The Aging Video Game Culture

By Mangleman

Almost every week since the day I started playing Runescape I get asked the same question: "You are HOW OLD?? And you still play Runescape?!" The reactions are either in the tone of pity, shame, or genuine confusion. They just can't fathom a grown man with a real job and real problems and a real marriage playing an online game like Runescape.

I am the 27 year old father of 2 children. I also happen to be a member of the first true generation of adult gamers. Culturally speaking, video games are still seen as a childish activity by the majority of the "in-power" generation. There were video games in the 1970s and indeed the Atari and ColecoVision were very popular and very successful, but the main distinction between these "first generation" gamers and the gamers that were born in the 1980s is that my generation has decided not to give up video games as we become adults. The result is that the adults of the gaming world play in a conflicted environment, neither our younger fellow players, nor our age peers quite understand us.

When asked for an explanation I often go on a rant about when people leave out the fun things in life there is nothing really worth doing. For years as a teen and a young adult people have been telling me about how "when I grow up" I will have to do this or that. They talk about giving things up like video games and other sources of "childish" amusements. They talk about saving for retirement and working "at a real job" in the "real world". They talk this way and it is simply understood that adults are not allowed to do things that kids or teens enjoy.

In aggregate my generation seems to be embarking on a quiet revolution. We have chosen to keep in touch with the things we held close in our minds when we were children. Look at the huge money-maker films of the past few years. Movies based on the most popular comic books of the 1980s and 1990s are making so much money that the studios can't produce them fast enough. Transformers is another example of just how far my generation has taken their love of childish pop culture and held on to it during adulthood.

So how can my generation have our cake and eat it too? We have real jobs, house payments, wives, kids, and level 114 combat. Why is it that common perception continues to exclude the gamer lifestyle from "real life?" I think a lot of it comes from how different my interests are than those of my older co-workers. I can afford a house payment and to pay all of my bills even though I do not wear a suit to work and I do not "act my age". I play Runescape for 5 dollars a month; they play golf for $100 per round. I pay $5 a month; they pay $50 a week to go out to bars with their friends. I pay $5 a month; they go out and eat $50 steaks. In many ways I save quite a bit of money by being a childish gamer. The money I save by doing things the way that I prefer ends up in my retirement account, it ends up paying my house payment, it ends up making my life easier "in the real world". I am not saying that gaming is super cheap or that it is a retirement plan, but I am saying that I do not have to have a typical "adult" lifestyle to still provide for my family.

Another common question I get is "how does your wife feel about you playing Runescape all the time?" I stay up for hours rocking a fussy baby, I can log out with a few seconds notice, I can play on the laptop, or the desktop, or even the kids' computer. It is one of the lowest impact games I have ever found. I would say that nearly half of the time I spend on Runescape is time spent taking care of the kids. The best part is that as the kids get older, they can just join me.

So what does this mean for me? I will probably continue to play video games until the day I die and so will many of the people in my generation. But the interesting thing is that we are currently training the next gamer generation. Video games are starting to be a family thing. My children owned video games before they could walk. They will not have the same stigma of having a "termination" date on their video game hobby. They will be the first generation of adult gamers that does not have to deal with questions like "You are HOW old? and you still play video games?" Us old man types are actually changing the world by playing Runescape, one small group of people at a time.

Last update: 31-Mar-2008
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