If Internet columns are to be believed, the average gamer is male, aged 28. Stand up if I?m referring to you. Personally. I?m one of the crusties bring the average age up, since I?m over 30 now.
Of course, I?m not the only gamer in my family of ?above average? age. My mother is a keen gamer too, and it?s all my fault.
I mentioned in passing in the previous column that my birthday present to my mother (yes to, not from) was the game FarCry. And well-received it was too. She hasn?t had a new first person shooter to play with since I got her hooked on Diablo 2.
The FPS genre has always been her favourite. It all dates back to when I was studying at university, and she came in my room to see how I was going, and probably to bring me a cup of tea (she is English).
Study was going fine, but right then I was busy killing Nazis in this amazing game for my 386 called Wolfenstein 3D. You may have heard of it. She watched me play for maybe half a minute, and then hopped on. I didn?t get the computer back until Hitler was dead.
She quickly moved on from Wolfenstein to Doom, which is where she stayed for many years, in fact. Once I?d taught her how to load up Doom with the additional maps that were available, the life of that game was extended for years. I bought extra levels on CD from a computer games store, since we didn?t have that new-fangled ?internet? fad people were going on about. I think those extra Doom maps remain the only mods I have ever paid for. They were worth it though.
Quake never caught on with her. She played it maybe three times, then went back to Doom. It was the awkward look up/down controls that did it. Once Unreal and Half-Life were out, with their more intuitive mouse controls, she upgraded from Doom to those two.
Unreal and Half-Life were where she stayed until I put her onto Diablo 2. There was a bit of a learning curve, mind you. To younger players well used to the fantasy RPG the game is ?pick up and play? easy. It?s obvious to us which weapon and armour are the best, but not so for her, so the learning curve was not so much steep as very broad. It took my mother a while to get used to it, not least due to the change in the perspective she was used to. Undeterred, she was soon an enthusiastic player, with the Assassin and Paladin her two most used characters. I still get the occasional phone call, with her asking which of two weapons is the better one, or where to put the next skill point. It?s our new mother/son bonding event. We?ve played a little bit on Battle.net too, which is okay, but we gave it up a during 1.09 due to frequent crashes, and haven?t started up again since.
This brings us full circle to FarCry. It won?t be on her machine for long. For some reason, playing it for a while gives her bad headaches, though she?s tried numerous times (such persistence!) the problem hasn?t gone away. So I offered to swap for my copy of Call of Duty, a game she bought me for Christmas. I?ve played the single player as much as I care to, and prefer the Baang for multiplayer. She?ll enjoy it.
Of course, she?s been asked about the violence aspect of the game, often by my wife. Her response is basically this: It?s not violent because it?s not real, it?s just like playing a cartoon. That?s how she views the games, as a kind of advanced make-believe. I think that?s a message we could all take home. Though plenty of people (like my wife) just can?t separate the unreality of the game from their experience of playing it, or in my wife?s case, watching it played. For the record, I can name one mother firmly in favour of video game violence!
I think we will be stuck with the image of the spotty teenager as the archetypal gamer for some time to come. Even though the people who that stereotype were built around have long grown up into, well, people my age. There are still plenty of youngsters coming up to continue in our footsteps, but it seems that the gamers who started in the 80s are still going. We?re still there, even if our beloved Ataris and Commodores are hard to come by now. Once computer games have you, you are hooked for life. I think you can count on the average age of the computer gamer to keep on rising.
I would have added a sentence here to the effect that I expect gaming media to assume their audience is entirely 14 and under, but that?s not fair. I?ve noticed a marked improvement in the magazine scene since I started writing The Ninth Circle. Magazines like GamesTM and Retro Gamer are ones I pick up every now and then. The industry has certainly woken up to the fact that the ?average gamer? is not who the mainstream media would like us to think it is.
Maybe in 20 years the mainstream media will realise this too, but I won?t hold my breath.
The Bit At The End
In totally unrelated news, I have just had my first piece of professional fiction published, in Issue 12 of Andromeda Spaceways. If you like short science fiction and fantasy stories, that aren?t so heavy, then I heartily recommend this magazine for you. Especially Issue 12.
The Ninth Circle was written from 2002-2006, by David Kay, and with 58 installments it was the longest running column in Diabloii.net’s history. The Ninth Circle covered computer gaming, RPGs, fantasy novels, the gamer’s life, and other related issues. Opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Diii.net.