I am turning 31 this year, and this statement is relevant (or will be). I started gaming at around the age of 4 or 5, and since that first taste of the Atari 2600 and the arcades, it has been one of my primary hobbies. Since then, I have started to cobble a career around writing about games while I spend spare time acquiring the skills to make my own games. Here’s something I’ve noticed over the last year or two specifically; I no longer devote much time to playing games and that saddens me.
(I also tend to say the word games a lot in my introductory paragraphs.)
I mean yes, obviously I no longer have the time to spend on this hobby as I once had in my youth, but it’s gotten almost surreal. Most gamers complain about a backlog, and I must admit, my Steam backlog alone has me spoiled for choice, and that is certainly part of the problem. It was a lot easier to complete a game multiple times and find all the secrets when you didn’t have your own money, and Christmas and birthdays were a long way off. Suddenly with a steady cash flow, and just the notion that gamers cannot help themselves wanting to play everything new that comes out, well it’s easy to see the responsibility of life taking over, and thus our free time devoted to this hobby dwindles as our collections expand.
So what do I play when I have time to play? Well… for me it’s more this time to play concept. I have a lot of time these days (working part-time has that effect), but when it comes to playing, I just can’t muster the energy. Perhaps I need a dedicated gaming space, but I’d rather watch a movie, television, YouTube, or just play some online poker (to make myself feel better, I do classify the time I spend playing poker as gaming). I have discovered one solution, but It’s one that makes me feel even lazier. I have become a fan of watching game walkthroughs on YouTube (also known as the ‘Let’s Play’). It’s a way to easily plough through holes in my gaming knowledge without having to exert the effort of holding a controller, or using a mouse & keyboard.
Hence the title of the article.
I want to throw some of the burden on writing about games for a living, but then I think about all the film critics I know, both professional and amatuer. They watch countless movies a week, and what do they do in their spare time? They watch more movies, because of the love they have watching movies. I play a lot of games each week for my job, and in my spare time I want to continue to do so. I love playing games, really I do. Last year alone there were countless game experiences that gave me joy and made me remember what I love so much about this medium.
But as we return to my turning of 31 later on this year (I told you it would become relevant), I have around twenty five years of game playing experience. I have amassed a great deal of knowledge about game history, game mechanics, and game trivia. Earlier i briefly mentioned how gamers are always looking to play the newest and latest. I think for my tastes, that expands to genre and game experiences as well. In a lot of ways the game industry plays it safe, relying on established franchises and formulas, and that’s not enough for me anymore. Oh sure sometimes just superb game design alone will pull me into something in the triple A realm (and we all have our guilty pleasures), but that game experience that just overwhelms me as a player so I want to do nothing but play the game till completion is something that rarely happens. Excitement occurs a little more frequently, and man it certainly feels good to start playing a title and then having a smile light up on your face as you realise you’re in for something special…
But perhaps (and I’ll end the screed on this final note) I’m less a lazy gamer and more a lazy person. Those that can’t find time for things and have problems with procrastination have time management problems. I’ll be the first to admit my life is a shambles, but I am taking steps to create order in the chaos, and it is my firm belief and desire that this spark of game playing will continue once everything falls into place (as naive a notion as that may be). Articles like this are less an examination of an issue for me, but more a personal journey through writing. Still, I wouldn’t waste your time, or this website’s time with this if i thought this might be a problem that I alone suffer from.
I’d love to hear from others. Do you lament that you don’t have the time to spend on games anymore? Do you have the time but still cannot find the will to play? Do you use Let’s Plays as a substitute? Is it life related? I think these might be important questions, not only for aging gamers but perhaps to ask of an industry that might be losing our interest. The average age of a gamer as of 2012 is 30 (and rising) with 47% of players being women (based off the statistics here), yet it seems that many of the studios are aiming at the 18 – 25 male crowd, and that’s at the very least a disconnect.
Please leave your comments below. I certainly have more to say on the subject, and with your input, these ideas might crystallize and come to a consensus sooner rather than later.
Thanks, and happy gaming all!