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I think it's safe to say that we're past thinking of video games as a toy meant for teenage boys, right? I mean, that hasn't been true since musicians were diagnosing them as illnesses. Making fun of people for playing video games at this point would be like your great grandmother mocking you for using a phone. Fuck your great grandmother. She needs to shut her nut-sucker and learn how to no-scope.

No, we're now butthole deep into the stage where, just like any form of entertainment, the "hows" and "whys" of your enjoyment change as you age. It's not only natural; it's unavoidable. And after I turned 40, I was surprised to discover that several aspects of video games had changed for me as well. For instance ...

5
I Developed New Reasons For Playing Them

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If you were to go back in time and hand 12 year old me a pen and paper, and ask me to write down all the reasons I played video games, I would hand back the following list:

1) Fun
2) *Crude drawing of a hawk fighting Billy Ocean*

Do the same thing right now, and I'd hand back a list that you would immediately wad up, throw in the garbage, and then curse at until it combusted from the friction of your filth, because reading is for assholes. But if you had managed at least a glimpse before you wizard fucked my hard work, you'd notice that the page was filled.

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I don't know why I did all that writing outside, though.

Now, obviously, I still play games for fun. I'm not conducting a study on the causation of human joy every time I hit the power button. But it's no longer just about fun. For instance, when I first wake up, I play Crusaders Of The Lost Idols because it keeps me away from human interaction until coffee convinces me that I shouldn't jackknife-powerbomb everyone in the entire world. It's an activity that requires next to no brainpower, and I desperately need that in the mornings.

If I've had a busy day, and I need something equally mindless to make me stop thinking about pump-handle suplexing everyone I work with, I'll zone out to Swords And Souls. If I need some exercise, or I just have to dance, I'll play the greatest game ever made for the Kinect:

I didn't realize that my reasons for gaming had changed until a couple of weeks ago. I was having one of those days where my mind just wouldn't start up. You know those days. You keep walking into the kitchen and forgetting why you came in there in the first place. You're pretty sure it had something to do with food, but for the life of you, you can't figure out exactly what. Then after the fifth time, you suddenly remember, "Oh yeah. I came in here to put out that fire. Wait a minute ... this isn't even my house."

So I decided that in order to reboot my brain, I needed to do something that required focus. Guitar Hero Live did the trick. It's a game that demands fast reaction times and concentration, but if you fuck it up, who cares? And it worked. After 45 minutes of playing, my brain was used to making quick decisions, and I was able to jump right into work without fear of accidentally dick-slapping someone who hadn't paid for it.

I suppose that makes more sense if you know that I work as a substitute stripper.

4
I Don't Finish Many Games

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This feels weird and obvious to point out, but the goal of games used to be "to beat it." That's not the case for many younger readers. I don't think my kids have ever finished the single player mode of any first person shooter, because those games are all about online multiplayer. But that used to be why you played: to get that final cut scene. To see the end of the story.

Between my desktop and various online platforms, I have around 75 games that I logged out of midway through, and then never signed back into them again. A large part of that is because there just aren't many stories that I haven't seen before. I'm not being some elitist jerkoff by saying that, and I'm not even being hyper critical of their writing. I've just played hundreds, if not thousands, of games in my life, and that's taught me the basic formula. If you haven't reached that point yet in your own gaming, trust me, you will.

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Oh, look, I had the power of the dragon all along. I'm overflowing with indifference.

So no, when characters talk about "The Ancients" for several hours of gameplay, I'm not surprised to find out that I'm one of them. There are only so many Chosen One stories you can tell. When my companion disappears during vital plot points, I'm not shocked to find out that he's secretly working with the bad guy. And if John Madden's face is on the cover of the game, I'm sorry, but I'm just not blown away by the twist that all of the enemies are football players.

Even aside from the story itself, the delivery can totally kill it for me. Ten years ago, I'd have no problem reading a hundred strewn in-game newspapers in order to figure out the town's backstory, because I had a lot more time and patience to dip into. Today? Not a chance in hell. I have a wife, teenage kids, a career, deadlines ... it's not a matter of taste, it's a matter of time.

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Hey, can I call you back later? I have a guild raid at 3.

That sounds odd, right? "If you're so pressed for time, why play a video game at all, dickass?" Because that's my hobby, you fucking tampon, and I want to feel like I'm doing something with it. Not stopping every ten minutes to read things that could have been conveyed through in-game conversation. So if a game tells me, "In order to get the real story, you need to stick your face into 50 of these projectors that are scattered around the world," I'm telling them, "In order for you to get how I really feel about doing that, you're going to need to suck 15 individual inches of my balls."

It's a medical condition, shut up.

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3
I Forget That I Even Bought Them

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This is a pretty general statement, but I've found it to be true way more often than not: the older you get, the better you become with money. Even if you're so broke, you're using plain Ramen noodles for one meal and the flavoring package for another, you're slowly learning how to manage your cash. If you're doing adulthood correctly, you'll (hopefully) advance in your career, which means higher payscales and better hours. I'm telling you this because this point is not a "rich person" issue.

Fair or not, this is the natural pecking order of adulthood -- experience equals money. At some point you will end up in a position where you don't have to save up for two months in order to buy a video game. Because of that, it becomes easier to see a game that you're mildly interested in and make a "fuck it, why not" purchase. Don't misunderstand what I'm saying here, this is a great "problem" to have. It's just weird and didn't show up for me until I hit "someone's dad" age.

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That's me and my son. We're stock photo models.

So you bought a game that you're somewhat interested in, and then you realize that all of those responsibilities that led to you having more money in the first place are still there. Buying a game when you're 40 isn't the same as buying one when you're 15. Back then, you started playing the nuts out of that sack, the second you got home with disc. Or for modern gamers, the second you finished the 130 gig download. Not anymore. Now, you have to plan that shit out.

No big deal. You put it to the side and plan on playing it next weekend. In the meantime, you get distracted by life's big ol' stupid face, screaming stuff at you. "Finish your work, asshole! Now get home and start supper, so you don't die from starvation, you wussy! Don't forget, your piece of shit kids have a stupid school function, dickhead!" By the time Saturday rolls around, your brain has filed the game under Unimportant Shit I Can Do Later. Eventually, it just ends up collecting dust.

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Somewhere in there is a copy of Spyro just itching for a Playstation.

Again, it isn't a money issue, it's an age issue. I had more expendable cash as a teenager because I had no overhead to worry about. If I mowed a few lawns, that money was 100% profit, and I could blow it on whatever, which is how I got my sweet tattoo of a hawk fighting Billy Ocean. But if I bought a game back then, even if I couldn't play it for a few days, you can bet your ass that I wouldn't be forgetting about it. When you're a kid, Responsibility doesn't scream at you. It whispers.

2
Reviews Become Worthless

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Game reviews, by both professionals and regular players, used to be the number one deciding factor in whether I'd shell out money, or just stick the disc up my ass and walk out of the store with a pronounced limp. Over the last five years, I've been burned almost every time I've trusted them, and I only recently realized that there's a reason for it. It's a simple generation gap.

I'm not above admitting that I may have shitty or even just different taste in games than the majority, but that goes hand in hand with the age gap thing. I can explain it, using a crappy TV show that ran for 37 years. Half of you will have never heard of it.

There used to be an old dance show called American Bandstand, hosted by Dick Clark. For those of you young enough to find the idea of a "dance show" hilarious, it was exactly like it sounds. Music would play, and people would dance to it. And that was the whole show. In the middle of the program, they'd sometimes premier a new song, and then pull a couple to the side and ask them what they thought. Their review was almost always, "It had a great beat, and I could really dance to it!"

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Side note: TVs used to look like this, back then. It was a simpler time.

That's not what the review "boiled down to." That was the actual review, in its entirety. When I got older, music reviews became about the mood, complexity, melody, lyrical intelligence, the song's meaning, sincerity of the performance, how it reflects society, is the singer female? If so, how much ass does she have to show in order to get accepted by the mainstream?

The same thing happens with me and game reviews. When I was younger, the only thing I cared about was, "Does the game work? If so, is it fun?" Just like music, the gaming industry has grown tremendously, and its audience has gotten much more intelligent. Younger people will write about all of the complex facets of a game, like they're dissecting 14th century poetry. So reviews can't really be broken down to an elemental "Is it good?" Because "good" to them can mean dozens of different things.

Meanwhile, I'm still stuck in my old, basic thinking. The second someone starts talking about lighting effects and frame rate and anisotropic filtering, I'm lost. I just want to know if it has a good beat, and can I dance to it?

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1
Nostalgia Affects Your Impression Of A Game

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I'm going to say something that's going to piss off a whole lot of people, but don't form a lynch mob just yet: Fallout 4 is a bad game.

Wait, put down the torch, you overreacting blowhole, because it also happens to be one of my favorites. But if I set aside my love of the series, and set aside the fact that it's incredibly fun, the unbiased truth is: it's riddled with bugs. The storyline is cookie-cutter and unimaginative. The conversation options are insanely limited. The graphics are terrible. The side quests are tedious and unimportant. The UI feels like an afterthought. The building system is unintuitive. The inventory system is a mess. Until modders step in and fix the issues that the designers couldn't accomplish, this is a broken, unfinished game.

And I love it, despite its flaws, because I've trained myself to adore the series. My nostalgia for the previous Fallout games got me pumped up the second they announced that this was going to be a thing that exists. The same exact thing happened with Guitar Hero Live.

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That's me back when the first one came out. I was 31.

It regularly boots me out of online channels. Sometimes, it doesn't register that I even played a song at all, even though I clearly just did. I have to regularly calibrate it, so that the game registers the notes that I'm hitting. The music channels have over 250 songs, yet you get constant repeats. The other night, I got Warrant's "Cherry Pie" four times in one session, because God is dead, and Satan has come to stake his claim.

But I love it. I play it all the time.

Both games are giving me new versions of things I used to enjoy. I'm willing to put up with the bullshit in exchange for these companies bringing back my favorite titles. But make no mistake, if I had bought either of these games, having never heard of them before, this would have been a totally different sentiment. It would have been lots of cursing, periodically interrupted by the word "HORSESHIT," followed by more cursing.

I'll do it again. Nostalgia is the brain's version of hunger. The longer you go without feeding it, the stronger it gets. It's why I still buy Final Fantasy every time they release a new version, even though I haven't enjoyed one since part 10 (in 2001). And it's why I buy every new Star Wars game, even though I know they'll never have this again:

See the exact moment when Pokemon goes from "Wooh! What an amazing land of adventure!" to "ugh, what a grindfest," in 4 Ways Growing Up Changes The Way You See Video Games and check out the changes that we wish video games made (like universal platforms) in 26 Tiny Video Game Rule Changes That'd Be A Huge Improvement.

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