I’ve lived a long life. As I reach the twilight years of gaming at the ripe old age of 28, I reflect on all the things I wish I’d done more of. The things I wish I could tell my 16 year-old self. Things like “yes, they knew” and “never with shampoo”.
While many of us may have responsibilities and grown-up things to deal with, it’s not too late. There are many things that as gamers, young and old, we should all be doing more of, right now. “But Chris,” you say, indignantly, “I’m older than 28! Am I not more knowledgeable than you?” No, you’re not, you ridiculous manchild. I am a prodigious fountain of wisdom and if you don’t click Read More you will never find true happiness.
Have LAN parties
You might be too old for Pokémon (that’s right, Isaid it) and Heelys, but you’re never too old for this. I dragged my PC over to a friend’s house last weekend, and it was exactly the same as it was when I was ten years old – except this time it was with beer, and nobody showed up at 11pm to tell me to go to bed.
LANs have gone the way of dinosaurs and Ghost-Pops-that-don’t-suck due to the advent of online gaming, and it’s a greater tragedy than that time the most delicious snack food in the world was replaced with an imposter that tastes like a cauldron of bubbling molten ass. While online gaming is a convenient way to hang out with friends without the inconvenience of wearing pants, you just can’t match the joy of triumphantly leering at them after an epic duel, or the raising of fists in shared victory after a come-from-behind win in Dota 2.
Online games are fun, but they’re even more fun when played together. You can also polish off some classic LAN chestnuts like Call of Duty 2, which is still better than any of the last five or six iterations.
I’ve spoken a lot about my love-hate relationship with League of Legends, although the “love” part may not have come through quite as strongly. Or at all.
The best decision I ever made was deleting that game, because I realised that my love-hate dichotomy existed on a win-lose axis. A series of lost games left me feeling hollow, like I’d pissed away hours of my life for no gain, which is how I feel after I watch anything with Nicholas Cage in it released in the last sixteen years.
I recently re-installed the rage-inducing horror-show masquerading as a MOBA, but this time I embraced losing. When Russians tell me I’m bad and should get AIDS and die, I joyfully agree. When my rank gets demoted for the second time in a week, I wear it like a badge of honour.
Competitive games can be amazingly fun, but not if you’re only having fun half of the time. Then you’re just a gay person at a bisexual orgy.
Now, if you’re reading this and your age starts with a 1, I know you’re an impulsive creature. Teenagers run almost entirely on impulse, which is why sixteen year-old boys are absurdly hygiene-conscious, going to “shower” 6-7 times a day.
Perhaps I should exclude you then, as your brains are still developing some measure of self-control. The rest of you have no excuse. Gamers as a group are less patient than a Sandton tannie at the Home Affairs office, and this leads us down the path of bad decisions.
Bad decisions like pre-orders and day-one purchases. Bad decisions like buying SimCity or Aliens: Colonial Marines or an Apple product. Bad decisions like hollowing out a cucumber and stealing your Mom’s face cream only to find out you’re allergic to – nope, wait, sorry, I’m back on teenagers again.
As I’ve become older and wiser (and lazier and poorer), I’ve realised that buying a game on the first day is about as sensible as buying single-ply toilet paper – you may feel like you’re getting a good deal, but three days later you’re bleeding from your ass. That analogy may not exactly hold up, but what I’m getting at is you’re far better off giving it a week and seeing if you still want it after reading five negative reviews or watching PewDiePie cackle his way through it like a deranged manbaby with a recent head trauma.
I’ve been doing this more and more, and I often find that once the hype glow wears off, I don’t really want it at all. Or, even better, realise you don’t want it enough to drop a grand on it, and wait for it to go on special. I picked up Destiny for R200 the other day, and found it to be okay. Not great, but not awful either, like eating yesterday’s doughnut today.
Become (a little) obsessed
I have an addictive personality. It’s why I’ve never done drugs (that and because they’re bad, m’kay). But what I will do is get into a new game, spend twelve hours reading strategy guides for it then spend then the next 12 in a pool of my own excrement watching videos.
My favourite types of games are the ones I can really sink my teeth into. I don’t get a lot of time to play games anymore, but part of the fun for me can be games that have an online following and community, with plenty of metagaming to occupy myself with in the five or ten minute gaps I have throughout the day.
This is why I always have one or two competitive multiplayer games in which I’m invested – right now it’s probably Overwatch, with CS:GO as my side chick, and League of Legends as the abusive ex-girlfriend with herpes who calls me in the middle of the night when I’m weak and vulnerable.
There’s a line to this, of course. I find for me it gets crossed when I start to become too obsessed with actually playing the game. If you go to bed without playing and you’re jonesing for a fix, that’s when it becomes a problem.
What I’ve found to really help with that is to…
Diversify your hobbies
I’ve recently gotten pretty heavily into board games (mildly obsessed, one might say) and I’ve noticed a dramatic change in how I approach video games as a result.
Video games provide a sort of outlet for me – they’re intellectually stimulating, they’re challenging and they help me decompress. Since getting into board games and forming a group that meets weekly, I’ve found that a night of strategic board gaming gives me the satisfaction of a week of video games. If I’m tired during the week now, I go to bed – I don’t feel that pressing need to play an hour or two of Overwatch. I’ve become more sociable, happier and less dependent on getting in “gaming time”.
If you’re a gamer who hasn’t checked out the deep world of hobby board games, I highly recommend that you do. Timeless Board Games has board game days monthly in Jo’burg and Pretoria, and with 200+ demo games available to play and tons of players willing to let a newbie join in, it’s a fantastic place to start. I went to the first one alone, met new people, had an amazing time and formed my current group that meets weekly.