It is now 2014, and it has suddenly dawned on me that this is the year I will finish my degree and be turning 22. I have spent a good amount of time this year dwelling on the fact that I am still just as interested in video games as I ever have been, and in turn, I’m wondering what that means about me as a person as well as what the future will hold. Admittedly, these thoughts most often arise whilst procrastinating over university work or lying wide-eyed from making the unwise decision to drink coffee before bed. My favourite hobby has always been something that I have kept quite private, partially in fear that I would be judged by others but also because I thought I might grow out of it. Social pressures are not uncommon for anybody of any age, but it seems to me that there is definitely a stigma surrounding those that choose to spend their time with a video game. It is as I have grown older and continued to enjoy playing games that I have started to become aware of the growing pressure by society to ‘grow up’ and move on. But why is there this pressure? And where does it come from?
Studying about the media industry has given me a great deal of insight in recent years about how video games and video gamers are represented by other forms of media. There currently seems to be a climate of discrimination against gamers and the games industry which is being spearheaded by traditional forms of media such as newspapers, TV and radio. This is causing those who do not consider themselves ‘gamers’ to be of the opinion that; spending your free time getting engrossed in the latest triple-A title or choosing to utilize the commute to work as an opportunity to play on your handheld is a waste of time or ‘sad’. These opinions are a leftover of the stereotype which arose when video games started being produced in the early 1970’s which was that they were only played by children or awkward obnoxious teenage loners who were able to play with virtual people but not with real ones. This was mainly due to the fact that the games industry was a new and incredibly niche market during that time and not understood by most. But now in 2014, the games industry is far from niche; when GTA V was released last year, it became the fastest selling entertainment product in history, beating the forever popular and widely acceptable producer of entertainment media; Hollywood.
Despite this milestone for the industry as a whole, the misrepresentation and ill-informed discussion of negative topics surrounding video games is still all that’s portrayed by ‘old media’. Whether it is how violent video games are ruining the minds of our youth, or how the industry is dominated by men and therefore innately sexist – a remarkably hypocritical accusation, considering how male heavy the television industry in particular is. It is reporting such as this which has stopped the consensus on video games from evolving with modern times. There are several possible reasons for why this is the way it is. An example which I support is that the ‘Rupert Murdochs’ of the world are men who found their wealth during the rise of television and peak of print media, and simply do not understand new media such as the games industry. Thus they cannot monopolize it and therefore must discourage others from supporting it. This is done by feeding lies and false information as fact to an audience which is highly susceptible to what they read in the newspapers and/or see on the television. This discourages talented young games developers from embracing their passion for video games, and in turn denying future generations the opportunity to enjoy what I, amongst many others, see as an unparalleled form of entertainment.
But whether this is the case or not, the fact that ‘gamers’ (especially over a certain age) are not looked on favourably from the outside world affects how they will interact with other people and ultimately what they decide to do with their lives. One option would be to give in to society’s will and keep your love of video games a secret. The other much harder choice is to embrace what you like doing with your time, and do whatever you want to do with your life. The decision to discredit games as a valid form of artistic media was not one that the public has made in my opinion. This is something that is being proven more and more recently as mobile phone games become ever more popular. Although there is still a stark difference between playing a casual game on your phone to spending several hours of your evening devoted to your console of choice in most people’s minds, at least there is some positive movement. And as the old forms of media have to modernize to compete with the likes of the internet, perhaps reporting on the subject of video games will be more accurate and fair as they become more educated about the industry. If so hopefully following generations will be just as accepting of people who play video games as people are currently are with those who play sports. So in answer to whether you can be too old to play video games, my answer is no. You can never be too old to do something that you enjoy. If anything, the more you get older, the more you SHOULD be playing video games. The level of immersion and the experiences that you can draw from certain games is akin to no other media that exists.