I just love the looks and comments I get when I tell people that I am a gamer. Most of those in my age group surely think something must be wrong with me. So what if I just leapt over the “middle age” marker? Immature? Nope. Peter Pan syndrome? Hardly. I consider myself a responsible and functioning adult. Youthful? I can think of worse things to be labeled. Geek? OK, so there’s probably some truth to that. Call me what you will, but in my house videogaming is here to stay. In fact, it’s just as critical a component in my setup as my HDTV, digital cable, DVD player and audio system. And from the research I’ve been reading, it appears that I am not alone.
Gamers are aging. In fact, the average age of a male gamer is climbing into the 30’s. But where are they? Hiding behind their children, most likely. Just admit you’re nearly as excited about the upcoming release of “Grand Theft Auto 4” as your teenagers (and they shouldn’t be playing it!). The most ashamed gamers prefer to bash the game for its violence and political correctness in public, but then snap it up on release day and play into the wee (not Wii) hours of the morning. I’ll save my “GTA is a quality game” tirade for another column, but the point I’m trying to make is, you wouldn’t be afraid to engage in a water cooler conversation about last night’s episode of Lost, so you shouldn’t be ashamed to admit that the bags under your eyes are a direct result of trying to obtain the 67th star in Super Mario Galaxy the night before.
The phenomenon behind grown-up gamers is due to my generation being the first to grow up with videogames as a form of entertainment. Think about it. Our parents didn’t stop watching TV once they matured, so why should we stop gaming? Back in the day (the 70’s), the foundation for my passion with gaming was laid first with Pong, and then the Atari 2600 before it was even called the 2600 (Atari Video Computer System). With the 80s came Mattel’s Intellivision, followed by ColecoVision. I have owned just about every system ever made, the consoles, the portables, and even some of the obscure ones, like the self-contained Vectrex. Man, do I wish I held on to some of those systems! (I never owned a Magnavox Odyssey, but I had a friend who did.)
These days, well let’s just say some things never change; my current home gaming rig includes a Wii, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3. I’m fortunate that my wife lets me indulge in my “little hobby,” but don’t confuse indulgence with actual time to get my game on. With three very energetic children, a busy family schedule, a job, and life in general, I am lucky to get in maybe 2-to-4 hours of gaming in a week, and even then it’s usually planned downtime, or extreme late night. Hence the bags mentioned earlier.
I’m not here to tell you that to enjoy videogaming you need to own all three of the current generation consoles, nor am I here to add fuel to the console wars fire (today). I own all three because I enjoy the variety and the various technical nuances and innovations that each brings to the table. Today’s sophisticated systems are not the toys of yesteryear and are right at home in both look and spec to the rest of the electronics in your rack, with HD output (or at least progressive SD), digital audio and surround support, internet connectivity/online gaming, integrated DVD and Blu-Ray players, media center capabilities and more.
If you’re already a gamer you know all this, but if you’re on the fence and this whole “casual gaming” thing has your interest piqued, my advice to you is don’t worry about what the neighbors think and give it a try. It will be a welcome addition to your entertainment system, and in no time you will be compelled to pick up and play long after family time has ended, not to mention using the other entertainment options these machines deliver. Once you get started, just don’t forget the old adage “everything in moderation,” and don’t blame me (or have your significant other write me) if you find yourself addicted.
If you’re thinking about becoming an official Grown-Up Gamer, here’s some advice: Rent or buy used games until you find your favorite genres and game styles. Because gaming can be a sizeable investment, you should also read reviews and ask store salespeople before buying. Beware! There is a lot of junk out there on store shelves. Sometimes even a gaming veteran like me gets burned.
Until next time, my current and prospective Grown-Up Gamers, keep your head held high and don’t be afraid to proudly proclaim “this game is for me!” when standing in line with a horde of people less than half your age at your local GameStop.
What I’m playing now:
- Wii - Trying to complete Super Mario Galaxy with all 120 stars.
- 360 - Rock Band on hard difficulty with guitar or drums (struggling!). Oh yeah, and using the system as a Windows Media Center Extender!
- PS3 - Occasional online muddy Motorstorm competitions.
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