Gamestyle Archive intro: now this is a personal retrospective. This Hope I Die piece was the first in a short lived series or columns at Gamestyle. Written around 2001 in the midst of a Phantasy Star Online addiction that many of the team were working their way through. It was also the age of online innocence where folk actually helped and looked out for one another.
The other night I had a revelation, a question of faith, whilst playing Phantasy Star Online with Killquik, DanGod and Jizza. Here was I, now 28, sitting on the living room floor surrounded by every known junk food substance to man playing a game in the early hours of the morning with others (people who I haven’t even met in person) via a telephone line. Now I’m sure this image is repeated across the world with varying degrees of extremism but this was no consolation. For that moment I panicked, society demands that I grow up and move on. Phantasy Star Online shows your total time played per character and on reading this I often go red with embarrassment. 145+ hours isn’t too bad compared to some players but when you could do a great deal with that time if given back, it makes you think, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m sure many will look down on us who do such things in our spare time and label us with various false tags. No friends and no social life? Plenty mate, thanks, and dare I say it, I have more fun online that you would do the local? I have no interest in cars, sporting clubs, snooker or being an advertisement for various clothes designers. Self-improvement is masturbation after all. It is hard for those who have not experienced something as wonderful and captivating as PSO to fully understand just how good it is, better than sex? Just kidding but you catch my drift.
What I asked myself wasn’t how sad playing online is, because it isn’t, and five years from now, myself and PSO comrades will be seen as pioneers. Remember us when the world is playing and enjoying new experiences in the future. Remember how you mocked us and dismissed us as sad individuals, and then take a look at what you’re doing. The way the world is heading, it won’t be safe to exist outside of your home soon only via your data stream – plug in your senses and wake up. Welcome to the new world. Instead of this I found myself questioning whether I was in fact too old for games in general and if the time had come to put down the controller and pick up the pipe and slippers. Ever since I broke open the box containing my first video game many Christmas’s ago its been this way and something I have never questioned before. It has been a great voyage full of fantastic memories and experiences over the years but should it end and how? We are all aware of friends who once had a love similar to us of games but somehow they moved on or lost interest. Is that part of their life still empty? How do they cope? Do we even care? Do we wish to even know these answers? Now more than ever it is acceptable in some small way to have friends around to play a game as sales of Who Wants to be a Millionaire and The Weakest Link suggest. Board games are thing of the past, video games rule the lounge and slowly we are brainwashing the masses to our evil ways. We will win there is no question of that comrades.
Even though we have grown up with games and played through every era and bit revolution the same stigmas that existed in the beginning are still here today. It is something that I and no doubt many fellow gamers encounter every day, yet many of these commentators flock to watch the latest video game movie (Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy, Resident Evil) or expect to be able to buy a PS2 on Christmas Eve. As the first generation to grow up with video games we are once again true pioneers and are paying the price for it. I know of one friend who won’t even discuss games in general with his work colleagues as they think he is some strange outcast and doesn’t fit into their nice cosy social group. Yet the same people would rather watch the latest soap or waste away their leisure time doing things more trivial and pointless than any 3DO game. The key here is leisure time, for it is your own and who is to judge what you do within that? Society certainly mocks us and why should we let them win?
When it happens I would rather my children play games instead of watching television, within reason of course, no Soldier of Fortune at that age or Army Men game, ever. Has anyone else noticed that video games are now being blamed for everything now when a few years ago it was television? No one likes us, we don’t care, is a motto we should have adopted long ago. Getting back on track, is there a national retirement age for gaming; do we hang up our controllers at thirty and progress to simulations on the PC? I certainly hope not but wander into any retailer and take a moment to look at the customers, where the ages tend to branch out, a pattern is visible and it is quite distinctive. This is perhaps why I am looking forward to the launch of the Xbox in March for it is aimed at older gamers, say 25+ but it will hopefully attract everyone – once the price is lowered. Just by reading an issue of PC Gamer recently I was amazed at the amount of interest and coverage of the Xbox console. This market has money to burn and for the price of a new graphics card you could instead have the latest console from Microsoft. The American launch was very clever for it had games that would appeal to everyone, cherry picked for every genre. I’m sure more PC type games will soon follow, as will the gamers within that market, after all they are desperate to play Halo, just as we are. Xbox – haven for the older gamer?
Being the second oldest at Gamestyle, after Lee and just ahead of Dean (even though he looks like 35) this topic of age is relevant today. Without talking to the others I would suggest today that we spend more time playing or writing about games than ever before even though we now have wife/girlfriend/children/work and other commitments taking up our time. Why? I find it enjoyable, simple as that plus you meet people – some great, some unfortunately conniving scum of the worst kind imaginable and you are forever learning things. My work colleagues cannot understand why I would spend X amount of time doing website work/writing or rush out to buy the latest release when there are other fantastic things I could do, or so they say. There will be times when I will have to slow down but I’d rather do this than anything else, following the status quo isn’t for me.
So will I be hanging up my controller shortly? Not a chance, it’s a part of me that you are just going to accept and learn to live with, I won’t force it down your throat and I expect the same from you. As I move into a new house to accommodate my forthcoming Xbox (one of the reasons you know!) she understands the position and accepts it. I just wish more people out there would in general do the same. See you around on Phantasy Star Online sometime, especially when Dream Key 3 and Version 2 are finally released. I’ll never be too old to play games. Where do we go from here? I’ll leave that up to you.