I have a birthday fast approaching – and with it comes the familiar realisation of something I have been lacking for a long time.
You see, with each passing year I’ve been waiting for a shift in my general adultness. I have a mortgage, a wife and a kid. I’m building up a nice collection of age-related illnesses, a rampant spring of nasal hair that must be harvested every two weeks, and I seem to be shrouded by a constant weariness that I’m guessing comes from having all the stuff I just listed.
Hell, I even have a few Coldplay albums that I keep hidden in the glove compartment of my 5-door family shitwagon. I’m not proud of it, but what else am I supposed to do with them!
But despite all my middle-aged credentials and impressive nasal hair, I have a terrible proclivity that stops me from going full grown-up. It’s an unruly kink in my otherwise flawless resume of noted adult competencies and worldly wise responsibility.
I am a father, I am a husband, I am a home-owner, but I’m also a mid-life gamer?
I started playing videogames over 30 years ago, and I’ll be honest, I feel no different towards them now than I did back then. I still get excited when a game of particular allure goes gold – that’s the term used to denote the final stage before manufacturing and shipping, and is only known by the truly pathetic and virginal.
I pre-order the titles several months in advance (this is getting embarrassing!), and I pour over every morsel of leaked details until the stupid piece of plastic arrives. In fact, only a gamer would happily pay £54.99 for a silver disc and a 6 page pamphlet that spends more time discussing the potential for epilepsy, than the actual game you have just forked out on!
I get a little panicky when I haven’t spent enough time with my current obsession, and I feel guilty if I start playing another game before finishing with the last one. In essence, I’m a neurotic, two-timing, scumbag that needs to spend more time with the game I’ve already committed too, rather than the sexy bombshell that just clicked her new heels and landed on my hard-drive.
It got a whole lot worse recently when I purchased a new laptop with a nice fat graphics card that allowed me to rediscover my love for RTS’s (real time strategy – please, keep up!).
Over the past ten years, the Total War series in particular has leached more of my life than anything else I can think of – and that’s without looking at other time-wasters such as Sim City, The Elder Scrolls, Pharaoh and online searches for pictures of Kelly Brook.
Ignoring Kelly Brook for a moment (not an easy thing for me to do), with the new laptop has come my discovery of Shogun 2: Total War, a game that I have become so close with I now simply refer to it as “my son’s samurai brother who lives in my computer”.
In light of this new arrival, and as a man with true family values, I need to ensure I spend quality time with both my children. It’s all about having the correct priorities in place. When I spend 6 hours playing with my beloved oriental son, I should at least make sure my other, more needy, son gets a quick pat on the head before I send him to bed.
And if that wasn’t time consuming enough, a copy of Total War: Rome II appeared in my Steam account – thanks to those kind people at Hewlett Packard. Upon this discovery I immediately renamed it as “my son’s flighty Italian brother who lives in my computer”.
I’m not kidding, with all these children I may need to get a nanny to help with that needy one who sometimes wanders into my field of vision and moans about being hungry!
However, in spite of these good intentions, every now and again I do get a twinge of doubt towards this gaming aspect of my life. Should I honestly be spending this much time playing with these things? Is it really appropriate that a 42 year-old man longs for the moment his wife and son goes to bed, so he can stick on a headset and kill zombie clowns with complete strangers, who have names that start with punctuation symbols?
I think I’ve come up with a cunning way of getting an answer.
You see, I have built a family in The Sims 4. They are called The Millards. They live in a 3-bedroom house, with a nice garden and two cars parked out front. Everything is ticking along nicely at the moment; however, I’m going to start placing Mr Millard on his computer for 12 hours each day. He will stop talking to his family, take all meals via a straw, and have a colostomy bag fitted to avoid unnecessary time away from the keyboard.
Within a few weeks I should have some indication on how this change in Mr Millard’s behaviour affects the household dynamic. I’ll then be in a better position to decide whether I should pre-order Total War: Attila… or as I intend to call it, “my son’s argumentative brother who lives in my computer.”
Paul Millard 2015