Do MMOs Make You Feel Old?

Old age Mario

The modern incarnation of Mario appears in Call of Duty as an illegal immigrant

My brother, part time gamer and full time noob, is only 35 years of age but to hear him talk you’d think he’s approaching pension age fast. “Those young whipper snappers”, he mutters under his breath whilst shaking his head at the folks in their late twenties who idly wander through his middle class suburban habitat. I’ve never know anyone to skip straight form sulky teenager to lecherous old man before (although admittedly it does come with some rather wonderful family related benefits). I, on other hand, feel pretty great being 31. I feel in my prime, a proper adult with enough milage behind me to give me confidence and enough road ahead to give me hope. No sir, I don’t feel old at all… except when I play MMOs.

I realised the other day when talking to my new guild in World of Warcraft (I finally found one that’s comprised of people who actually like to chat) that most of them had no clue to the prior existence of any other MMORPG. A discussion about how it would be nice if WoW encouraged more grouping almost got me on my high horse about how lucky we actually are now that it’s not a mandatory component of progression à la the original Everquest. As nostalgic as I sometimes get, I’m delighted that in most MMOs today a play session doesn’t require four hours out of your life and a bucket under your desk to pee into (AFK biobreaks are for whimps). It dawned on then that I’ve been enjoying this genre since 1999, a staggering 14 years. A lifetime for some of my fellow gamers.

Granted, like any good addict, I started young. But there can be little doubt that we’re seeing an emergence of new gamers in all aspects of video gaming society. Perhaps as I primarily play MMOs, I notice it more there. Trends are changing, customs are altering and social interaction is slowly creeping further away every year from what I was used to be familiar with. Gameplay mechanics are altering too. Back in November I wrote about the mechanics of combat in MMO and how in a few short years it went from ‘auto attack and gossip’ to ‘hammering keys and silence’.

My newly discovered love for raiding in WoW has made me realise just how incompetent I am at these new fangled gameplay mechanics. Move here, jump now, dodge this, run through that, I just can’t cope. How do people remember all this stuff? Well, actually, judging by the number of player corpses that start to pile up, not many. Good to know not everyone finds it a breeze. I’ve taken to raiding with my iPad in front of me, strategy guide open so I can read through the mechanics as I undertake the fight. Some bosses are a blast, some are just plain confusing, some makes my fingers bleed and my mind scream. Sometimes I just wish I could stand still in place whilst I DPS and exchange meaningless banter with new friends I’ve never met before rather than being worried about being chastised for standing in the wrong puddle of glowing goo at the wrong time.

PvP makes me feel old too. “Now, now kids, it’s just a game”, I say as the little bastards slaughter me in seconds whilst my “team mates” make horrendously obscene slurs in the process. I take some solace in the knowledge that I’m a happily married, well adjusted, reasonably successful and fulfilled person and videos games don’t actually matter. That and the thought that I could probably beat them up in real life. Still, every time my finger slips because I lack the nibble dexterity I used to have, I cry a little inside.

I know I shouldn’t feel bad about ageing and should recognise that I’m still in that peak video gaming demographic of 18 -35 year olds that everyone keeps yammering on about. I should be happy that I don’t have to deal with issues like pocket money, parents and home work that the young gamers out there have to deal with. I’m my own man who controls my own life as I want it. Still, I wish some MMO would make a server for over 30s only. And devise a PvP battlegroup system based on eye-hand-coordination. And set mandatory pee breaks in raids.

But what about you? Do make MMOs make you feel old? Or am I just turning into my brother?

-Gordon

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19 Comments

  1. I’m 40 this year and while I can understand the initial perspective of “kids these days” I am also part of the problem as an older gamer.

    Putting aside the behavioral aspects of youth which drive me crazy…I have seen almost everything gaming (computer, tabletop, rpg, boardgames) has created for the last 30 years, and cannot help but view anything added to the market across the breadth of those years. i.e. a feature is added to an mmo and I can see it within the rest of the mmos, might say “cool”, or might say “meh nothing new”.

    The glimmering fascination with games has left me, and most have become dull re-hash of what we have seen, or are tangents on something old. It is exceedingly rare to see an actual innovation in most online games. In actual fact though there is nothing wrong with a game doing what has been done before if the market for that game is aimed at a refreshing player base. Monopoly is a new game for thousands of kids each year, so has value. Same with MMO features.

    Now the mechanics and coordination in WoW has never been higher, which means that a single poor player can drag down 9 or 24 others quickly. In the early days of raiding this was not the case.

    It was common for 4-5 of the 40 players to be poor/shite/afk during a raid, and it was only noted when it was a Tank, important healer, or somebody doing a debuff or special role in the raid. Overall the dps could pew-pew-afk. That same lower level of performance also translated to the maturity and communication needed from the raiders. Several players were immature foul-mouthed trolls, but we could put them on ignore and just yell at them to follow orders.

    So we have modern raiding being ramped up to add “challenge” which also increases the impact the troll/poor-player has.

    “Kids these days” are not entitled to loot, and they only learn that by becoming older gamers. Those that learn this go on to be good gamers, and it would be great to have a minimum age; except we’d miss a lot of raid nights getting our hops replaced and going to parent teacher interviews. I know I do. Thanks for the great post.

  2. [...] a read of: Do MMOs Make You Feel Old? by We Fly Spitfires. Granted, like any good addict, I started young. But there can be little doubt that we’re seeing [...]

  3. bhagpuss says:

    I’ve been playing MMOs exactly as long as you have, Gordon. The difference is that you were in your teens when you started while I got Everquest for my 40th birthday.

    Even back then, though, most of the people I met weren’t kids, or even teenagers. The average age of people I met in-game was probably late 20s – early 3os but even in my 40s I knew lots of older players. I knew one guild leader who was in her 70s back in 2001.

    Playing MMOs doesn’t make me feel old, any more than reading novels marketed for children or teenagers or listening to music made by people barely into their 20s does. It’s all stuff and all stuff is for all.

    MMO developers, however, that’s a different ball game. They don’t make me feel old, they just make me embarrassed when they court youth demographics that don’t even know or care that their game exists.

  4. Jeromai says:

    I didn’t feel old until I wrote a blog post that made a reference to Julian Dibbell’s 1993 article “A Rape in Cyberspace” and read someone else’s summary that few would be familiar with it today.

    Dayum. But I’m still narrowly within the 18-35 demographic.

    Not counting BBSes but counting MUDs, I started multiplayer online gaming around 1997, around the same time as everyone – which makes sense when we consider the Internet only took off around the world at that time.

    Even then, I met people twice my age or more online, married with kids, retirees, etc.

    As for action-based combat mechanics, I have no problem with them, I like that they’ve been putting more of them into MMOs, it generally makes combat more exciting and active, though as you noted, it plays havoc with social chatting.

    Yes, age impacts reflexes somewhat, but I believe other factors like how familiar one is with WASD/mouselook and general game timing also plays a part. (Try watching someone who has never touched this genre of game before try to navigate, no matter how young they are.)

    On my own part, I tend to be experimental, push the envelope and learn by doing and trial-and-error with all kinds of weird strategies. I can be stubborn, die a lot and take a long time accepting the obvious. This is all very well on my own, but I don’t fancy doing it with other people for fear of affecting their game experience.

    My beef is when bad game design allows one or two poorer playing individuals to screw things up for an entire group of other people. I choose not to play those games. Yeah, it makes the overall difficulty tougher, and turns it into a “group challenge” which some people like, but it’s out of an individual player’s locus of control besides training the person in question and praying.

  5. Yetian says:

    I am 34 now so not far off you. ;) I started playing MMO’s with Everquest and haven’t stopped since. I don’t feel old when playing, well at least not in the aching bones sense. I do however have the “what has happened to society” old man issues sometimes when the behaviour of some players annoys me. These players while in the most part are the younger ones, are not always. There are plenty of older players who act just as annoying as the younger ones.

    An example where age actually helps I think is in one of my current games, Planetside 2. In the original people played it more tactically than they do the current version. I however play as I did in the first so it’s quite amusing to watch the zergers and lemmings running around without a thought for the overall picture. I imagine many of them (especially from the chat) to be younger players new to this type of MMO. I am sure my reflexes are worse than when I was 18 but I like to think experience of these games makes up for that in some part.

    A prime example was the other day when I was having a 1 v 1 ATV battle with another player, flying around an area trying to get my gun on him/her. I’d almost killed the enemy when off they ran and came back with all fixed up. The player returned to find my ATV parked in the open and started firing on it… just as i hit him in the head from behind at tree.

    I of course imagined this player to be about in the lower end of the demographic I will be leaving in just over a year. ;)

    In my guild I am probably at the lower end of the age spectrum, we formed due to bad experiences with other guilds and despite our age range, manage to do well enough in raids. Probably better if we didn’t have jobs and kids to stop us playing 12 hours a day to obtain the better gear.

    So after my long ramble I don’t think I am really that bothered by age as of yet, though I may have changed my style to take advantage of the younger or less thoughtful (could be older still) players. :)

    I am still well in the grip of the MMO addiction and until I win the lottery I’ll have to accept I can’t play as much as I used to. My guild and I will have that time in retirement I reckon, I mean have to keep the brain active right? That does lead onto another problem, it’s as we get older and like to think more MMO’s are requiring less of the grey matter. ;)

    • Eki says:

      “I do however have the “what has happened to society” old man issues sometimes when the behaviour of some players annoys me.”

      Oh I’m 21 and thinking the same sometimes, that’s not a thing of age it seems :D

  6. Klepsacovic says:

    I think much of it is that a lot of gaming history has happened in a very short time. If you were around for that, you’ve seen what might have taken a century or a few for other technologies, but in only a couple decades. Even for a particular game a lot can change. Look at WoW and the many expansions, the many games that rose and fell during its time (not to imply that WoW is dead). A franchise can change radically, such as Fallout that became a sort of FPS.

  7. Dà Chéng says:

    Gordon, I wish you’d check your spam folder occasionally! Most of my posts to wordpress-hosted web-sites seem to be getting directed there. For some reason, whenever I link to my blog, Akismet (your spam filter) dumps my post straight into the bin.

  8. hordemaster says:

    I feel old when I play DDO and realize that a lot of people don’t know the original settings this game is based on, Stormreach, Forgotten Realms, unless they are true nerds or game freaks. Few remember when TSR was the most original force in table top gaming, or playing the o.g. Fallout.

  9. Mogul says:

    Gordon – great post – adding you to my list so I can keep an eye on you young fellah!

    Mogul.

  10. KC says:

    MMORPG’s are AWESOME, but yea, I definitely feel old because of the fact I started playing them in the nineties ;)

  11. GVNR says:

    Great post Gordon!

    Having just turned 46 yesterday myself I completely understand where you are coming from. I have a nephew who started raiding in WoW at the tender age of 8 and by the age of 11 was a raid leader and his guild of ‘young whipper snappers’ were progressing fast than mine! I have listened to him raiding and would not respond well to the his raids are run.

    I now play EvE on and off and sort out people of a similar age to play with. I joined a corporation under the banner of 30plus(dot)org. The corporation is called BlueP in the LAWN alliance. They are great bunch of guys and very active in 0.0. I have since moved on into a Wormhole corporation who are varying age groups from 20 to 50+. The average age is around 35 so the tone and feel of the corp is more mature.

    It’s good to chat on TS3 to guys of a similar age and live experience who are not part of the empathic ‘whatever’ generation. Does that make me old? Maybe, but I play online games mainly for the social aspect and find it more enjoyable with have more in common with my own age group.

  12. mmoraven says:

    Great post by the way. I do tend to agree with most of the post and its comments. I also think that it really depends how long you have been playing mmo games and also how seriously you take them. “Kids these days” have a tendency to rage and to reach their boiling point pretty quickly in PVP for example, whereas the more more matured players will just treat an mmo as mostly “just a game”. When you have gone through this transition, you will realize your coming of age :)

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  14. mmoecke says:

    It would be so great to have servers for people over 30 or at least 25 which would include me :) Sometimes it’s quite annoying to play with children as they do have a different view of a game. But I guess this would never happen… to bad.

  15. More Info says:

    MMOs are amazing! I don’t think it makes anyone feel old and they will continue to get even stronger over the next few years. There’s loads of people that play them every single week and although they may be getting older, they probably don’t feel it.

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