Plights of the Middle-Aged Gamer

Something rather tragic happens when you reach about 40 years old. Everyone stops caring about you.

There is a magic demographic number out there — and the exact numbers are a bit sketchy. But if you’re paying attention — once you hit that age group you no longer matter.

As a consumer — you are irrelevant.

We could make this article a “grumpy old man” story (about how nobody loves you when you’re 40) but we can talk about how film, television and the media don’t care about the older citizen in another article.

Video games to people of my age group (I’m 49 years old, by the way; firmly planted in Generation X) are like television to the early Baby Boomers; a mainstay fixture of our childhood.

For those considerably younger, let me give you a quick overview of the video game timeline as it applies to me.

As a pre-teen, I caught the tail end of the pinball craze and was dumping quarters into Space Invaders and Pac-Man like everyone else in the late 70s/early 80s. I saw the Atari VCS (aka Atari 2600) come to market. I watched ColecoVision and Intellivision duke it out for the best “next-gen” console. I lived through the video game crash and joined the computer revolution with the Commodore 64.

The NES wasn’t even close to my first experience with video games.

I was in the front row when 8-Bit lead to 16-Bit and saw the rise and fall of amazing gaming systems like Sega Dreamcast.

The crazy shift from gorgeous 2D hand drawn graphics to chunky clunky “3D” graphics is on my resume, too. I saw gaming favor consoles and PC alike over the passage of time.

Do you know what Sci-Tech Display Doctor was? God knows I do. If you don’t? You probably have no business calling yourself a video game historian.

I watched PC gaming go from horrid to awesome — and console gaming go from awesome to horrid and finally watching platform equilibrium happen.

I’ve been there. I’ve done that.

When console gaming was in its last great glory days (Xbox 360/Gamecube era), my friends and I were firmly rooted in the ecosystem. We were playing Resident Evil 4 solo on our Gamecubes (aka “Whaddaya buyyyyin’?”) and on the weekends we joined forces against the enemy playing 6+ hours of Call of Duty Modern Warfare in an Xbox Live party.

These were truly great times. No kids, disposable income — a simple life.

Once Windows gaming got itself together we all made the journey to PC Noblemen. But, we had families and more income than free time … but we found ways to get together and still play socially.

Something happened.

Where we once were able to come together at the drop of a hat with plenty of games to play we were suddenly impaired. Time was only part of the issue.

We started squabbling over gaming. Divided across our hobby and it started with Call of Duty; namely because the PC experience was starting to suck with removal of controller assist (for those not using mouse and keyboards) and by the sheer nature of PC gamers quickly leaving a game for The Next Big Thing(tm).

We tried to rekindle some magic by all getting an Xbox One. This gave us a large pool of players and solved the controller disparity issue — but now we found that as a game (figuratively) goes “end of life”, game publishers spend less time culling the rabble (aka cheaters and imbalanced play) making a return to the franchises frustrating and dividing.

Venturing out, the group reached to other game types and franchises — looking for a “cherry high” gaming hit that we could play as a group together.

We hit pay dirt a couple of times with sleeper hits like COD’s Zombies in Spaceland, The Forest and a couple of Nintendo Switch provided distractions like Splatoon and oddly, Paladins — but there were a lot more misses than hits.

Of our group of six or seven gamers — we could only latch two or maybe even three of us together on a title but the rest couldn’t get into it and the game failed to stick into a regular rotation. This caused us significant burn out in the games we did all agree on — making subsequent returns to those games rather exhausting.

I know. #firstworldproblems … there are terrible things happening all over the world — people doing horrible things to each other. These are my issues … right?

I’ve always been primarily a solo game player with the “weekend exceptions” — so no matter how involved we were with the latest multiplayer experience I always has a long-term solo gaming stable to play. The Witcher 3, Assassin's Creed: Origins, Skyrim … even some multi experiences like The Forest offered up solo entertainment to fill my need for gaming.

Lately? I’ve been finding less and less to play. The recent barrage of battle royale games hasn’t helped one little bit and the focus of PvP and “loot quest” games has all but driven my gaming desires right into the ground.

After some soul-searching, I realized that I’ve been marginalized. To some extent, my whole gaming community has been marginalized.

Gaming now is about buying dances and emotes with loot boxes. Gaming now is about running around an ever-shrinking map for 20 minutes doing nothing only to get into a shoot out for a minute and die. Gaming isn’t about personal achievement; it isn’t about increasing your value — but rather about decreasing the value of others.

These new gaming “modes” don’t jive with my liking. Battle royale (Fortnite). Loot questing (Destiny 2). Free to play models. This isn’t the gaming I grew up with.

The gaming world has moved on .. without me.

Without us.

This abandonment has lead to a frantic frenzy of trying to find another game for us to play. We buy games and if they don’t resonate with us (most or all of us), they get trashed. We fight among ourselves trying to pitch and sell each other on potential gaming experiences.

Truth is? We’ve been decaffeinated. What we’re looking for is rare — and fleeting, apparently.

In the meantime, marginalization happens among our group, too.

A few in the group will play Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare on Xbox, Rocket League on Switch, some will only play Overwatch on a PC. Some want to address old favorites like Gears of War 4 — but others of us can’t afford the four to six hours that a marathon match of group-approved game play would require.

So what is the solution? We wait. Eventually, lightning in a bottle will happen again. We’ll find another The Forest. A new version of Call of Duty zombies might light the fire. Hope springs eternal. That new game Strange Brigade holds promise.

Regardless of the gaming market no longer caring about us, I’ll tell you one thing.

No matter how cut-out we get or how much we argue about the merits of Diablo 3 or Zelda vs Witcher … in the end, we’re still a strong group of friends plodding through life as middle aged gamers; cracking inappropriate jokes from the 80s on Xbox Live or quoting the only trilogy of Star Wars movies that mean anything while chopping legs off cannibals and roasting them for bones.

Gaming is thicker than water.

I write, blog, record and review anything that interests me — including humanity, parenting, gizmos & gadgets, video games and media.

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