Thoughts on Being an Older Gamer


We older gamers have an interesting perspective on the hobby, as we’ve been there since the beginning, or close to it.  We’ve gone through Space Invaders, Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog, and we’re still in the hobby today.  Our tastes have changed, our responsibilities have grown, but we’re still gamers.

It’s not easy being an older gamer, really; we’re no longer the target audience of the companies we’ve grown up with, for one thing.  A good publisher targets the young teens to those in their early twenties—people with money (or younger persons who can get their parents to spend money for them) to spend on games, the time to play a lot of games, and—perhaps most importantly—the willingness to pick up a new title on a whim.

We older gamers usually have the money—most of us have jobs of some kind, after all.  The time—that’s a problem.  Most of us have jobs, families, other hobbies.  We have things that eat up our attention—when you have to make sure the kids eat their breakfast instead of decorating the dog with it, then you have to nearly harass said kids to get them ready for school, followed by racing all over town for groceries and bill-paying, and then you get home—where you have to do the dishes, clean the bathroom because the kids decided that new shampoo you got would look fantastic just sprayed everywhere, tidy the house, pick up the kids, fix dinner…

If you work outside of the home, you have to get up early, spend eight hours a day—or more—either sitting in a cubicle or racing around to get laborious tasks accomplished.  Either way, you’re not much more likely to have the time to get involved in some extensive video game.

Both of the above scenarios don’t even include things like friends or intimate relationships.

Even if we love our hobby just as much as when we were kids, ignoring our parents as we sat too close to the television and tapping away on those game pads, we don’t usually have the time to dive into our games.

Another way it’s difficult being an older gamer is nostalgia.  We remember games being hard as heck compared to many of today’s games, even though it’s really just a result of developers and gamers working together to finally figure out where a good challenge is, and how to tweak classic elements of difficulty so they’re a challenge instead of being just being unreasonably hard.  Games today are closer to that balance—but we older gamers see lives or continues being handed out like candy, and remember sweating as we controlled Mario or Sonic through the final levels of their games, as character death actually meant something back then.

That third issue mentioned, one of the main things publishers look for in their target audience—the desire to pick up games on a whim and be willing to try out just about anything.  We don’t have that, either.  Even if we had money coming out of our ears, we still don’t have the time.  As such, we are very picky about what games we pick up.  If we even think we might not like one element of a title—we usually won’t pick it up.

Publishers know all of that—they’re adults too, remember.  They have their own lives that demand the same kind of attention.  Even though they understand, they can’t really factor that in to their financial planning.  Small time publishers can, and some do, but to be really successful, they have to go for the gamers who, again, have the money, time, and inclination to pick up and play their games.

Now, all of that said, we do have a number of things going for us, too.  For one thing, we have perspective.  Because we’ve been there since the beginning or near it, because we’ve taken Mario and Sonic through their hard-as-heck games, we can put modern games in perspective.  We have the experience to look at the blurb on the back of the game box and “translate”, as it were, the verbiage used to entice gamers into what the game is likely actually about and judge whether we should purchase it accordingly.

We also usually have more patience.  While the younger gamers question each other’s heritage and intimate proclivities over voice-chat, we’re calmly giving directions and outflanking the opponent.  We pass up the games that eschew substance in favor of brightly-colored and quickly-flashing fluff to find the ones that offer a real gaming experience, knowing that our patience will be rewarded.

We also have the benefit of time.  We’ve been there for most of the trends in gaming and know that they’re temporary.  We might not like first-person shooters, let’s say, which are currently very popular.  Well, sooner or later, they won’t be.  Then it might be puzzle games which take the top spot, or platformers, or sandbox games, or whatever else.  Same with franchises.  We’ve seen many start out strong and end with a fizzle; we know that can happen to any franchise.  We’ve seen our favorite companies change hands, with some companies changing hands numerous times, and usually with some shift, however subtle, in the titles the company produces.

As an older gamer, it’s sometimes tempting to say we have the “upper hand” over younger gamers.  We’d been there and done that before many of today’s target audience were even born.  We were there when developers were still figuring out just what the heck to do in the first place for that near-mystical concept known as playing video games at home.

We really don’t have the upper hand, though.  We have a different view of the hobby, but that’s all it is—a different view.  It’s one most publishers can’t cater to, but that’s fine.  If they did that they wouldn’t be successful, and most of us realize this.  We might look back fondly at the days of staring at the television and pounding the two or three buttons on the game pad, but we also know that that’s the past.

For better or for worse, the hobby has moved on, enticing more people to join the hobby.  At the end of the day, that’s a good thing.  Getting more people involved in our hobby means it will continue to grow, continue to evolve.  One day it will become “reputable”—just remember, when television was first introduced to the general public, it was looked down on by stage and movie actors.  Now, it’s the stage and movie productions struggling to compete.  The same thing will happen to video games, but only if it does continue to grow and evolve.

Us older gamers will there every step of the way, watching as things once only dreamt of become reality.

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4 Responses to “Thoughts on Being an Older Gamer”

  1. Elisa Michelle Says:

    I admit I’m in the younger gamer category (as you already know), so I can’t relate to this. I mean, I played Asteroids and a super old Tron arcade game because my school had outdated (donated) computers and electronics. The arcade in the game room was nice, but it was eventually replaced by an Xbox two years before the 360 came out. Halo was the most popular thing since sliced bread, and that’s probably the only first person shooter I actually like.

    If more people would stop calling each other names on Xbox Live I would be a happy person. Not to mention these young (AKA my age) idiots are sexist. If a girl’s playing, it’s the end of the world. They’re going to lose and so on. I would rather have the older gamer with patience, thanks.

    Sigh.

    • They’re out there, though in smaller numbers.  They are just usually vastly outnumbered by the idiots, because the idiots can be on X-Box Live all day while the older gamers generally can’t.

      And hey, at least you played older games, which is good enough in my book. 🙂

  2. WhiteWolf Says:

    You know you’re an older gamer when, you’re playing Mario Bros. on the N.E.S. and you start shaking your fist at the clouds. 🙂

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