Jason Fry, um colunista do Wall Street Journal online, escreveu um texto muito interessante(disponível para assinantes) sobre sua trajetória crescendo com os videogames, comum a tantos outros que (como eu) tem 30 e poucos anos hoje. Essa geração começou no "pong" (também conhecido no Brasil como Telejogo Philips) e foi vendo toda a evolução enquanto crescia: Atari 2600 e Odissey, Intellivision e Coleco, Nintendo e Megadrive, Playstation e N64, Tk 90X, Apple, Amiga, PCs — EGA, CGA, VGA, SVGA e por fim as placas (cada vez mais) aceleradoras de video. Uau, que período. Mas a verdade é que um dia todos nós abandonamos essas coisas, sob a pressão da vida real, com emprego, casamento, filhos e todas essas coisas que cobram um preço pelas noites em claro com videogames.
Eu a seguir copio os emails que ele recebeu em resposta ao seu artigo (mensagens em inglês) pois achei muito interessante ver o quanto a experiência se repetiu para todos nós, membros dessa "Geração X", quer seja no Brasil, quer seja nos EUA ou na Inglaterra. Acima de tudo, vale a pena ler a ultima das cartas, que mostra como esta geração pode ainda reencontrar, no futuro, os videogames de uma forma relevante e pessoalmente enriquecedora.
Abdul Bailey writes: I am a staff software architect and I know dozens if not hundreds of engineers that can completely identify with your article. At one point in every engineer's life you get involved in videogame play. It is inevitable. On average engineers spend anywhere from eight to 12 hours a day sitting in front of our computers doing our jobs. Then we go home just to sit in front of the device all over again (most likely after the wife and kids go to bed).
There is a pattern I see with young engineers fresh out of school: They join a company, link up with other engineers that share their passion and have disposable cash. Inevitably someone drops a game in their lap, and before you know it they are having a geekfest at someone's house or apartment playing "Starcraft," "Doom," "Descent" or some other popular title until all hours of the morning. Eventually someone from the group is grounded by reality and things die down and the group disbands. (For me right out of college it was "Starcraft.") Now I am married with kids and I have absolutely no time for videogames. Last year I purchased two copies of "World of Warcraft" for my brother and me, figuring it would be fun for us to share a hobby. My brother was far smarter than me and ditched the game after the 30-day free trial. I, on the other hand, found myself up until 3 a.m. on a Friday night trying to get my character to the next level, then having to wake up at 6:30 to take care of my 18-month-old son. I quickly gave up that hobby.
I haven't gone a videogame binge since becoming a dad, for the reasons you mention. I do remember dropping by one of my housemates' office during the vaguely employed post-college years for a Doomfest on their company LAN, though.
Glen E. Mercer writes: I think videogames became an adult pursuit because the videogame industry has basically grown up with Generation X. We started with "Pong" and have now moved on to "Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon." Time is definitely a concern, which is why I recommend sports titles: You can play a game or two without being sucked into an all-night session that you pay dearly for when the kids hop out of bed at 6 a.m. I can't wait till they are old enough to play with me!
Mike Herp writes: The trick for me was when my son reached age five. I like to play sports games such as "NBA Live," "Madden," and "MVP Baseball" on my PC. Now my son loves to play these games with me so we create teams, players, etc. He is six now and is pretty good at all three games, and he can beat me depending on which teams we play with. Now, I can play games and spend time with my son, while he has learned a lot about math, reading and understanding logic. A win-win all around.
Joshua is three, so I've got a little ways to go. But that's a great idea. Nothing says growing up like walloping Dad at a videogame.
Trent Johnsey writes: I feel your pain. I too used to find time to play games for hours on end. Now, with two kids and a wife, my only time is late at night. My favorite game is "Starcraft," although "SimCity" gets an honorable mention. You can play these games and either die or win within an hour or so. Thus, I avoid the all-night game play and fill the unfilled need to escape for a while.
Let me recommend "Enemy Territory," an online spinoff of "Wolfenstein." The games are normally 20 to 30 minutes long, and normally against real folks. Probably 50 unique maps exist worldwide on 200-plus servers. The game can be played against computer bots, but the real fun is against other folks. The game is large, but free to download and play, and you can play on servers world-wide.
I'm too incompetent a gamer to last against even the most-slothlike human player, but a 20- to 30-minute fight against bots sounds great. Thanks.
Matt Wester writes: Today's game-playing adults are yesterday's game-playing kids. As your own experience illustrates, today's adults are those who've grown up with arcades and Ataris, with Nintendo and Sega. We have less time now for games, certainly, than in the halcyon days of our youth — it's tougher to blow off work and family for games than to blow off classes and homework. And it's tougher to justify the spending on a state-of-the-art gaming PC or the latest console and games when paying the bills and building a proper savings come first.
Gaming is a hobby like any other, though, and becoming more accepted as those who started with it as kids grow up. It's important for people of any age to get some "me time" and unwind. We have a limited amount of leisure time, so in order to keep gaming we just need to allocate some of it. I try to play an hour here and there, myself. (I'm with you on staying away from the massively multiplayer games, though.)
"Growing up" does not necessarily mean a person's tastes in entertainment and hobbies change. As I've told coworkers before, after being spotted playing on a Gameboy during my lunch break: If growing up means giving up what I enjoy, I'll pass. Maybe we can't always be Toys 'R' Us kids, and maybe games will inevitably take up a smaller percentage of our free time, but we can continue to find enjoyment in our hobbies — whatever they are.
Well said. Let your videogame flag fly, people!
Adam Macielinski writes: It was "R-Type" that did it for me. About 35 minutes of stabbing away at a seemingly-indestructible fire button, and maybe a few ten-pences later, I got to the end — maybe was the first one to do so at my university. But since then, I've continued to stay hooked. But I'm picky (snobbish?) about which games I like: strategies ("Civilization," "Warzone," "Command and Conquer," "Starcraft," "Warcraft") and first-person shooters ("Doom," "Quake," "Wolfenstein"). And that's it.
My girlfriend was told well in advance of "Doom III" and "Quake 4" that I "wouldn't be around much" — and after a month or less (after finishing on "nightmare" level) I'd put the games away, uninstall, and that was the end of that. I manage my time by being snobbish and picky. These games come out infrequently: The next game I might be interested in is the new "Command and Conquer," and that's not going to be out for a year or more, probably. So my girlfriend gets plenty of my time.
Jeff Miller writes: I'll be the big 4-0 later this year, and like you grew up with the rudimentary first console videogames (Atari, Colecovision, Intellivision) as well as the arcade. The early consoles were interesting, but even then they were limiting in terms of game choice (very few titles), and quickly became predictable. For me, the PC really opened up the world of videogames, and, in particular, the original "Doom." There were many nights while in law school spent playing that game, and some of its successors. However, the workaday world, a house and family bring demands upon one's time that interfere with the enjoyment of videogames. Yet it was not as if I passed the bar exam and the videogames went on the shelf — the change was simultaneously imperceptible and marked.
In order to be engaging, games require a certain degree of knowledge/skill that takes time to amass. Being a professional, a husband, the father to two boys, maintaining a house, and all the other things that make up life in the U.S. circa 2006 imperceptibly encroach on our time — and I, for one, simply don't have that in sufficient supply to master the minimal skill set needed to make staying up all night with a game enjoyable.
Once we had all the time in the world, but insufficient money (or at least better uses for it); now, we have money, but insufficient time (and certainly better uses for it).
Matthew Burns writes: If you make time for just one game in the next few months, try "The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion." It's a highly enjoyable, open-ended journey through an expansive sword-and-sorcery world. Unfortunately, you can do such a great variety of things and the areas are so beautifully done that you'll definitely have a hard time tearing yourself away.
OK, there's my next game — this is exactly the kind of game I love. Thanks, Matthew. I think.
Mark Van Noy writes: One of the great challenges that we face as we grow older chronologically is staying mentally young. Like muscles, our brains tend to atrophy without proper exercise, especially as we age. I believe that part of this comes from becoming disconnected from young people whose natural mental acuity is fresh and active. Older adults, not wanting to expose themselves to the bright, quick minds of youngsters, tend to withdraw from this social arena and "hide" behind a wall of lack of interest in "childish" activities. The truth is that we become uninterested because we don't feel up to the competition. However, if we can get past our egos, we can still compete. Perhaps our old bodies will no longer cash the checks our brains like to write, but we can still use our hands and minds to play these games in our virtual personae. It's great fun and keeps us mentally alert and agile. Not only that, but it is a great area of common interest that we can share with much younger gamers, such as our kids and grandkids. Parents and grandparents are always looking for "things to do with the kids." This is it — in spades.
Several years ago, I was visiting with my son and his family. He gave his kids a PlayStation for Christmas. I thought the games were cute, but they were kiddie games and, although tremendously advanced compared to "Pac-Man" and "Pong," they still left me uninterested. However, on a subsequent visit, he had upgraded to PlayStation 2 and he had a new game called "Medal of Honor: Frontline." I played the game and I was hooked.
Returning home, I told my wife that I wanted a videogame console for my upcoming birthday and she granted my request. So I began to research game consoles with the dedication and fervor I normally reserve for a major purchase such as an automobile or giganto TV. I decided that I preferred the Microsoft Xbox, unpacked it in my home office and set it up on my desk, where it has occupied a place of honor ever since. It was later joined by a second Xbox and, recently, a brand-new Xbox 360. (I bought a second Xbox so I could set up and play head-to-head with visitors, mostly my grandkids.)
What a fantastic reward this has been for me. When my grandkids' friends find out that I'm a real gamer, one who can kick their butts in "Halo 2," I suddenly attain an almost-mythical status and my grandkids (who love me for all kinds of other reasons) find another reason to be proud of me.
I think this is my favorite letter of the year. Thank you.