The Great American Video Game

I originally wrote this over a year ago. There was recently some discussion on the 30 under 30 list among the people I follow on Twitter. I had a vague sense of deja vu.

My 20 year highschool reunion is coming up. This time its being organized in a Facebook group where all the members are from my former cohort. Its a strange mix of reminiscence and “Ew everyone looks so … old.” I looked for one of my former tormentors, hoping as the 80s convinced me, that I would find pictures of a balding, overweight Al Bundy sort, because those guys never wind up happy. Instead I find pictures of a blonde Adonis with a perfect body and a career in finance, vacation pictures of parasailing and rock climbing.

“Oh, there’s no way I’m going, now,” I tell my wife. She tries to convince me it’s not that bad. I’ve got a good life. Of course, I do. These are first world problems. “Don’t let that stuff bother you,” she says. But, we both know it will. It will because my self-perception, both then and now, was as a creator. A writer who might one day consider himself an author. A coder who might one day consider himself a game developer. Maybe, I think, if I had those credits under my belt, maybe it wouldn’t bother me. But it’s not just that I don’t have them, these artifacts of my creation. It’s this feeling that I never will have them and a general consensus from the industry that agrees.

If you take an article like,, which discusses the industry’s ageism, and even specifically mentions late thirties as being the twilight of a career, then suddenly I’m not just shy a “by line” in the world of game dev, I’m on my way out! Heck, I’ve even embodied the cliché, “If you can’t, teach,” having just started teaching Introduction to Game Development to college students. Apparently, I’m giving up and leaving it to the next generation to fill in with their limitless time and present immortality. Perhaps they won’t repeat the mistakes of my youth. I shall live vicariously!

And yet… I mentioned being a writer as one of my other wishful avenues of creation. That’s my herald of hope for a creative future. Once I finally succumb to the ill-fated temperaments of my aging body, I will return once again to the art of the written word. It is in part this feeling that time is running out that has made me shirk my writing passion in an effort to use all my spare time, burning both ends of the candle, this website a testament, to get that video game credit. Once completed, then I can safely (because I’ll be old and my thoughts of video games long past) return to writing. Older, wiser, maybe a better grasp on grammar, I shall finally finish that book I started writing when I was sixteen.

Yes, for some reason writing a novel has an inverted expectation to the art of making of games. Somehow game making is only for the young, yet we refer to first books with a disdain “Well that was her freshman effort.” Young authors are greeted with skepticism; where the assumption on a first time author in her 40s or 50s is she might actually have something to say. Or, at least, that’s the perception that was passed to me early on and which I’ve carried, perhaps sparked by some smidgen of truth. It is hard to write about the nature of the world, or fate, or humanity if you’re only guessing at it, rather than having experienced loss, upheaval, regret, or enmity without the safety net of a home and parents to catch you. (Again, first world problems.)

As a younger man I rebelled against this notion that I could not write a novel at sixteen year old. I rebelled with the kind of passionate defiance only youthful ignorance can muster. I wrote my book about growing up without the hindsight of having done so. And now I’m paying (rather, delaying) the cost of that ignorance with editing for hindsight more than twenty years on. If only I’d spent that time trying to write a game instead of trying to invert the status quo. If only.

Let me arrive at my point. The video game as an art form is finally starting to mature, along with its audience, So should perhaps the expectation also mature.

Video games are not simply for the young.

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