saw the evolution of computers, we know when – in the example above – Shovel Knight stretches just a little so that it can do things no NES could ever hope to try.

So, technology advances and evolves, but other things are rather different, too. When I was younger, I had more time and less money. So, when I wanted to buy a game, I had to pick which game to get rather carefully. My anticipation levels around a particular release were far higher.

The minute I put down King’s quest III, all I could think about – in terms of gaming – was what new advances King’s Quest IV would bring. I would pour over magazines – a now-outmoded method of gaming news delivery – in search of scraps about that particular game. I would discuss it with my friends. We would make up stories around the game. Things we wanted to see. Things we were hoping would never happen. All of these things are functionally gone.

They’re now discussed on message boards, of course – people trading links about the latest Final Fantasy iteration, or discussing the patch notes of World of Warcraft, but the spinning out of ideas is mostly gone.

So, I didn’t have a lot of money for buying games. This meant that the games I did buy meant a lot. I would play them for hours, because that was my allowance and I was investing it in an entertainment product. And if that entertainment product was a bit iffy, well...it didn’t matter. I’d sent my “hard earned” allowance on it.

In those days, I never had a backlog. Games were such a rarity that I would invariably only buy a handful in a year and those that I bought, i would play endlessly – spending long summer nights trying to work out the riddles in Conquests of Camelot. Or sitting in our empty house as we were moving, desperately trying to get my spells to the level cap of two hundred points in Quest for Glory 2.

Now, I have a backlog that I could never hope to finish in my lifetime – games that I have picked up on either a whim, or old-standing recommendation that I never played through in the before-times. I own every Police Quest for the sake of completeness, but refuse to play past the third game. That’s one item on my great, big checklist that will never be marked off, because the shift in tone from the third to the fourth game never got me interested enough to even play it past the first ten or so minutes.
Information overload is a common problem in a lot of jobs.  It's also a problem in entertainment, where - often, there's just too much reporting happening about a single product, making buyers /well/ aware of what they're getting into before they even get it home.

There are so many games to play now...which do I even choose?

Information Overload

One of the most interesting things about the modern era is the idea that there’s almost too much information about a game before it even hits store shelves. So much so, in fact that bullet points have started to have no meaning at all. Why are you trying to sell me on your game by telling me it runs at 60 frames per second? That's not a feature. That’s better technology.

Gaffes like this aside, in the past, there were only rather controlled press releases – and games publications that were rather tied to the publishers.

This is – most assuredly – not the case now. There are people playing games on the internet that you can watch, folks who are offering their opinions on blogs [like this one], connected friends on all sorts of systems that can share gaming recommendations. In short, there are lots of ways of getting your gaming news – which – to some extent, makes figuring out what to buy even harder. The news is now so overwhelming and about so many different topics that sorting the wheat from the chaff is increasingly more problematic.
Butterflies are great signifiers of change.  They start off as one thing and end up another - humans are the same.

In the end, everyone changes.

You are not the same person

But the biggest difference as an older gamer is that you are not the same person. The same motivators don’t drive you.  When I was a lot younger, I wanted to see what silly death would befall Roger Wilco [from Space Quest] next. This was one of those guiding principles of that series: Always make the deaths be funny – and – certainly – they are funny, but I want more from my games, now.

I want my games to tell engaging stories. I want to care about the characters. I want to have mechanics that help the story. I want to have different, unique protagonists. I want to have so many things that so many games aren’t doing. Does this make me less of a gamer? Not really, no. It just makes me a gamer in search of more substance to my games.

Do I not want there to be games like Mario Kart anymore? Or would I want Diablo to no longer exist? I think those types of games are absolutely important, but I want more experiences. I want more “To the Moon” – stories that tell themselves through games. I want more “Fez” where the mechanics mean a great deal to the game, where the game is more than just the zeroes and ones that exist on the screen. I want more stylistically intriguing games like “Child of Light.” Or games that imply a story like “Journey.”

All of these games make me feel things that go beyond “this is a fantastic game because it controls so well.” And I expect that – as I grow older, I will want even more meaning to come in the form of game-based stories. This is such a unique medium and it is being so under served.

Images courtesy of Pixabay