Grumpy Gamer: Getting Old Sucks
Okay, so the cat's out of the bag: I'm probably a lot older than most of you reading this. I'm older than a lot of the other TenTonHammer writers. Not all of them, but a distressingly large percentage of them. How old? Well, I remember coming home from school one day, hoping to sit down in front of the TV to watch some after-school cartoons, only to be disappointed because all the regularly-scheduled programming was pre-empted by news about Ronald Reagan getting shot. I remember being the biggest Michael Jackson fan in 3rd Grade, and how excited I was when my dad brought home the new Thriller album... on vinyl (and not because we were hipsters - CDs hadn't been invented yet). I saw the Empire Strikes Back at the drive-in. If you need something more precise than that: today was my 40th birthday. There was no cake - fire marshal didn't approve.
As a gamer, aging kind of blows. My 40-year-old back isn't all springy and taut, and sitting in a desk chair for hours at a time isn't doing it any favors. My 40-year-old innards do... interesting things when I don't eat regular meals, or when I flood my body with caffeinated beverages for weekend marathons. I'm now at the age where being sedentary is probably just as dangerous as smoking cigarettes.
But these are only physical considerations, most of which could be easily remedied by better diet and exercise habits. You young'uns out there, take note and do a sit-up every now and then.
The real thing that makes aging suck for gamers is the mental changes. No, not dementia. Shut up.
Cynicism is a big part of it. As you get older, you learn more about the world and the people in it. The brain never stops learning, even if it really wants to because the things it learns start to make it angry and sad all the time. Youthful idealism gets replaced by jaded skepticism, and eventually becomes a constant simmer of dull rage. It has for me, anyway.
In one sense, this works well for MMOs. Older gamers, who can filter out the drama and BS and focus on a task without dosing up with Adderall first, can be monstrously-gifted raid leaders and strategists. They have a wealth of experience and the wisdom to handle the social engineering aspects. Charismatic kids might be fine guild leaders - they can put asses in the seats and keep people interested - but the seasoned older guys are the ones you want leading you into battle.
The wisdom that comes with great age is a double-edged sword, though. It gives us great clarity, but it also allows us to recognize that a lot these things we are seeing are... kinda bullshit. We can see through a game's big-boobed female elves and flashy graphics to see the fundamentally awful gameplay beneath, and it makes us hate the game more than we want to. Social interactions in the games become increasingly transparent and, as a result, more difficult to keep pleasant. The greater the clarity, the deeper the cynicism.
A good friend of mine wished me "40 more years of grumpy gaming" on Facebook today, adding, "By then it's time for a new hobby!" Hogwash! I haven't grown out of this "hobby" yet. I know a few senior-citizen MMO gamers, and they're excellent people to play with. As grumpy as I might be, I'm doing what I love - playing games and trolling the internets - and if I can still be doing that when I'm 80, that's awesome.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go do the traditional mid-life birthday thing: drink a glass of brandy, stare thoughtfully into a fire and contemplate my inevitable death. And then maybe find out when the next Elder Scrolls beta event will be.