Gamers have become Old

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Gamers have become old. Hurrah!

Old enough, at least, to complain about ‘their time’, and how ‘everything was different back then’. Despite the huge technological advancements and developments of the last 20 years, some even complain that everything was better ‘back then’, when there were wires, cables and clicky buttons everywhere, and physical cartridges that you had to blow into in order to make them work. Whereas from a practical viewpoint gaming has gained many quality of life features and has become much more user friendly in general, it seems that to some people it has lost some of its original ‘charm’, too.

So welcome one, welcome all! To the age of nostalgia for a whole new medium!

While we are currently too close to its origin to properly determine its starting date, I’d personally estimate it started somewhere between the first laptops that were built without a disk drive, and micro-transactions. Though, of course, other people might pinpoint different events to have kickstarted this era; after all, nostalgia is such a gloriously vague and individually determined concept. (Be sure to let me know your defining nostalgic moment, too!) But it’s true: dad-gamers exist now! Grandma-gamers exist. What a time to be alive.

A hearty congratulations to the gaming community, anyway; for it has, as a field, grown into that stage in which generational gaps are a generally acknowledged thing. Whereas that doesn’t sound that great or significant at first, especially since this is not really news-news (‘old gamers’ have existed for some time now, I know), let me explain to you why I believe that it’s interesting and important to realize it.

  • First of all, the fact that gamers have become old also results in the fact that games have become old. Actual old videogames exist now, which might sound redundant and obvious at first, but it allows us to start drawing lines of development within the medium, thus prepping it for analysis in relation to the zeitgeist of its production. As videogames enter cultural history in meaningful ways, (and yes, this starts all the way back with Pong and Tetris) either as part of a cultural canon, trends, or interactive forms of art, they become powerful subjects to retrospectively discuss just like any other cultural medium. This is even more relevant and useful considering that gaming has become as diverse as  film, literature and other media in its themes, approaches and genre; to which the interactive element adds even more possibilities. With the first people who actually identified as ‘gamers’ maturing, the medium and the industry have to grow and morph alongside its faithful clients. This development has a twofold result: on one side, gamers ‘remain’ gamers for longer, since the industry continues to develop content which remains intelligent and captivating for adult audiences. On the other, more resources are available due to its growing audience for more interesting content to be created, etcetera. Remember; the gamers of yesteryear are the grownups-with-actual-salaries of today, who’ll be more prepared to invest their newfound funds into their beloved hobby.
  • Throughout various media, the search for authenticity is present and growing. In videogames, this trend can definitely be recognized in the appearance of many remasters, reboots and spinoffs of older games. However, the search for authenticity in relation to concepts of identity, morality, reality and what it means to be human are becoming more frequently discussed topics in gaming as well. The presence of such themes implies a genuine potential within videogames which cements its status as a legitimate artistic medium; one in which authenticity can be sought for and even found. It moves ‘the video game’ closer to other entertainment media such as film and literature, confirming that it can offer the same measure of depth, consideration and solace to its consumers. This makes me happy. The interactive element of gaming in this case makes it, in my opinion, especially valuable due to its self-reflective tendencies, though I’ll save that argument for another day.

But back to old gamers! With the game industry being the huge multi-billion operation it is today, we must thank the old gamers for bringing it where it is now. With sequels and reboots dazzling the gaming community with either their high-tech brilliance or devastating horribleness, old gamers remind us that while progress can be good, not all change is. Medial restriction in old games (such as broken engines, horrible graphics, etc) makes it more difficult to play them as we did back then, but then again the same goes for books from another time period. Language, convention, discourse, values and norms all vary more than we’d like to think sometimes… So people, listen. Enjoy this very special time: a time in which a whole medium with boundless possibilities is taking off, developing rapidly; it doesn’t happen all that often. History is being written as we speak,or should I say, it’s being programmed.

This whole situation makes me happy. Maybe it’s because I’m originally from a literary background, and I feel most at ease when people around me complain about how everything nowadays is worse and it’s all the youth’s fault. How back in the day one had to ‘really work for it, you know’, or one never had to pay real life money for unimportant things once one has already purchased that which one plays. And I do think that micro-transactions ruin games. Hell, imagine applying the concept to any other situation in life. The literary field, now that we’re at it.

‘Oh, you’d like to know what Mr. Darcy’s letter said? That’ll be another shilling for you, m’boy.’

Bah, humbug, indeed.

(Though actually many literary classics were at first published in serials, so yeah, a certain rate of ‘pay to win’ was in fact already present… Booo!)

Maybe it makes me happy because my babysitter used to hand me a Nintendo 64 controller back when I was little. First letting me win at Mario Kart, and after that it’d be me and him, defeating Bowser in Mario64 over and over again… Without my controller ever being plugged in. Not that I cared about that. Or noticed it, for that matter.

Sigh. Things seemed so much easier, back then.