How Our Gaming Habits Evolve As We Age

Playing Final Fantasy for hours on end was a staple of my childhood, but now it seems there’s been a striking change in how I approach videogames.

Every so often I get the itch to replay some Final Fantasy X on my PlayStation 2, to reflect on those feelings I once had while defeating barechested bosses with my powerful Aeons. And it’s then when I see my old saves hitting the 99-hour mark, an occurrence that wasn’t out of the ordinary when I was younger. When I look back at the games I’ve spent that much time on in recent memory, the closest I’ve come is 40 hours for Ni no Kuni which—although a wonderful game—I did the minimum to complete and I can’t see myself going back and replaying the adventure.

Evaluating all the other games I’ve completed in the last couple of years, most border on ten hours, and I can recall more than once feeling like even that was a drain on my time. As I’ve become older my gaming habits have drastically shifted. When I survey my friends, who are all in their mid-20’s and 30’s, they too noticed a significant change in the way they play games, and it begs the question of “why?”

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Who designed him?!

I’ve been playing games since I was child thanks to my dad’s fascination with the technology and being able to persuade him to hand over the controller once he was done. Just like most kids, the types of games and systems I owned were tied to what my parents bought, which, for me, wasn’t a lot as my family didn’t have the means. In fact, I was usually behind a console generation as it was cheaper to buy Nintendo 64 games when everyone was busy getting the newest shiny console from Sony. That’s also why I exhausted the games I had at my disposal, making sure to explore everything to make the most of what I had. But now that I make my own money I’m able to allocate funds to get all–well, nearly all–the games I want without feeling like “it’s either this or nothing at all.”

Then there’s the types and amount of videogames I was actually aware of when I was younger. I wasn’t vested in the games industry itself back then, as I was too busy playing the games I owned in between homework and watching Sailor Moon. So if I didn’t see a commercial for it, I wasn’t aware of a game’s existence. And usually the games that made it on a billboard or magazine cover were shooters I was sure I wouldn’t like, given my fascination with the RPG landscape at the time. Nowadays I’m able to experience games like Guacamelee! and Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams because I’m more invested in industry news, both indie and mainstream. It also helps—or not, depending on my wallet—that consoles are now tailored to promote a variety of games on the dashboard.

Guacamelee

With access to more games my standard for what can take up my time has also evolved. Subconsciously I have high expectations for my gaming investment; it has to grab me within the first few hours or else I’ll add it to my shame pile to deal with later. Had Final Fantasy XIII released when I was 15, and I was told it takes 30 to 40 hours before it gets really good (as is the case), then I wouldn’t think twice about committing that time to see the payoff. But it’s been sitting on my shelf for the last three years, and it’s not until recently that I accepted that I’ll never play the game past the five or so hours I put into it. As the game industry continues to grow, the gamer in me just wants to experience all I can, and that means playing more games that retain my interest in the surprisingly small amount of time that I dedicate to gaming.

Time is the keyword. Although I went to school and had an immense amount of homework, somehow it was still manageable to dedicate seven hours a night to my favorite pastime—it helps that I was able to function on little sleep back then, too. A 9-to-5 job typically isn’t 9-to-5; we all take our work home in some fashion that eats up our free time. Then there’s the little things like cooking, walking pets, cleaning, etc. that’s part of being a responsible grown-up, and that’s just for someone who lives on their own with no spouse or children. That’s not to say that when the game comes around you’ll not find a way to make time, just ask those still playing Skyrim. But that’s not often, making the experience with those gems even more special, and something you appreciate more than you ever could as a teen.

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Some would argue that you’ve become a grown-up gamer when you’re able to appreciate games like The Stanley Parable and Gone Home, but for me it’s the willingness to appreciate more on what you put in: that your time is very precious, which makes the games you choose to give that time to all the more special.

  1. I played relentlessly in my child and teenage years, but when I hit twenty my social life took over my time. I settled for console games and barely touched my pc anymore. Then my friends all grew up, had kids (which I want no part of) and stopped hanging out, so I recently got my pc back into shape and have been putting in a lot more game time.

  2. I really love the way this article was put, so accurate give or take the game preferences. It makes me a little sad to think about how much the time to get lost in a game that I love has just kind of dwindled down over the years.

  3. Most children of Gen X can relate because we all had similar problems with money, doesn’t matter if you had the latest gen on day one or you were 3 gens behind, games cost an arm and a leg back then so you could only get then for special occasions like birthdays or christmases.

    Personally, I am over 30 and I still dedicate an unhealthy amount of hours into any game that pleases me, with well over 100 hours in games like Fallout 3 and NV, Saints Row 3 Dark Souls and many others, but then again I’m not normal, so there’s that.

  4. Christ, I love euphoria in gaming… I always get these little moments, like Flashbulb Memory. Like when I reach a milestone in an old game I love, like RE4 or an old Halo game, I recall those rare moments I had at the moment I reached those milestones. For instance, I’d be watching a TV show while being mowed down by the Chainsaw maniacs in RE4. I’d not only remember the exact show, but I’d know the scene and everything. But it’s not just the old memories. It’s also knowing how much time I put into those games that makes them so special.

    Nowadays, I’m in my 20′s, and have a ton of responsibilities, so I’m slowly being waned from gaming. I don’t buy as many games as I used to, and I seldom spend more than five hours a week on my console. The only games I play now are on Steam, especially when they have deals. But even then, I don’t play for very long. And it’s not just about having too little time. I almost lost that spark that made me love games so much. I still buy every major game, but I’ve lost interest in multiplayer matches, and almost never fool around in the game worlds like I used to. I dunno… It’s not that gaming has gotten boring, or that getting older makes them less fun. I just don’t get to sit down long enough to get those “Lightbulb Memory” moments after crazy long sessions.

    Of course… Losing sleep is how I balance “life” and Total War: Shogun 2… So there’s that… :D

  5. Great article. I also am in the same boat. My friend and I talk often about how we don’t want to invest hours and hours into games to “earn” goodies. I just want to sit down and dominate for 15-20 minutes. The issue however is at that rate I’ll never be any good at the game. Honestly I don’t care at all about scores, trophies, special endings when you beat a game on hard. Snore snore snore.

    So the solution is for game makers to offer an unlock mode where you start the game and get EVERYTHING. No cheat codes, just straight Dad Mode. Unlimited lives, ammo, whatever. But also games like Journey save the day for me. You don’t need anything or any training to play that game for a short period. For now Ill just have to wait for another innovative game like Journey to come around.

    • I’ve been told by Telltale gents that that’s part of the reason their games are structured into episodes. They wanted something they can play for 30 minutes as a busy adult :) Granted it’s not the domination you’re craving, but it is interesting that there are developers out there keeping that in mind.

  6. Started Halo Combat Evolved back in 2001. Never stopped playing it. For a game to stay alive, there must be a community. Then mods come. And this is how a game stays as fun as it used to be.

  7. This article is spot on…….our habits really do evolve

  8. “Every so often I get the itch to replay some Final Fantasy X on my PlayStation 2, to reflect on those feelings I once had while defeating barechested bosses with my powerful Aeons”

    I miss this feeling everyday and how gaming has changed has left me feeling really, lost. I just don’t care about most games or gaming world. However DESTINY (out of love for Bungie), South Park (because South Park), Walking Dead Season 2 (LEEE) and FFXIII-3 are all I want. But that’s like, it. In the space of 2 years. I didn’t even enjoy GTA.

    I CRAVE FFX though and can’t wait for the HD remaster (though not chuffed about them re doing the soundtrack). Basically, I miss the PS2 era of games when games were single player or local co-op, had hugeeee life spans and were all so awesome :( I need a PS2 again. Evolution seems to be akin to gaming becoming mainstream therefore business thus skimp and save everywhere.

  9. im 43 and have done 500 hours on dark souls 900 hours on battlefield 3, god know how much on borderlands 2

  10. Buttermilk Mancakes

    I am in the same boat. I work and go to school full-time. When I was a teen, I could justify playing video games all day while in my pajamas. I just recently bought Darks Souls 2, and I haven’t been able to put any significant time into the game.

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