I remember when I first played a video game. I was about 4 years old and we got a Sears Entertainment System, the console that was effectively the same as the Atari 2600. We had Gunslinger, Air/Sea Battle, and Space Invaders. We spent hours in front of the TV playing those games, the same repetitive giant pixel based characters doing the same repetitive motions. So much fun.
Then my dad bought a new game… Adventure. This game was the first of the console RPGs. You were the hero. Well, ok, you were a big square, but you were the hero and had to save the kingdom from the evil dragons. This game had everything. A sword, a bridge, three dragons, and a chalice. What hero doesn’t want a chalice, am I right?
Compared to the current generation of gaming, these old games were crappy, slow, lame, and unimaginative, but in reality, these games are the ones that drove the gaming industry into what it has become. For people to spend the hours that it took to play some of these games, and get fed up with the glitchiness of the code, the little cheats you could do to circumvent certain game mechanics (like placing the bridge across a wall so you could slip straight to the end of the maze), or to deal with equipment that was constantly breaking down, created a generation of tough gamers. Those of us who grew up with games since the late 1970s have gone on to be successful in many industries, but we have also been a force for change in the video game world.
Even now, it is our money that tends to drive the markets. Those of us in our 30s and 40s are still gamers. You can find us online, sniping and talking smack with everyone else. Sure, we may not spend the hours that some of these kids can spend playing a game so they can camp outside of some cave and shoot into the darkness hoping for a good drop, but we still have skills and enjoy the challenge that a good game presents.
Online multiplayer is now offered in a lot of games, but it was one of the toughest gaming styles for me to get in to. I love playing solo games, always have. I played World of Warcraft and eventually even joined a guild, which everyone eventually left. I was just as happy to go around and do all the solo quest stuff, or run low level dungeons all by myself with my Pandaren rogue at level 90. I still kind of hate PvP. I would rather play games where you have to work together with a group of players, like doing raids. That is one of the things that I enjoy about Destiny, that multiplayer collaborative environment. There is PvP if you want it, but you are not required to participate, unless you want the cool weapons and armor you can get from Crucible marks. I play it and die repeatedly.
Multiplayer, for me, used to consist of 2-4 of us jamming ourselves around an arcade game like Konami’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, dropping in $1.00, and kicking and slashing through the Foot Clan ninjas until we could beat Kang and Shredder. Now, you don’t even have to be in the same country to play with a group of “friends”. In some ways this is more convenient, but it really takes the fun out of gaming. So much has been diminished by the prevalence of online gaming. No need to really meet people when you can just be paired up with them for a random raid or assault on an enemy base.
Gaming has become more dangerous, from a personal perspective. In the past, you knew that the people you were playing with were weird, you all were. But you could also see their weirdness at the mall, in school, or at work. Now, with so much of gaming taking place online, the real threat is the people you are playing with or against. The anonymity of the screen has allowed people to become anything they want to be and, especially, to hide from the consequences of their actions. This is very clear every time there is some tirade on Twitter or the comments section of an article that people do not agree with. Sorry, I mean that “some” people do not agree with. Death threats, cruel statements about people’s families, and racial slurs are just a few of the things that gamers and non-gamers alike tend to throw at each other because, rather than deal with the reactions to their statements like a person, they can hide behind their screen and believe that they are untouchable. Sometimes, this makes it really hard to want to enter that realm.
There are still some bright spots in the gaming world. Many of the communities that have been developed around games, like Disney Infinity or Destiny, among many other games, reinforces the idea that there are many good gamers out there. The vocal minority, as happens in real life, do tend to monopolize the media, as has been seen lately with media coverage of the group known as Gamergate, a group that seems to be trying to enforce ethics in gaming journalism, but this does not truly reflect the totality of the gaming community. There are male and female gamers, parents who play games with their kids, grandparent-gamers, and people of all nationalities, races, and religions, who plug in and play whenever they want. Facebook has brought a lot of people into gaming through the apps. Apple has also created or renewed many gamers through the iPhone, iPad, and other products. Gaming styles may have changed from when I was a kid, but true gamers are still the same at heart; people who love the adventure and want to be the hero.