Video Games... An Adult Retrospective

Video Games… An Adult Retrospective

Ok.. So, technically I’m an adult now. 26 years old. I’ve been playing video games since I can remember. I remember sitting in my family’s basement spending long weekends and summers playing Mario and Techmo Super Bowl with my brother on our NES. My brother, who is approx. 8 years older than me, is the person who originally got me in to gaming. We’d spend hours playing with and against each other. I remember it vividly… The day I overtook my brother as the greatest gamer in the world (in my own, self-centered, 9 year old brain) when I was finally able to defeat him in Techmo Super Bowl. He was playing the Cleveland Browns and I was playing the San Fransico 49ers. It came down to the last couple of minutes but Steve Young and Jerry Rice couldn’ t be stopped… I don’t remember the score, but it was a close, high-scoring game. He was distraught. I suppose I could have been a bit more humble, but I rubbed it in his face for months. It was at that point that I realized that I was actually “good” at video games. I played all the time. First on the NES, then on the SNES,  Nintendo 64, and PS2. I played all of the classics. Legends of Zelda, Mario (including Mario Kart), Final Fantasy, Battle Frogs (hell yeah!)… My brother moved out of the house, married, and had kids but I would spend weekends there and we’d have weekend-long gaming sessions. Our favorites were the NBA Live series and Star Wars: Battlefront. I remember those days long gone, and charish them deeply. They were amazing bonding experiences and we had a hell of a good time. We always won. We were good. In fact, we were the best! 

Fast forward a few years. It’s around 1997. I’m old enough to play on the computer by myself. My brother, the amazing man that he is, bought me my first computer game that I could play online. Well, I should clarify. He didn’t buy me the game intentionally. It just so happened to come included with the Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback joystick he bought me for christmas. Interstate ’76.  This game had it all. Violence, cars, guns, and a great single-player story. It wasn’t until I got online that I realized that I had been living in a box. A small box where I was the greatest gamer in all of the world. I mean, none of my friends in my very small, rural-area neighborhood could beat me in anything. There were some tough competitors there, but nothing I couldn’t handle. Getting online changed my perspective on my abilities greatly. I learned quickly that what works against NPCs will definitely not work with or against other people. I learned quickly that people on the internet are mean. Especially to a 12 year old kid who, it turns out after all, is terrible. I also learned that being cocky, then getting owned, is a really easy way to earn a bad reputation.

I was a cocky kid. I thought I knew everything there was to know about gaming. I got involved in the I’76 communities that were popping up left and right. I’d join and leave clans within a few days (nobody likes a guild-jumper). Life for me was never the same. It is this game that changed who I am… Changed what I wanted to be.. And changed everything I ever thought about anything. I guess I’ve never lost the cockiness even 14 years later, but I learned to control it and turn my arrogance in to confidence. A confidence to always beat a boss. To always keep my groups alive whether I’m the the tank, healer, or DPS. I’ll always sacrifice my digital life to protect a teammate. Something that I carried over with me into my real life. Occasionally, though, my need for exploration to see what I can do by myself comes through, but to keep my groups alive, I always preface my actions with “Don’t heal me.” Folks learn quick that this means I’m going to do something foolish. But I digress..

When that game finally fluttered to oblivion (after Interstate ’82 was released and flopped… hard), I moved on. I continued to play online games, but not nearly as much I did. Don’t get me wrong. I stilled played games, but they were mostly single-player games like Mass Effect and other games. I never went back to the console since 1997. I became, and always will remain, a PC gamer. It is, in my opinion, the most pure form of gaming available. Games are built on computers… that’s where they should stay. I went to college, spent my freshman and sophomore year worrying about partying and hitting on girls (though, I was never really successful). My junior year I found a new online game called SecondLife. This game absorbed me for a couple of years. In SecondLife, I was a much cooler version of me. Instead of short and fat, I was tall and skinny. Instead of socially awkward, I was a social adept. I became a DJ for a fairly large country location called Heartland Ranch. I played this game constantly for the better part of two years. I rarely, if ever, played any other games. It was a completely different world. A world I liked better. A world where I could lounge around, build stuff, dance, and socialize with people who were also cooler versions of themselves. Eventually, however, I realized that I was becoming even more worthless at real life and I gave up the game. I still go in every now and then to see what’s going on and to say “Hi” to old friends and crap, but I refuse to ever lose who I am as a person in lieu of who I am in a video game. That game was fun, but you completely lose sight of what is actually going on in the real life around you.

Lets fast forward another couple of years. In comes the MMO. This is another turning point in my gaming “career.” Before you jump to conclusions; No, World of Warcraft was not my first MMO. In fact, I’ve never so much as played World of Warcraft. (Yeah… I play it now). My roommates did. A lot of my friends did. No, my first real MMO experience came from Perfect World International (PWI hereafter). PWI was a free-to-play MMORPG. This is the main reason that this, not WoW, was my first MMO. I couldn’t, for the life of me, understand why somebody would pay $50 for a game, and then $15/month afterwards. I hardly had enough money at the time to pay rent and eat, let alone pay a monthly fee for a friggin game. What happened to the good ol’ days where you could just buy a game and play it online for free with your friends? Pick a server and go?! No, I would never succumb to any sort of leaching like that. It was absolutely preposterous that people could be conned into something that egregious.

Say nay to pay, for I am free to play!

Anyway,  I was playing PWI for awhile and quit because it got boring. Later, my brother informs me that he upgraded his computer so he is now able to play. I pick up the game again, join him on the Sanctuary Dreamweaver server. He got a few fellas from his work to join in the fun and we end up having a blast for about 6 months. This is when my life got flipped upside down. In comes the girl. We were recruiting for the faction we had created early on in our leveling. We picked up a few people that day, but one of them would change my life forever. We were doing a dungeon and one of the members of the group was getting confused with what we were doing. The reason for this confusion became immediately clear… All of us, except for this individual, were communicating via Ventrilo. We got this this person into Vent with us and got their microphone working. Then we hear it, “Is it working now?” What is this? A girl?! In an MMO?! For the longest time, we had assumed that every female character in the game was a dude. I was a female character and I’m clearly a dude. In fact, before I knew she was a girl, and before she knew I was a guy, I was short and impatient with her, and she thought I was just some mean bitch. Anyway, time went on, we flirted back and forth and I found out that she only lived a few hours away. I took the plunge and decided that “we must meet,” and meet we did… nearly 3 years later, I’m still with this woman and we’ve continued to game. I became an extraordinarily lucky individual because not only did I find a woman that accepted my gaming addiction. Oh, nay… I found a woman who shared in that addiction. We played together all the time. Eventually this free to play game became far too expensive for us. That’s how they get you. They make the game free to play, but you have to pay real money to get in-game items in order to be any good if you don’t want to spend hundreds of hours simply grinding on mobs to get coins and crap. Forget that… lets move on, I say. After playing PWI for about two years, Melissa (my girl), and I decide we are going to go online and look for other F2P games. We try several including Dungeons and Dragons online. None of these seem worth our time. We eventually come across Lord of the Rings Online.

LOTRO had just gone Free to Play when we came across it. We fell in love with it instantly. LOTRO is F2P in a way that was new to us. You could play for free, and buy more content with real money using Turbine Points, or you could pay a monthly subscription. Well, after having spent well over $5,000 in PWI in two years between buying HP and Mana pots, buying mounts, and buying gifts for my girlfriend, I decided that $15/month wasn’t as rediculous as I once thought. Melissa and I decide we were going to subscribe, and subscribe we did.  LOTRO is the first MMO I had ever played that was enjoyable enough in the leveling process to actually reach level cap. PWI’s level cap was too high and required far too much grinding on mobs. You’d run out of quests a quarter of the way through a level and would have to either run dailies or grind on mobs using Hyper XP stones (which could be purchased from the store). It was a giant grind fest and I didn’t have the patience for it. We reached the LOTRO level cap within a couple of months and did some end-game content. We’d run our dailies, run some dungeons.. you know the usual, but then suddenly we stopped playing. Why? Because I found a new job and moved to be closer to Melissa.

We never had the luxury of being able to see eachother on a daily basis and we took to it like crazy. We spent every moment not working together. We forgot what video games were for the better part of a year. All of our friends thought we had died!

Eventually, though, our need to play video games grabbed us again. Sure, we love spending time together but, like nicotine, it’s way too hard to give up. We went in and started playing LOTRO again, but we had lost the fire for it like we had when we played it to 65. It no longer had its lasting appeal. We were never able to talk my brother or his co-worker into joining. They had moved on from PWI to WoW (seeing the same reasoning as us in subscribing to LOTRO over the true F2P model). We had nobody there that we knew in real life. For some reason, a game is more enjoyable when you can discuss it with somebody in person. Talk about the amazing dungeon run you had last week, about the funny things we said and did. We didn’t get that from LOTRO so it was time to move on. We went MMO-less for a long time. We played some single player games. Melissa was addicted to Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 and Deus Ex: Human Revolution, I fell in love with Battlefield 3 playing with co-workers on the weekends and the evenings I didn’t spend with Melissa. I also played Deus Ex.  Truth be told: I didn’t want to play another MMO because I was waiting for something. Something that finally arrived. Star Wars: The Old Republic. This has been my game since pre-order release. I have a Bounty Hunter at level cap and several other characters on their way there. It’s a game I can see myself playing for years. I’ve been a gigantic Star Wars fanatic for years. I was a huge fan of Knights of the Old Republic and Knights of the Old Republic 2. The story-telling in this game is absolutely amazing, and I was able to recruit my brother and his co-worker into playing this one. I think they both love it as well.

Gaming has shaped who I am and who I will always be. I learned a lot about life along the way. Gaming gave me an opportunity to talk to people all around the world. I learned about new cultures, cultivated new friendships, met the love of my life. I’ve read many articles around the internet about people who look back at their life and wish they hadn’t “wasted” so many years playing video games. They wish they had gone out and spent time with people. They wish they would have had a more social lifestyle. I don’t feel like that at all. Video Games were my outlet. My way to get away from life when I had to. I don’t feel that the hours I spent in front of a computer monitor the last 15 years affected me negatively in any way (besides, possibly, physically). I don’t have a lot of real life friends, but I never feel in want of friends. The friends I’ve met online in video games I still communicate with. I even met my girlfriend in a flippin’ video game folks! I’ve always been a loner. I suspect I always will be. I’ve learned to become less socially awkward. I’ve learned how to put on a facade when “dealing with people.” I’m a successful web developer and a decent communicator. Video games taught me the importance of spelling and grammatical accuracy (I’m sure there are some issues with this article, but I couldn’t care less). Video games aren’t just for kids, folks. Video games are for everybody. There is a game out there for everyone. My mother’s poison are Facebook games like Farmville. Melissa, my brother, and I love MMOs and story-oriented games (like Mass Effect and Deus Ex). They have the ability to shape your future. This is where some would say, “And lead children to violence.” That is a topic for another day. This article has already gone on a lot longer than I had planned.

24 years of playing games (yes, I played when I was two), and I’ve never regretted a moment of it.