See that picture? That’s the image that comes up to this day whenever a major news publication is talking about video games. Good news, bad news, anything in between, it’s this picture of two kids staring into a glowing screen, controllers in hand, the pair of them assumed to have their brains melting out of their ears.
That’s the perception that still exists among the older generation toward gamers, and though it is fading over time, it makes me wonder where the future of gaming is heading, and how old is “too old” to game, if there even is a such a classification.
Right now, the average age of a gamer is 37. That’s important because it says a large amount of adults play video games, but even more so when you look at WHY the average age is 37.
If you’re 37 now, that means you were born in 1974. This is significant because Atari came out in 1977, and was made until 1984. The Nintendo Entertainment system came out in 1985, meaning from ages 3 and up, this generation had access to a home video game console, and they are in fact the first ones to have had that opportunity.
As happy as you could be in 1985.
The fact that they’re still playing games to this day implies that gaming is NOT a hobby you grow out of. Those over forty for the most part don’t get it, because video games were not a part of their childhood. Therefore, it will always be viewed as a childish activity as when THEY had kids, they grew up playing N64 and Sega and the like, while none of the parents’ adult friends played anything of the sort.
The data appears to suggest that once a gamer, always a gamer. We’ll obviously have to see how things progress over the next few decades, as these 37 year olds are the first ones to truly grow up with video games. Will they still be playing with they’re 50? 60? Even 70?
The larger question is when the PERCEPTION of gaming as childish is going to change. Even the younger set who doesn’t game can write off the activity as a sign of immaturity, somehow classifying it below other leisure activities like TV, movies or watching sports.
This may have been a fair judgment when games were less complex and more overtly silly. But with titles progressing to be fully fledged stories with plots and characters often more compelling than those we see on TV or in film (Red Dead, LA Noire, Mass Effect, hell, even Portal), they’re just as legitimate a source of entertainment as anything else.
The most convincing western I’ve seen in 20 years. I just happened to be controlling it.
The only obstacle I see that would say that yes, you can get too old for gaming, is the time commitment. I’m 24 now. I work, I have a girlfriend, but I also have free time. I am not planning a wedding or slaving away at an office until 8PM or have four children running around the house, taking up every spare second I have. The fact is, as you get older, you take on more and more responsibilities that just don’t allow for a hobby as time consuming as gaming. Many parents of young kids I know barely have time to sit down and watch a movie or TV show, much less try to get through a 12 hour Assassin’s Creed campaign. Such a thing could take months, and you would only be able to get through a fraction of worthwhile titles in a year.
I think part of getting older is just having less free time in general. That means less gaming yes, but it also means less of everything you like to do. You have to budget your time more efficiently, and when it comes down to it, gaming sometimes has to be shelved. Or if your priorities are reversed, you can play World of Warcraft instead of taking care of your kid, but that’s how you end up on the six o’clock news, a story I’ve actually seen tragically repeated a few times.
So no, I don’t think you can be too old to game, as that’s now equivalent to saying you’re too old to watch a TV show or a movie or read a magazine. Video games are finally approaching a level playing field in terms of entertainment legitimacy (a recent Supreme Court decision announced that they are considered “art”) and the public’s perception will change about gaming as it becomes more mainstream and spans all age groups.
Growing older might limit your time with video games, but it doesn’t mean it has to end it. Just wait until your kids grow up and you’ll always have a 2P around.