I’m a little older than the average gamer, not the oldest I know but still at an age where my contemporaries consider my hobby as childish. A typical Monday morning conversation could be:
THEM: “So, what did you do this weekend?”
ME: “I worked on my website”.
THEM: “Oh, I didn’t know you had a website, what’s it about?”
ME: “FPS Computer Games”.
THEM: “You still play games at your age, I would have thought you would have grown out of that by now”.
For those non-native English speakers the last sentence is rude because it assumes that playing games is a childish hobby.
When one person found out about my site he said he thought it would have been about myself, “that”, he said “would be more interesting than computer games!” I’m not sure if that was a compliment or an insult. As far as I’m concerned computer games are more interesting than my life.
Other times I find myself almost having to defend my choice of hobby; this often becomes frustrating and occasionally annoying. So I have decided to write my explanation in the hope of clarifying my points and also to encourage my older, more experienced readers to share their thoughts.
I always have and always will. Now all children enjoy stories and depending on their environment may or may not read through choice. I came to reading late; my first book I read out of curiosity not assignment was at 14 years old. From that moment onwards I have read about a book a week. Stories can take many forms; books, plays, movies and oral are some of the obvious ones but games have begun to creep into this list. Children are spending more and more time in front of a computer and the computer offers us wonderful opportunities in the way stories are told.
For me an FPS game is simply an interactive story. Of course I am talking about Single Player games not multiplayer fragfests! Wanting to know and share the experience of the character is what drives me on. Current games are only starting to explore the potential of this storytelling medium.
The sports I played as a young man were all that required a racket or bat; tennis, squash, badminton or table tennis. These sports needed good hand-to-eye co-ordination. Physical fitness were important but skill was often more important. FPS games in some small way simulate that type of action and skill. “Why don’t you play tennis games then?” has often been asked. Well, I suppose I want something different. The question could be asked about paintball. There are a number of reasons but the two most obvious ones are convenience and teams. There is nowhere local for me to play and I prefer games where I play on my own.
This reason isn’t exclusive to playing games but it is part of the reason. I have very few friends that I spend time with for a number of reasons, but plenty of gaming acquaintances. Of course there is a huge difference and I both fully accept and realize that but I like being part of the gaming community. The mix of age and culture is possibly unique and it’s something that may have wide repercussions in sociological development. I would never have the opportunity to mix with the people I do under normal circumstances. These are of course wider Internet related issues but they seem to apply to gaming than most other topics. Not judging a person purely by their age is a good thing and gaming is one of the few examples where people can interact without those limits.
The link to FPS gaming is quite thin here but the point still stands. Where better to satisfy my desire for Sci- Fi than FPS games? The genre is replete with them. Amazing weapons, aliens and locations, enough to stretch my imagination to breaking point. Every few months a new game is announced that promises incredible graphics, opera-like stories and never-before seen gameplay elements! OK, often the reality is very different from the marketing spiel but you get the picture. Another point is the continual release of new maps and mods that brings me nicely onto my next point.
These games often are supplied with editors that allow users to create the aforementioned maps and mods. Whilst I never released any maps to the public that doesn’t mean I haven’t created any. Mapping is another form of art, spending months on a sculpture is not much difference to creating a map. The sooner people realize this the better. There’s little doubt that my mapping efforts are not masterpieces but the process is as important as the results. I enjoy creating something, even if nobody ever sees it. (Please don’t ask me to release them because I won’t!)
I have this little theory that people read books partly because their lives aren’t that interesting. Well I don’t have any hesitation in admitting my real life is pretty boring and playing these games allows me to be a hero for a while. This is very closely connected to the story section but not entirely the same. Some stories don’t have one clear hero; they are more about a collection of people and their interaction. Well, I want to be a hero! There, I’ve said it! Games provide me with that opportunity.
Hopefully I’ve explained my thoughts clearly and precisely. There may be other reasons I play but can’t currently think of them, if I do I’ll add them. Perhaps you disagree with some of my points? Well all I can say is that this piece is about me, not necessarily the average gamer. These reasons don’t even have to be age related. They are simply my reasons.
I want to spend 2006 thinking and writing about the increasing average age of gamers and related issues. For example: are there any games specifically developed for over forty or fifty year olds? How are they different from other games? Should games have specific age targets? Expect a few more post on this subject.
I’m very interested to hear your thoughts and comments, especially your reasons for playing games. Have I missed any?