The Life of a Gamer

I’m 45 years old. I’ve been playing games since I was 8 and making them professionally since I was 18. During that time there have been an amazing number of technological advances.. better consoles.. better computers.. amazing video cards.. smartphones. As a result of that technology we’ve seen some simply astonishing games take over out lives for long periods of time.

It wasn’t until the last few years that I started to take a closer look at the arc of my own life as a gamer and open my eyes to the fact that my journey is really different than the one my kids are on. I see the gaming world through the eyes of someone 45 that grew up on consoles and early PCs. My kids (I have 4.. 3 of which I would consider hardcore gamers) grew up in a very different gaming world than I did. They’ve had smartphones to play games on, they’re already used to multi-tasking to a degree that even someone like me has a hard time keeping up with. They’re tweeting with their friends while they play games. They’re on Facebook while they play games. Gaming is already a very social experience for them simply because of their ability to connect with each other. It lets word of mouth become almost instantaneous. That’s a very, very powerful thing.

The generation we’re seeing coming into the gaming fold now are going to be even more extreme versions of my own kids. They will never have seen a world without an iPhone.. or an iPad. They will be playing in a world where they can log onto a PC, find just about any kind of game they want to play and go ahead and play it.. all without going to the store to buy something. In fact, they’re growing up in a world where the free options are actually incredible. This isn’t me saying Free-To-Play is the only way. I’m saying let’s open our eyes to the world we’re living in. The next generation of gamers has an awesome world to look forward to.

We’re also seeing a massive influx of people of all ages into gaming in general. Things like Candy Crush Saga have hit a chord in a whole lot of people. My own Mom is 75 and plays Pogo for  6-8 hours a day (yeah. really.. not exaggerating).

So what does all this mean for us as both game players and game makers? Well as a game maker the world only gets more interesting. We always can look forward to the next new awesome piece of tech that’s going to give us the ability to make cooler things. However, we also need to start actually paying attention to our own demographics a bit more than perhaps we did in the past… particularly in gaming segments that have longer game lifetimes. In the MMO space, we have Everquest which is just about to turn 15.  That’s 1/3 of my life. One game. We have a whole lot of people who played right from March 16th, 1999. There have been many games that have sucked me in so completely I’ve played them for really extended lengths of time.

What’s interesting about those numbers is that I know I’m not unique in them. Most of you have probably also played some games for a super long time too. I was 30 when we launched Everquest… and I’m 45 now. That’s a huge age gap. My tastes have changed radically. There are new categories that didn’t exist before that I find my gaming time split between (Planetside 2, Dota 2.. ipad games.. iphone games). I have responsibilities I didn’t have when I was 30. My desire to pull an all-nighter playing a game hasn’t changed one bit. However my ability to pull an all-nighter playing a game has absolutely changed. I also find that once I’ve learned a game I tend to stick with it more than when I was younger because the key investment I’m making now is time.

And that’s really what sums this up for me. My key resource in my own life now is time. It’s a finite resource. Maybe it’s THE finite resource.

Where will I be when I’m 60.. or when I’m 75 like my Mom is now. I know for sure I’ll still be gaming… and I can’t wait to see what it is I’ll be playing. But really, 15 years to hitting 60 doesn’t seem as long now to me. I’m starting to measure my professional time in terms of what I make.. because we only get a certain amount of time on this Earth and I’d rather be playing or making games than anything else so I want to make the best games I can… and I want to have fun doing it.


20 thoughts on “The Life of a Gamer

  1. “we only get a certain amount of time on this Earth and I’d rather be playing or making games than anything else…”

    Well said. I concur

  2. Right there with you Smed. When EQ launched I was single stationed in Alaska and had nothing but free time. Today aside from being 15 years older, I am married and a business owner. My game time is at a premium, either I love the game I am playing or I look for another. That being said I an having an absolute blast with EQNL. You hit on something big with this title.

  3. Very insightful Smed and also very much in line with how I view my life these days.

    Gaming has helped shape the direction of my career. While not in the game industry, I look back nearly 14 years ago when I started my adventures into the gaming world with EverQuest and I see the difference gaming has made in my life. I look a few key points in my career and compare them to key points in my gaming life. What I’ve learned in gaming can be summed up in a few profound words and each of these words or learnings has had a direct impact on my career.

    Responsibility –

    In EQ, I learned that being responsible for knowing my own class and what my role was in groups & raids, being responsible for having sufficient food/drink and materials on me and knowing which fight we would be doing on any given night, had a direct impact on the success or failure of said group or raid.

    This translated well into my career. As I’ve now been with the same company for nearly 13 years, I’ve learned that knowing my role inside and out, being prepared with material data, bringing snacks or lunch to a meeting and knowing when to pick my battles or just /camp a cleric has helped me in numerous projects, both large and small and has prepared me for each career move. I’ve held 8 different roles in my organization, each progressive role, more challenging than the last.

    Passion –

    EQ unlocked a passion in gaming that I’d not experience. One that forced me to log in at 2:00am when a guild-mate called and asked me to tank Trakanon because he just spawned and another guild was preparing to gather and enter Sebilis. A passion that made me run 2.5 hours across the world from Freeport to Halas just to see if I could (I finally did without dying at level 15).

    That same passion I experienced in gaming also appeared when I was a Tier 2 Customer Support Agent for my current company. It was the passion for our customers.. for being the best Support Agent I could be that drove me to want more. It drove me to look for ways to improve the customer experience. It drove me to take a chance as a Tier 3 Customer Support Lead, without a college degree and apply for an Operations Manager Position. As an Operations Manager, it drove my interest in how I could better help customers through times of crisis and led me to designing an entirely new department in my company – Global Customer Crisis Management. That same passion for customers led me to a new role as a Sr. Manager of Customer Experience. Where that passion leads me next, I don’t know. But I know it exists and I know where the fire was stoked.

    Leadership –

    In EQ I also learned about leadership. Growing as a player in small guilds. Eventually taking on the role of officer and finally as guild leader, I learned what it takes to not only be a leader but follow the advice of those around you. I learned that you much surround yourself with a strong team of leaders all working towards a common goal: to be the best guild you can be. I learned that sometimes being a leader is tough. Sometimes you want to throw in the towel and just play a game of “follow the leader” – but that you can’t do that when you are the leader. I learned that as a leader – you aren’t always popular and that sometimes decisions MUST be made that hurt other people but that those decision must be made for the good of the organization.

    These lessons were no more apparently in a role that I took as an Operations Manager when I was faced with the task of closing down an office, relocating half the workforce to another location and then informing the other half of the workforce that they would no longer be employed. In my career, it was the toughest and most heartbreaking task but one that I was prepared to do simply because I had faced similar circumstances before. In EQ, I oversaw the merger of two guilds which then resulted in half of my friends and fellow guild mates being “culled” from the guild because their play style did not fit with the new vision that this newly formed “super-guild” had. It was actually MORE difficult to do this in EQ because my guild was so close-knit and had been together for a long time. However due to the changing nature of our server, it was merge or not progress any further.

    I suppose I have rambled on long enough, but in conclusion – I agree. Gaming has changed, gamers have changed, times have changed and the only commodity in life now, is time. Like you Smed, I’d pull an all night-er every week but sadly, I’m lucky to pull 3-4 hours per week for gaming. Will there be a new generation of gamers that take up that mantle – I can’t say for sure. I’m not sure today’s gamers have the intestinal fortitude or the attention span to do so. What I can say for certain is that I look forward to retirement at some point, 25-30 years down the time. Maybe EverQuest Next Millennium Edition will be out? If so – I’ll see you in game for an all night-er sir!

  4. A good read, Smed. I’ve been a gamer since the Nintendo was released, and I was 4 at the time. Now I’m 28. I definitely agree with you that our time is precious, and I just don’t have the time like I used to in my EQ days to spend on a single game. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy spending all my hobby time playing them or my attempts at trying to make some. I’m glad to see SOE is in good hands and get a chance to see the person behind some of the games I enjoy.

  5. I echo the comments above, i might not be old, but with the arrival of my kids I can already see that my life has really changed from 15 years ago. I have way less “free” time to play video games, but I know that soon my Son will play with me :) (I hope!)

    Also, I wanted to say how much I appreciate these articles. Their tone and subject matter really appeal to me and lets me “in” on the older gamer community mentality… and I like that! Please keep them coming Smed.

  6. “””Gaming is already a very social experience for them simply because of their ability to connect with each other.”’””

    Then, shouldn’t we compare MMOs design to Social web design as it shaped the habits of 3 billions users already?

    For example, do the servers concept really need to be exposed for all MMOs ? Most Facebook users have no idea what a server is. Why not load a Social Graph in the World (friends, guildies, players I had positive interaction with, players potentially useful, hiding/showing the ones I +1/-1…)?
    Shroud of the Avatar seems to go this way, why is it not there 10 years later after Facebook dominance of our online social experience?

    Is it partly due to the fact that there are no young designers in that industry like Garry Gannon recently tweeted? (“MMO companies need to start hiring some young kids with crazy ideas. Most of the people I meet are middle ages and working on their 3rd mmo”)

    Does it plays a part in the dominance of strong vertical progression which completely goes against our RL social nature plus other drawbacks,

    What about MMO developers borrowing more on web tech? For example I find “Camelot Unchained: Making a Game Out Of the Web” concept promising. I would love to know what you think about it (on Youtube watch?v=LySpluTETQU)

    And if we go “crazy” why not focusing less on creating world = server (as our single point of reference) and more individual *experience* of a “world” (multiple points of references). Conceptually it’s different and has lots of potential that Philip K Dick only began to scratch, playing with “the nature of reality” fits well with the video games potential.

    “””and I want to have fun doing it.”””

    I can smell “hard-fun”! :) (fun is pretty unsustainable).

    In 2004 I had the chance to met Seymour Papert in France as he did a whole conference on “hard-fun”. He did so because one day he asked a kid doing Logo how he found the experience. The kid answered it was fun ! …. and … it was hard !
    The pinnacle of human needs for me is hard-fun, I’m an addict (younger I found it a lot in sport and now in tech work or gaming)

    Thanks for sharing your hard-fun with us, it’s contagious ! :)

  7. I have (no space for humility) thy best free to play GAME IDEA ever but I have no resources to produce it. anyway putting up a project. I know SOE has space for big insights, if you are interested please mail me. thank you!

  8. I understand that the gaming demographic has shifted from 16-20 years old to closer to 30 years old in the last decade or so. In those 10+ years, people grow and change. Time becomes more important and gaming becomes less important. People get full time jobs, raise a family, and have many other responsibilities that they didn’t have when they were teenagers. Which leaves a lot less time for games. And while tastes stay the same, the time investment the average gamer can put into gaming has become much smaller.

    This obviously makes sense for developers of games to start developing games that are less time consuming. Games that have a large payoff over a small period of time. People who were spending 8-12 hours a day in an MMO are now spending 1-4 (made up figures, but probably not THAT far off). Basically, a lot of “hardcore” MMO players are now in the “casual” category.

    If we look at the basic evolution of MMOs, starting with EQ and ending with games today, we can clearly see a shift towards casual gaming. EQ was one of those games where a person had to spend hours upon hours to get reward. You can see the entire revolution in a game like WoW. Vanilla WoW was pretty hardcore. Players had to spend a lot of time to make their characters “the best”, while a lot of players were looking in from the outside, there was a class of elite player. As WoW expanded, the game became more and more casual. The introduction of 25 man raids (down from 40), a token system, a tiered loot system (tiers existed but weren’t a huge deal until Naxxramas), daily quests, and a lot of other artificial barriers that a hardcore player could complete in a very little percentage of their usual game time. Stuff like that kept the casuals up with the elite. Now WoW has become 3-4 months of farming the same items as everyone else, with the only difference between hardcore and casual being a slight color variance on items (raid finder vs hardmode raid zones). The elite player in WoW doesn’t feel elite anymore. Almost nothing sets them apart.

    Looking at newer games, like GW2. You can literally play GW2 for about 2 hours a month and enjoy every benefit that someone who spends 60 hours a month playing. There was no vertical player progression. The longer you played that game, the more gold you made (?). That’s just not fun for gamers that want to put in a lot of time to set themselves apart.

    EQ, EQ2, even EQOA, all had advancement systems in place. AA/CM, whatever you call it.. were ways to advance your character without the limitations of raid and group instance lockouts. You could spend so much time working on your character that when you finally got something you felt a real sense of accomplishment. I haven’t felt this sort of character progression in an MMO in a long time. I don’t know what developers are afraid of, aside from casual complaints.

    Where is that MMO? Are people just too old now? People develop games for themselves and devs are getting older and older, and like I said, the older you get, the less time you have for games. Which, like I said earlier, makes sense. But in doing this, a whole generation of gamers are missing out on that feeling of real accomplishment. People are playing games for such a small payoff that all that matters is the next tier, the next item. It just feels wrong.

    • I’m not saying that games should alienate the older generations of gamers. I’m saying that games shouldn’t cater to them. There should be things in place for the hardcore gamer. The whole game doesn’t have to be hardcore, obviously, that would be financial suicide. I’m just sick of dropping MMO after MMO because I can’t set myself apart simply because of systems that limit the time I can put in because other people can’t put in said time.

    • Donald,

      I understand that the gaming demographic has shifted from 16-20 years old to closer to 30 years old in the last decade or so.

      This is not true.

      The Entertainment Software Association publishes “Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry” every year. You can find them as far back as 2004 pretty easily with Google.

      The average age of gamers in 2004 was 29, and in 2013 it’s 30.
      The average age of game purchasers in 2004 was 36, and in 2013 it’s 35.

  9. Those are some very interesting thoughts, and I see where you are coming from. Looking back at the time spent playing games has left me wondering if that is my future or will I be doing something completely different. To be honest, I hope I am doing something different… but I don’t want to lose the nostalgia of games like EQ that I cut my teeth on back in the day, and so I will be playing… at least something I am sure.

  10. I’m a 42yo female who has been gaming most of her life. I love that I have played from BBS MUD’s to current gen MMORPG’s. (not to mention iPad/iPhone games.. the list goes on!) Hell, I met my husband in 1995 in a MUD (oh telnet, how awesome you were at the time.. so glad I don’t have to read my games anymore, though!) To see how gaming has evolved is amazing and I love it all. I don’t have a career in gaming. Gaming is still my future. It is also my past and present. I’m just a girl who loves gaming and loves showing her children the beauty of gaming. As you said.. ” we only get a certain amount of time on this Earth and I’d rather be playing or making games than anything else so I want to make the best games I can… and I want to have fun doing it.”

    I’m going to spend my life playing games and having fun doing it. I will instill that into my children. Gaming is *fun*. It can be competitive, it can be hard, time consuming, frustrating and so much else. In the end, it has to be fun or it’s not worth your limited time on this planet playing.

    Thank you for making such fun games for me to enjoy.. and keep enjoying.. and for me to pass along to my children so their future is filled with gaming too.

  11. Pingback: Your Next: Nostalgia Ain't What It Used to Be [EverQuest Next Landmark] |

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