“Are you going to stay home from school and play video games all day?” Before I could even open my mouth, my mom looked at the sales clerk like he was from Mars and said, “No, he’s not.”
For the record, I was going to say the same thing.
It was a nippy and gnarly November morning in 2005 when my mom and I entered our local mall at 7AM. The mall was dark, empty, and tumbleweeds rolled by in the distance. Or maybe they were mall walkers. Not sure.
We had pre-ordered the Xbox 360 and this was the day it was released to the public. This was the time we were told to pick it up. I was in Grade 9 and had my school uniform underneath my jacket. The thought of staying home from school to play video games was never a thought that crossed my mind.
I was first introduced to video games on Christmas Day 1999, when my parents got me a Nintendo 64. I was eight-years-old. Kids, these days, would laugh at how late I was introduced to video games, but that’s how things were back then.
My Nintendo 64 was never permanently set up in our house. Every time I used it, I had to take it out of the box and set it up. When I was done, I had to pack it up again. To this day, I still do that whenever I use it.
I’m not going to say my parents were strict in how often they did, or didn’t, allow me to play video games. They were fair. They were exactly how all parents should act, in my opinion.
I always had to ask if I could play video games. I could never play on a school night, so that left Friday nights and weekends. If I played for more than three hours, they would get worried about the system overheating and start telling me it was time to turn it off.
NHL 99 and Mario Party 1 & 2 were my games of choice. I also had other sports games. Nothing else in the store really caught my eye. They were all just in the way of what I was looking for.
I didn’t grow up playing Super Smash Bros. on Nintendo 64, which I feel awkward admitting because there will be people reading this that will be flabbergasted by such a claim.
I never knew what it was back then.
Between 1999 and 2005, I also owned a Gameboy Colour and Gameboy Advance. When the Gameboy Advance came out, I traded in my Gameboy Colour to help lower the cost of the new handheld device my parents were paying for.
In the early 2000s, I was introduced to computer games at a friend’s house. It was an NHL (hockey) video game. He used a controller that was plugged into the computer, while I used the keyboard. Retro!
In Kindergarten, I “learned how to type” thanks to “Mario Teaches Typing.” The game where you press the same three keys the entire time. At such a young age, I was applying what I learned at school to a real-life situation. Cool!
By 2005, I had a bunch of my own computer games. Hockey, Basketball, Baseball, Football, Car Racing, Soccer, Spiderman, and Harry Potter. And every year, when a new sports game came out, I wanted it. Fortunately, they all came out a few months apart from each other, rather than at the same time.
My dad always asked me what was different about this year’s hockey game, compared to last year’s. I would tell him all the new features and how the player movement was now more lifelike than ever before! And every time, he would reply, “So nothing is different.”
He just didn’t get it. Everything was different. Everything!
I didn’t grow up with any shooting games or anything like that. Spiderman and Harry Potter was as violent as it got. Slinging spider webs at people is quite violent, no?
It’s not that I was ever told I couldn’t get violent games, but I never had an interest in them. I had my niche that I enjoyed – all the sports games. Beyond playing the games, I loved being able to draft my own team, make trades, relocate a team, and set the prices of merchandise and food at the concession stands.
I was having so much fun raising the price of hotdogs to $14 in a video game. I was an out-of-control owner.
When the Xbox 360 entered my life, I shifted away from computer games. Why was I going to spend money on those when I had a new gaming system?
My computer games were Woody and my Xbox 360 was Buzz Lightyear. The decision was easy.
By this age, I had more authority on when I could, or couldn’t play video games. I knew better than to play video games when I had homework to do. If I had a test the next day, they were definitely out of the question, even if I was “done studying.”
Playing video games is not something you do if you are ever “done studying”, I learned.
A couple of years later, my Xbox 360 died and I went without a gaming system for about a year, until I got a Playstation 3.
When I moved away to university, I could play video games whenever I wanted. But I never played video games instead of going to class. Ever. I never played video games instead of completing assignments, or studying for exams.
Video games were still more of a Friday and weekends sort of thing for me. Sure, I played during the weeks too. Maybe some games in between classes with friends. But I didn’t forget the reason why I was at university. Many times I stayed up until 4AM on weekends playing video games because I would never do work at those times. And who needs sleep?
I loved video games. Were they my entire life? No.
Over the last three years, I’ve started to care less and less about video games. As of right now, I can’t even tell you the last time I picked up a controller and popped a game into my Playstation 3. It’s been months.
And it’s not because I don’t have time, or that I don’t have any games to play. I’m just not that interested anymore.
I finally realize what my dad was saying to me all those years about how there really isn’t anything different between a hockey game one year and the next. I get it now. The only thing that changes is how it’s marketed. That’s where the “cool new features” come into play.
I grew up in the video game era. There is normally a negative connotation attached with that distinction. As if I’m some sort of zombie who just stared at a screen all day and squinted my eyes whenever sunlight came through the window.
There is a belief that kids don’t play outside, or aren’t as active anymore because of video games and other technologies keeping them indoors. I believe that, to an extent.
I had video games in my house that could’ve kept me indoors, but they didn’t. I was out playing in the backyard as much as I could, or playing road hockey with other kids on the street.
Road hockey wasn’t something for which you needed an invitation. You just showed up with your stick and by the time you got there they would have already decided which team you were on.
So I don’t really know what excuse kids have these days. Is there just an overwhelming amount of technology that keeps them indoors? I mean, all I had was Nintendo 64, Gameboy Colour, computer games, the internet, and television.
Is it the parents? Do they not have the same rules with video games that my parents had for me? My parents weren’t even strict about it. It’s just the way it was and I went along with it.
All I know is that I cringe when I hear about 6-year-olds playing video games, or 10-year-olds with cellphones. Who are they texting?
I haven’t grown out of video games. You grow out of diapers, cribs, and strollers. You can’t grow out of video games. I’ve just lost interest. That doesn’t mean I won’t wake up tomorrow and feel the urge to play for the first time in months, though.
Confusing, I know.
Video games just aren’t something I feel compelled to do on a regular basis anymore.
My 12-year-old self would be so disappointed. Those virtual hot dog prices don’t raise themselves.