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Gaming and The Console Wars

My life and career has revolved around sports. Specifically, aging out of certain activities and watching the younger generation take over. Any sort of game will always have a symbolic passing of the torch for those legends stepping down. It is part of life to watch the younger talent out compete, out play, and simply out do the older generation. As a father, this can be a mixed bag of emotions.

My generation is fortunate to have video games as a major influence. We grew up playing games that required virtually no physical activity. This means we will NEVER age out. In theory I should only improve with age and should always remain relevant with my skill and wisdom. With each new upgrade and release of a new console, my past achievements should put me at an advantage over the younger crowd. However, life rarely works the way we want it to…

Gaming In The Beginning

It was the mid 1980’s when I was first exposed to video games. Historically, we had to beg our parents to take us to a pizza parlor to play any sort of arcade game. Gaming consoles had already been on the market but no one could afford them. Parents at the time also looked at them as a brain rotting time sucker that destroyed your future. There were multiple road blocks for us kids to obtain our fix of video games.

One of the first games I was exposed to on a console was pong. It really wasn’t until 1986-ish that we obtained our first nintendo. Games were limited and my parents imposed a strict rule on us that we couldn’t buy a new game until we had beaten the ones we had. For those of you who believe gaming doesn’t teach anything, please allow me to explain the damage it did to me.

kids gaming on arcade
alex on game motorcycle

Lessons Learned From Playing

Playing a game from start to finish left a lasting impression on me. Sure, I would grow tired of repeating the same old levels with constant frustration of failing and restarting. However, life is full of failures. Learning to overcome adversity, function under pressure, and keep your focus on the prize was a massive bonus to overcoming failures. I owe much of my work ethic and goal directed behavior to being forced to play a video game to its completion.

Another difficult part of early consoles was the controller cord length. This limited your effective range to a short distance from the TV. You simply could not get in a comfortable position or sit on any standard furniture because the cable just wouldn’t reach. This also put you really close to your competition when playing a heads up game.

gaming as a father

Social Networking

The concept of a tethered controller and couch coop created a strange sense of comradery. You were forced to allow someone to physically sit next to you and then work together as a team to accomplish a common goal. I cannot think of a better way to foster teamwork in a child than video games.

It wasn’t until later that video games became an online multiplayer thing. I truly believe that a contributing factor to people being so easily offended is because that social aspect of couch coop is now lost. When playing a head to head game back in the day, trash talk had to remain civil or you would find out which of your friends could beat your ass pretty quickly. In todays world, everything is remote and there is no vested interest in being a decent human being because there are no physical repercussions.

The concept of social constructs has morphed over the years. What started out as a subculture became pop culture when Hollywood began glamorizing it with movies like The Wizard or War Games. Computers were slowly changing the population and we had no idea what it would do to us as adults.

Through the Years

I have been a casual gamer my entire life. I have explored various genre’s of games and numerous different systems over the years. Specifically I have gone through every derivation of nintendo up until the WII was released. I have also gone through every playstation release since the beginning. Of these consoles I still have an original Nintendo and a handful of games for it in working order.

I stopped playing Nintendo products due to the types of games they were focusing on and started playing more games on a PC in the 90’s. It wasn’t until essentially inherited a PS3 from a roommate in residency (Thanks Julius) that I rekindled that love affair with electronic arts.

I remember playing through the uncharted series on the PS3. The game felt like I was watching a movie. The character development was now so in depth that you felt vested in the storyline. I can honestly say the only reason I purchased a PS4 was to play the final installment of Uncharted 4. It wasn’t until my brother got me addicted to Rocket League that I realized the potential of that particular console.

The Best of the Best

My preferred style of game is more of an RPG (Role Playing Game) or adventure as opposed to racing/sports/shooter types that dominate the market. I also dislike the MMORPG like World of Warcraft, EverQuest and the most recent releases of Final Fantasy. My preference is nostalgic games like the original Zelda or Contra and newer ones like God of War and Horizon.

I play the games for the story line and the adventure. It is less about the action than people would like to believe. This is odd because one of my favorite all time games is now Rocket League. This is essentially soccer with cars. Cars that can fly using rocket boost. It is a deceptively difficult game to master and I have been playing it now for several years. There is no story line and the culture of the game can be extremely toxic if you leave the text chat on.

Environmental Toxicity

I found out why my mom never visits or returns my calls. It is because every opponent in the game is dating her and she is always at their house. There are also several requests for me to kill myself and demands to uninstall the game. Occasionally there are moments when players will actually say things like “what a save” or “nice shot”. This is typically timed perfectly when I fail to block a goal or whiff the ball entirely.

The top comments I get are:

  1. Thats not what your mom said last night when she was at my house
  2. KYS (Kill yourself)
  3. Uninstall
  4. You’re trash
toxic chat 1
toxic chat 2
toxic chat 3

The game became so much more enjoyable once I turned off the text chat. It is mind blowing how much trash talk there is in these games. The culture of gaming has deteriorated to such a toxic level that people are actually swatting each other and in some cases shooting people. This never happened when we were tethered to the console and sitting a few feet away from each other. At most you would take it outside, throw a few blows, hug it out, rinse and repeat next weekend.

Teaching Responsibly

My kids are now hitting that age where they have discovered video games. It has been fun introducing them to the world of video games and slowly easing them into online play. Despite the dangers of online multiplayer gaming, it is important to note that there are some amazing benefits as well. Games like Minecraft and Little Big Planet have made for several fun and interactive evenings with the family. There is also the added bonus of building their social network with my brothers kids who live out of state.

If it wasn’t for video games I doubt I would be as close to my brother as I am now. We play regularly and catch up on life while we are doing something interactive together. It is strange to think about a goal directed activity making this big of an impact on my social life. It also makes me question the future as I slowly realize age is creeping up on me.

Out with the Old

My parents, along with my grandparents generations were always scared of their families dumping them in some nursing home. These homes were originally designed to be a safe place for aging individuals that pissed their families off enough to abandon them or so I was told. In reality, they were created as a higher level of care when the families were unable to provide continuous supervision as their elders became more senile and plowed through diapers like a recently divorced man goes through singles at a strip club.

Being placed in an “old folks home” was basically viewed as a death sentence or Heavens waiting room. You were essentially dumped into a college dorm room with no family support while a nursing staff forced you to take handfuls of fiber supplements, laxatives and sleeping pills. This in turn gave rise to the constant bed sores that eventually became infected. Between the intermittent bouts of diarrhea from the high fiber diet forced down your gullet and the side effects of your antipsychotic meds there were brief moments of clarity when the family would visit.

Thank god for video games!

I like to think about what my geriatric years will be like. I imagine myself being dumped in an assisted living facility with nothing to do except play video games. With social media, instant messaging, voice chat, facetime, zoom, and any other means of social interaction, we are no longer bound by that archaic prison sentence we once believed it to be. Instead, it will basically be college with diapers. This is why I happily show my kids how to play games with me.

Instead of raising my kids like Quakers, I have chosen to introduce them to electronics at a relatively early age. Before you start quoting the anecdotal studies on addiction… We also require them to play a musical instrument, play a sport, and turn the games off when we have company. I go out of my way to make sure they understand that people come first.

Passing the Torch

Being a well rounded individual is a highly desirable trait as you age. Restricting exposure to social constructs will only lead to rebellion. Instead, I have found teaching my kids about things and having an open dialogue has exponentially helped their ability to mature. I think we as parents also need to mature. There are perspectives of life that you lose when you become a parent; Like the understanding that we are often wrong and are just winging it.

There comes a time in life when your children will beat you at something you always felt was your “thing”. The first time they beat you at basketball, a bike race, swimming, or even a board game can be more than a humbling experience. For me, it was when my 6 year old beat me at Rocket League. I have never been prouder and felt more defeated at the same time. What took me decades to build has now been made obsolete. I do not fear the future. I look forward to watching my kids show me what is possible and building on what I have taught them.

One More Thought

If you made it this far you are probably still wondering where I stand on the whole console thing. Clearly Playstation. I believe X Box has a place but it is my personal opinion that Sony has better exclusive titles and a more user friendly interface.

However… I love PC gaming. Mostly because I love building my own PC’s. I need to update my current one and I am planning on teaching the kids how to do it. I have always thought it would be fun to teach them about building a computer. It would be nice to teach them about embedded devices so they understand the basics of coding. Perhaps I will post a tutorial on how to do exactly that… stay tuned.


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