Too Old For This?

This is hardly a new topic of conversation I would imagine. I’d be willing to bet most of the game blogging community has had something to say on the matter at one point in time or another.1 The subject? Feeling like — or perhaps even being told that — you’re too old to game. Or perhaps being told the same thing for any other hobby.

Why would I ever give up on the likes of this…?

My inspiration for bringing this topic to the fore again being Kim’s recent post on the matter.

A visitor to Kim and Pete’s stream wanted to know how old they were. And whether intended or not, it certainly brought up a number of negative connotations.

And I get it. I’m not the oldest in our community by a longshot, but I am a 30-something (closer to the 40-something end of things now) gamer who has grown up with a certain stigma associated with the hobby of gaming.

Even as a kid there were groups it was OK to talk about the hobby of gaming with, and groups where it was most certainly not. It wasn’t sporty or outdoorsy enough or it was nerdy, or whatever else the perceived issues might be.

But I don’t actually think the root of my concern with the perception of gaming as an adult started there. No, actually, let me rephrase. I’m sure that all played a part, but it isn’t what first springs to mind when I task my mind with contemplating the matter. Instead that sends me down a path of remembrance to the time in my life when I… perhaps played a little too much.

…Or this?

Whether at that point in my life I was truly ‘addicted’ or not, there is no denying that things were out of balance. In my previous post on gaming addiction, I spoke to the impacts on my academic pursuits. But alongside all that, I was also working. Part time. Nothing too strenuous. But even there things were taking a toll. My work ethic was next to nonexistent. I would rather browse the WoW forums and post comments than do what I was hired to do.

Fortunately for my life all around — I eventually made the choice to clean my act up and start prioritising my life a little better.

But at some level, I’ve always associated the identity of being a gamer with that point in my life. Even though I know differently, because I now live it — the stigma and judgement over the gamer identity is something I hold very close to my chest. But… it isn’t a set of values I apply to others. It’s something of a great revelation when I hear another workmate speak of their interest in gaming. But for myself…?

Or this?? (Dangit Lost Ark, hurry up with your Western release!)

I’ve just never felt comfortable talking about it in the professional environment. Perhaps an acknowledgement of the shared interest with another known gamer. But never would I reveal this whole ‘other’ part of me — this guy who has an internet blog and prefers the collection of hobbies surrounding gaming more than any other hobby.

I’ve talked about this complete separation of self before, and funnily enough the whole conversation of creating an environment where one can feel safe to bring their ‘whole self’ to work is going on again.

But here’s a realisation that has come to me while writing this post… No matter the distance in years between who I was then and who I am now — there is still a fair degree of guilt associated with the time. That and a fear that if I acknowledge my hobby with others outside of the sphere, that the things once true of me… The attributes that defined the time in my life where I allowed gaming to rule over all else… Those will be the things they see or think now.

So while I may not apply this judgement to anyone else — the stigma is perhaps very much one of my own creation.

Footnotes

  1. Please, feel free to link such posts in the comments — I’d be keen to give them a read!

Naithin

Gamer, reader, writer, husband and father of two boys. Former WoW and Gaming blogger, making a return to the fold to share my love of all things looty.

26 Responses

  1. Quin says:

    I think the stigma has to do with our age group (30s). Just because gaming has become mainstream for certain age groups (mostly sub-30), I think it still carries the same stigmas as 15-20 years ago in the 30+ age group. I wouldn’t go on about how much I game at times in a professional environment either, or that I might write a blog about it. There are circles that I would, much like you, but generally speaking I wouldn’t.

    In terms of feeling ‘too old’ for things, for me that is watching game streams. I just can’t get my head around enjoying watching people play video games, or eSports, and given the insane popularity of such things amongst people my age or younger I can only feel that I just a fuddy-duddy. I also have just accepted that I’m too slow for fast reaction time games – mostly FPS, things like Fortnite or PUBG. Though to be fair that was always true to some extent.

    • Naithin says:

      “I think it still carries the same stigmas as 15-20 years ago in the 30+ age group.” — Yes, that is part of my thought too. Although I now wonder just how ‘true’ that is, and how much is assumed?

      Because the other part of the story you hear time to time is how all the kids who grew up gaming are now adults who have an appreciation for the hobby.

      But I guess for our age group, that was still the minority and not yet a mainstream thing. So it might be the generations after us that really reap the rewards here.

      “In terms of feeling ‘too old’ for things, for me that is watching game streams. I just can’t get my head around enjoying watching people play video games.” — On this one, I can somewhat get onboard. There are some streamers I quite enjoy (e.g., CohhCarnage) but I… and I will admit this is likely a bias as much as anything else… Really struggle to engage with the significantly younger streamers or content creators.

      Similar thing with e-sports, how young they all are is really discordant for me. But even so- I can sometimes get right into it, seeing plays at that level of skill when it’s a game you already enjoy can be quite the thing.

      It’s been a while for me now, but watching the World series for League of Legends back in the day used to be quite the thrill. Some of the plays seen have stuck with me even now. :)

      • Quin says:

        I also have to just wonder whether the games commonly streamed just aren’t games I like – and that I’m not ‘too old’ but I’m just not that into them.

        I can watch tutorials on EU4 or MMO boss fight videos, but I don’t enjoy playing DOTA-style games or Battle Royales at all, and so I don’t watch streams or videos of them. And realistically those games have the biggest streaming numbers, so to me it might just seem I’m not intro streaming full stop.

        I think the point for me is I tend to watch someone play a game to improve my own playing of that game.

        • Naithin says:

          Yeah, I hear that. Watching YT videos to learn (even outside of Gaming) is something I do pretty frequently too. Way more frequently than simply watching a stream.

          In fact, even with Cohh, who I do like, I tend to watch to find out whether a game he’s playing is something I might also wish to buy and play rather than to simply watch it being played for its own sake.

          • Quin says:

            I think the crux of the matter is that I don’t see watching games as entertainment. I see playing games as entertainment. If I want to watch something it’ll be a movie or TV show. But then again i don’t watch a lot of YT in general.

            Ironically, I am happy to watch soccer matches regularly.

  2. Marathal says:

    I turned 57 last year, and for quite some time I’ve felt that I’m getting to old. 60 is knocking on the door, dealing with more real life issues, family Illnesses and losing both of my in-laws inside 5 days of each other. But that was preceded by years of helping them. Maintaining a home, work, and finding a little time to game. Gaming has moved to the lowest priority, because more important things start taking its place.
    When we are young, we burn the candle at both ends. As we grow older, we put it out earlier so that it will last a few years longer.

    • Naithin says:

      At this point, I see (well, hope I see!) myself gaming well past retirement age.

      But you’re 100% right that other things begin to take priority. So far that has been a positive experience, but I could easily see there becoming a bit of a tipping point somewhere along the way.

      I hope you and your family are recovering as well as possible from your losses though, all the best to all of you.

      • Marathal says:

        Thank you. It hasn’t been easy, both passed suddenly. Certainly we knew their health issues, but we were all caught off guard. Now our weekends are spent sorting through 65+ years of things they acquired, trying to let go of just stuff, and deciding if some thing is a memory worth holding on too.

        • Bhagpuss says:

          Well, I can give you four years, Marathal, and I’d say if you want to play games, play games. I’m looking forward to having even more time for the hobby when I retire. I’ll stop when I lose interest or when I’m physically incapable and not before. In fact, gaming would seem to be a perfectly sensible pastime for older people – it’s indoors, you can do it sitting down and it keeps you in touch with other people. It should be encouraged among older people – it’s younger people who arguably have better options available.

  3. I know a lot of my friends who binge Netflix/Crave shows will talk about it like it’s an accomplishment – watching 4 or 6 hours of TV in a day or whatever. I don’t think its a problem (you do you!) but I know if I admitted to gaming for 6 hours, or talked about pouring 100+ hours into a game, it wouldn’t be viewed the same way. I don’t think one is more valid than the other, just the perception of it. Maybe it’s the age group, or maybe just the general view of gaming in our culture, but I hope this changes honestly. I think gaming is a great hobby, regardless of age, as long as its kept in balance, like everything else :)

    • Naithin says:

      I think it will change over time, possibly even already has for the upcoming generation. Probably has, even.

      But you’re right, excessive TV is sort of ‘OK’ with the 30+’s, but with gaming it’s perhaps on the cusp but not really there. Mentioning you play that much will at the very least get you an askance glance and you can sometimes SEE their mental model of you adapting to somehow fit this new information in. lol

      It’ll come, but in the meantime — I think I’ll continue to hold the worlds separate from one another. ;)

  4. nIMGIMLI says:

    According to wikipedia, the average age of a “gamer” in the US is 35 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_games_in_the_United_States ). I think it’s the label that maybe makes things weird. Plenty of people play games from time to time but don’t label themselves “gamers.”

    I’ll be 60 in a few months. I know for a fact that at least 4 people I work with have a console and games come up from time to time, but they don’t self-identify as GAMER. Playing a game now and then is just one facet of their lives.

    Remember when World of Warcraft was really hot and for a brief period of time doing a dungeon subbed in for playing a round of golf, as seemingly everyone was playing? ( https://www.cnet.com/news/power-lunching-with-wizards-and-warriors/ )

    More recently it’s been fun seeing Netflix’s Witcher series star, Henry Cavill, go on talk shows and talk about how he loves gaming. Of course he is generally met with confusion or blank stares.

    On binge-watching a Netflix show, that’s relatively new, too. I remember when admitting you watched a lot of TV had the same kind of stigma that admitting you play a lot of games does. Heck sometimes it still feels that way. I watch a lot of TV and sometimes I feel embarrassed by the fact that I can talk about so many shows.

    I can’t imagine a time when I’ll stop gaming, though eventually I’ll probably have to change the kinds of games I play. Actually I guess I already have. Really fast paced, difficult games, frustrate me now as my reflexes get slower with age. At the end of my days, I’ll probably be back to enjoying turn-based RPGs. Worse things could happen!

    • Naithin says:

      Agree with you on the Gamer tag. It is really interesting the views on what does and doesn’t apply here. For work, last year we did a market research piece, including a number of customer interviews where gaming was the main subject of interest.

      We saw gamers in all sorts of ages and life situations, but very few identified that way or even necessarily recognised what was meant by the title. There were some people putting *serious* hours into more ‘casual’ mobile-fare games, like Candy Crush etc. Their hours could put some ‘hardcore’ gamers to shame. And yet it wasn’t at all a title they associated with.

      The aim of our study was to see how we might make a more inclusive, safe for all environment for gaming in NZ — but there were some on the team who really wanted to protect the gamer tag for the ‘serious gamers’ and refused to even consider a broader picture. Those people ‘weren’t real gamers’ and the fact the customers didn’t use the tag was seen as justification for perpetuating the view.

      It all got a bit messy really, but super interesting nonetheless. ;)

      • Bhagpuss says:

        “I remember when admitting you watched a lot of TV had the same kind of stigma that admitting you play a lot of games does”

        I’m old enough to remember when that stigma applied to reading books. Seriously, it was as recently as the 1960s and 70s that you would routinely be told to “get your head out of that book” and when “bookworm” was an insult not a term parents used about thier children with pride. You can see it in countless popular tv shows from the period, when (particularly) fathers would clash with (particularly) sons over the supposedly non-masculine habit of enjoying a good read.

        These days most middle-class parents are just happy to see their kids reading anything – reading is seen as an unalloyed good by the middle-classes but that has really only happened as parental fears of other media replaced concerns that an active interest in reading was, at best bad, for a child’s social development and at worst a sign of self-indulgent, asocial idleness or a marker of latent homosexuality, which was, of course, often portrayed at the time as something to be feared by any responsible parent.

        • Naithin says:

          I was rather fortunate to have parents that encouraged a love for reading, and I devoured books as a kid as as a result, and still do now. Given a moment in which a mobile device could be used, I’d 100x prefer to be reading my kindle than having my nose in my phone.

          But I still know what you’re talking about, it wasn’t an issue so far removed from my childhood that there weren’t echoes of it still all around in the media we consumed or in the attitudes of teachers who very clearly thought it strange to have a preference for reading over physical activity.

          Even now, although it’s one less commonly top of mind than gaming — I dread the question, ‘What are you reading?’ Because invariably for me it will be a work of fiction, generally either fantasy or sci-fi. Another set of genres that it feels like are expected people will ‘grow out of’.

          I can’t remember where I saw you comment it now, might’ve been on your own blog — but I saw you note how unlikely it ever was that the business books of today are to actually help with any form of self-improvement.

          Even so, it appears that reading such is very much ‘the thing’ and having a stack of them on your desk is almost a kind of virtue-signalling. To such an extent that even if nothing explicitly is ever said, the pressure to ‘join in’ and find one to read is immense!

  5. Kaylriene says:

    I used to think that maybe gaming was something I would grow out of – and I had a history of using gaming as a shelter and solace at times when the real life around me wasn’t doing so great, retreating in many ways rather than dealing with things. However, over time, I’ve realized the following:

    -most people I know who would think of it as a thing you “grow out of” don’t have fulfilling hobbies or even understand the benefit that can be derived from gaming in the first place
    -most adults I know who don’t game have similarly-perceived “unproductive” vices with entertainment (TV binge-watching, sports fanaticism, etc)

    I don’t think anything you enjoy doing is worth “growing out of” – in many ways, I see gaming as helping me grow *into* who I am today, stimulating intellectual curiosity and pushing my problem-solving skills to the point where they are, largely, my career (not in a gaming context sadly!). I think society has gotten better about accepting gaming overall, but I think to a previous commenter’s point, people in our generation (myself turning 35 this year) have an accrued guilt from being told we’d grow out of it in our youth. As I’ve gotten older, it actually has had a better balanced spot – I’ve started other hobbies, read, kept up with news and world events, traveled, and all of it without having any serious or measurable impact.

    That’s without even getting into how games have become more narratively interesting and can portray a ton of interesting scenarios within a controllable fiction. A lot of games have strong, mature themes – and I mean lessons and ideas here, not surface-level content. Games have challenged me to contemplate things as massive and difficult as free will and agency down to the simple idea of enjoying the scenery before it passes you by. Writing about games helps me amplify that for myself as well – and I’m definitely at a point where I’m not shy about telling people that I write about games, play games, go to conventions for games, and generally make them an integral part of my life. Oddly, I get more weird looks or bemused questioning when discussing pro wrestling, which is probably fair!

    For me, provided you’re still enjoying them as a hobby and it isn’t compromising other aspects of your life, games are just as good a hobby as anything else.

    • Naithin says:

      Yes — to basically all of that.

      The one part I question is whether binge-watching TV or sport fanaticism really is actually perceived in the same way as gaming. I would argue that in my experience they are not. Sport watching in particular is an ingrained part of the national identity here in NZ, even. And it seen as weird and abnormal, some even going as far as to suggest ‘You can’t be a real Kiwi’ if you don’t enjoy Sport.

      I 100% agree that they are similarly unproductive in and of themselves, but I think they’re by far more accepted — even if just talking about binge watching of Netflix.

      But yep — in the end; agree with the sentiment that there is no need to push oneself to ‘grow out of’ gaming. If it’s still fun to you; keep it going as long as you can!

      • Kaylriene says:

        I’d agree on both objections – TV binge-watching and sports fandom aren’t really seen in the same light as gaming, even if they perhaps should be, in my opinion. Both have definitely had time to integrate into the culture of the word – while not being a sports fan is becoming more common in the US, it still is a weird thing that is largely subcultural.

  6. Isey says:

    I Was about to come here and say “you are still just a gaming baby! Look how old Marathal and Bhagpuss are!”

    But they already came here to say it.

    I am 46, for the record. My blog is separate from my real life so I don’t have to decide on what friends I get to keep or have to get rid of.

    • Naithin says:

      Haha, I’m certainly aware I’m a far cry from the oldest in this community. In fact I wonder if I might be one of the younger?

      But that aside, I think it would still be fair to say that for most people if you were to ask them what picture immediately came to mind when they heard the term ‘Gamer’ they would end up describing a teenager to you.

      I think it’s one of those biases that the generations around mine and before aren’t likely to quickly get over this. But I’d be quite surprised if this wasn’t already ‘fixed’ in the generation coming up below us.

      • Quin says:

        Perhaps it’s because we are part of the generation (let’s say people aged around 30ish to 50ish) where gaming was a semi-popular but entirely ‘separate’ hobby that mainly involved enthusiasts and not the general public. When I was a teenager plenty played video games in a serious enough way to take that hobby into adulthood. But most? No.

        Gaming is so prevalent now that it almost doesn’t deserve it’s own tag/identity. Calling someone a ‘gamer’, or self-identifying as a ‘gamer’, is almost as unnecessary as letting everyone know you eat food and breathe air! I would say that is true for many females of the same age group.

        The study linked from wikipedia above is from 2013, so already fairly dated given current social shifts. If you look at their website for current stats, the average age is dropping and they estimate 63% of American adults play games. Gaming gender trends almost follow societal gender demographics. The most popular platforms and game types are smartphones and mobile games respectively.

        But in some ways this has shifted what gaming even means. In the 90s, gaming meant playing in-depth games for hours at a PC. Now for most people gaming means playing for 5 minutes on your phone while you wait for a bus, a doctor’s appointment, or for your lunch hour to end.

        So is it now the dichotomy between casual gamer, or “serious” gamer? And all the issues that creates? No one would have an issue admitting to 5-10 minutes of a mobile game a day, but 3-4 hours in front of a console or PC?

        I guess that’s different.

        • Naithin says:

          I think you pretty much nailed it with, “Gaming is so prevalent now that it almost doesn’t deserve it’s own tag/identity. Calling someone a ‘gamer’, or self-identifying as a ‘gamer’, is almost as unnecessary as letting everyone know you eat food and breathe air!”

          The access to the means to game in one form or another is SO prevalent now that it’s no longer a matter of having to specifically go out and get gaming hardware which certainly helps.

          This just wasn’t the case when I was a kid, it was nowhere near as ubiquitous. Maybe one household in five (of my immediate social group, overall it might even have been less than that) had a PC in the home. And some of those that did were restricted from access to the kids, they were ‘Dad’s work machine’ only.

          Having a console (either Sega or SNES) was a big deal, and I’d say probably even less common than the PC.

          And of course Smartphones simply didn’t exist. By the time I got to highschool you might have a monochrome LCD display with Snake on it maybe. ;)

  7. pkudude99 says:

    You’re definitely too old if you’re using an Ignis Wraith out in the Plains of Eidolon — WAY too short ranged to be of any use ;-) You need hitscan out there!

    (Says the guy who also like to use the Ignis Wraith in PoE and OV and uses my kitgun secondary as my hitscan/long ranged weapon ;) )

    • Naithin says:

      Hah. That screenshot was from my first visit there. Still… I’d take the Ignis Wraith again. Maybe not the Amprex though. >.>

  8. Nogamara says:

    Funny topic, actually.

    I seem to have lost nearly all the friends who were younger than me in the last years (lost contact. moved away, etc), so I only have those left who are exactly my age or up to 20 years older (I’m 36). All of them are actively gaming, or have at least been gaming even a little at least in the last ~5 years, so maybe I’m the odd one out here in that the only people who could say something like that are my parents’ generation (and even my parents only ever commented on the time spent, they just found Pen&Paper odd) or people so far removed from my social circle that I don’t give a damn :P

    And obviously I see it as a normal hobby. You probably shouldn’t spend every waking hour doing it or neglect your chores and typical life things, but other than that? I find it a lot better than just watching Netflix, but to each their own.

    • Naithin says:

      Your last paragraph sums it up pretty well I think. And it isn’t really a sentiment you’re likely to find any objection to in this audience.

      Still… My own issues with the perception of other people’s perceptions aside, there does still seem to be a good portion of people in our age bracket that just don’t get it. In the wider world, at least.

      In terms of friend group — a fairly similar situation for me actually. The main two others I play with are about my age with kids and families of their own.

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