5 Hard Truths of Being a Lifelong Gamer
I, like many of you, have been a gamer for as long as I have memories. I was born in the 80’s and remember my little toddler hands taking on the immense challenge of World 1-1 in Super Mario Brothers. From there, I made the rounds through Genesis, SNES, Sega Saturn, N64, Playstation, Dreamcast, Playstation 2, Xbox, Gamecube, Xbox 360, Wii, Playstation 3, and Playstation 4. Oh, and add a hefty layer of PC gaming throughout all of that as well. In short, video games have been a major part of my whole life.
In my career as a recreational gamer, I’ve had plenty of highs and lows. And I’m not just talking about the releases of great and awful games. The first thing no one tells you about playing a lot of video games is that it becomes a part of your identity. Both yourself and those around you have to take that into consideration over the years. This continues through your life, regardless of how old you get. And the lessons learned on the way aren’t always pleasant to hear. I’m talking about things like:
1. Most Others Will Never Take You Seriously
There is this kickass tabletop store where I live. It has a huge space to accommodate any game you can think of with plenty of room left over to try the games out on their tables. One holiday season, I was browsing the aisles when I caught the tail end of a transaction between the clerk and an elderly customer. All I heard clearly was the customer ask, “So I guess you used to be into all of this stuff, huh?” A blank stare later, the clerk’s only response was, “Well, I still am.”
This story gave me a simultaneous flashback to countless conversations I’ve had about my enthusiasm for video games. That’s something I thought would go away with time. When you’re a kid, it’s easy for others to dismiss your passions as kid stuff. “Oh, he just loves whales!” they say, “he’ll grow out of it when it’s over.” But if that same kid never lost his whale passion, he’d be praised by those same people as an established marine biologist today.
I wrongly believed video games would work the same way. Okay, maybe not exactly the same. But maybe more like reading. Some kids read a lot as kids because it’s an escape. If they keep reading into adulthood, they’re considered well read. It’s not the same for video games. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to answer the concern of, “I have no idea how you can spend so much money on video games.” Simply, “I spend my money on what I like,” isn’t good enough.
And it only gets worse when that’s your career. I write for several different establishments, but my video game journalism is by far the most valuable of my gigs. That doesn’t matter, though. When I bring up how much more profitable writing on video games is, I’m quickly met with a suggestion to push into other areas harder. It’s insane that even when video games is making money, it is still written off as a frivolous and strange avenue. And, like war, that never changes. Speaking of change:
2. The Industry Is Constantly Changing
I know what you’re thinking. “Of course it is, David!” And yes, of course it is. However, this is actually one of the hard truths that is more harsh than we like to realize. These changes mean that the industry you’ve known and loved is no more. Its focus has changed. It had to change, or else it wouldn’t have survived as long as it did. A business that remains stagnant is dead in the water.
The most depressing thing about this point is that these changes are not in line with the interests of the gamers. It’s in line with the interest of our wallets. The best example I can give you is on your desktop right now. You have Steam downloaded, right? Valve is responsible for making some of the best video games ever created. The influence of its Half-Life series will continue on for decades. But check their release schedule. It’s okay, I’ll wait. Did you check it? Valve hasn’t made a major release since, what, Dota 2?
That’s because, like I’ve said before, Valve doesn’t make video games anymore. Valve is a social media and video game distribution empire. This move doesn’t make sense if they wanted to keep gamers happy. There are many sizable campaigns and petitions to get Valve to make the next Half-Life. It isn’t about that. Steam makes Valve so much money, it doesn’t makes sense for them to spend all the resources to make it. Like I said, they followed our wallets instead of our hearts.
And it’s not just that. Turn-based RPG games are a thing of yesteryear. They used to be all over the place. I personally have a staggering collection of turn-based RPGs on the PS1. Exceedingly popular games like World of Warcraft and Kingdom Hearts changed that. Hell, even Squaresoft, the king of turn-based RPGs, abandoned the genre almost entirely. The lesson here is to try and not grow attached to a genre, because it’s just one investment meeting away from being a thing of the past.