Best of 2014 – My Childish Things

First Published: Sep 29, 2014
Voted For By: Chris, Lorna, and Tim
Reason(s) For Vote:
“I doubt I’ll be the only person to vote for this. Ric’s mother perfectly highlights that, despite a rise in commercial profile for the industry, the people who have been playing games for the better part of the last twenty years are still massively misunderstood as is our hobby” – Chris

“Lovely introspective piece from Ric on his hobby, and how it – and therefore he – is perceived. It is an amusing, quirky tour through his inner thoughts, culminating in the quite righteous ‘fuck you’. Games are for life, not just for childhood.” – Lorna

“I think we all ask ourselves these kinds of questions at some point or another, and it’s something that has struck me more than once over the last couple of years. It’s testament to the power of gaming that I do keep coming back, and it reassures me, somehow, that I’m not the only one who experiences bouts of self-doubt. Childish? Never!” – Tim

During the fading hours of my university career, I began working at the Subway on my university campus. It was relatively easy work for decent pay, and helped me fund some of my gaming and drinking at the time (when really I should have been saving, as I was planning on living in China for a year). It also meant, thanks to being open until 4am some nights, that I became a social vampire of sorts, rarely rising from my bed until the sun had set and only returning to sleep minutes before the giant orange ball rose once again.

My mother, at the time, was also prone to being awake at ungodly hours of the morning, and would send me messages on Facebook to pass the time. The conversations were usually fairly banal, about children or my plans for the future (go to China). One particular conversation sticks in my mind, however. Discussing finances and saving, I joked that a monetary gift from a relative I was about to receive to aid my trip would “probably be blown completely on games”. To which I received this:

“With regard to the videogames, may I refer you to the King James Bible – ‘When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.’”

My mother had chosen to quote 1 Corinthians 13:11 at me. I walked away from my laptop.

Videogames have often been associated with spotty, white, teenage boys, sitting alone in their parents’ basement, yelling obscenities at screens, but this just isn’t true. Sure, the early days of videogames may have been dominated by young ‘uns, but even if we ignore the adults that played games back then, the kids have all grown up, and most of them are still playing. A study by the Entertainment Software Association in April of this year, which surveyed 2200 homes in America, found that the average age of a game player is 31, with 48% of people in the survey being female. To take a quick example from closer to home: of the GamingLives writers, I am the second youngest, aged 21 (beaten by only a few months at the hands of the friendly giant that is Keegan). I still live at home, sure, but I have a job, a car and a decent degree. I’m basically a full-grown adult. Who plays videogames.

Yet despite this, I find it impossible to shake that feeling I’m still a child. I have been playing videogames for most of my conscious life. My Gamertag proudly displays a giant number seven somewhere near my name, a constant reminder that I’ve owned an Xbox 360 since I was fourteen years old. No matter what I have accomplished with my time, I have always returned to the same pastime, pouring countless hours and thousands of pounds of cold hard cash into a hobby that is still perceived as “for kids”. The Bible quote rings through my head every time I pick up a controller, or debate whether to buy a new game, or even start reading an article about a game on a website. How can I grow up when I’m still tied down by this stupid, childish hobby?

I suspect this may just be my own worry, and not one that is shared by others. Negative comments about my character stay stuck more firmly in my head than positives. A friend recently told me that I behave like a five-year old, having abandoned a very good opportunity in my life (going to China) for seemingly pointless reasons. I had many good reasons, of course, though I’m still trying to convince myself that the announcement of Costume Quest 2 isn’t one of them. But I started to worry, and have continued to do so, that my actions are really that of a child, and that an adult would have stuck through rough patches for the good opportunity that was being offered; one that others can only dream of.

All this has led to me feeling guilty. Guilty that I’m wasting my time and money on a collection of pixels moving on a screen, when I could be doing something more constructive with my time. Guilty that I could’ve achieved more in my life if I hadn’t been so focused on upping my Gamerscore. Guilty that I could’ve been more sociable, more talkative, more energetic, if only I’d set foot outside once in a while. And, annoyingly, these are all legitimate reasons to feel guilty. Had I not wasted those months playing Rock Band, I could’ve worked on my real guitar playing and become far better than I am now. If I hadn’t have played so much Burnout that the idea of driving at high speeds everywhere became the norm for me, perhaps I would’ve passed my driving test sooner. What if I’d used the time I spent completing Catherine on hard to work on my own, real relationships?

So I try and focus on the positive aspects of my game-filled lifestyle. Without games, I never would’ve met the lovely people of this website, who inspire me every day to be better and try to write more. I never would have decided to make my own games, which is simultaneously exciting and terrifying once you release your creation on the world. And I never would have got the opportunity to travel to Germany and call it work. My years of dedication to my hobby have been rewarded with exciting journeys and the chance to meet fascinating people, which in turn has led to inspiration for my non-gaming related ventures. How can I not be a full grown adult after all these amazing experiences?

I once told a younger relative that becoming an adult meant you could eat toast at midnight and no one could tell you not to. It was a basic way of describing that feeling of independence, the ability to do whatever you want and not feel you shouldn’t because someone else has told you it’s childish. Growing up is about making your own decisions in life, choosing who you want to be. It’s high time I started believing the things I say, and stop feeling bad because other people disregard my chosen pastime as “childish”. It’s time I stopped feeling guilty about playing games, and relished the opportunity to experience stories in an interactive way, becoming someone else or just killing thousands of enemies.

So, 1 Corinthians 13:11, I have this to say: Fuck you. My childish things are staying right where they are.

Last five articles by Ric


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