Officially Getting Too Old For Hardcore Gaming

I enjoy playing video games. They've been a part of my life since I was a little kid. There's a photo somewhere of me, age 4, sitting there playing Blaster Master on my NES while all my relatives are gathered around my new baby sister, who had just been brought home from the hospital. This picture probably speaks volumes about my life.

I've owned a lot of the big consoles: Atari, NES, Sega Genesis, various Game Boys, PSX, PS2, Wii, Xbox 360, PS3. Of course, I also spent a good amount of time at friends' houses where they owned an SNES, Nintendo64, GameCube, or the original Xbox. In fact, most of my friendships as a kid were based around video games. All we ever did as a group was get together and play Counter-Strike, Halo, GoldenEye, Mario Kart, Street Fighter, or even WCW/NWO Revenge (yes, we watched wrestling and played video games based on it). LAN parties were a big part of my "social" life.

During my teenage years, I could have been considered a "hardcore" gamer. I was subscribed to several different gaming magazines at one point or another, including GameInformer, NintendoPower, GamePro, and the official Playstation magazine. I was the kid who could tell you all about upcoming games before most people knew they were even in development.

I spent an embarrassing amount of time in mall arcades in high school. I was a pretty fucking excellent Dance Dance Revolution player. I knew all the air-juggling combos in the Tekken series. My Honda Civic Type-R in Initial D (which I might still have the card for somewhere) was tough to beat. I could beat Time Crisis without ever having to insert additional tokens.

I went through a phase where I spent countless hours playing Japanese RPGs on the PSX and PS2, like Xenogears, Legend of Legaia, Brave Fencer Musashi, Legend of Dragoon, Lunar: Silver Star Story, Parasite Eve, Star Ocean: The Second Story, and Wild Arms. I had a bit of an obsession with the Final Fantasy series, namely games VII through X. I owned the soundtracks to a lot of these games (I still get a fuzzy nostalgic feeling whenever I hear something from the FFVII soundtrack).

My latest obsession over the last few years has been the Call of Duty series, starting with Modern Warfare 2. Each time a CoD game comes out, I play it so much that I can predict where enemies will be spawning at any given time and my kill/death ratio is consistently in the 2.0-3.0 range. Other players have accused me of cheating (something I've never done), which is like a badge of honor.

[There's a bunch more I could go into, but I think I've made my point.]

Why does any of this matter to you? So that you'll understand the shift I've been experiencing in 2012.

My son is a little over a month a way from his first birthday. In the past year, my wife and I have gone from doing whatever we wanted with our time to spending most of our time caring for this little guy. Making sure he doesn't hurt himself in a thousand different ways (seriously, why is he obsessed with power outlets?) and trying to teach him about his surrounding world at the same time.

Rather than immediately starting up a video game when I get home from work like I used to, we now focus on preparing dinner, cleaning up the house a bit, then sit down together to watch a couple episodes from one of our favorite shows on Netflix or just play on the floor with him. After that, it's time to get him ready for bed: giving him a bath, changing his diaper, maybe reading a story to him, and then my wife nurses him to sleep.

I have sometimes taken advantage of nursing time to play some CoD, but this time has increasingly been spent writing for the blog instead, or reading a book for a while before I go to sleep. This helps me go to bed at a more sane hour, rather than 2:00am on a worknight because I'm wired from playing games.

I find myself caring less and less about anything game-related as time goes on. I let my gamer mag subscriptions end a long time ago, I no longer keep up with development cycles, I don't know what big games are on the horizon, I don't mind not having the highest score, I no longer take pride in completing a game on the hardest difficulty after repeating frustrating missions over and over, and I certainly have no desire to ever buy new titles for $50-a-pop anymore.

What I do care about is being there for my family, spending time with them instead of being absorbed in a game that doesn't matter. I feel bad for the early days of my relationship with my wife (then-girlfriend), when I would spend more time playing games than experiencing life with her. Sometimes I wonder why she ever decided to stick with me.

I just don't feel that gaming has a large place in my life anymore. Do I still enjoy playing from time to time? Of course! I'll probably even play the occasional game with my son when he's a bit older. But I now see it for the addiction that it is and will strive not to let him become as obsessive about it as I have. My parents, despite being great role models in most other aspects, never really set restrictions on my gaming time and I now look back and see that this was an error.

I'm still working on other addictions in my life, which I'll write about soon. For now though, I feel more content with how I spend my time. Rather than racking up meaningless digital points, I'm accumulating better life experiences, and that matters more to me than anything.