When I Was Your Age

Computer games, much like all other forms of media that came before it are the subject of much scrutiny. A lot of gamers think it’s unfair and unjust, but it’s not unusual. If artistic media were to be personified, computer games would be a Kevin and Perry-esque teenager, smoking behind their parents’ backs, acting up in public places and having wet dreams about the 18 certificate movie that lives next door while the book across the street sits in his rocking chair, pipe and slippers at the ready, laughing at the silly little blighters. My point is that whatever criticisms computer games receive all other media that came before it has already been there and got the t-shirt. Remember films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Evil Dead being banned in many countries? Sounds an awful lot like games such as Manhunt, does it not?

One of the more interesting arguments that games (and films, and probably books) have received against them is the fact that if a child plays them, they’ll try to emulate what they’ve just seen. I don’t doubt this for a second. I very vividly remember re-enacting episodes of Captain Scarlet as a child and diving round my mum’s living room pretending that my hand was a Walther PPK after playing Goldeneye, so I know how impressionable children can be, but does it stop there?

When we grow up and grow out of our costumes, when we’re too big to fit in our cardboard box forts, do we stop being so impressionable or do we simply suppress it because that’s what we’re ‘supposed’ to do? I can’t be the only person who, at 22, still occasionally has the overwhelming urge to hold a brush like a mace and fight imaginary monsters in the back garden. Surely there are other people in the world who also feel the need to suddenly rush to the nearest laser quest and try to recreate the lobby scene, complete with voice-over whooshing and banging sound effects every time they watch The Matrix.?

One of the best "Holy shit, I wish that was me" moments in cinema history

Maybe computer games were created because of people like me. Maybe adults are just as impressionable as children, even if they don’t like to admit it. Films and television have a lot of explaining to do, turning me into an immature man-boy, refusing to grow up and still wanting to act out whatever springs into my imagination but computer games let me act that out (albeit in a very limited way) without looking like an idiot or taking someone’s eye out when I throw an orange at them like I would a grenade. Sandbox games allow me to wander around cities and shoot people who look at me funny; racing games allow me to play chicken with my friends and still walk away from an otherwise death inducing crash; stealth games let me sneak around and hide in cardboard boxes ’til my heart’s content and music games like Guitar Hero make me think I can actually play guitar well.

You may think I look calm just now, but fire that Nerf Gun and you'll see why the Overlord chose me.

While it’s not as fun as riding on the back of a dragon (the sofa) holding a Rocket Launcher Of Exploding Heads +3 (the telescope my mum bought me for Christmas that year) through an enchanted kingdom (the living room), computer games are the next best thing to acting out fantasies and don’t end up with your house mates or partner thinking you’re crazy when they walk in to find you firing Nerf darts at your cat and claiming it’s the Demon Overlord’s guardian tiger. If this is the case, and I’m not the only person who also has these impulses, then why are adults allowed to play games when children aren’t? Is it because adults have responsibility and maturity? If so, why does having those things mean you can’t have fun? Look at LARP (live action role playing) for example. To the average person it’s just a bunch of geeks dressed in stupid outfits and fighting with foam weapons but I see people who are having fun and letting loose their inner child.

Sure, there are bound to be the odd few who take it all far too seriously and live up to the nerdy image that accompanies such hobbies but, let’s face it, if you’re reading this article by choice and willingly visiting a website such as GamingLives then there’s already a little bit of nerd in you, so for all those parents out there saying that children are too impressionable to play games or that their child is addicted, I say this: let them be. You were their age once, and if you try to tell me you never broke something your parents held dear in the middle of your flights of fancy then I’ll know you’re lying. If you don’t let your kid play computer games, your favourite china might end up in a broken heap after they decide that it’s cursed Aztec treasure and needs to be destroyed for the sake of humanity. If you’re a parent of a little geekling and you haven’t touched a computer game since Pac-Man then first of all shame on you, but secondly, maybe sit down with your little one and join in. You never know, you might accidentally have a little bit of fun in the process.

Last five articles by Iain



  1. Samuel Samuel says:

    This is a really good article, Pix, I really enjoyed this one. You make a lot of good points, and no, it’s not just you; only two Christmases ago I got an almighty bollocking for destroying all the ceiling decorations with a vacuum cleaner pipe pretending to have a lightsaber battle when the rest of the family were in bed…

    The problem, as ever, is that some people take it to extremes; oh no, if you try and emulate games, you’re clearly nuts and going to kill someone. Which is complete crap, of course. If you’re that kind of nutter, you’d do it no matter what your hobbies are. When I eventually go on that killing spree I’ve been meaning to get around to doing, I’ll be very annoyed if my games collection gets the credit for it, as it’s obviously going to be a product of deep misanthropy and emotional damage. Heh.

    The other problem, which is sort of special to the English, is that we’re all terrified of looking like a prat in public and losing face in front of other people. I think John Cleese said that the English spend most of their lives being dead, for fear of looking foolish. He was right too, even if society isn’t quite so stodgy as it was even forty years ago. Even now, I try to keep my lightsaber duels and fist fights against evil mutants for when nobody else is looking… you know, three in the morning. Wouldn’t want the neighbours to think I was any crazier than they already do after all.

  2. Rook says:

    My dad woudl probably tell you I play too many video games yet he will spend more time in front of his TV than I do infront of mine. I may not act out as many scenarios as I did as a kid, but growing up just means we get better toys to play with. I had a plastic bow with sucker up arrows as a kid, yet earlier this month I was firing real arrows from a real bow and using a crossbow pistol – deadly toys and much fun.

  3. Kat says:

    I still wish I could beam out rainbows to use as bridges :/

    Great read and I do agree. I used to wear a black cloak and “cast evil spells” as a youngster after reading books. Why is it any worse if a modern day child has got it from a game?

  4. Mark Mark S says:

    Great read pixel. Every time i see a cardboard type from kitchen foil or wrapping paper, im swinging it like a sword. Mainly used to pretend my little sister/brother is a sith who i have to batter over the head.

    Good times.

  5. Mark Mark S says:

    *tube – :D like me.

  6. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I actually play around more as an adult than I ever did as a kid. When I was very young I’d spend most of my time in the forest next to the house, climbing up trees, jumping off really high cliffs (I realised a few years ago that they were 30ft overhangs of eroded clay… shut up) and building secret dens in case they dropped the bomb. It was great fun but, by the time I was a little older I spent pretty much all of my time in my room in front of a computer. From age 11 until maybe 16 I really didn’t go outside much.

    These days I sit in my blacked out office during the day, staring at three monitors (I’m an adult now, I can justify three monitors) and rarely go out. In the evening I work on this site… but I have SO many more toys now than ever and we even spent some time outside in the garden yesterday avoiding wasps while we tried to eat lunch.

    I have a lightsaber. It glows. I’ve swung it around an awful lot but now it’s more ornamental as I don’t want it broken. Lorna and I have a laugh all the time though, whether it’s the pinching game (I have three pinches which I devised, each one more deadly than the previous) as well as the one-handed chinese burn game. We’re always teasing each other and running around like kids… I don’t see enough adults doing things like that. It’s like Allison in the Breakfast Club says: “When you grow up, your heart dies”. My heart will never die… every banana is a gun waiting to happen, or a penis… every kitchen roll tube is a way to make annoying noises appear closer to Lorna’s ear… every ice cube has the potential to end up down her top or her butt crack… tickling is nature’s way of rendering someone entirely helpless so you can annoy them more and more yet they can’t do anything about it. Life is what you make it. Life is fun. Regardless of anything else.

  7. Iain says:

    @ Preacher – you’re totally right, a lot of people I know hate looking like a tool, whether it be through making a mistake or through acting like a kid. Personally I don’t give a shit, I’m more than happy to play the fool :D

    @ Rook – That annoys the crap out of me when people think it’s ok to sit in front of a TV for hours but not a computer screen or a console. Either way it’s a screen with stuff happening on it, but at least ours is more interactive

    @ Kat – Why am I not surprised that you used black magic as a kid :p

    @ Zero – those long clingfilm tubes hurt if you get a good enough swing in ;)

    @ Markuz – I completely agree, I hope I never ‘grow up’. We only have one life, so why waste it being a miserable, boring sod

  8. Richie rich says:

    Give me a cat and a Laser Tag set!

    I never really re-enacted games although for a while after THPS I was basically imagining the world as a giant skate park whenever I was out.

  9. Lorna Lorna says:

    Loved this. Yes, there is a big kid in most folk (trying to cut their way out with a stanley knife) and I think that, as you mentioned, a lot of folk need to reawaken it. You make a great point about those parents who may whine about kids re-enacting something but may forget themselves doing the same when they were young, whether it was playing soldiers or pirates or anything else.

    It is a very Engligh thing not to want to be seen to be foolish and thankfully it hasn’t bothered me so much. To my family’s horror I used to fool around in supermarkets, I still mess around with cling film tubes and all manner of nonsense that can fire the imagination. And you haven’t lived until you’ve spammed someone’s forehead with a cold, wet teabag or thrown a load of potato peelings over someone. Childish, yes. Old fart, no. That’s how I want it to stay.

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