Gaming has been a hobby of mine for as long as I can remember. From being a kid in school, then a young adult, to a guy in his late 20's with his own home and a steady income to support his beloved hobby. But getting older means life is generally going to crap on you more. You'll have more problems to face and even though gaming can help us with our problem solving skills, there are some things that just can't be solved like that in Portal.
Back in the summer my relationship came to an end. Life had severely sucker-punched me in the gut and I was left reeling on the ropes. In times of hardship, I know people that just throw themselves into what they love to deal with things and spend some time away from everything. By all accounts this is what I should have been doing. I am, for the most part, very passionate about things. I find a book I thoroughly enjoyed reading and I must know everything the author has written. I find a great band and I need to know their other releases and what others band they are associated with and so on. But non of these things made me happy in my post break up phase. My days were spent passively watching crap on Netflix. My music became a repeat of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The Cure and Jeff Buckley. My PS3 and 360 lay neglected gathering dust while my gaming rig became a glorified social network device. Life and the things I loved had simply stopped.
So July went into August and August slipped into September. Finally the summer heat was coming to an end and the change in weather offered some hope. On the horizon was the something we'd all been waiting for; Grand Theft Auto 5. You know what I'm talking about, you remember seeing that trailer in 2011 and Rockstar had been teasing us for nearly two years. But now the wait was almost over and I was prepared for it. It fell perfectly when I had a week off work. I stocked up on snacks and I prepared myself for a week of mindless fun in San Andreas. But things didn't go ahead like that. The game arrived. I installed it and I settled in to binge on it for a week. I played for a bit, thought it was pretty good and then put the controller down. What was wrong with me? I wasn't disappointed, the game was fine, I just couldn't enjoy it. What was going on? I looked at the stack of games I needed to play or wanted to replay. Ah Demon's Souls and Dark Souls, two of my favourite games of this generation. Maybe I'll start a new character, make some crazy hybrid class and experiment, that certainly would keep me occupied. But I didn't even put the disc in.
Returning to work, my two colleagues (both gamers) asked me my thoughts on GTA V and what I thought of the ending. Despite them both having work, they'd both completed the game and one was even on his second play-through whereas I was barely through my first and had barely touched the game in my week off work. I ask my friend what was going on and why these things didn't appeal to me anymore.
“It's just a sign of growing up” he told me.
No doubt that when you get older you can't do things like you did when you were a kid. I, for example, cannot play a game like I did when I was 15. Granted, I ploughed through The Last of Us in a day but can you blame me? But that's a rare moment. 15 year old me didn't have a job to hold down, bills to worry about or...a social life for that matter. He just had a PS2, a copy of God of War to batter through again and homework to neglect.
But saying it's a sign of growing up made me feel like a child again. Was this hobby I loved really just something I needed to grow out of? Was it time to sadly drag my arm across my shelf, pulling all my games off with it to have them fall into a bin bag to be disposed of? Most important question of all – was it because of my love for things like computer games and high fantasy novels that I was now alone and heartbroken?
Well, I can't answer that question. All I know is the fog did eventually clear. I found myself being sucked into, of all the games, Skyrim I picked up in the Steam sale. It was strange, realising you've just spent five hours in a game and how easily I fell back into it. And by reading this it's obvious my interest in the community came back and the reading of articles and the popcorn munching fun of fanboys arguing. And yes, I did eventually go back and complete GTA V.
I'm not even sure if there is anything beneficial about this blog. I just wanted to share with some fellow gamers a very strange time in my life where I was made to question things I loved doing. I think if I took anything away from the experience it was how I saw things in those months when my head was all over the place. My ex pushed hard at her career and basically became a workaholic and I saw people that saw gaming as something that children did. Which I found incredibly strange as gaming is as popular and accessible as its ever been. I thought most people would recognise that, like a well made film or a well written novel, games have the power to move us and affect us emotionally. Or hey, just offer a fine slice of cathartic entertainment. For awhile I questioned this as well. Did I need to stop simply working to fuel these things I love and work 16 hour days and have a career rule my life? Did I need to put gaming aside as a childish hobby and 'grow up'?
These questions I can safely answer – no. I love playing games. I love talking about games. I love the community and the stupid fanboys that argue over petty crap like graphics comparisons. I have missed this a lot and it's great to be back and if you yourself are going through a hard time, whatever it may be, this will always be here for you.