I’m 35, I have a son who is going to be 10 in less than a month, a wife, two dogs, three cats, a job and a mortgage. Yet, I’ve been gaming since 1988 and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight which is more than fine. Despite all my adult responsibilities, I still find roughly 4 hours a day to play a game. Two hours in the morning and about two hours in the evening after work. The weekends can either be marathon sessions or having to be an adult and do things around the house leaving me with only a few hours to play. Either way there just seems to be something missing lately: Enthusiasm.
Let me go ahead and put the brakes on the “Well, you should just stop because obviously, you aren’t a true gamer” train of thought with a hardy “No, you’re wrong.” Just because I seem to lack the enthusiasm I had back when I was younger doesn’t mean I’ve lost my interest, there’s a huge difference. I’ve just become harder to impress because I’ve been gaming for so long and I know that I am far from alone.
How do I know I’m not alone in thinking this way, you may ask? I spent some considerable time on the retail side of the gaming industry working my way up from lowly peon to a store manager. While standing around and talking shop with tons of people of different ages I realized that my demographic is slowly starting to take on this “Original Gamer” mindset. While it doesn’t stop us from getting excited about a game it stops us from getting completely caught up in the hype train. All because when we see what you can do in the newer game, or what the game is based around story-wise, we automatically relate it to an experience we’ve already had made it harder for us to get caught up in the hype. Or, we’ve seen 5 other sequels and can’t imagine how the game is still going and know they’re just riding on name recognition.
People in my age range grew up with the NES(I also had an Atari and dabbled in early PC.) While the NES was my definitive start, Atari/Colecovision might be where the older than me gamers got their start. We have seen video games grow with time and become more complicated, beautiful and turn into a true art form and means of expression. I like to consider people in my age range the “Original Gamer” or “O.G.” generation. With some exclusions, we are the ones that helped the industry catch on and become the powerhouse it is today. We grew *with* the industry as we’d grow with a sibling or friend. Probably making it easier for us to be more openly honest with our opinions and thoughts about the industry, again much like you would with a friend or sibling.
I do anticipate the release of some things, like Anthem just to name one. I don’t anticipate it with that same fervor I once did when I was younger because all I see out of Anthem is a better version of Destiny/Division. There, however, lies the issue us “O.G.” gamers have: I’ve played so many games by now that I can’t be exposed to anything without relating it to something else that I’ve experienced, dulling the initial enthusiasm right off the bat. I also usually end up owning all three major consoles of a generation, so I can’t even say I get fanboy fervor either. I generally lean more towards Xbox/Microsoft than the other two I admit. Nintendo I seem to have outgrown for the most part but still have a heavy respect for and Sony is just Sony. While Sony is great and I admire what they do, ever since I played Fable on the original Xbox and experienced how much better the Xbox ran certain games like GTA: San Andreas and Need for Speed Underground 2 than the PS2 did I’ve been an Xbox guy ever since.
Everything seems to have lost that true awe-inspiring feeling. I think the last games that really gave me that were Minecraft, WoW, Grand Theft Auto 3 and The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. Even with the latest trend of Battle Royale games, all I see is a Free-For-All but on a larger scale, while giving you more chances to experience the negative side of online multiplayer. While highly successful no doubt and lucrative for game devs, it just strikes me as a lazy genre. Even Indie games can’t escape this outlook. It seems like they try too hard to be different from mainstream games anymore. Not saying I haven’t played some great ones, it’s just after a while you get tired of seeing the “Look at us! Our story is so different! Our art style is so different!” it seems as if playing indies has become the edgy and cool thing to do. Not because you actually want to support smaller studios/devs. Maybe that was a bit harsh, but hopefully, you know what I’m trying to say. It’s one of those things that’s going to sound harsh no matter how you try to phrase it.
While this sounds terrible on the surface it’s actually a blessing in disguise. I’ve become more refined in my way of approaching games as a whole. I’ve figured out what I like, what I don’t like and what I might be willing to take a chance on instead of just blindly buying what came out that week or month. I can relate game play mechanics and puzzles to other games and figure them out quicker. I enjoy a game even more if it has the right stuff to grab my attention and keep me playing. I don’t fall victim to mad cash grabs, marketing schemes or microtransactions. I feel I’ve evolved into a better gamer overall due to my “Original Gamer” outlook and as a writer/reviewer for TiC Games Network, not being a fanboy or buying into hype cycles helps me to be more objective in my work. Which leads to a more truthful and logical outlook on things.
As part of the “O.G.” generation where games really started taking shape and we watched them grow as we did, I feel it’s part of our personal responsibility to try to pass on our wisdom to the younger generation of gamers as well. How to not fall victim to hype trains. How to start relating games to each other so they can figure things out more efficiently, introducing them to other genres, helping them spot a “good” or “bad” game and not to just follow their friends in purchasing something because they don’t want to feel left out. If we can teach them to speak with their wallets, they’ll do more in shaping the video game industry than we ever could.
We should share our general game knowledge to help them, in time, become even better gamers and consumers than we could have ever hoped to be. Shaping the next generation of gamers into something that makes the gaming industry have to actually think and create whole new experiences and worlds aside from just copying existing trends, or pulling bits and pieces out of older games and cobbling together a “new” game just to make some sales. I understand there are tried and true formulas that won’t ever change and that’s okay. There just seems to be some weird mindset rut a lot of devs are stuck in. The Battle Royale is the most prominent example, with games that shouldn’t need that game mode adopting one just because it’s popular and helps/makes a title sell.
Where did my enthusiasm go? It has been replaced with genuine interest. Wanting to know more about games and what makes them unique to all of us. Why we love them and why we hate them. I want to spark the interest in other gamers to figure out why they like games and would want to play a game versus just following the hype train and then becoming disappointed after their purchase. If all you have is enthusiasm for the gaming world, you’re never going to be satisfied with it. You’re going to always seek out that next “big thing” to get hyped about because they told you to be hyped about it, not because you want to get excited about it. Get yourself some genuine interest and you’ll start seeing and experiencing games on a whole different level. You’ll still get excited about things but for the right reasons. Being an overly enthusiastic fanboy is easy and clouds the mind. Don’t be a fanboy. Be a gamer.