The genesis of the 40 year old gamer
People have chosen to cope with the challenging world we all live in these days in a variety of ways. At the start of the pandemic, we were told to quarantine. During those early days, people chose to deal with being shut in by catching up on household projects and/or exploring new interests. Some people finally built that home-gym and began to exercise more in order to lose weight; while others decided to flex their culinary muscles and try new recipes (and maybe gained a little weight in the process :). Some folks read more books. Others decided to try their hand at music or visual arts. But the one thing people didn’t see coming, was that men in their mid 30’s and 40’s would embrace gaming way more than they ever did in the past.
Where are these gamers coming from?!
Although most may not have predicted this increase in men gaming as a result of the pandemic, this trend is really not that surprising. Take me for example. I would not consider myself a 40 year old gamer, at least not until May of last year. Like most boys back in the day, I can remember getting my first Nintendo for Christmas and being so excited! My little brother and I played for hours. A few years later I switched to the PlayStation.
As a young teenager, going over a friend’s house to battle in Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter was as good a bonding experience as picking up a basketball and hitting the court (although my parents at the time would strongly disagree). Fastforward a couple years to when I was a late teen. I began to think more about going to college and my career. Playing sports became a more dominant pastime (much to parent’s delight) and I began to pursue girls way more than I pursued the latest game or gaming system.
How about those gaming lounges in college.
In the college days, playing video games took a backseat to almost all of my other interests. Guys still gathered in the Student Center Lounge or someone’s dorm room for a Madden or NBA Live tournament, but that didn’t happen as often as it did when I was younger. Plus, at this time in the early 2000’s; playing video games in your 20’s was considered to be “un-cool”. Women my age wanted a man who spent more time on his studies and preparing for the future than spending hours in front of a screen yelling at fictional, pixelated characters; and rightfully so.
Realizing this, I put down ‘sticks’ and almost never played video games until after college. My son was born shortly after and when he was old enough to play, I bought him a PlayStation. Although I did play with him and enjoyed the experience, gaming for me became something for younger people and resigned myself to more mature endeavors like reading and binge watching ‘whatever’ on Netflix.
In the years to follow, the gaming industry would continue to grow and evolve rapidly. But was it enough yet for the “40 year old gamer?”
More games and more systems would be created and released. Video games titles like Mortal Kombat, Prince of Persia and Assassins Creed were made into movies and gaming would become so popular, that gaming started being perceived as a skill; which lead to the creation of E-Sports, a league for ‘Pro-gamers’ who face-off in competitive gaming tournaments.
All of this helped to further the divide between me and video games….
So how did I end up gaming again? Well, like most 40 year old gamers, it began as something small. I am a huge Star Wars fan and in October 2020, Electronic Arts released their latest Star Wars title called Star Wars Squadrons. I remembered how when I was into video games, I played every Star Wars game that came out. Now, due to the quarantine, I found myself with an abundance of time and opportunity; an opportunity to tap back into the youthful joy I felt every time I journeyed to a ‘galaxy far, far away’. ‘Squadrons’ would become my ‘gate-way game’. I bought the game and the latest PlayStation and, well…I had a ball.
Diving back into being both fully immersed in an experience unlike any other and being challenged in a way that I haven’t in long while was incredibly fun, enjoyable…nostalgic. Of course, there was some challenges re-learning the mechanics and coordination it takes to play, considering I’ve been away from playing video games for so long. But I soon got back into a rhythm; it was like riding a bike. I enjoyed the game so much, I began watching YouTube videos to learn strategy and gain an edge. That’s when I discovered the H.O.T.A.S.
W.T.F. Is a HOTAS?
‘Hands On Throttle And Stick’…long story short, I fell down the rabbit hole of flight simulator games. See, the throttle and stick, or Hotas as its commonly referred to; is a joystick that makes you feel like you are literally flying. Whether it’s a spaceship or an F15C Jet Fighter, the Hotas joystick puts you in control. From there, I started getting into PC games as most of the better flight simulators require the power and speed of a gaming computer.
Elite Dangerous Is The PINNACLE of space simulation.
All of sudden I’m a kid again, able to fly through the stars and allow my imagination to run wild. I’ve found a new a hobby. Something new to learn, enjoy and challenge myself with. While falling down this rabbit hole I’ve discovered that my experience is not uncommon. There are many men who have picked up PC gaming as their new pastime. Some, like me enjoy space flight simulation games like Elite Dangerous developed by Frontier, which is an amazing, immersive experience that lets you literally explore the known universe in a spaceship. Others prefer more realistic, earthbound aircraft like the ones found in Flight Simulator 2020. There are even Hotas’ made for driving games where you can race a realistic feeling formula one or drive a big-rig truck down the interstate, using an actual steering wheel! I can say I am officially a proud 40 year old gamer 😉
Moral of the story: Don’t feel guilty about being a 40 year old gamer.
For a lot of men, these advances in gaming and technology have allowed us to recall what some of our earliest dreams were. To remember what it was like to let our imaginations loose and to wonder. Tapping back into that energy is healthy, it helps to keep us young (even if just at heart). And truthfully, it’s good to have a hobby or craft or project during these tough times. This particular hobby is safe and keeps us close to home. It’s OK to have these kind of hobbies and still be taken seriously. We all need to escape sometimes, even it’s to the man-cave we’ve fashioned for ourselves in the basement or the garage. So, a BIG shoutout goes out to all the 40-year-old gamers out there; and anyone else who is bold enough to try something new or at least get reacquainted with a past love.