Why Adults Play Videogames

It’s not very common to come across people who don’t understand why adults play videogames but just in case there are I compiled a list of reasons why adults do and why it’s a good thing.

NOSTALGIA

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons adults game at all is that they grew up playing videogames. I’m certainly still very nostalgic about Sonic the Hedgehog, even if he has changed a lot since the days I used to play those games. I know quite a lot of people who are nostalgic about Super Mario and you can’t say a negative word about those games to them. Gamers are very protective over their favourite IPs, so when someone like Anita Sarkeesian comes around and says their favourite childhood game is sexist they’re not just going to take it. Nostalgia is longing for the days of old and when you can relive that experience it’s like trying to savor a really amazing meal. You don’t want it to end. You’re very passionate about that topic, and any criticism to it is taken as a personal insult.

Games Are More Mature

Gamers have grown up playing video games, even today’s videogame developers played games in childhood and still do, and for the last 10-15 years games have been directed at a mature audience, as in content and storytelling that can rival some of the best Hollywood screenplays. Gaming is not just for kids and teens anymore but is for everyone because the themes in these games are so varied that’s there is something for everyone. Developers even include social commentary and adding LGBTI characters. The characters have layers; they’re like real people and have their own personality, needs and flaws.

FOR COMMUNITY

Like all hobbies we have there is a community for gamers. It can just be a place to find like minds and talk about your favourite games, but when each individual game franchise builds its own community it’s where the bond gets strong. The Destiny community is my family. Like your average family we sometimes fight and I go lengths of time avoiding them, but we also have our good times and help each other out. The Destiny community I’m a part of on Facebook is very supportive, open to differences and the more experienced players are willing to give out a helping hand to those who are still behind.
Sure, there is toxicity in many videogame communities but that’s why I stay with Destiny; you only get to talk to other people in your Fireteam. There still a lot of abuse being sent through messages, but that happens any time you get online. It’s not a good thing but it exists and no one is quite sure about how to stamp it out.
Game developers and the media are also quite open and available to players. They listen to their concerns and do modify their games to suit the needs of the majority of players, so in a way adult gamers can shape the outcome of the very videogames they play. I’ve seen this happen in Destiny and developers have had attempts at changing Call of Duty and have even taken a break from releasing Assassin’s Creed annually.
Gamers have little tolerance of something called Pay to Win, which is where a game will have the option of small purchases (microtransactions) to buy gear or packages that would help someone level up quickly or be more powerful. In PVP (multiplayer) they would be an unstoppable force to players who level up through skill. Developers like to stress that their microtransactions are cosmetic, meaning it won’t put a player at an advantage over other players in PVP.
Children couldn’t influence the development of games in this way because they wouldn’t even think to question it. Adult gamers understand a lot more about how games are developed, what they are capable of, what’s fair and what’s not and they demand a certain level of quality. Perhaps, a bit too much – it’s why I like to experience a game like a child. It’s about the overall experience and having fun rather than nitpicking every little thing. But I’m still an adult so can feel something much deeper from playing a videogame than a child.

TO DE-STRESS

Let’s face it, life is stressful. You’re denying a very important truth to ignore that fact. There really isn’t anything like having a shit day and going home and busting an alien’s head open with a shotgun at close range. You can say that’s encouraging violent behaviour but it’s better that someone does it in a videogame world than in the real world. I’ve played videogames to help me get through periods of depression and anxiety. When the former was so serious I couldn’t do much more than dwell on my troubling thoughts in bed, it was dragging myself to the front of a TV screen and putting on my favourite game that made those thoughts completely disappear. When I’ve had breakdowns I’ve had videogames to get me through it.
As someone with autism, playing Destiny helped me build more social skills and work better with a team and that’s probably the biggest breakthrough I’ve had when it comes to gaining social skills. Videogames have been more therapeutic to me than any psychologist. Also, when I first started to see my nephews a lot I didn’t know what to say to them until I started playing the games they played. I would always be willing to listen to them when they talked about a videogame like Mario, Minecraft or Skylanders but when I started to play those games it really helped me bond with my eldest nephew, Owen.

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Gamers: future and present.

BUILDING CAREERS

I hope that one day Owen can make something productive out of his love of gaming. He loves math so I think he’s most likely to become a programmer. But for those who don’t think that’s a suitable career path there are many others areas to pursue than programming. You can be a concept artist or storywriter, a game tester, or audio engineer. Then you have to whole social networking side of it; journalism and even live streaming. If you’re really good at games you get into E-Sports and win some competitions and lots of money. There’s far more to gaming than just having fun these days. Children who grow up playing games can one day work in the very industry that makes the games they loved so much, or they can give back by contributing to the gaming press.

IT’S OK TO BE A KID

There’s nothing wrong with being child-like. An adult who doesn’t have an inner child is going to take life too seriously and not know how to relax. Childhood was a time of innocence and freedom. Everyday you got up with maximum energy and just wanted to play and pursue your hobbies. It was ok to be massively obsessed with something. As an adult that’s kind of frowned down on; they either call you a geek or a nerd.
In my childhood I was into film and I watched a lot of children’s films which today as a writer is why I like writing stories about children. Not so much about innocence – my young protagonists is always aware of what is going on – but more about freedom. As adults we have a lot of responsibilities and sometimes it’s just good for us to unwind and act childish.  Playing games with our friends is just another way to unwind and have fun. For many of us we don’t even think about it, it’s just what we do.

We Know Kids Aren’t Slaves to the Screen

My nephew Owen is a future hardcore gamer. I both long and worry for the day he joins the adult game community. We can either be cold hearted bastards or the most supportive and fun people to be around. So, when one of his uncles treats his love of gaming like an addiction so much he discourages it in his own children, I was hurt. He’s a gamer and you can’t take that away from him. He watches a junior version of Good Game, which is where I get the bulk of my gaming news in Australia. I treat the hosts like old friends and I usually trust their judgement to help me decide what games to buy.
Owen’s mum has put limits on his gaming and I support that. It’s her choice. He can only play on weekends and holidays and isn’t allowed to play first person shooters yet, and definitely no mature games. There will be a day where he joins us and I can’t wait. As an auntie, I’m going to have to protect him from all the bad stuff in the community and discourage him from turning into one of the most toxic people in our community.

Kids play on consoles or iPads or phones because it’s fun. It’s no different than me, my brother and sisters hooking up a SEGA and spending hours in front of it when we were little. It’s up to parents to decide how much time they should get. Kids like Owen have so much energy that once they put a game down they run around like a headless chicken. Not all children who play on screen will become gamers, but many will. Taking that away from them is taking away a piece of themselves.

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Introducing Cooper and Owen to Sonic CD.

It’s a Different Kind of Imagination

Some people with autism (like me) struggled to have an average childhood imagination. I know I was a very literal imaginator. Playing doctor or house to me, was, well it was just stupid. I’ve always been highly visual and would need props to play if I would play at all. Sometimes I’d offer myself as a prop to other children. But imaginative play without the use of props or toys just looked pretty weird to me. So, when I hear people talk about ‘what happened to imagination?’ I’m led back to those days long before the first mobile phone was ever released, when I barely had an imagination.
In a typical developing child there will always be imagination even when they have a lot of screen time and the graphics in video games become lifelike. It just produces a different kind of imagination. It creates story tellers and creative artists from children wanting to create their own mythological beings or aliens after playing or fighting one in a game. It turns pretending you’re in a Western with friends into Halo Wars or acting out scenes with Skylander figures. In fact, Activision like to share photos of children using Skylanders in every day life, from using them as chess pieces to create stories with them through imaginative play.
Since the introduction of social media people have gone more toward visual communication over verbal and you can’t escape pop culture references in everyday conversations. A child’s imagination is going to follow this path. Gone are the days of pretending couch cushions covered in a blanket is a terrible swamp creature, instead, children can design the terrible swamp creature and parents can send the drawing to someone online who can turn that into a plush toy. Technology has advanced so much that the way we imagine things is likely to change too. We’re no longer painting on caves anymore, we’re creating breathtaking art using a pen with no ink and an iPad. Of course, if you wanted to paint on a cave you could still do that. If you wanted your children to imagine something from scratch you can encourage that too. The majority of children just won’t though, and that’s perfectly fine.

In summary, next time you hear about adult gamers know that they are part of a wider community, many of whom might not have any community if they didn’t play videogames, and that it’s not just a simple hobby, but a way of life. And like it or not children are going to come into this world and parents should not discourage this. It’s a loving place of enthusiastic people who want to have fun gaming and talk to people just like them. Gaming has changed a lot in the last 20-30 years. It’s no longer just a for kids, or for adults. It’s for everyone.

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I think BT agrees with me.

So, Did I Survive Christmas?

I survived Christmas by geekifying it.

I survived Christmas by geekifying it.

Sort of. I had no real blood sugar problems because there was just so much food to eat all day, and when on my fourth beer I thought I probably should stop there. No one wants to get blind drunk at family Christmas lunch. At least, not again. I made sure to turn down all offers of champagne too.

The plan to hang out with the kids backfired though because my nine year old nephew felt that was a bit weird and so told me they were having a private kids meeting. I just waved my hand at him. Sure, go run off, whatever. I’ll just stay in my seat, alone, beer in hand. Enjoy playing with those new Disney Infinity 2.0 figures I gave you.

Then I just went to talk with his mother, my sister-in-law and actually did agree with many things she said and found we had much in common – our opinions at least. Then much later because he was always hanging around his mum, got to play a bit with my three year old nephew. He’s the type of kid who likes to have a lot of interaction with people. Every adults arms were covered in star stamps because he kept offering to stamp us. There were a few stamped feet as well. He did ask me to take my shoes off but I told him my toes were sick. In reality I have been trying to let the toe nails grow back naturally for years. Growing horizontal is the natural way, not the diagonal talon-like structure I’ve been getting. Anyway, enough about that.

It was nice to see my nieces again and have a bit of a chat with them. For some reason on the weeks leading up to Christmas I got very anti-Santa because I’m an adult and thought adults talking about Santa as if he was real and when not around children was a bit…lame. But then I saw the signs my nieces painted for Santa. ‘Santa – tree this way’ and ‘Santa – cookies and milk.’ That last one choked me up. It really makes Christmas seem more magical and special for children.

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Then my youngest niece Amy, bless her, said this about the Santa Claus in the shopping centre: ‘he must be the real one because Olivia (eldest niece) asked him for a pool toy and that’s what she got, and she didn’t write him a letter neither so he must have been the real one.’

There was a point in the day where unknown people to me came around (unannounced change) and one person kept asking me if I was ok because I didn’t say much to him. Later when all the kids were in bed and I relaxed by playing my brother’s guitar he kept asking me the same thing, said something along the lines of being comfortable on my own and then finally when I did speak he said it was hard to understand what I said.

This is what I wanted to avoid. I was having a comfortable Christmas day being my laid back introverted self who shrugged when she realised she wasn’t saying much but two things really struck me. 1) That my nine year old nephew is already making a social hierarchy where it’s unnatural to have an adult hang around with children. And no. 2) being confronted by my lack of talking. Usually I wear an ‘I have autism’ wristband that I can just flash at people so they get why I’m saying so little.

But it didn’t ruin my day. I almost missed out altogether on Christmas lunch when my sister suddenly decided to not go because my brother-in-law wasn’t invited. But I got a lift and got to take many many presents to my brother’s house and put them under the tree and had a lovely day, despite a few obstacles.

I was probably the most anxious to open my presents. My nephew Cooper starting showing signs of impatience around 5pm and was circling around the tree. Then both Owen and Cooper started to scoop up presents with their name on them, and just said ‘we’re not opening them, we’re just holding them.’ And then they just started walking around with them under an arm. Cooper then began to neatly stack each present on top of the other. Quite efficient organisation skills for a 5 year old, I must say.

I got a few presents myself. You would think the most expensive present would be my favourite (Xbox One chat headset) but really it was the 365 Drawings A Day Calendar that my sister-in-law, nephew’s mum got for me. Lately, I have been struggling so much to get back into art and had a completely blank mind when I tried to start drawing something that this gift was a godsend. My gifts were a mixture of Christmas and birthday gifts because my birthday is two days after Christmas, and this year my family surprised me with a birthday cake.

The birthday kids. Me and Darcy who turns 4 Dec 29.

The birthday kids. Me and Darcy who turns 4 Dec 29.

So, Christmas day was great but there’s always room for improvement. I think I might spend more time away from the older kids, let them become more independent, until they need to be watched at a park or something. I like spending this time with Darcy so early in his life so we will really know each other by the time he is as old as his brothers. And I’ll keep ignoring people who point out my social inconsistencies because I am different and like being different and that should be encouraged not corrected.

So, how was your Christmas Lyra?

"Better for the fact that you weren't there."

“Better for the fact that you weren’t there.”

Harsh kitty.