I’ve been playing video games as far back as I can remember. My first system was a Sega Genesis and I don’t even remember getting it. I just remember being very young and it being there. By the start of the next generation, I was hooked.
I got a Game Boy Color for Christmas with Pokemon Red and Blue. (I was so excited I didn’t even mind that they were basically the same game.) My dad bought a PlayStation so my sister and I would have something to do when we were with him. (We stayed with our mom on weekdays, dad on weekends.) Eventually, I saved up to buy an N64 and a second PlayStation for my room, and I sat playing games for hours every day.
The next generation was pretty much the same story. I got a Game Boy Advance for Christmas and saved up to get a Gamecube and a PS2. This is the gaming generation I have the fondest memories of, but by the time next round of consoles rolled around, I was heading off to college and no longer had the disposable income to keep up.
I got a DS and a couple games soon after launch (mostly for the Metroid Prime: Hunters demo, what a disappointment) but other than that, I stuck with the PS2 and GC. A few years later, I picked up a Wii after the price dropped to about $50 and hacked it to play free games. (Don’t judge me.)
I finally got PS3 last year from GameStop on Black Friday. It broke down just after the three-month warranty expired. I bought over 20 games with the system (most under $5), but only got to play one.
I can’t afford to replace it so I guess that’s it. I still mess around with my Wii or DS from time to time, and I play games on my laptop (a MacBook Air with a 1.4GHz processor) on the rare occasions it can run them, but other than browser games, there are weeks that go by without me playing anything.
It’s not just the money and lack of time. I just don’t feel the impulse to game like I did in high school and college. As my world fills with more adult problems and worries, it gets harder to shut off my brain and just enjoy a game for a while. Playing through a 60-hour RPG epic doesn’t make me feel like I’ve accomplished or experienced something meaningful anymore. It just makes me feel I’m not using my time to its maximum potential.
Ironically, I’m more informed about games today than I ever have before. While I don’t game as much as I used to, I watch gaming videos on YouTube every single day. I’m fascinated by channels that get into the nitty-gritty of how games work or analyze forgotten games of years past. I stay up to date on gaming news and culture and watch Let’s Plays of the games that interest me. Honestly, for most games watching a 20-minute Let’s Play is all I need to satisfy my curiosity.
I still like to think that in a few years, when I have more time and less worries, I’ll return to gaming and recapture the joy I got from it in my heyday. But if it never happens, I’m pretty okay with that too.
A few years ago, I would have taken ‘casual gamer’ to be an insult, but if that’s what I am now, it no longer bothers me. My priorities in life have changed, and as regretful as I am to admit it, being a gamer just isn’t as central to my identity as it used to be.