Had she affections and warm youthful blood,
She would be as swift in motion as a ball;
My words would bandy her to my sweet love,
And his to me:
But old folks, many feign as they were dead;
Unwieldy, slow, heavy and pale as lead.
(Act II, Scene 7, Romeo & Juliet)
My tastes have changed since I was younger (I prefer mojitos more than Kool-Aid on a hot day for example), but I like to think my videogame preferences have generally been consistent. Sure I like a broader taste of games now, but I also have better access to games, and thus a broader selection of interesting titles to choose from. Yet for some reason, it seems the older I get the more I feel it necessary to attribute my personal tastes, or complaints, to the generation gap. Donning a "kids these days" mentality to brush off increasingly popular, or unpopular, videogame trends as anomalies is unhealthy for game development and criticism.
I write this not because a particular piece of journalism or podcast sinned in some way, but because I've noticed the frequent appearance of phrases like "maybe I'm just getting old but" or "I am to old for." I too am guilty of relying on this platitude when I'd rather not elaborate my opinion. But these sayings fall into a trap. They deny any significance to what actually explains differing beliefs and values between gamers.
There is undeniably a popular notion in American culture that the generation gap exists and that it is natural. Parents will never understand their children, the old will never be able to handle youth culture, etc. Though children will always find their voice independent of their parents, the generation gap, if it exists, is not nearly as influential as we might think. There are, in fact, plenty of healthy parent-child relationships far into adulthood. The generation gap exemplified by youths' rebellious spirit is exacerbated by marketing tactics exploiting our cultural fetish with youth and a false need to define ourselves by what we buy.
The videogame generation gap may not stem from the same source, but its symptoms are similar. There is a sense that as gamers mature, their tastes mature, they become less patient, and they find it more difficult to internalize new videogame challenges. If the future is as predicted, I may enter my old age replaying Bioshock over and over again because I can't handle those "damnfangled" VR machines.
While I will certainly become senile myself, there is little evidence to suggest adults can't handle new technology. The number of Wii players over fifty and of older adults who have grown comfortable in the Internet savvy world, is a testament to our technical adaptability. There are already sites designed for "old" gamers. Rather than shrug off those who do have a hard time picking up new games as too old, we should reexamine how game educate new players, which is by no means a new concern.
The same can be said for maturing tastes and waning patience of aging gamers. There are plenty of gamers well into adulthood who will excitedly purchase the next Peggle or Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad. Likewise, my desire for games that allow me to save whenever I like is not the result of my growing laziness, but of a shrinking amount of leisure time.
This need not be attributed to a generation gap, despite an obvious correlation. The same goes for difficulty. I do not have time to crash against a wall of failure again and again, but if I lost my job I would suddenly have the time to waste on trivial pursuits. However, I could also just be the type of gamer who enjoys exploration over skill tests and severe punishment, irrespective of age.
I am not one to point to the past as an ideal, but I can understand the concern self-proclaimed "old school gamers" have for the future of videogames. Perhaps some of the fervor to innovate endlessly, to find the next niche game carved out by young developers, has to do with a paranoia we have of growing old and stale, of becoming lost to the videogame generation gap. In doing so, we may miss important lessons from games we played years ago.
That is not to say old and troubling paradigms don't exist in the videogame industry. Even Will Wright, approaching his fifties, understands the importance of new industry trends. But such focus should retain a critical eye towards the history of games we've already established. This includes fields outside of the videogame industry. There is a lot to learn from theater, literature, web 2.0 interface design, and even modern dance. Incorporating the a broad array of cross-generational experiences, is the best way to ensure I'll be playing games well into eighties.