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November 4th, 2005 by Troy Goodfellow · 5 Comments · Uncategorized

Last night we had dinner with the neighbors. A very nice couple of our parent’s generation. Both very accomplished, very gracious and, most importantly, very interesting.

And they find this whole computer gaming thing puzzling.

They’ve known that I had a little side income coming in from writing about this pastime, but tonight’s discussoin went into a little more detail about what form our household entertainment hours generally took.

And they were shocked.

Not that we played games – they’ve known about my little side business for a while. But they were surprised at the variety of games out there and how they have become my household’s primary form of entertainment.

There was some difficulty in explaining some of these games. Neverwinter Nights, with its combination of packaged software and user created content, is a mystery still I think. My description of historical strategy games and the possibilities they open up for creative game play intrigued them but certainly remains an abstraction for them in many ways.

There was none, however, of the knee-jerk doubting of games as legitimate pursuits for adults. My neighbors are the educated mainstream. And they ended the conversation by wondering if there was this little subculture side in their own children.

The conversation was, in a way, emblematic of the challenge facing gaming as a “mainstream” hobby. For those many thousands of people who were raised in a world without video gaming, the hobby is something they know next to nothing about. If we had said that we were into Korean cooking or coin collecting, there would have been much less to explain.

But the upside is that their questions were evidence of a sincere curiosity about gaming. I don’t expect them to be loading Civ 4 onto their hard drives any time soon, but I do expect to have more of this conversation with them in the future.

I’m a big advocate of adult gamers being “out”. The juvenalia that dominates the media on gaming (and sometimes the games themselves) can only be overcome by, to appropriate a religious term, “witnessing” about the power and possibility of gaming. I like to think that I made a little progress last night.


5 Comments so far ↓

  • Bruce

    There is definitely a general ignorance that makes it difficult for gaming to be accepted as mainstream by people of a certain age. But what I’ve found more interesting is the number of people of “gaming age” (i.e. who grew up with video games) who once played a lot but are now giving it up because they no longer feel it’s age-appropriate. It’s a totally anecdotal sample, but I’ve met a number of people who talk about gaming as something they once did enthusiastically, but now have little or no interest in, and feel that’s the way it should be. I wonder why that is.

  • Dave Long

    I think for those that believe they need to leave gaming behind, the idea of “playing” with anything beyond some mature age is just wrong. These people probably don’t spend too much time playing with their kids either. They’re more likely to be found watching TV, which for some reason is considered a more intellectual pursuit for them.

    We live in a very strange society where engaging your mind in interactive ways is considered nerdy, geeky, not socially acceptable. Lots of folks think it’s much better to be a couch potato and watch the latest movie or TV show and passively accept whatever the world decides is “good” so you can interact socially with knowledge of these things.

    Frankly, I think it’s just a matter of these folks losing touch with themselves and stifling their own originality and creativity because they think they’re old enough to know better and think they have to fall in line with everyone else’s world view.

    I see the same thing with regard to the music I listen to. It’s not cool to enjoy heavy metal at age 33.

  • Bruce

    That’s not the case with the people in my anecdotal sample, since they’re all highly specialized physicians with both an MD and PhD, and hardly self-conscious about engaging their minds. And their leisure time is not being taken up by extra TV watching.

    I’m not sure why these people would spend less time playing with their kids, or how playing games allows you to express your originality or creativity. In fact, given the disposable income of adults, I think games would be a relatively poor way of expressing yourself creatively, given the alternatives.

    I think it’s perfectly reasonable to expect that a person’s taste (in everything) would change over time, so that (for example) music someone found interesting at age 20 would no longer be so at age 40.

  • Dave Long

    Well, that post begs the question, what are these well-educated top of the rung people doing with their free time, then? What are they doing instead of games because they grew out of games or whatever?

  • Bruce

    I don’t know that they “grew out” of games, and I definitely think it’s much more complex than just “I’m not playing games anymore so what do I do from 8-10pm?” People’s lives and responsibilities change, and the things that fit their lives twenty years ago no longer do. I know one guy who bought an airplane and spends time flying it, and another bought a vacation house in Tahoe and spends a lot of time there. Maybe he’s there playing videogames – I doubt it, but who knows. My only point is that the idea that “when the videogames generation grows up and runs the world, everyone will be playing videogames” is not true, because games fit certain lifestyles but not others, and that people move on to other things naturally for life progression reasons.