Get a life, gamers
Sorry to sound uncool. But itÂ’s pathetic to see so many people lining up for days in a desperate attempt to spend more money and a heck of a lot more time than they should on video games. WhatÂ’s so bad about their lives that they need to get away from them so much?
Last week I was one of the few blissfully ignorant people who didnÂ’t know SonyÂ’s PlayStation 3 and NintendoÂ’s Wii (pronounced Â“weÂ” and not Â“why,Â” IÂ’m told) consoles were about to be released in highly insufficient numbers. Nor that this marketing decision would obviously force countless shoppers to line up outside the continentÂ’s electronics stores for up to two days just to be able to boast about their luck in spending several hundred dollars on one of this yearÂ’s hottest toys.
Then on Friday morning I heard on the radio that soon after 8:00 a.m., when the first PS3s became available, the price of the 60-GB console Â– the only one the truly cool want Â– had reached some $3,000 on eBay, from a retail price of $660 plus a bunch more for specialized peripherals and, you know, actual games. I checked again over the weekend and the eBay prices had fallen to about $1,200-$1,500 (and a mere $1,000 for the shabby 20-GB machine).
Wow. Then Nintendo released its own brand-new Wii console on Sunday, which attracted more than 1,000 people to a Toys R Us store in New York CityÂ’s Times Square for a midnight sale and who knows how many more in every suburban mall from Nanaimo to Memphis.
ItÂ’s true that these consoles are marketed as all-in-one Â“entertainment hubsÂ” that you can apparently use to watch movies and download music and TV shows and stuff. But while IÂ’m no gaming expert, IÂ’m pretty sure the ability to watch Blu-ray movies, whatever those are, is not what had so many people spend two nights camping on a Future Shop parking lot.
Writing in FridayÂ’s National Post about this Â“kidultÂ” phenomenon, Kevin Libin noted that those most likely to devote so much energy and resources getting the newest game console are Â“lawyers, engineers, and businessmenÂ” not alienated teenagers. Â“Once upon a time,Â” Kevin explained, Â“Â‘adult toysÂ’ meant those marital aids that, if you happened to own, you certainly didnÂ’t publicize to your colleagues and friends. Today, the term is as likely to mean the growing number of inherently un-adult products targeted directly at those of us with receding hairlines that we happily share with our friends.Â” And what is, on average, the age of these gamers? Â“In North America, itÂ’s 29. Seventeen per cent of gamers are over the age of 50.Â”
I think itÂ’s insane. That youÂ’d waste a bunch of time and energy playing video games as a teenager is one thing. I spent many sleepless nights playing Tetris and Super Mario Bros. on what must have been the first Nintendo system way back when (I believe it was made of rocks and twigs). But I was 18 or so, the perfect age to be idiotic and spend energy trying to get away from your everyday life into a virtual world where you can, by contrast, control your destiny and Â– if youÂ’re any good Â– impose your rules on others. Once you reach your late 20s and 30s, itÂ’s a bit trickier.
For one thing, it should then be possible to control your destiny, at least more than when you didnÂ’t have money or a driverÂ’s licence or the right to vote. And for another, if youÂ’re still having difficulty setting your own pace in life or getting others to consider your points of view ten years after your first legal drink, you ought at least to have matured enough to realize that the solution isnÂ’t to play Genji: Days of the Blade until you grow a third thumb but, as P.G. Wodehouse might have said had he lived long enough to witness such high-tech silliness, to straighten the spine and stiffen the sinews.
Granted, there are days when real, adult life stinks. And yeah, itÂ’s good sometimes to enjoy a relaxing evening doing nothing productive whatsoever. But this is not what weÂ’re talking about. When so many people are willing to spend hundreds of dollars and dozens of hours waiting outside the nearest Best Buy for the privilege of owning the latest high-tech gaming console, it says something about the modern world that isnÂ’t flattering.
It says life in the real world, even as an educated, well-paid professional, is meaningless to us and weÂ’d rather get lost in a totally unrealistic high-definition virtual universe.
Uncool isnÂ’t the word. Pathetic is.
Ottawa Citizen, Tuesday November 21, 2006 (A-12)
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