Essay–Game Atrophy

I’m 44 years old. I’ve been playing computer games off and on since I was ten. Arcades. Atari 2600. Hell, even some game on a PET luggable back in the day. If you don’t know what that is, go look it up and laugh.

In the 90s, my friends and I held quite a few LAN parties. We played Quake, Tribes, Star Craft, Unreal, etc. Bottom line? It was a relatively inexpensive way to share camaraderie and waste a Saturday. Back then, I was all right. I had my moments of brilliance, but I was always just a somewhat good gamer. I couldn’t last five minutes in the online world of crazed pre-teens and pimply faced youths that did nothing but play over and over again. Plus, their internet connection was usually better than mine.

Fast forward. I played the crap out of my PS2. Mostly Ratchet and Clank type games, some GTA, and a few other games. When I got my PS3, it was more of the same.

Last year, BMan and I started playing Dead Island together in co-op mode. It was a blast. We finished the game (not without hilarity and serious death tolls) and even the Riptide expansion.

When we finished that, I bought us Borderlands. Unfortunately, we discovered the co-op no longer works because GameSpy has disappeared into the aether. Yes, that’s how damned old that game is.

I’ve been interested in the Dead Space series for a long time. When I saw that we could get the DS3 game for very little money and with a lot of extras, I figured, hell, let’s do that!

Yeah. Great idea. Dumbass.

I tried playing it by myself on hard. I thought “I know this game. I’ve watched playthroughs. I can do this. I have lots of experience and at 44, I can still do this!” 17 deaths later (just in the goddamned intro), I took the difficulty down to normal.

BMan and I started our co-op campaign at normal difficulty. Ten minutes later? I had to bring the difficulty down to “casual.” Why? BECAUSE WE SUCK!

There are two of us to handle the bad, nasty monsters. There are two of us to shoot, stasis, and kick ass! We should be stomping these demons! Nope. Not even close. We might as well have cooked ourselves and handed the juicy, well-roasted tender flesh to the monsters on a platter. Did I mention we suck?

So at 44, I have to admit, I may be playing games on easy for the rest of my life. Or at least these types of games. The hand-eye coordination has atrophied. My brain doesn’t move fast enough to instruct my fingers to do what’s necessary to control the asshole on the screen. Especially when said asshole is being mobbed.

I feel shame. Great, great shame. I’ve completely lost touch with my gamer roots. And even as I hand over my “gamer card,” I still enjoy playing these things. It’s a good escape/release. I honestly would not have powered through finishing the first draft of The Black: Evolution without those few hours breaks to game. They reset my writer brain. They destroyed the constant fatigue my creative side suffered. I was able to move on and crank out 4k a day. And all this has happened since we started playing DS3.

Dead Island, for some reason, helped me finish The Black in record time. I now wish we’d been playing games while I was writing this book, because it helped. Again, I don’t know why. It just did.

So atrophy away, gamer skills! I may be terrible, but at least I enjoy the experience. And if it helps my writing, I’ll just keep doing it. Those breaks from the computer are difficult when your day-job requires you to sit in a chair all day at the keyboard and your second job, writing, is just another few hours at the same keyboard. The game? It’s a mental reset. It works.

Yes, I’m still reading. Yes, I’m still writing. Yes, I’m still working. But these little 3-4 hour respites from the internet, from the words, from the code, are an oasis for the mind. I look forward to trying this on the next book and see how it helps. If it does, then I have found another way to break out of my funks and rest my brain.

So for those of you my age (or older) that are afraid to dip your toes back into the world of screaming demons hurling objects at you and trying to rip off your face? There’s hope. Be willing to admit you’re terrible and just have a good time. What else are games for?

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