Like many people who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, I played video games as a kid. Many of them.
Pac-Man, Space Invaders and Donkey Kong were the arcade games of the day. When my family got an Atari 2600 for Christmas (a “family gift” that I wouldn’t touch anyone), my passion for gaming moved into the living room. Combat, Missile Command, Defender, and even the terrible ET game were titles I immersed myself in. But as I grew up my priorities changed.
In middle and high school, I didn’t really have time to play. Thanks to my younger brother, I kept up to date with the popular systems and titles, but it just wasn’t my world anymore. I thought I had outgrown video games. Until I was in college and my passion returned.
In college, a Brotherhood brother named Murph had a Super Nintendo (SNES) in his room. The whole house was going to have NHL ’94 and Madden ’94 tournaments, and they were an absolute blast. Suddenly all the fun and excitement I had as a kid was back. I ended up buying my own SNES and didn’t look back. That was almost 30 years ago and I recently turned 50.
Don’t be fooled now. I don’t fall into those ridiculous gamer stereotypes that have become a lame punch line. I don’t live in my mother’s basement, drink Mountain Dew and eat funyons. Though both Mountain Dew and Funyons are delicious. Many of the traditional stereotypes about gamers are completely unfounded. In fact, the typical video game player may not be what you think of it.
According to a 2020 report by the Entertainment Software Association, 35-44 is the average age of a person who plays video games. Gaming is popular with people of all ages. 64% of adults aged 18 and over identify as gamers – that’s 163 million people. Of all players, 41% are female and more and more are senior citizens.
Although my younger brother has become a more casual gamer, most of my friends still play on either a PC, PlayStation, Xbox, or smartphone. In my world, it’s pretty common to know another player. Not that it would stop me if no one else I knew played video games. There is a pleasure that I cannot get from any other medium.
What can you get from games that you can’t from movies, music, comics, or television?
There are three simple things that make it stand out.
Achievement unlocked: Games worth playing. When a person playing a game makes a cool move or saves the day there is a sense of accomplishment.
It’s a social experience: If you want, gaming is simply one of the most social pop culture experiences you can have. Of course, table games can be fun, but only in one video game can I play with someone else around the world and have a shared experience at the same time. Playing with my brother and son, who both live in Denver, is a great way for us to keep in touch.
You control the action: Most forms of entertainment are passive experiences; You are an observer. In a video game, you are the protagonist (or antagonist, depending on the game). You drive the story, you jump out of the helicopter, you avoid bullets and explosions, YOU are the hero. Sometimes you take on the role of a character in a game, but sometimes, like in sports games, you can be who you are in real life. Playing Madden is the only way to get a touchdown for the Broncos.
I recently played through Just Cause 3, one of my all time favorite games. I fly through the air with my jetpack and realize that I’m smiling. This is a sandbox game and I can do what I want. I can take on hordes of enemies, rescue citizens in danger or just glide through the air and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
I’m not thinking of work or bills or COVID-19; I’m in another world where these things don’t exist. In this universe my name is Rico and I am a freedom fighter. This is escape at its finest, and I can live in this world for five minutes or five hours. it’s all up to me And that’s why I still play video games.