I’ll never forget Christmas morning when I was 12 years old. I can still remember ripping the red Santa hat-adorned wrapping paper open, unsheathing the Super Nintendo inside. My screams and yelps were so high pitched anyone in earshot might have thought they’d crack the TV screen before I even got a chance to plug it in. I’d never even played a console game before, much less owned one. But I’d seen the commercials, and I couldn’t wait to try it for myself. From then on, my little brother and I spent countless hours in front of our SNES, our eyes glazing over as we ran through Super Mario’s world.
Ever since that Christmas, I’ve been playing video games all my life. But lately, without my even noticing, that magic seems to have faded. What changed?
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Growing Up Gamer
My life has always been filled with gaming. As a young child of seven I would sit at the feet of my dad’s PC and watch him play Doom and Wolfenstein while my mom stood in the doorway yelling that I was too young to see such violence. She was probably right, now that I think about it. But it got me hooked on FPS games — throughout my formative teen years, Halo was a close friend. More time was spent in front of the warm glow of a TV screen than outside.
After our chores were done, after church, the second we woke up and right before bed, our butts were planted firmly on a patch of carpet in front of a old tube television. I would beg and pester my parents to take me to the local video store to peruse and browse the cache of new arrivals. What booty did Hollywood Video have for me this week?
As I aged, I would ask for GameStop gift cards for my birthday instead of Claire’s Jewelry like most other girls. I was by no means a tomboy, I was just really good with a computerized shotgun in my glitter nail polish-painted fingers. And because I was homeschooled, I didn’t have the traditional high school experience. My social interactions were pretty much limited to me and my brother running through level after level together playing Battletanx on N64.
Means and Opportunity, But No Motive
Today, My Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch and Nintendo 3DS sit and gather dust, like some old relics from a time forgotten. My shelf of hard copy games has dwindled, as games have moved to digital downloads. And I haven’t played a video game in six months.
It’s not for lack of spare time either. Being an adult actress affords me the luxury of not having a traditional nine to five and allows me plenty of opportunity for recreation. I used to spend a lot of this free time gaming, letting my hands grip something other than an erect penis for a change. My fans would purchase me games, gaming memorabilia and even consoles. I was a babe they could talk shop with, who could even surpass their own knowledge and skills. Basically, I was their dream “gamer girl.” Simply from a marketing and branding standpoint as an adult performer, I was sitting on a goldmine. So I’ve had every opportunity and reason to play, yet I haven’t.
Perhaps there just isn’t anything out worthwhile to play? I enjoyed Red Dead Redemption 2 — I’m a sucker for games that let me ride a horse — but after a month I grew bored and it began to feel like a chore. I’m a huge Fallout fan — I love the franchise so much I did a photo spread in Hustler Magazine while wearing only a Pip-Boy — but 76 just didn’t blow my skirt up. I seldom even play games on my iPhone now. The occasional match of Words With Friends is pretty much my limit.
Maybe it’s not that games are worse, it’s just that I’m more discerning about what I play now as an adult instead of a kid willing to play anything I could rent at Blockbuster Video. As an adult, my time seems more finite, and I feel pressure to use spare time for something “worthwhile.” But since when is seeking pixelated refuge from the world not worthwhile?
Escape from Online
More than anything, I think that how I use games doesn’t line up with the industry anymore. Gaming is very different than it was fifteen years ago — back then, the concept of online multiplayer was still a novelty, not an expectation. I used to love playing FPS games with long story campaigns. But now, the FPS standard has shifted to competitive online play. You are forced to interact with strangers across the globe, and that defeats the purpose for me. Gaming used to be my escape from the real world and a welcomed space of isolation from human interaction. Being called a whore by some twelve year old in Iowa because my fragmentation grenade ended their killing spree isn’t my idea of fun.
As a public figure, I also have unique challenges playing online. When I log on, fans and friends send me requests to join their party — but I just want to be left alone, so I have to log in as “invisible” just to get some peace. I remember the days when the term multiplayer referred to split screen gameplay, when if you looked at the other person’s screen to cheat — we called it screen hopping — you were crucified.
In a way, I guess this just means I’m getting old. It’s not that games are worse or that I’m pickier. It’s that games and I both grew up, but we also grew apart.
The hours, the anger, the smiles and the laughter I’ve gotten out of pieces of plastic and some microchips are innumerable. The paychecks I blew on games back when I was on a meager Target cashier salary were worth it. But I believe the sun has set on my love affair. Video games have changed, and so have I.
But hey, we’ll always have Peggle.