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I, Gamer: The Selfish Gamer

November 12th, 2012 by

“I’m away to bed…..”. It’s a commonly heard phrase in many homes. Our loved ones sigh and resign themselves that you are not going to accompany them to bed for the intimacy they crave.

Gaming is essentially one of the most selfish pastimes there is. Much like any addiction it requires self-sacrifice. To be even competent in any game, it requires hours of practice of the mechanics, a couple of hours of study on YouTube and a healthy dose of insomnia.

 

While I constantly find myself in a state of disrepair owing to my (over) exertions, the toll it takes on a stable family life is much greater. It has been brought into stark focus for me as the release of Assassin’s Creed 3 cast its long shadow over me. It is supposed to be a casual game and to the outside gamer it is. Yet I have around 100 hours invested in that series of games. I have bought blacksmiths, crafted bombs, burnt numerous towers to the ground and ploughed my way through thousands of dudes. These dudes probably have wives and families. They may even have been dudes who were trying to pay their way through university. Assassin’s Creed 3 had its own systems and hooks with which it would grab my balls and twist them round my neck. But it was the story of an angry young man battling to find his own place in a changing world – while respecting his heritage – that ruined my life for a week. Connor exuded none of the charm of Ezio Auditore or the aloof nature of Altair. He was troubled and needed an avenue to vent his frustration. I could identify with that. My eyes followed Connor’s journey through Boston, New York, the frontier and the seven seas while my body yearned for sleep.

My wife and children were oblivious to its existence. For those ‘that know’ there is a sense of inevitability about what the coming days and weeks a major release may leave in its wake. Yet we as gamers yearn for it. We need to feel that game in our veins, much like the evil entities that roam the game’s towns, towers and fields. We give over our entire bodies to walk a mile in the shoes of our heroes. For a few hours every night I can escape the dirty nappies, housework and monotony of life. I can replace them with tales of heroism, wonder and awe. Yet, when the credits roll my life is once again still, waiting for the next injection.

I can’t bring the subject up at dinner. My wife tries to understand but she doesn’t. She remains convinced that my virtual life will overtake the real one. That the internet memes, monikers and handles that I talk about actually mask deeply attractive, young females who have much more in common with me.

She doesn’t really understand the internet aside from Facebook and social media. It is a place fraught with unknown mysteries and predators. Well, of course, that’s true, but the ones in my life are a totally different type of annoyance than the people she is associating me with. Long shot snipers, macro masters and micro kings are my enemies, my Everest to climb and defeat.

As my young family grows up I wonder whether I should dissuade my daughters from pursuing this life of personal solitude and seemingly anti-social behaviour. Gamers are cast as loner, deviants and outcasts because their interactions are confined and personal. In reality I am more social than nearly anybody I know, I constantly interact with others, I meet new people all the time, including many multi-nationals – a truth many of my friends can’t begin to fathom.

However, it is clear that there is good reason why so many gamers have serious bouts of depression. The rewards of experiencing fantastical worlds and taking on incredulous personas is one which leads to lulls where there is not a game adequate or different enough to fuel this expectation. Real life can sometimes seem so shallow in comparison; since we have forsaken many of the relationships we have built to pursue the next dragon.

I love my gaming life. It is every bit part of my persona and the makeup of who I am. But it has a cost. One that I make others pay and for that I am sorry and thankful that they let me be the person that I am. Be thankful for them and their sacrifice.

 

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8 Responses to “I, Gamer: The Selfish Gamer”
  1. avatar sirsamuelvimes says:

    2am in the morning is a sight I see all to often but I do love every minute of it.

  2. avatar Mesozoic Prinny says:

    I have, on occasion, thrown a game in at 9pm, or whenever the kids were settled, and sat on the sofa twitching my fingers till the dawn chorus reminded me that the kids would be up again soon. I have gone to work half-blind through lack of sleep, careened through a shift on coffee and cigarettes, and put in another 6-hour gaming session when I got home. I have hit the reset button in anger, many many, times, because I got killed halfway through the first level. I have secretly turned the Spectrum on after my parents went to bed and loaded up a game, with a towel over the computer to muffle the screeching of bits as they made the arduous journey from analogue tape to digital ram. I have given silent speeches to digital troops that would make Khan Noonien Singh say “What he said!”, before shuffling quietly back into the ranks.

    My name is Mesozoic Prinny, and I am an anti-social gamer.

    Maybe.

    Me and Thing 2 (he’s 6) spent about an hour playing Hello Kitty Cafe together on a 7″ tablet last night, and another half-hour this morning. Thing 1 was resolute in his pursuit of PSP Pilot Academy based glory, and couldn’t be shifted, until Motorstorm Apocalypse finished downloading this morning (courtesy of PSNs 30-day PS+ trial). I couldn’t begin to count the hours we’ve spent on LBP, Ratchett and Clank, GT, Dirt, Minecraft, Train Simulator, Microsoft Flight, Mario Party, Mario, Zelda and more junk than I could shame a wiimote at, even though wii did.

    Now, I consider myself to have had a fairly decent childhood – if I’d lived in South Park I’d have been Kenny, but I had fun all the same. That said, I really don’t remember ever spending much time with my parents – except sitting glued to the TV with them in winter because that was the only room with heating. Corrie, Eastenders, Casualty, The Bill, Alias Smith and Jones, Hi-DeHi, The Benny Hill Show, Russ Abbot, Noel’s House Party, Not the Nine O’Clock News, Lenny Henry, Blakes 7, Star Trek, The Tripods. We sat and watched them all.

    I have, with Thing 1 and Thing 2, explored more strange new worlds than I can remember, rescued princesses like they were going out of fashion, fought everything from slimes and spiders to dragons, gods, and dragon-gods, built wooden forts that burned to the ground and stone castles that will stand forever, raced slapstick championships through cartoon worlds, and raced supercars that we will probably never see in the real world, let alone drive. We have mocked each other and been mocked in turn. We have screamed with laughter and laughed at each other’s screams. Most importantly, we’ve done it together, and we’ve done it playing videogames.

    I am a selfish son-of-a-bitch, and life is good. Bite me.

  3. avatar Altered Ego says:

    Wow. What a post and a really nice counterpoint to what I said. I have a partner who hasn’t had videogames as a part of her life in any shape or form and as such the consoles are seen more as Netflix machines than any other form of entertainment.
    It doesn’t help that my PC is stuck away in a corner of the house called my office.
    My family is young enough that it hasn’t reared it’s head as a factor in my house outside of iPad usage but it would be wonderful for me personally if one of them even showed an interest. If you are doing something together then it surely can’t be selfish.

  4. avatar Mesozoic Prinny says:

    They’ll show an interest, because you’re their hero.

    =)

  5. avatar MaGe1974 says:

    An excellent piece that echoes many of my own experiences. Balancing time between the little uns, my wife, work and gaming is a continuous plate spinning act but, on those rare occasions when I think I should hang up my controller for good, the opportunity however rare and short to return to those magical virtual worlds is just too good to resist.
    I may only get a few hours in a week but I’m still a gamer and proud to say so :)

  6. avatar ilander66 says:

    Maybe this is indicative of people who come to Midlife Gamer or maybe of a change in society as a whole but it seems that gaming has become the modern day equivelent to going down the pub as an escape from the pressures of life and all the stigma that is attached to that sort of thing by our other halfs as self indulgent folly.
    When I was a kid I remember my dad would go to the pub with his mates of an evening and in general it was popularised in the media and press as ‘the thing middle aged me do’ i.e. go to the pub and watch football etc. get drunk come home get berated by the wife for wasting time and money.
    Now for me I rarely go out and do not drink and its quicker and easier for me and my friends to get together online and play some games and have a chat at the same time from the comfort of our homes but my wife instantly turns hostile whenever I mention I want to go and play games while she sleeps or watches Americas Next Top Model.
    On more than one occasion when she has gone away to some work seminar or conference I have booked time off work simply to sit in my house on my own and play games.
    Sad but true maybe but I am a geek a nerd and a gamer always.

  7. avatar zippylovesbeer says:

    Some fantastic posts. This is why I’m getting to love these forums. Full of like minded people dare I say it older gamers like me. I had to chuckle when I too remembered watching those same shows even though you may have forgotten gems such as battlestar galactica and space 1999. Also booting up my spectrum after the parents had gone to bed. My first computer was a dragon 32.

    I’m now 40 years of age and have had a love of gaming for as long as I can remember. I was always in a minority years ago until I started playing unreal tournament. Quake and counter strike and discovering a world of bedroom bound gamers similar to myself.

    Fast forward to today and gaming is massive. My 9 year old has his own man cave with his 360. We’ve enjoyed playing countless hours in virtual worlds and now with the inclusion of my 3 year old daughter joining in our little big planet adventures. I had the shock of my life when the wife proudly came home with a new controller which I thought was for us but to discover that she had bought it for herself so now we all have great gaming nights together.

    So the lonesome gamer that I once was has now not only got the countless numbers of online companions but a family that can’t wait to join in again. Who says gaming is bad for you eh!

  8. avatar Wayne says:

    What a beautiful piece of text.

    We try and look after our bodies as we get older, to try and stem the inevitable passage of time, yet it’s the mind that starts to falter. Certainly for me anyway. Like a fraying rope, the strands becoming thinner and thinner, until they start to whither, one by one, never to return. My very self, sinking slowly into the darkness.

    I’m certainly the shyest person I know, but my ability to withdraw myself from the real world to become completely submerged in a digital one, is a skill that may have saved my life in the past. It has certainly bought me some wonderful new friends who share my passion.

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