Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Pros & Cons of Grown Up Gaming

Hello, my name’s Niki, I’m 33, and I’m a gamer.

I know what you’re thinking, that I’m some fat, Comic Book Guy-esque loser who lives in his parent’s basement and, well, is basically this guy –

Well I shall have you know you couldn’t be further from the truth. For one my parents live in a bungalow so don’t even have a basement! Ha!

But seriously folks, being an adult (I hesitate to say ‘grown up’) who likes playing games does still carry a stigma from certain quarters but the fact is that if you were a child of the 80’s you were among the first generation of people who grew up around video games and therefore the first generation of adults who might still actually enjoy them. I have always loved video games, I still remember the rush of unadulterated joy the first time I booted up my shiny new Commodore Amiga and saw the intro to Shadow of the Beast 2, or the time I found a hidden Kung Fu Fighter machine on a ferry that no one had noticed and played it all the way to France, right up to the time I got made unemployed and had nothing but time and a copy of Elder Scrolls: Oblivion to keep me company. I don’t look like Comic Book Guy, I have friends, and a job and a life, I even kissed a girl once! I just like video games. Because unlike riding a bike, or climbing a tree, or chasing girls with spiders, video games have continued getting better and better. You’ll never hear a gamer saying “Well in my day games were better (and this was predominately fields)” because who would rather still be playing Chuckie Egg when they could play Skyrim? A fool, that’s who!

Skyrim Schmyrim!

And so that brings me to the point of this article. A very good friend of mine has two boys who are both under 10. They both love video games, especially the elder of the two but their Dad, he hates them. In fact they stress him out so much that he can’t even watch them. He doesn’t understand why anyone would willingly put themselves in a situation (fictional or otherwise) where people are shooting at you. So quite often they turn to me or more specifically to my Playstation 3 and it has highlighted some really great things about being an adult video game fan. However, as life isn’t that fair, it has also highlighted some bad things that make me feel worse about myself. Fuck you life!

Let’s start with the pros!

You learn what’s age appropriate

Firstly, being a gamer gives me a better awareness of what’s appropriate for kids to play. When I was a kid the most adult gaming material you were likely to get you hands on were some poorly pixellated boobs in a crappy strip poker game you got from that weird kid at school who always seemed to get stuff like that.

He also usually had Manga on VHS

While I’ve always been vehemently against the knee jerk Daily Mail “Ban this sick filth” mentality, there are, in these days of Grand Theft Auto and Dead Space, games that are not suitable for kids. Call me a prude but I think kids should be at least into their teens before they beat their first hooker to death with a golf club. But having knowledge of the content of these games means I can make a judgement call as an adult. The God Of War games are incredibly violent but personally I think pulling the eye out of a Cyclops is less damaging to a child than shooting a policeman in the face. It’s all about context. My mate’s eldest adores Assassin’s Creed 2, a game which is rated 15 and therefore in the eyes of some not suitable for him. I have played the game from start to finish and personally think it is fine and in fact I think a game set in a beautifully rendered renaissance Italy is quite stimulating for a child (he has in fact taken somewhat of an interest in Leonardo Da Vinci as a result of playing it). Some however may think that stabbing royal guards in the necks with hidden blades is not. The fact is I can make a reasoned and educated choice about it, so much so that my friend is generally happy to take my advisement on which games his boys can play.

You can play with them

How good is that? I’m sure a lot of parents will agree that a lot of the things they do with their kids are more for the child’s benefit than their own. No parent sat down to watch The Princess Diaries 2 (“Diary Harder”) for the 20th time out of choice, while conversely my friend’s kids think it’s weird when we laugh harder at Regular Show than they do (that show is wasted on the young). But with video games you can all have fun together, sure you can’t be as competitive as some gamer Dad’s would like to be, and you can’t make them play the Monaco track on Grand Turismo (if there is one, I hate racing games) and expect much positive feedback but get yourselves a Wii and a copy of Mario Kart and the whole family could wile away a rainy Sunday afternoon quite happily.

Just steer clear of Rainbow Road

It makes gift buying so much easier

Thirdly, it opens up a whole new world of present buying. My friend’s eldest turns 10 next month, I’ve already bought his present, an action figurine of Ezio Auditore, the lead character from Assassin’s Creed 2 in the white assassin robes that he loves. Easy! I’m going to be the coolest weird friend of their Dad they know.

However, as with most things there is always a downside…

They want to join in whenever they notice you’re playing

Some games are meant to be social. If I’m getting stuck in to Super Smash Brothers and someone comes along and wants to join in then sure, the more the merrier. However, if I’m just entering my fourth consecutive hour of Fallout: New Vegas I’m going to be less inclined to hand over the controller. You see, that’s kind of like handing your book to someone else so they can read the next few pages for you. I bought the game to play it, and I want to do it all myself. If I’ve completed it then by all means have a go but, as sad as this sounds, if someone else does part of the game it takes away some of the sense of achievement.  I made it this far, I want to see it through to the end. Which leads us to…

Kids don’t understand the value of saved games

When I was a kid most games could be played from beginning to end in under an hour, there were no saved games, you either completed it or you went back to the start and tried again. It is a shocking indictment of the life I have frittered away that my saved game for Elder Scrolls: Oblivion currently clocks in at over 100 hours (I remind you I was unemployed). Yes I know the issue should be why I spent as much time playing one game as I could have taken to learn a foreign language but I’m sorry, this is not the site for that sort of grown up discussion. My point here is that after 100 hours of adventuring, progressing, completing quests, and levelling up my character, I don’t want someone coming along and going on a blood rampage amongst innocent villagers and ruining all my work. But you try to explain that to a child without coming across like a total tool.

“I traded your flaming devastator mace for this! You’re welcome”

Consoles these days are hard drives too

You only have to go back a handful of years and games consoles were just that. You turned them on and inserted the game you wanted to play. These days consoles come with their own hard drives that can store anything from games to films to music. Just because the disc in the machine is Animal Crossing’s Lovely Fuzzy Adventure in Innocuous Land did you remember to delete the copy of Zombie Hooker Blood Chainsaw Nightmare from the hard drive before you let them play it? Kids are curious little buggers and if there’s something they’re not supposed to find odds on they’ll find it.

So there you go. If you have kids and you play video games then embrace it, your kids will love you for it. Just be prepared to feel very petty and small once in a while.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have zombies to eviscerate.