Thought/Process: "I'm Too Old for This S#!+!"
I'm turning 37 in two weeks.
(Please stifle your gasps.)
It's kind of weird to find yourself in a demographic limbo. Marketers care less where you spend your money, apparently because they know you'll have less of it. You get the sense that, somewhere, a clock is ticking down, though you're not sure toward what.
Getting older heightens your sensitivity to life's contradictions, too. You're supposed to be smarter but don't necessarily feel it. You're supposed to be more mature but still nurse epic hangovers on Sunday morning. Pretty soon, there comes a time when you get to thinking that things need to change. Or, as a great man once put it, "I'm too old for this shit."
That great man is police sergeant Roger Murtaugh from the Lethal Weapon movies. Played by Danny Glover, Murtaugh periodically exclaims that he's too old for whatever explosive nonsense happens during his wild crime-busting adventures with crazy partner Martin Riggs. Recently, the idea of a Murtaugh list -- comprised of things that'd be ill-advised to do as the years creep up on you -- became an Internet meme after the CBS show "How I Met Your Mother" crafted an episode around it.
Even if I stop writing about games, I won't stop playing them. But there's tons of stuff that I'll be less inclined to indulge as I march steadily to AARP age. Herewith, a sampling...
1. I'm too old to be playing as a plucky young lad -- with a unique destiny -- who sets out from his small village in search of adventure. This convention most often pops up in role-playing games, particularly Japanese ones, and I don't have anything against the genre specifically. But, I'm getting old and would like to see characters who have actually lived a little be the ones to put everything on the line. A protagonist barely into double-digits can't accomplish much more than working the "cute firsts" angle -- first kiss, first test of testicular fortitude, first loss of a loved one, etc. The older I get, the less I'm going to care about the lead character of Blue Dragon getting his first chest hair.
2. I'm too old to keep on playing as grizzled white guys. My issue here isn't with the grizzly, as I've been known to go a few days without shaving. It's with the white guys. Not to get on the racial diversity soapbox again, but the bottom line is that, most times, it'd change very little to have the hero of your game be another gender or ethnicity. There are lots of different kinds of people in the world, and they all deserve a chance to save it.
3. I'm too old to utter any more inane catchphrases. As Ironhide yelled at some Decepticons in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which I played for my review, I thought, "That. Is. IT! No more of this crap." My issue with filling up a character with nothing but taunt dialogue is that it ultimately makes him hollow. It wastes an opportunity to have the hero describe the world and the action happening around him in his terms. To me, that's more useful than having Marcus Fenix bark out "Nice!" every time he finds some grenades.
4. I'm too old keep on uncovering government conspiracies. Yeah, maybe this element resonated more during the Bush administration, but it's a new day. The biggest problem with this hackneyed device is the way it gets trotted out to introduce supposed complexity or surprise to a game's plot. Being able to create a fictional universe where a player can actually trust the power structure might actually be the bigger accomplishment. Hop to it, game-makers.
5. I'm too old to be sitting through cut scenes. Young gamer or old, everybody hates those ubiquitous little video clips. Even if they're not egregious, cut scenes still break the flow of playing a game. At their best, videogames create a unique symbiosis between player and plaything, so please show me some new storytelling tools before I get gray.
6. I'm too old to learn needlessly complex control schemes. Chances are, if you're making an action game, you want people who bought other ones to buy the one you're cooking up. So, unless your game boasts a radical new mechanic like curving bullets, let's have some sensible button-mapping. Wow me with some other part of the game, and keep the jump and reload functions in places I expect them to be.
7. I'm too old to play as another space marine. OK, yes: Until we get there, the outer reaches of the galaxy will always be a great setting for speculative fiction. But does it all have to be explored the same way? The most disappointing thing about the preview I saw for James Cameron's Avatar at E3 2009 was the staid galactic military action on the faraway paradise planet. Can we get some space cowboys, space hippies, space philosophers? Anything other than more machine-guns of the future.
8. I'm too old to keep on getting the up-sell on limited-edition packages. Maybe it's because I've never been one for collectibles. Maybe it's because I live with my girlfriend now, and square footage in an NYC apartment is at an extreme premium. Whatever the reason, I don't want the locker NBA 2K10 will be coming with, or the art book Namco Bandai's making for Tekken 6. I want the game. That's it.
9. I'm too old to keep on playing bad tie-in games. It's another evergreen thing to hate on, but the potential financial rewards mean that leveraging intellectual properties across multiple mediums isn't going away soon. The only thing that's going to keep me mashing buttons until arthritis sets in will be the draw of fresh ideas and fresh ways of presenting action and story. I implore all would-be media moguls to please sit down and figure out whether your comic-book/television/movie idea really needs to be a game.
10. I'm too old to keep on sitting through the technology shout-outs at the beginning of a game. Look, developers, I'm sure the guys who work at Bink or CRIWARE or Dolby are really stoked you're using their video compression, rendering tools or audio technology for your games. We're glad for all of you. Really. But, the best way to showcase that stuff is to let us actually get in to play the game. You want to give props to your boys at Epic for letting you use Unreal Engine? Do it in the credits.
Just like Glover's Murtaugh in the buddy-cop film franchise, I probably won't be swearing off the things I'm hollering about. Somebody's gotta enter the breach. But, I want -- nay, need -- the content of games to mature as I do.