Older, but wiser
[Every now and again a blog comes around that hits so close to home for me that if feels like I could have written it verbatim had I been given the prompt. This is one of them. NakedBigBoss talks about how gaming and his perception of it has changed throughout the years – and not always for the better. But like any good story, there’s still light at the end of the tunnel for aging gamers like us. Give this a read, and chip in below to tell us if he strikes any similar chords for you! – Wes]
I was at home playing video games due to storm number one hundred hitting the northeast of the United States and my job closing for the day. As I was sitting comfortably on the couch, playing Jak and Daxter on my PS4 because nostalgia is a quite powerful drug, I was suddenly deeply saddened that I never have this kind of time to game. Looking at my various systems, and the collection of played and unplayed titles that accompany them, I had a moment where I seriously asked myself: “Is it time to hang up the controllers and say goodbye?” Pondering this, I began to question how I got to this point in my gaming life…
“How many hours of playtime am I going to be able to cram in tonight?”
One of the major differences between child NakedBigBoss and adult NakedBigBoss is that thirty-three-year-old me has a nine-to-five job. On top of that, my commute to work involves a two-hour train ride going to and a two-hour train ride coming back from my place of employment. Getting some gaming time in during travel is touch and go; New York’s MTA is constantly fucking up, which means I rarely play with headphones on because I want to be able to hear any announcements, and there are quite a few times when people will be singing loudly or playing high-volume music while I’m trying to concentrate.
By the time I come home, I just want to eat dinner and relax with my partner. This gives me an hour or two to game before I need to go to bed; staying up any later messes up my sleep pattern, which causes me to doze off on the train the next day (this happens quite often due to me getting sucked in and wanting to play more than I realistically can).
Remember when socks were optional? Those were some good times.
Contrast my current job-having life to my “free from the shackles of capitalism” childhood one, and the difference is night and day. Kid me only had to worry about going to school for a few hours, and from elementary all the way to college my commute was never more than fifteen minutes. This meant I could game for hours: Was there time to find all of the secret exits in Super Mario World? Absolutely. Was a landline available that would allow me to call the experts at Nintendo about all the power-ups in Mega Man X3 while charging my parents a large sum of money on their phone bill? No doubt. Would I be able to spend a week in Final Fantasy VII making chocobos have hot sex with each other in order to obtain the legendary Gold Chocobo? Without question. Could I rent games from the video store (remember those?) and play on someone else’s Super Metroid file that got further than me because I got stuck and there was no internet to help me? Of course!
I didn’t even know this area or attack EXISTED
I always saved my homework until the last minute because I work well under pressure, which meant more time for video games. My dad made decent money, so I’d always get games from him around the holidays or special occasions. My brother was born ten years after me, so I was spoiled up to that point. There was all the time in the world to conquer every game I obtained. Life was good!
As I got older, I realized that not only was I changing, but the games I was playing were, too. Outside of RPGs, games were never overly long. Then this shit happened:
OCD about getting 100% completion ACTIVATED
The arrival of GTA III coincided with me becoming an older teenager, and suddenly things weren’t the same anymore. High school demanded more of my attention than grade school, so there was less time to game. My brother’s birth meant the days of being spoiled were over. Gifts became few and far between, so I had to work part-time at a pharmacy in order to afford video games. And GTA III ushered in a wave of open-world games. There was just so much stuff to do and collect, and the completionist in me struggled to co-exist with the responsibilities of real-life adulthood.
I was still content with gaming until college, when the real struggle began. Getting my Bachelor’s Degree in English became priority number one, which meant more time was needed for reading and writing, leaving less time for gaming pleasure. After I got a part-time job at my school doing transfer credit evaluations while studying for my classes, that time for leisure decreased even more. And what happened soon after obtaining my degree? LOVE.
NOT THE BUBBLES!
Indeed, I fell for one of my co-workers, and I’ve been with them for over six years now. Luckily, they game too, though their younger “I grew up with Halo” attitude clashes with my older “Mario platformers forever” philosophy.
If I thought gaming was only changing due to the onslaught of open-world titles, then the arrival of DLC expansions, season passes, microtransactions, and remastered/remade ports made my head spin. Sure, working part-time and then eventually full-time gave me the resources to buy games and their DLC without much issue, but I became jaded with the gaming industry as a whole.
Games started to feel shorter, with parts of them feeling cut out to sell as DLC at a later date (or sometimes within weeks of the game’s release). Large titles like Assassin’s Creed felt bloated with samey side missions and numerous collectibles to obtain. Sequels and remasters became more frequent. Greedy companies like EA took incredible new IPs I loved like Dead Space and injected them with microtransactions, making it all too easy to feel like scavenging for weapon parts was becoming a chore and that paying for resources wouldn’t be so bad because it made it faster to craft weapons.
It’s good to see the EA of today has learned their lesson and is free of corporate greed!
More than anything else, I started to feel that sense of gaming wonder diminish in my heart. Gaming became constrained due to real-life commitments. More money meant more bills to pay, which meant being more conscious of what games I could afford. Sales helped me feel happier about being able to grab titles I hadn’t checked out yet, but this only added to the backlog that I already don’t have enough time in my life to complete. Seeing companies I once revered like Capcom and Konami become money hungry hurt my childhood RETROACTIVELY. I was still keeping up with new game releases and consoles, but it was hard to ward off feelings of becoming an old, bitter gamer.
Look what getting super excited about a new Konami game got me! *Cries eternally*
But, as with any bit of darkness, there is light (Kingdom Hearts taught me that). Nintendo still manages, throughout my lifetime, to make me smile. The Switch is one of my new favorite things in the universe. Super Mario Odyssey made me feel a joy I hadn’t felt since Super Mario 64; I swear to you, there were moments in that game where I cried. Though they have their own issues with locking content behind amiibo figures, I can get costumes and stickers in Odyssey using coins I find in the actual game. I guarantee you, if it was any other company besides Nintendo, that shit would have been part of a pre-order incentive or DLC. I am so grateful Nintendo still exists and is doing well as a company.
It is impossible to play this without beaming every ten seconds.
Oh, I mentioned Kingdom Hearts! There’s a new game in the series coming out this year, God willing. Here’s a fun fact: There has been a numbered entry in the series released at such different points in my life. KH released when I was seventeen, KH II launched when I was twenty, and KH III is arriving in my thirty-third year upon this Earth. Yeah, there are a thousand spinoffs and the story is more convoluted than the Metal Gear Solid series, but it’s Final Fantasy and Disney COMBINED. Who ever thought that would work, let alone be successful?! God, I’m so pumped.
It’s Woody. My…best…friend…*Wails uncontrollably*
Ooo! Ooo! Remember when I said I was dismayed at Capcom? I kinda am, but holy shit, they are remaking Resident Evil 2! Yeah, that’s the first RE game I ever played! They remade the first game not too long ago and it was SOOO GOOOD. Jeez, I must have played that so much that the mansion map is forever imprinted in my brain! And did you know they made Resident Evil 7 last year? That game brought the series back to its roots and legit terrified me (the last game in the series to do that was Resident Evil 6…for different reasons). I played the demo countless times looking for secrets before launch and then I got all the unlockable items in the main game. Circular saw, haha!
What’s that? Oh yeah, I guess I am getting a bit excited. So there’s hope for jaded, cynical me? There are still bright spots in the video game landscape? And my partner wants to raise gaming babies and teach them everything we know? Well, that’s encouraging! Hmm, well, in that case…
I won’t hang up my controllers just yet…
I mean, how could I?