I am an aberration. Have been for most of my life. It wasn’t always this way.
I was the third child, a female, with two older brothers, and being a bit of a tomboy was probably somewhat predictable. But when the Atari 2600 came into our house, life as I knew it changed. For those who are not 30-somethings like me, it’s important to understand that the world of gaming became a “guy thing” from that point on. But that “guy thing” became “my thing” too, and today, as an avid female gamer, I still get weird looks and comments. No matter. But for all of you 30-something gamers out there, here are nine things we can all relate to.
1. We Don’t Abide Online Walkthroughs and Cheats
Having begun our gaming “careers” with the Atari and graduating to more sophisticated systems, even though they were still offline, we understand the sense of accomplishment of beating an opponent who sat next us. We didn’t have cheat sheets — it was all on us, baby. Too many gamers today just don’t have perseverance. The minute they run into trouble, they’re off to YouTube for the walkthroughs that some more advanced gamer is making money on.
Where’s the challenge in that? Where’s the sense of accomplishment when the next level is reached all on your own? You cheated, so your accomplishment means nothing. We veterans, who grew up doing it all on our own, still do it that way — even if we are lying awake at night with unfinished puzzles in our heads and ruminating about different strategies to get to the next level. Get a clue — gaming is not supposed to be easy.
2. Joystick Envy: It Was a Real Thing
The original “joystick” was a computer keyboard. But as the gaming industry grew, of course, that had to change. We became airline pilots with sticks that could move in four directions and control where people, cars, and other figures moved around on the screen. It was great fun, and we thought gaming had reached a great pinnacle. Now we had a joystick and a couple of buttons — what more could we want?
But as the industry continued to “improve” the joystick design, and there were those who could afford the trendiest models, such as the Quickshot and the Cheetah 125, not to mention the Competition Pro, joystick envy became a real thing. Those who had the latest sticks had the advantage, so new joysticks hit every Christmas and birthday list.
These joysticks were still personal, though. We had “relationships” with them. Then, along came ergonomic controllers from the likes of Microsoft and Sony. Sure, they’re easier to use, but they have taken the personal aspect out of the joystick, and that is a bit sad.
3. Graphic Design: Did We Really Care?
No, we didn’t. On the Commodore 64, there was the Hobbit game. It actually won an award for being the best strategy game in 1983 (I am a bit of a gaming trivia addict). The games we played had flat, two-dimensional designs — no HD backdrops and cinema. We finished a level before our very eyes and moved onto the next, before our very eyes. We were given prompts such as “Get Key” or “Shoot Dragon.” Our gaming was based upon logic and strategy, not romps around HD, 3D screens with hints to be found by pressing an “X.” We had no video graphics — just our brains and a logical puzzle to solve that would get us out of a tunnel.
4. We are Still Huge Fans of Old Video Games
Yes, we have adapted. We play with strangers with “handles” from places of unknown origin. We use the latest ergonomic joysticks, and we compete to win. We were gaming while some of our competitors were still in diapers. No matter.
But every now and then, the nostalgia hits. We pull that old Atari or Commodore out (I still have both) or we go to an arcade that still has a Ms. Pac-Man machine.
We remember “Frogger,” where the only violence was being eaten by an alligator or squashed by traffic, as we tried to get him across the road. There was skill and strategy involved, and an emotional connection that we don’t often feel as we chop off heads or tear out hearts and spinal cords of our enemies today. That frog had our hearts and we were sad when he died.
5. We are Old Enough to Afford the Latest and Coolest Gadgets
As we have evolved, so have gaming consoles and gadgets. We are in our 30s, gainfully employed, and no longer have to ask mom and dad or Santa for the latest. So, while younger gamers are trying to figure out what they can sell, pawn, or trade for the next new gadget, we already have it. Personally, I have a closet shelf of joysticks, and my latest purchase? An Oculus Rift Developer Kit — we’ll see where that takes me!
6. We Join the Teens for Midnight Launches
There was no such thing as a midnight launch when we began to game. We went to the store and bought the newest joystick, game, or system. Now, we find ourselves bundled up in coats and hoods, wrapped in blankets, drinking our hot coffee that a friend has dropped off, and all for what? To be there when the door opens, line up, and get that game that has been hyped for months. We triumphantly exit the store with our coveted “prize,” get home, pop it into our gaming system, play for a few minutes, and pass out exhausted. Our younger counterparts, who don’t have to get up for work in the morning, are playing all night.
7. We Get Warned About Addiction
I have a friend who is in AA — she has been sober for three years, and, to be quite frank about it, she has become my conscience. I don’t like it. As she explains to me often, some people have a propensity for addiction — scientists have isolated a gene. She thinks I have it. Her evidence?
- I can game for hours and lose track of time
- I have more than once gone into work bleary-eyed because some new game has consumed me all night long
- I have cancelled other social activities when a new game has me enthralled.
Addiction is real. I have read the science, and I understand that addictions to alcohol, drugs, gambling, food, social media, and, yes, even gaming, can wreak havoc in people’s lives. In response, I have now set scheduled times for gaming, although I do “slip” a bit.
8. We Do Some Really Crazy Things to Try Our Own Repairs
Years ago, when our games didn’t work, the “fix” was just to blow in them — yes, we literally blew air from our mouths. And often it worked. Now, when something goes awry, we get online and try every crazy remedy that someone recommends. I have put towels on my Xbox 360, still blow into Game Boy cartridges, and send the system in for repair only as a last resort — my separation anxiety is real.
9. Real Violence: We had to Switch on a Code
We remember the cheat code ABACABB. If we had SEGA, that moved us to the uncensored, more violent killing in Mortal Kombat. It’s no longer necessary, of course, but we still remember the code and whisper it to each other when our boss has been getting us really mad.