How Video Games Are Making Me Feel Old

My Dad has been wearing the same runners since 1979. My mum only really listens to Fleetwood Mac. That's what it means to get old, to freeze frame your life; to ignore the passage of time, reject the new. To bury your head deep in the sand of your imagined past and stay there until death.

And despite my penchant for chequered shirts, I thought I had avoided that. I listen to new music, I push myself to try new things, but then something made me realise I'm no different.

That thing was video games.

Video games made me realise just how old fashioned I'm becoming.

Don't get me wrong, I play new games — almost exclusively in fact. I'm addicted to the allure of new products, I get excited about the next big thing. I have Skyward Sword on my desk right now; it might as well exude a halo-esque radiant glow. The thought of playing it makes my heart rate quicken. It's new. It's exciting.

So why do video games make me feel so old? I'll try to explain...

It starts with a story — Reggie Fils-Aime discussing Nintendo's move towards downloadable content. In this story Reggie claimed that selling downloadable content to consumers often denies consumers, who bought the game to begin with, the complete experience. Those that bought a copy of the game deserve the full game. Period.

I nod my head vigorously. Couldn't agree more.

Then a press release in my inbox, for Saints Row The Third. THQ announces exclusive content for PS3 owners. My stomach tightens, I clench my teeth. Like something doesn't sit right.

I click on other stories — a batch of stories in fact — discussing new mods for Skyrim, a brand new game that I'm currently in love with. I look at the pretty pictures, I laugh at the clever ones. I ask myself, 'would I ever consider downloading and installing a mod for Skyrim?'

My stomach tightens again. It doesn't feel right. Why?

I'm getting old.

I remember laughing at those who spent hours organising their vinyl collections, those that lamented the death of tangible media. When people started downloading music old people assumed CDs would always have a place because people liked 'things'. Objects they could hold in their hand. At 19 years old I knew those people were wrong because I had absolutely no attachment to music as a product, I only cared about the music itself.

I feel the same about games. I have no problem with games going digital. I've never been a collector of 'things' and that applies to games in the same way it applied to music or DVDs. I like experiences, I like content. To me content is sacred.

And that's why I feel old — to me content is sacred.

Nowadays I feel as though that belief is being increasingly undermined. The idea of content as a static 'thing' to be experienced has been eroded to the point where it feels as though everything created is fluid — a mere starting point for what's to come. Games are patched constantly, we're asked to pay for online passes, mods transform games into something completely alien. The idea of authorship, and experiencing something created and delivered for you has dissolved into something bewildering — a landscape that is constantly shifting, evolving and transforming through our own involvement.

Content is fluid, but I find myself longing for the days when it was static. I must be getting old — I can't keep up.

I value authorship. When people talk about mods, I get a strange feeling in my stomach, the same feeling I expect most OAPs get when they're whitewashing graffiti — the feeling that something beautiful has been altered. I understand the positives of mods — the community, improvements to the game itself. Hell, it's even a great breeding ground for wannabe developers to hone their skills. I respect that, I think that's really cool. I just don't want to be a part of it. I like the idea of something being canon, the idea of content feeling legitimate. Feeling static, being the complete experience.

It's a strange dichotomy. While I understand and appreciate the culture of modding, and the financial sense of creating a platform as opposed to a simple product, it doesn't quite sit right with me. I still like to listen to music as an album, from start to finish instead of creating playlists. I want to indulge in an experience created for me, not one I have to adjust for myself. I want to be entertained by artistry; I want to be shown something and I want that to mean something — when people tear and poke around with content it becomes different and it loses value. It becomes less authentic.

Yet I listen to hip hop. I think graffiti is kind of cool. We live in a post-modern world and the concept of modding and fluid content is, essentially, post-modernity in action. Why can't I accept the same thing in my video games? I honestly don't know. I can't explain it. Maybe I'll get used to it...

Or maybe I'm just getting old. Yesterday I went to a sandwich shop. At the counter they had all kinds of fillings — tuna, egg, roast beef, lamb, chicken. I got a little bit overwhelmed and confused. Why should I have to make this sandwich for myself? Why do I have to decide what goes in the sandwich? Aren't these guys the sandwich experts — shouldn't they be telling me what ingredients go together?

Thankfully they provided examples. I chose the Tenderloin Chilli Wrap. It was delicious.


    How old are you Mark? I'm guessing you're around my age, so don't tell us you're old, I don't want to be old!

      I'm 30!

        Haha, so being 33 makes me really old! That being said, I actually like modding my games, but generally only the visuals or bug fixes, not game changing stuff. Playing Oblivion over a period of 3 years, it was quite fantastic being in awe when it was first released, and then being in awe again and again as hi-res textures, enhanced lighting effects and other stuff was added by the community.

        I'm 24 and I have had the "Is it just me? Am I getting too old?!" thought before. Namely when the MW3 sales numbers were released and I couldn't even play more than 30 minutes of it without uttering the phrase "This is stupid... They didn't even try..."

        I totally agree with your view on DLC, what makes it worse is those DLC packages that are already on the disc...

          Look, I really don't want to be that guy following you around but are you EVER goingt to make a post that doesn't bag MW3? Let it go man.

        not too long ago, I was talking to my sister, and caught myself saying "back when I was in high school, kids didn't do that sort of crap"

        I'm only 25 FFS!

        I'm 31 and I can see where you're coming from. When I was younger and I bought games they were what they were in the package that they came in at the shop. Modding didn't occur to me until I had a PC and a pirated version of Wolfenstein 3D with a level editor and sprite editor. The possibilities!

        But I think modding is part of the mashed up culture we live in today. Kids are growing up in a culture where the idea of not being able to reappropriate the creative works of others into something new is alien to them. It's what I think a lot of non internet savvy politicians don't understand when they make heavy handed copyright laws that attempt to restrict this mashup culture.
        Maybe it's part of what's made Minecraft so successful - that you can mash it up and mod it to your heart's content, or you can just go with the default graphics and game.

        I'm totally with you on the sandwich shop though. And I'd add to that those "self service" isles in supermarkets or self check in things at airports. *rages*

        You young whipper snappers, oh to be 30 again. Strangely, I hate digital download music, mainly due to the whole DRM mess (which I know is to a significant extent in the past), whereas I almost exclusively look for download content through Steam for games (the community aspect outweighing the negatives for me).

        ..and what's wrong with Fleetwood Mac?

    I am a lot alike in this regard. Even to the extent of skins, i get so frustrated by the idea that the game is not complete unless i fork out more money, unless i load a mod (not possible on xbox). It really feels like you miss out on things. Even though these are things that may not change "the game" itself, others are experiencing something that i am not, And it feels unfair.

    Great read serrels, I find myself the opposite though, I enjoy the ownership of the product the media i'n my hand. I like looking at it and letting others look at my prized media. In a weird way I like to think my ownership of these things defines my tastes to others.

      I'm like that too. Of course I still get DLC and digital copies of games, but to me, nothing can beat going to the store (or even mailbox) and getting the case in your hands. The anicipation during the drive home (or walk back to the front door) to try out the new shiney.

      I guess you can counter that by saying downloading a game has the same anticipation, but not to me. It's not tangible. I don't feel like possibly the best game ever is in my hands and are mere moments away from playing it.

        Same I love my cases and CDs. I dislike that Gears 3 didn't have a manual =O How could they?
        I only like DLC when it adds something to the game that wasn't able to be added at the time, however the exception to this is Alan Wake. It was really part of the core story, so it should have been included. DLC should've been a side story or something.
        btw I'm 23, and I lament people loving all the MW's and hating the Nintendo. They didn't know what it was like when you only had 8 bits on the screen.

      Yeah I'm with you, I love having some thing tangible in my hands, as opposed to just the information. It's sort of frustrating scrolling through something which doesn't really 'exist'. I guess I am sort of old world.. like I really like buying CDs and LPs (I guess I'm more a music fan than a game fan) and having that thing in my hands is special. Though I buy a lot of things on Steam, I find the experience often hollow... I remember in the mid/late 90s, there was this game MDK which was AMAZING. The combination of fairly simple 3D environments with beautiful 2D art looked totally totally epic on my Apple Performa (it was a black one which had a TV tuner in it... which was totally badass) back in the day... Anyway. It had great packaging including an immersive and hilarious instruction manual. NOW I FEEL OLD DAMN YOU SERRELS.

    "I still like to listen to music as an album, from start to finish instead of creating playlists. I want to indulge in an experience created for me, not one I have to adjust for myself. I want to be entertained by artistry; I want to be shown something and I want that to mean something — when people tear and poke around with content it becomes different and it loses value. It becomes less authentic."


    Having said that, I am always buying music in CDs and Vinyl, rather than downloading it, because I like the complete package. All the artwork, lyrics and photos that come with the casing. I like to display them as a piece of art, rather than having them sit on my computer where no one can see them.

    I was practically nodding my way through this - you've brought up a lot of things I really agree with. But I'm only 19, so either I'm getting old at a very strange age or you're not as old as you think you are.

    It gets to a point with DLC when you're looking at an element in a supposedly finished product and realize that there's an opening for DLC right there. AC:Revelations has one, for example, that quite obviously suggests there will be some form of single player content down the line, and that bugs me to no end. Suddenly what I've spent a good deal of money on becomes incomplete.

      This is why I won't be getting Arkham City until the GOTYE comes out.


      I couldn't agree more.
      I get the impression people these days don't appreciate the amount of work that goes into creating a cd or game or book etc.

      It's a shame. People poor their lives into these projects only to be maybe given a quick listen/view or a double take if they're lucky.

      Either way Mark, you sir, are a poet. Thank you.


      The worst bit about this is Revelations just feels like such an unfinished game. Glitches everywhere (and not of the planned, Animus kind), multiplayer hard-locking consoles, a lack of new content and storyline that is force-fed, rather than being subtle like the previous games. And the way they handle Animus Island was just so poor. Having it be destroyed at the end of the game, only to bring it back for no reason other than having a tiny area where nothing happens that you can run Desmond around in just shat me, personally.

      It really is sad, but Revelations has turned me off the series nearly entirely. Unless the next game delivers a worthwhile experience, Ubi won't be getting my money for AC again.

    A great read. I feel the same way pretty much, I still listen to albums from start to finish & find DLC makes my blood boil.
    Is it you getting older though, or gaming being raped by the big wigs ie Indiana Jones being violated by George Lucas & Steven Spielberg on South Park. Well thats I how see gaming these days anyway

      But playing a modded game doesn't make the original any less than it was before ... does it?

      Sometimes remixes of songs are crap, sometimes they are awesome. They are different to the original and may make you see it in a new light, but they can't possibly detract from it.

      So I'm all for modding. But not releasing an incomplete game that NEEDS modding, or huge downloadable content to unlock areas.

      I'm 30. Reebok Pumps 4 life.

    I just don't agree with paying for a product only to find it riddled with bugs that require a series of patches to correct. Gone are the days when a game or other piece of software lived or died by it's functionality at the time of its release.

      Couldnt agree more. Day 1 patches especially. If the game aint finished, dont release it ffs!

        This is why I love Valve, and why I didn't care in the slightest that Portal 2 was delayed by a good six months. What did I get in the end? A damn fine game.

    Glad to hear the chicken wrap was awesome! :)

    In regards to the digital content, I get very nervous about spending big money on digital products. The main reason is, if the company in question ever collapses, or stops offering the product I have bought, that's it. If I don't have a copy safely stored somewhere digitally, I can never retrieve it.

    At least my physical CD's should always work if I keep them protected... although now that I think about it it's basically like someone saying "I still have all my old cassette tapes/VHS, they're not going anywhere"... But while you might have the content, good luck finding a device that will actually play them.

    Damn you Mark, I'm just shy of 24 and you're already making me feel old!

    I'm an album guy to - start to finish, the way it was intended. Bands agonise over track listing, making sure it peaks and troughs coherently as a whole piece of music. Who am I to mess with that?

    I'm the same with games. When they're finished, they're finished period.

    Sandwiches on the other hand - I'll custom make that byatch till the cows come home... and then get slaughtered and put on to my pimped-out sandwich. Hmmmm pimped-out sandwich.

      The same, sure you will have your favourite songs on the album, but I hardly ever skip a track on an album, I'd really have to dislike the track to do it.

    I find that I enjoy the feeling of the new, regardless of the way in which said content is delivered.

    Whether its ripping the shrink wrap off a new game to soak in that new game smell, or having a download finish on Steam and be able to watch the opening cinematic, setting the scene for a game.

    The experiences may be different, but that feeling of new is the same.

    You know Mark, they say "Middle age is when your broad mind and narrow waist begin to change places."

    Hows the waist?? :p

    I avoid sandwich shops for that reason.

      Any sandwich shops worth their salt will always give you the option of chicken/lettuce/cheese/mayo whether it's on the menu or not. Don't avoid them man!

    Hahahaha, amazing! I'm with you Mr. Serrels, in pretty much every point made. To being old! *raises his imaginary glass to the sky*

    I'm an older gamer, but I'm of a different mindset. I dont ever remember content as being static. From my experience, games have always been customised by end-users and patched (officially or otherwise). This goes right back to late 80's early 90s.
    Content developed by end-users is what has indeed added to the success of many games. Mod culture in computer games is just an extension of the human question "what else can i do?"

    Whether DLC or content platform-exclusivity is morally right, or beneficial to the artform, is an entirely different argument altogether.

    The days of bring a "complete" or "finished" product home from the local video game store seems to be long gone.

      That's a good point. Especially with C64 and the early days of shareware and stuff.

        Makes me think back to old-skool *CRACKED BY!!! ...* screens on pirated Amiga games. Far superior in graphics and audio to the actual game most of the time! Looping text (with terrible spelling and grammar) spinning all over the place in pseudo-3D with epic trance music.

        I really don't condone piracy. I just happened to get my A500 second-hand with a crate full dodgy floppies thrown in. I didn't know any better then.

    I couldn't agree more. I'm sick of these DLC announcements before the game has even been released. When I heard about the "Complete edition" of LA Noire I felt incredibly short-changed and betrayed.

    You know what I miss? Substantial instruction manuals with character profiles and beautiful artwork.

      +1. Not really the same when you get some of that stuff as an additional download. Reading through RPG game manuals was always part of the fun to buying the game...Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Icewind Dale - they had some good ones.

      Excellent point! I was so happy when I opened Skyrim and actually found a proper manual. It got to the pinnacle of ridiculousness when Gears of War 3 had a two page manual, and a few other games have come with things like that this year, too.

        Battlefield 3 didn't even HAVE a manual... just a 2 page warranty insert. I almost raged.

      And colour.

        + another 1 to your original comment.

        I'm almost 32, and I remember some of the older game manuals being thick like Readers Digest. Have used Steam now for about a year or so, and It is quite frankly too good to be true sometimes. I accept that there is no physical media to possess but at those prices, who gives a shit?

        How refreshing it was to get the gift of a retail Oblivion GOTY for PC last week, and find a decent bloody book (also got the 360 Classics version). Flight Simulator X came with the equivalent of a generous modern console game manual. Wtf?

        I've used some environment mods and one or two add-ons and have been pretty impressed overall. Had to buy Skyrim for PS3 because this laptop wouldn't do the game justice. Plus it'll probably catch fire on install...

        Suffice to say that including an in game manual/ tutorial system is a great idea, and often used as a precursor to many a story. Even at my age, It's a far more intuitive, interesting and convenient way to introduce and inform.

        It doesn't excuse the complete lack of expectation we've seen over the last decade though. Detailed and artistic manuals were once a standard. And don't give me the "save the trees" number. If we were all inevitably buying an incomplete package with an online pass for 'future' dlc, give me a bloody artbook or something.

        I think I must be getting old. Either that or the drugs are'nt working.

      I agree. I remember buying Total Annihilation Kingdoms.(poor move i admit), but the manual for it was awesome. It was full of a backstory for all playable races in the game as well as in depth info on each unit. I reckon i spent more time reading the manual than i did actually playing the game.

        I played TA:K very recently following a GOG sale and I have to say in my opinion it has aged really well.

        the drugs just aren't as good any more. what is this world coming to? I remember getting smashed and playing final fantasy X for about 50 hours a week.

      Ahhhh the ultima manuals, I think I still ahve mine from Ultima III.

      Gameplay manaul and then individual spell books for preist and cleric. Full page illistrated seaction for each spell with full description of what to do to cast it.
      The whole Gather moss from the gravestone of a murderer and at midnight under the full moon combine with eye of newt and a drop of blood.
      Seal in a clay jar with a pinch of sulphur.

      When danger threatens raise the jar above your head and untter the word "Allegerio del Sultrion" and cast the jar the thy enemies. A wall of fire driven by the rage of the murderer will engulf your enemies.

    Next thing I'm worried about is all games going digital. I'm a big collector and worried I won't be able to buy games with cases and physical discs soon enough. Does that make me old too?

      +1, I like to hold it in my hand..
      Especially since it will force the consumer to pay full price. If the disc doesn't exist you will no longer be able to go down to JB and get the sale price.
      Also I doubt they will reduce the price to reflect that there is no CD, cover,box, instructions, delivery, transport and the poor dude who loses his job at the store.

      27yo gamer

    I feel the same way about mods, while i appreciate and can be amazed by what some modders do, they are not for me to use.

    It is a strange turning point for the industry that's for sure. I still have all of my old Sega Mega Drive games, but yet only a few of my Xbox ones, and now only a few Xbox 360 games too, despite owning a lot more of these previously.

    We're told to get excited by the best and newest, trade in the first 2 titles for the new one etc. and then wait for new incoming levels over the next few months, or make sure to buy a new copy for exclusive content.
    And then when the next generation or even the generation after that, if we ever had the itch to play Batman Arkham City, chances are
    1. It's traded in, if not;
    2. The new generation of console doesn't support your this title anymore,
    3. Your old console has long since died
    3. And if you can play it, the downloadable content may no longer be available, and you'll no longer have the complete game

    There could be a chance of a HD/3D/Holographic/Virtual Reality Re-release of a really big title in 20 years time, but chances are you'll need an emulator to have the most convenient way to play them in 20 years, which won't feel like the pure experience.

    I've been buying my games on PC lately, because the chances are I'll still be able to play them when I'm in an old school mood years down the line. I wonder if any Xbox 360's will even be playable in 20 years.

    I still buy CD's, not because I value the physical thing but I value the quality of the music that I listen to. MP3 compression just can't hack it on a high end audio setup compared to a clean source. I'd give it up if iTunes or Zune or whatever sold in FLAC, but they don't.

    Great read, Mark. I hear you loud and clear, buddy!

    My 'getting old' moment was when I popped open the case for Saints Row Third and the flimsy bit of paper I thought was the manual, was a flimsy bit of paper telling me to go to this address online to download the manual. My heart went 'Aww'.with sadness and oldness.

    At least the gang at Besthesda appreciate them still. Skyrim was a proper manual and in colour no less!

    I have no problem with DLC when it comes on top of a contained story, because quite frankly the DLC is planned during the development of the original game. It can also extend a wonderful world that provides another reason to delve back in. Even stuff like 'skins' or horse armour DLC I have no problem with, because no one is forcing me to buy it.

    Same with patches. No problem at all. Games nowadays are incredibly more complex to create, and it is impossible to test every single scenario. Therefore patches to fix these issues are a good thing, even when they come out day 0 of a games release.

    I shall now remove myself from Old Man Serrells lawn.

    I'm bordering on 28 and I find often starting to come to the same conclusion when I see DLC and the sort mentioned for games. Maybe it is cause I want to hang onto what buying games used to be like, though now digital, which I'm cool with.

    I've had a similar feeling grow on me over the last few years. I love content as opposed to physical product - except when it comes to special items like my original copies of Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid games, of course. I own more digital copies of games on my PS3, PSP and PC than retail/physical copies. My music collection has been almost exclusively digital since the mid 90's.

    The whole concept of ongoing DLC, passcodes, exclusivity, retail store exclusives and the like eat at me like march flies at a summer barbecue. I don't understand why games can't be made and left as such. That's not even approaching the concept of how much of it just feels like money-grabbing.
    Why can't we all have access to the same things? Why does my friend have a skin/map that I don't and vice versa?

    Games like Diablo 3, courtesy of it's DRM - it's the same thing as loaning a game as far as I'm concerned. Arkham City for it's inclusion of a code to access single player that exists on the disc. Any game that has day one DLC - that when you pay for, it downloads a 100KB file - that content exists in the game already, and I have to get it seperately? Playing FPS games where all of a sudden, you can't play with the other guys because you don't have the latest $20 map pack?

    Modding is a harder one, on the PC front. That kind of thing is purely optional and in most cases encourages longer interest in a game, and allows people to use their imagination. Sometimes, some concepts are even included in other games/DLC, etc.

    In summary, my biggest peeve is that these days, it's exceedingly rare to buy a game and that's the end of it. It's not that I don't have the money, or it's too much trouble, etc - It just doesn't sit right with me at all.

    Usually when I tell people these days what games I'm not buying and the reasons, they look at me like I've gone off the deep end or bumped my head on something.

    I don't agree about Mods, but I completely agree with you on the Sandwiches

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