Back in 1979, the 11-year-old me walked into the local leisure center and had his life changed by what he found there. In a dark, dusty corner of the area normally reserved for vending machines, stood a Space Invaders machine. Until that moment, he had only heard of Space Invaders from the constant news stories about how they were sweeping the nation and how bad they were for children.
There in front of him stood the forbidden fruit he had dreamed of playing on. It shone like a beacon and called out to him — “Play me”.
He was instantly hooked, and he quickly fed it all the money his mother had given for swimming that day. This was a pattern that was followed every weekend for months to follow. My mother must have wondered why my swimming kit always came back bone dry each weekend.
That Space Invader machine installed in me a deep passion for video gaming that is still with me to this day. The question now is, am I too old for gaming?
The Amazing Things Gaming Has Given Me
It is fair to say gaming has shaped my life.
In the early 80s, my passion turned into a desire to learn how to program my own games. Which turned into a 30+ year career in computer programming. I’m still employed in a role that relies on the programming skills I learned when programming my own games. Not a bad return on my initial investment of my weekend’s swimming money.
By joining and playing in clans, I have gone on to make some amazing friends around the world. Some I have known most of my adult life, and I’m in contact with some of them more often than I am with some of my family. The friendships go way beyond just gaming. We know what is going on each other’s lives, what life problems each of us is facing and give each other support in life.
My online gamer friends have exposed me to cultures and experiences that I would never have been exposed. Over the years, I have been lucky enough to travel to meet some of them in person and they have become “real world” friends.
The greatest thing it has given me is extra bonding with my grandchildren. Unlike some other grandparents, I don’t have to wait for weekend. I just hop online, and we are all playing together. We share laughs and experiences far more than could do on just normal weekend visits.
One hidden advantage of playing with and talking to your grandchildren online is, you can lower their volumes when they get too boisterous! Try doing that in real life. But, shhh! Don’t tell the grandchildren that one.
Am I Too Old For Gaming Though?
Whenever I mention I’m a gamer, I always get the same reaction — Aren’t you too old for that sort of thing? Which leaves me asking myself, at what age are you too old to play games?
There are teams or clans of “seniors” playing together around the world. They all benefit from having fun together, and from the social aspect of gaming together. Retired people are being encouraged to keep their brains active and alert by playing puzzle type games. Are any of them too old to play games?
Older people are accepting of video gaming, and many of them see the benefits of gaming in their later years. So, maybe it is society that is the issue and not the older gamers.
Society still associates video games with kid’s toys. Even though gaming has been around for over 40 years, and only 21% of today’s gamers are under 18, gaming systems are still almost exclusively marketed at children.
Looking for reasons why society looks down on older gamers is like looking for a needle in a haystack. But stigmas around sections of gamers are nothing new. Until about 10 to 15 years ago there was a similar baseless stigma around women gamers.
My wife is also a big gamer and she would regularly get overlooked in gaming shops. When buying games for herself, the sales staff would assume the game was for me. They would then try to engage me in a conversation about the game she was buying. Excluding my wife from the conversation in the process.
Anyone and everyone should play video games if it provides them with entertainment or other benefits. Saying gaming is not for a certain section of society based on their gender, age, or anything else, is like saying TV or film is only for a particular sector of society. It is up to the individual to decide if something is for them or not, not society.
What Do I Do Now My Eyesight and Reactions are Shot to Pieces?
For me, the only things that have changed over the years are my eyesight and my reaction speeds. I now need bifocals to see, and I struggle to keep up with modern high-speed games. So, I have had to adapt my gaming habits and alter my gaming set up to match my ageing body.
My biggest gaming loss was having to give up hyper fast shooter games like Doom. I have a deep love for the original Doom games, but I just can’t keep up with the modern versions of Doom. This really breaks my heart — the latest Doom game looks gorgeous and a lot of fun to play, but by the time I worked out how to select a weapon, I’ve been fragged.
My only option is to turn my game’s difficulty settings right down, but that always feels like cheating to an old gamer like me. So, the entire experience becomes a more hollow one for me.
There is no doubt modern games look stunningly beautiful! I have just watched the Nvidia launch of the new RTX 3000 series graphics card. Its performance is mind-bogglingly stunning! Worlds are rendered in 4k, or even 8k, detail with light reflections and countless other fancy effects. A far, far cry from my early Space Invaders days.
For us oldies, the downside of all these fantastic graphics is that there is far too much detail for us to process with our old eyes! By the time my old eyes and brain work out if I’m looking at an enemy or a my own reflection, one of the enemy’s bullets is already traveling through my brain.
One of my solutions for this, has been to turn down the fancier graphic details in my games. Switching off things like high-quality textures, reflections, smoke effects, and weather effects. This simplifies the on-screen action enough for my aged eyes can keep up. It doesn’t look anywhere near as pretty, but it makes it easier for me to play.
The plus side is that it saves me the $1,499 asking price for the Nvidia RTX 3090 graphics card.
Here is a quick, handy tip — When you install a game and it asks you to calibrate your screen’s brightness, so a logo is barely visible, always opt for making the logo very visible. This will turn up the brightness and make things easier to see — especially in games with darker settings.
Sound has also become far more important to me when I play games. I have upgraded my PC’s sound system to a 5.1 surround sound system. This means I can now tell which direction something is attacking from just by sound alone.
This has saved me from countless ambushes by my grandkids, who now all think I’m some sort of hacker or cheater.
It is not all doom and gloom in the old age stakes though. I now get to live my gaming life through my grandkids. I coach them on how to play games and take them to gaming exhibitions (pandemics permitting).
Although I’m in my 50s, with dodgy eyesight and the reaction of a sloth, I have no intention of giving up gaming. Not for a long time yet. I get far too much from my gaming to give it up.
I’m part of a massive global community that constantly introduces me to new experiences. As a result I have real friends around the world that I would have never met without gaming. Plus, I have far greater family bonds with my grandchildren because of gaming.
Why would I give up any of that just because of my age?
Sure, I will have to alter my gaming habits to reflect my diminishing abilities, and it may reduce me to playing simple games like Candy Crush. But while there is a community, friendship, and family, I will be gaming.
Also published on