The Adult Video Game Player

The oddly complicated life of a grown up gamer.
A controller in the hand is worth two on the charger …

It is strange being a 40-something year old video gamer. Of course, this isn’t the stigma it used to be. Video games, eSports and such are much more widely accepted as something “grown ups” do and not just teenagers locked away in their parent’s basement (I was that, too).

The strange looks aside, being an adult gamer offers some interesting challenges — namely deciding what games to play and how much you’re willing to pay for them. Oh, and when to fit them in.

I know what you’re thinking; you’re an adult with money — buy what you want to play, when you want to play it; profit. Easy peasy.

Right, when you’re a kid with a very fixed (or zero) income — video game selection was a very fine art. You watched the magazines and commercials (it was the early 80s, folks — no youTube), carefully planning big video game purchases around birthdays and gift-giving holidays. Only the best of the best made the Christmas list and when you only get two or three games a year you really had to make them last (whether they turned out to be good games or not; it is what you were stuck with).

Time is the currency you have as a kid.

So what happens when you’re all “growed up” and have plenty of actual cash money but your time currency is at a premium? Oddly, you still have to practice the fine art of video game selection to fit the price you’re willing to pay with the most valuable commodity you have — availability.

With cash no longer being an object and with millions of people reviewing, streaming and talking about video games you would think that selection would be clean and easy. The truth is — the noise of the Internet makes it harder and harder to actually make Good Choices(tm) about the games to purchase and play.

If you’re lucky, you have a like-minded peer group or a reliable youTube reviewer that you see eye to eye with (that happens to have the free time and desire to share information with you).

Otherwise? Prepare for the onslaught of compensated endorsers and titty streamers.

Video games are big business and when your favorite hobby turns into a mess of Patreon beggers and half naked hot chicks who have obviously never played the game being streamed by their boyfriends in the next room? Well, let’s just say that it can drain what few resources you have left at the end of a long work week.

Remember when you and your best buddy would spend every weekend and holiday together; they spending the night at your place or you at theirs? Long weekends comprised of making Lode Runner levels for them while they sleep then waking them up to watch Saturday Night Live — then letting them build levels for you while you snoozed? Sorry, my old man slip is showing.

Then again, it could take 20 minutes for Beach Head II to load off tape.

Even in your early twenties getting on the Xbox 360, headset firmly installed on your noodle kicking ass and taking names with four of your friends who didn’t have to work the night shift at Burger King that night? Good times for sure.

Then you get married and have kids.

Suddenly there are nights of questionable sexuality while you’re watching The Bachelor — you and your spouse having “us” time. The hosing of the kids down at 8pm every night. The Running of the Bulls (known as taking your kid to the water park five days a week on summer vacation).

Oh yeah, and trying to finish Assassin’s Creed: Origins and Far Cry 5.

Who has time for Overwatch multiplayer with your fellow worker drones on a Friday night? They may not be available because — you know — they have lives.

You get it, right? Adult gamers have very little free time. Moving on …

You would think that having disposable income in your 40’s would let you throw cost into the wind ... but …

Video games are a sliding scale of fiscal responsibility. The older you get, the more aware of this you are — making it an almost agonizing decision about whether to pick up Sea of Thieves for $60 on release day or wait a few months (until you clean out your backlog) and get it for half price (or less).

Then you have Steam seasonal sales … multiple digital lockers … and even greyware sites like G2A, CDkeys and Green Man Gaming all offering discounts based on release day and a variety of other factors.

If you pre-order a game from Amazon or a digital locker, you could net 20% off. But if you don’t have time to play the damn thing for two or three months — you might get an even better deal by waiting.

I know, I know — it is a difference of $10 or $15 bucks in most cases; but dammit, that adds up over time. For a lot of us, getting the best deal is all part of the game process anyway. PC users love knowing we can get games 20–50% off our console cousins by doing nothing more than choosing wisely about our gaming conveyances.

The agony isn’t over once the selection process is done and the purchase is complete.

As a kid, we played games we purchased whether they were good games or not, if nothing else but to hold us over until the next holiday or birthday.

But I have a Steam account littered with hundreds of games I’ve never played. Or played for five or ten minutes. Did I get my money’s worth out of those? How long should I suffer through a game that it turns out I didn’t like?

First world problems, right?

I bought Destiny 2 for around $50. I played a couple of hours — have never picked it up again. No desired, need or want. That’s $25 an hour that I paid. That’s like paying $50 to see Deadpool 2.

What about quantifying the games that you do like? I put 200 hours into The Forest. Well over 200 hours into The Witcher 3. Skyrim chewed 180 hours. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare netted me 140+ hours with Zombies in Spaceland alone. When you’re talking about a $15 game bringing you 200 hours of entertainment? No question I got A Good Deal(tm) at seven cents an hour.

What about these sandbox games with 12 hour main story lines and 200 hours of side and fetch quests? Is $5/hour a Good Deal(tm) if all I want to do is play the main story line? I saw the aforementioned Deadpool 2 for $8 (or $4/hour) and I felt that was a Good Deal(tm).

Finally — how long do I have to keep playing the same damn game? Should I feel guilty when my friends want to play Gears of War 4 instead of Overwatch? I can be in and out of a match of the latter in 20 minutes (someone in the house will need me within 30 minutes). Gears is a 2+ hour commitment, only to end in repeating Round 20 ten times — getting my ass kicked worse each time … plus I’ve maxed out all the classes I care about.

Yet I feel guilty not milking another 20 hours on top of the 85 hours I’ve already put into the game.

Meanwhile, the next iteration of my favorite IP is coming. New DLC has dropped for games I’ve already paid for. Anniversary events beckon me back to games I’ve already invested probably way too much time in.

Any other grown ups out there want to sound off on this? How do you handle the first-world-adult-problems of being a gamer in a day and age where fun new games are released every hour on the hour?

I’ll be waiting for your comments below.