Monday, May 3, 2010

Goodbye, Video Games

I had my brother over for the weekend as we went backpacking at Chicot State Park on their backpacking trail. We hiked about half of the 19-mile trail, and had a rather decent time, all things withstanding like extremely muggy conditions in the evening, deer flies that hunted in packs, and our compatriots that canoed back to the starting point... and arrived three hours later than expected. For my brother, as much fun as the trip and bonding with his older brother was, the real priority lay when I woke up on Sunday morning to get ready for Church, as he was busy playing my copy of Call of Duty 4 online. Being 15, he is fully in the swing of loving video games, though his Internet connection at home is rather slow, meaning that he can't scratch his itch unless he's at my house.

As I was sitting in my rarely-used recliner watching him hunt down terrorists with the glee that only a young military history nerd can have, I realized that I had not touched the game, or any other one for a good four months now, and really haven't noticed. It was in my rarely-used recliner that I realized I had finally given up a big part of my Twenties, and in coinciding with discovering some grey hair, brought home the fact that I'm not getting any younger, and whether things that I'm going through are related to this.

As I've stated ad nauseum, I grew up in a very sheltered household. One of the things that was simply banned was video games. When I was six and afflicted with one biannual bouts with tonsilitis, my parents decided to fork over the money to rent an 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System with RBI Baseball and 1942. After about six straight hours of playing both games, my parents fears were realized and never again would a video game system come into the house. Sure, I got to play games at my friend's house, but a couple of hours a week compared to what most of my peers played simply leaves me clueless when they get all nostalgic over Bad Dudes.

By the time I got to college, I got a PC and dove into PC gaming with seeming intent to make up for lost time. Of course, it didn't help my entire dorm floor played Half-Life's Counter-Strike, making full games as easy as a round-up down the the hall. When I moved home, my parents disapproved of my enjoyment of video games that involved me mowing down people, but they tolerated it due to the fact that I was an adult. I responded by keeping my gaming within the realm of realistic military shooters, and delving into strategy games that allowed me to play armchair general to my heart's content. I used gaming as a conduit to make friendships and get the social networking that I had trouble making in the outside world. After all, it's far easier to meet and befriend people who have essentially the same interests as you do.

By the time I moved off to Franklin last year, I fully considered myself a gamer. I read the magazines, participated in discussions on the big websites, and bought the paraphernalia of my favourite games, especially VALVe's Team Fortress 2. To me, gaming was part and parcel of who I was. I played video games and looked at the nooks and crannies of the plot of the story, and became interested in the social interactions of the multiplayer environment. I thought of myself as a cultured, if not outright snobbish gamer because I eschewed the popular gaming consoles for my PC, which sheltered me from the festering immaturity that infests game franchises like Halo, Call of Duty, and Madden. On Internet forums, I found myself to be the elder statesman in many ways because I was in my later twenties whereas the rest of the population was either in high school or just getting into college. I saw myself in these fellow travelers, and I found myself passing along my views to another generation of gamers.

Then, it all kind of fell apart.

I guess it's a part of the tectonic shift of priorities in my life that's been happening over the past six months, but I just stopped being a gamer full stop. I quit the forums, stopped reading the websites, and essentially divorced myself from the entire subculture (I still wear the odd t-shirt though.) I can't tell you what made me just give up a major portion of what I thought was myself, yet I still did it, and don't really feel like going back. As I watched my brother play Call of Duty 4 on Sunday, I could see myself playing as he was, but there was no desire to play alongside him or even after he was gone. When he shut the program down, it will remain unused until the next time he comes because I won't be touching it.

I've been wondering what exactly caused me to do this, and all I've come up with is that gaming was just a hobby that worked for me in a particular period of my life, and as I'm seeing in a lot of other things in my life, I must be on the verge of a very different period of my life that requires me to give up a lot of the things I found to be normal and interesting to me. I find it a little disconcerting because so much stuff that I held onto as things I enjoyed and was interested in suddenly look so grey and boring, but I've as of yet to have found something to replace them. As a result, I spend a lot of my time sitting down contemplating where I am now with my life and how I got to this point. Not really finding any answer, but the time is being used up just the same.

Until next time.

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