25 May 2012

Being a geek and losing an identity

As Geek Pride Day draws to a close, today I am reminded of how I came to become the person I am today, and how my geek identity has changed over the years. Ever since I could remember, I've been fascinated by science, technology and video games. The scientific quest for knowledge helped me excel in a majority of my schooling. Video games kept me entertained and intrigued me with how they were made and the interesting ways stories were translated into code, but engineered so that children could pick up a controller and progress through it. But the greatest influence in my life has always been my interest in technology. If you ever ask my parents, they would tell you I always took apart things and was always playing with broken electronics to see how the everything worked together, even if I never really understood how it all worked at the time. It was the combination of all these things that drove me into the software industry and instilled in me a passion for it.
Throughout my elementary, middle and high school years, gaming was important to me. It was my pastime of choice, alleviating the juvenile stresses of homework and keeping my reflexes sharp. I also prided myself in playing some of the latest games that I got to rent, and, for a time, even renting or owning some of the newest consoles. I was the guy in my group of friends that played a lot of games and could answer a lot of questions about them. It was a part of who I was, and my friends accepted that. But when I reached college, the time I had to play games began to dwindle at a rapid pace. Between having a part-time job to pay for school, the college classes themselves and the endless pile of homework, video gaming time became precious and I began to notice that my gaming chops were starting to dwindle.
They say that relationships require a lot of dedication and responsibility, and being a naive young lad, I thought I could squeeze one in and still have time to play games. Boy, how naive I was. After meeting my significant other, my time was now split between work, school, home and spending time with her, and virtually any other time between each was spent driving from place to place. It was also around this time when mobility was important to me, and I began my transition from a tower PC user to a "road warrior." I had been driving around so much at the time that I began to change the idea of "home" to be the place where the people I cared about were. And, as most people do, home is where most people have their computers. Thus, I always had my laptop with me so that I could do what I needed wherever I needed to do it.
Years have come and gone, and I am still using the 3rd laptop I've ever owned, never looking back to the days when I built and maintained the family tower PC. My laptop helped me grow as a software engineer, and helped me gain the skills to succeed in the software development industry.
Fast forward to today, and I look back with a some longing. For so long I had focused on the other things in my life that it now feels odd to play video games. I can no longer sit for more than a couple hours playing video games, though I sit for more than 12 hours every day either driving to or from work or at my desk. I hear of new games that have the gaming community all abuzz but I can't seem to connect with them. Games that have a social aspect are foreign to me, as my gaming had begun to dwindle around the time when multiplayer online games were starting to become more mainstream. And the genre of games that more and more people enjoyed were not in my set of interests; RTSs and MMOs  could never really keep me as interested as platformers, FPSes, racing, and puzzle games. Moreover, many of the titles that more and more people were playing were designed for more computers that were more powerful than my laptop. I did not want to build a computer again, spending hundreds of dollars on a machine that would be practically only used for games which gave no guarantee on whether the hot game that would be released 3 years in the future would be playable on the best PC parts I used today. I could not justify the on-going expenses of a tower PC at home when I had to be a responsible adult and pay the bills. I had grown up on consoles as gaming platforms and felt that my investments on them were more sound in terms of longevity and the guarantee that the games I bought for the platform would work when I brought the game home.
Slowly but surely I began to notice that I was being silently removed from the gaming community. I was - nay, am! - becoming an outmoded gamer, and I am only 27! Even though I participated to the annual pilgrimage to Seattle to attend PAX, arguably the Mecca event of the geek and gaming community, and even though I felt more at home with fellow geeks from around the world there, returning home I still feel that I could no longer call myself a gamer. New games are getting harder to get into for me, and I am almost exclusively playing games from either the Halo, Portal or Mario franchises mainly because they are familiar to and still bring me joy. Even innovative games on newer, mobile platforms such as Angry Birds or Cut the Rope doen't hold me captivated and entertained like they would have 10 years ago. My life has certainly been changing, and though I am still very passionate about gaming as a whole, I feel like that part of my identity is lost, and it makes me sad for one very important reason: because it means that I am becoming an adult and losing the things that made me young, and this makes me sad.

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