Image by LonelyBob:

Being Okay With Being Outmoded

Image by LonelyBob:
Image by LonelyBob:

“Have you played Bioshock Infinite?” my co-worker excitedly asked me the other day.

“No, not yet.” I responded, “It looks great, though I’ve never played a Bioshock game.”

He looked confused. “You’ve…what?! They’re great games, well, maybe not the second one…but you should really give them a shot, especially Infinite.”

Yeah, well…” my gaze turned to the floor, “maybe someday.”

Later that day, at my computer, I sat and stared at a list of upcoming game releases, and I sighed. Some were games that knew I had to play; others I knew I’d pass on. I moved to another site to read a few current games reviews, and I sighed again.

Will I ever play these games, I wonder? Maybe someday…some…day…[SIGH]

Argh! My melancholy turned to sudden anger. Why did this even bother me??

The list of games that I’ve not played is monumental in size compared to my list of played games. And, until recently, I never really cared that much. I’ve always been a fan of video games, even during long periods of not playing, and I never really thought all that much about being current or keeping up with the latest trends in games. I’ve always played what I felt like playing in the moment, whether new or retro.

But once I started writing about video games, I felt like I had to know more about them outside of my own experiences. So I started reading and watching and listening – other blogs, game news sites, podcasts, video reviews, etc. It had been years since I subscribed to a game magazine, and I only really kept up with news through the now-defunct TV show X-Play, so I was thrilled and dismayed at the sheer amount of gaming knowledge that was (and is) being disseminated over the electronic airwaves. Thrilled at feeling like I was “in the loop;” dismayed because it was a gigantic, confusing, and loud loop.

Even now, as I stare at the dozens of game sites in my bookmarks, and small part of my brain slowly implodes. I can feel it, just there at the back corner of my skull. I close the bookmarks panel and I realize:

I’m over being “current.”

Now, this DOES NOT mean I’m over gaming. Hardly. If fact, I can’t think of a better time in recent memory to be a video game player. There are so many options available to players these days. And nothing is off limits. Old games are available through networks and emulators, and new games can be downloaded onto smartphones. The pasts and futures of gaming are colliding in ways like never before — it’s ridiculously exciting!

And it’s ridiculously overwhelming.

A portion of my heart remains with those who live and breathe video games. Yes, I am slightly jealous because there are days that I long to be one of you. But honestly, those days for me are becoming fewer and more distant. I fully cherish the times I can game — I love them no less than those who have gaming in their blood 24/7.  I’m no longer in a position to stand in lines for midnight releases, pre-order a dozen games at a time, or stay up until 3am lost in battle. That’s not my life and it never really was. And I’m okay with that. I’m okay with not being gaming’s sibling, but rather its antiquated and slightly demented aunt living with family and a garden and couple cats. I’m okay with being a little out of touch.

Oh, I’ll game when I can; and I’ll to read the news, the reviews, and the blogs. I’ll keep my eye on what’s new, the latest game controversies, and the next generation. I do it not because I have to but for the sake of free knowledge and for the sake of understanding where game journalists are coming from. I do it to inform my writing and to ably converse with others about games. I do it not to fit in but to stand out. We all relish gaming in our own ways.  I guess my way happens to include some introspection and autobiography; what’s yours?

10 thoughts on “Being Okay With Being Outmoded”

  1. Ah, nicely put.
    I was thinking about this the other day and it seems like this stems from games being marketed and criticized in the same way as films and music.

    A game in most cases should be an enjoyable experience whenever you play it, regardless of that proximity to the release date.
    Critique for movies and music can understandably be written very quickly as these are both mediums that are disposable in their nature.
    Of course you can watch a movie and listen to an mp3 again, but you will be sure of your experience the next time out.

    In the case of gaming, the digital revolution has changed the focus of their sales. Now games are expected to be disposable and so publishers give their developers even smaller deadlines to meet in their quest for quick easy profit. It doesn’t help that the big money is actually being earned in the casual gaming market.

    Obviously I would like to be able to write about games for a living, but look at the awful recent practice of big-name websites reviewing Sim City and giving it wonderful scores because they had about 20 minutes to make a decision on the game’s quality.

    For an industry that is about the creation of worlds to experience to be reduced to a type of fast-food culture is absurd. Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty for not dropping £45/$60 on a game immediately “just because your friends” have.

    This was a little rushed I’m sorry. I hope that made sense…

    For my own experience I looked at my backlog of games on Steam at the beginning of last year and said, “Nope.”
    Since then I haven’t bought a game and have promised myself I won’t until I’ve thoroughly enjoyed those games.

    So there!

    1. I like your take on this, especially in comparison to other forms of entertainment. (Not rushed – made perfect sense!) I really can only imagine how difficult it is to be an actual game journalist who has to review games for a living. Sure, there are more stressful jobs; but that absolute requirement for them to be on the freshly bleeding edge of games makes the job sound, to me, like no fun at all. That’s why I really like the “non-professional” reviews from bloggers – they have more time (usually) to play and are able to give very thoughtful and/or pointed reviews.

      That need to feel “trendy” seems to cycle round every ten years or so. I think as I face yest another decade of existence, that cycle may be starting again! It’s a strange thing. I love my little backlog and I look forward to working my way through it…slowly, and on my own time. I hope you have a blast as you work through yours! (And just think of all the money we’re saving!:) )

  2. You consider yourself the antiquated aunt, but I consider myself the new girl in town who is searching for a place to fit in with all those who are already in tight and close-knit groups.

    I’m not saying I feel alienated by the video gaming community. Not at all. I found that this is a really great community to be a part of, but I do find myself having a hard time relating with people’s retro gaming memories because I scarcely had any. Then, there are those who play the new stuff and hearing them gush about how great it is, while I’m still working on games that are three or five years old now. Maybe even more.

    Regardless, I have the same attitude as you do. I play what I want to play even if it isn’t what everyone is currently playing or talking about anymore. The joy of gaming is you play to have fun. And since we blog about these things, I kind of think we can give these older games maybe a fresh perspective. Those who played it may stumble upon our posts, read it, and think, “Wow, I forgot how amazing this game is. This person is talking about how she enjoyed it and now I want to go back and relive that feeling again.”

    If there is a game that catches our fancy, we’ll play it, but in our own time. ;)

    1. Yes! It’s great that you mention the affect of blogging about our own experiences, because it’s with those memories that we find and make connections with others. And with the help of the Internet (and game networks), we’re meeting people that, 15 or 20 years ago, we never would have met. And those people, those gamers, are all so different – yet we are all able to come together under the umbrella of gaming.

      I hate facing my own insecurities just as much as anyone else; but when I’m sitting down for a really great round of Super Mario 64 or Red Dead Redemption, one thing that never crosses my mind is, “boy, this game is really old. Why am I not playing [insert new release here]?” I’m as secure and as happy as I can be in that moment.

      And what you say about us shedding new light on old games, is so true! Games, just like history in general, can be seen from so many different angles. And each blogger puts a little of his/herself in their blogs about those games, even if it’s just a straightforward review. It’s what makes those game seem immortal. And it’s part of what makes this community so great!

  3. I don’t stay super current, either. I am often not interested in playing the really popular games like everyone else. I looked into “Dishonored” and “Skyrim”, but they were rated M, and I don’t usually play those. I really considered getting “Bioshock”. Also M. And I looked into why it was M, and it was due to gratuitous violence. I’m sure those games are good, but I can’t get into such games. They seem to be games everyone else thinks is great, but I am good with my games.

    I am also fine with being behind everyone else. I play games I want to play. Sometimes I buy new ones (I have to, as games seem to be sold new for a month or two, then you can no longer find it already), and then they sit on my shelf for a year because I’d rather play an old game. Why, I bought “FFXIII-2” when it came out, and I still haven’t played it. I’ve been busy replaying old GameCube games, “FFX”, and now a game that is old but brand new to me, “Phantasy Star IV”. As I see reviews on games I bought but haven’t yet played, I feel like I should play the new games shortly after they come out, but you know, if I’d rather play something else right now, that’s what I’m going to do. If being current means playing new games I’m not quite in the mood for, then I’m not going to. And hey, hopefully it’s fun for people to read my reviews on older games. Older games are just as good as new ones. Maybe more so because we’ve had more time to grow attached to them.

    1. It’s so fun to read reviews about older games, especially those that you’ve played, because of that attachment. I could read a dozen reviews of Super Mario 3, for instance, and still read more. No matter if the blogger loved it or hated it — that game left an indelible mark on my gaming soul, and I love reading about it. You play what makes you happy, and that’s wonderful! You’re devotion to the titles you like shows in your reviews. That’s the way things should be. Life’s about doing the things that make you happy; not about doing the things that other people think would make you happy, right?

      We don’t keep many games round here. I have a small selection of games from various consoles. And of all games, the one I absolutely can’t get rid of is DOOM 3 for the XBox. It terrifies me, but I just have to finish it someday. But right now, though I have a couple newer games hanging out in their respective trays, I haven’t had an hour to play a game in awhile, so I’ve been collecting the occasional star in Super Mario 64. And I’ve been spending more time in the Wii Shop looking for old NES/SNES games. So many good games from that time! I’ve also thinking more and more about getting some Gamecube games. It’s not that hate Wii games, but I really don’t like the Wiimote. I like the Gamecube controller, and I use it for any Wii game that accepts it.

      And I think I veered a bit off topic there. Perhaps I need to go get a star to clear my head.

  4. Hey, I’m only a Fire Emblem blogger, I don’t focus on other games, I only focus on FE…xD

    But in something else I do, I can relate to how you feel. I end up taking it on as a challenge though, to try and do as much as I can. Yet even with that, I lag behind others who are able to just stay current better than me. But I can’t worry about it — I have to go at my own pace, and not let peer pressure affect me.

    1. Good point. There’s really no good reason to get caught up in the all the frenzy surrounding new games. It can be confusing and maddening. As long as we’re giving 100% to what we do enjoy (Fire Emblem or otherwise :) ), it doesn’t matter what the “cool kids” are doing. (Though we’re all “cool kids” in our own ways, and that’s pretty awesome!)

  5. An excellent article! I have had similar experiences at my workplace, where everyone assumes that I must buy EVERY game that comes out and play it immediately. The ironic part is that my opinion on games is often requested by co-workers who don’t even play games themselves!

    Since I have had less and less time to play games these days, I have spent most of my day at work reflecting on why I play and what sort of games I actually enjoy. When I first moved to my new place, I spent so much of my free money and time playing each new console release, devouring titles indiscriminately and not taking much time to meditate on each game played. I was devouring games instead of savoring them. Now that I have been living and playing with Laura, my tastes and game time have changed so much, and often for the better. We discuss each game we are interested in before we purchase; taking the time to decide if we really need the newest game just because everyone in the media is talking about it.

    1. That’s a fantastic way to look at games and gaming! (And it shows on your blog — great work there! :) ) My husband and I have such different tastes in games, yet there are a few points where our paths cross. We’re both very dedicated to the games we love, and we’ll play them with abandon ever if/when we have new games sitting on the shelf. And we’ll get around to those games someday. For us, it’s not longer about keeping up with the Joneses; it’s about purely enjoying the spare moments we do have to play.

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