I’m a gamer who is pushing 40, and I’m trapped in a weird space. The generation that I came from was the first generation where consoles became easier for households to obtain and where they became commonplace. Atari and ColecoVision were some of the first names in the market, they sold under 2 million unit each in ’82. Arcades were still in business and the hub for nerds like me. Fast forward 3 years and the better marketed and more diverse NES went on to sell just under 70 million units.
Electronic gaming came into the home and became the nanny for many of my generation. However, there was a divide in schools; where little league all-stars strode across the playground with the swagger of a signed pro, so were the speed runners of Contra. What started as an awkward subculture was trying to find its niche on the playground pecking order.
The generations before me saw no physical reward or material gain from smashing Super Mario Bros. in less than 10 minutes. Unlike winning in poker when someone won on a console there was no tangible profit. As a result the most uttered line in households was “You’re just wasting your life playing those games!” Little did anyone know that 30 years later there would be 1 million dollar contracts being signed by eSports players. Still the gamers pressed on across the world, blowing into cartridges like they were breathing life back into a loved one; hunched over our grey boxes like Golem.
Now we’ve all grown up and work 9 to 5’s where we trade our time for money that we sprint with to purchase the latest deluxe, awesome, mega, dripping coolness editions of remasters that got us hooked in the first place. The difference now is that the conversation has moved from the school lunchroom to the cubicle farms, water coolers and Twitter fueled spaces we inhabit. The majority of parents no longer call gaming a waste of time, instead they preach moderation and better time management.
The newest generation of gamers did live the stigma that came from admitting to being a gamer. We live in a time where they are debating the acceptance of eSports into the Olympics. A solid K/D ratio affects social status, and the fact that you know what means demonstrates how commonplace it is becoming. It is now infused into global society that it shapes law. In Japan they have a law from game releases during the business week, people call in sick to such a degree it shuts down commerce.
I find myself in a unique place as a gamer where I can relate to both side of the controller. I caught a lot of grief talking about The Legend of Zelda as a kid at certain birthdays. Now kids tweet about how their team held the point or GIF a crazy push and its a social metric. I can understand my kid wanting every cool game that is being advertised. They grew up watching their parents play, she heard and witnessed us being affected by hype around a game series we love. We shaped that behavior. The key difference between the playground then and my dinner table now is that I can speak games with my kids.
As people we are driven to focus on our individual lives, views, and experiences. We want to be the coolest kid, we want to be the best etc. All of which is fine, striving to excel is important. The glaring exception to traditional sports and gaming is being taught how to win and how to lose. It is not uncommon for people that come in second to report the winner. Professional athletes that we, as consumers, flock to are usually great examples of either extreme of sportsmanship. Huge cry baby’s that blame the stitching on their sneakers are quick flashes, but the people that truly stick as Legends’s are the people who own their shortcomings. We need more of that, if you do not like losing ‘git gud,’ put in the itme. I try to remember most games now require more than one person to, am I helping them stay in the game?
The inner journey every player has to reach the final boss, complete the last mission, to save the world, is intrinsic and special. Gamers discuss their personal journey to beating the Vault of Glass, Halo CE Library on Legendary, or Dom’s last ride in GoW with a gleam in their eye. The reward isn’t physical but internal, accomplishing those tasks in games makes you ask questions about yourself as a person. “Would I have the strength to push the button on the hyper drive like Jorge?”
Being a gamer was a handle that united us as a group and as the acceptance of gaming grows I really believe that as older gamers it is important to model good sportsman like behavior. The YouTube videos, streams, and other media that portray gaming in a negative light get more traction than GG winners. I by no means am above throwing down a teabag on rivals, but I make sure to give credit where credit is due at the end. Without noobs, without campers, without Bastion players we start heading back down the road of being isolated people deserate to share an out of this world experience with someone.
Remember to give some props, remember that it’s about the game and NOT the girls vs boys or gay vs straight, we came to game. Everyone was a noob at some point, older players took a lot of abuse early on, and young players still play to escape too. Be kind, it’s truly fun when we can share the experience with other people.