When I was a teenager, I had a cousin around my age that I would hang out with sometimes during the summers. We would stay with my grandmother and great-grandmother for the whole weekend. On Friday night, my great-grandma would make two full boxes of Hamburger Helper, and when we got there multiple cases of Sprite Remix would be chilling in the fridge. My cousin and I would put away two pounds of ground beef and macaroni, wash it down with our trendy soda, and stay up til three in the morning playing video games together. On Saturday, we would sleep until noon, and when we finally stumbled out of bed we’d do it all again. We were Gamers™, and those days were the peak of our summer experience.
Fast forward ten years. These days my heart races if I eat too many tacos at dinnertime. Sprite Remix hasn’t been on the market in ages. As I write this article at 10:30 PM, I am up way past my bedtime. I no longer game for hours in a single day – heck, sometimes multiple hours in a single week is an accomplishment. I’m still a gamer at heart, but the definition of what that means to me has changed drastically in my adult life. And the reality of that settled in deeply over the past couple of days as I experienced what is supposed to be “gamer Christmas” – the Electronic Entertainment Expo, AKA E3.
I started my E3 journey on Sunday afternoon by watching the Microsoft conference. That evening I live-tweeted the Bethesda conference as well. Yesterday, I worked a full day at the office and so missed the Ubisoft show live, but I was able to catch up during dinner and then I stayed up late to see what Square Enix had in store. I retweeted memes, listened to reactions and discussions, texted my friends, and generally engaged in the hype machine that is E3. But as I dove in further and further, what I found is that each show left me feeling disappointed. Now I could sit here and wax poetic about how this hasn’t been a particularly impressive expo year, but in my experience there’s something deeper happening, a realization settling in that whether gaming has changed or I have changed, this world doesn’t hold the magic for me that it used to.
A look through my tweets over the past few days should pretty quickly reveal my sentiment towards the various conference. I’ve dunked on mobile games, zombie games, military shooters, cloud streaming, remakes, battle royales – most shows had maybe one game that caught my eye, but even then my excitement always came with a caveat: I don’t have time for this. We live in a world that is full of video games, and just playing the ones where my hype level is 10/10 barely scratches the surface of the experiences available to the avid gamer now. I can’t finish every game that makes me shout with excitement, let alone the ones that earn a quick beard stroke accompanied by a “hmm, that’s kind of neat.” Combine that with the fact that so many of the titles shown don’t appeal to my particular gaming tastes, and it seems like the hobby that I once loved has grown quite distant from me.
And you know what, adventurers? I am okay with that.
The way I see it I have two options. I can write a 2000 word blog post saying “woe is me” and complaining about the fall of the game industry, or I can shrug my shoulders and acknowledge that this world – or at least many aspects of it – are not for me. There is no written rule anywhere saying that I have to go “all in” in order to be a certified Gamer™. If all I want to watch is the Nintendo conference and spend the next two months talking about nothing but Fire Emblem and Pokemon, that’s a valid approach. That’s being a gamer. So is loving every single Tom Clancy game shown at the Ubisoft conference. So is playing nothing but Tetris and Candy Crush on your cell phone on the tram. So is being unabashedly in love with Fortnite. None of those things are for me, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad. Because for someone else – lots of someone else’s, in fact – those things are all fantastic and it’s what connects them to the amazing community of gamers.
I think what I have learned about myself this year is that I still allow myself to get sucked into things I am “supposed to do” as a gamer or a blogger. I have to cover E3, right? If I’m not posting about that then how am I supposed to grow my brand? But it’s helpful here to remember that my goal with Adventure Rules is not to grow a brand at all, but to have an outlet to write about the things that make me happy and excited. A place to share my thoughts with the amazing friends I have made across the world, and to read what they are excited about too. The moment that something I am doing stops serving those purposes, it loses its value. It becomes a burden that must be shed rather than an opportunity to be embraced.
The one part of E3 left is the Nintendo Direct, the part I am most excited for. In all likelihood, something will happen in that Direct which inspires me to put pen to page again and share my thoughts on the world of gaming. But there’s a chance that it won’t, either. And if that’s the case, I’m not going to force myself to write. I won’t do a top ten games of E3 or a breakdown of my least favorite parts of all these disappointing conferences. The folks who love those things can write about them and share their passion. But for me, I don’t want the negativity that I feel because something isn’t my scene to cause other people to feel as if their scene isn’t welcome here.
The version of me that stayed up all night playing games isn’t around anymore. But the version of me now can still be a proud gamer in his own way. E3 doesn’t have to be my scene for me to love this hobby, or for me to want to talk about it on my blog. Understanding that will help me to approach this whole event in a way that’s healthier and more positive for everyone who interacts with me – at least, that’s my hope.