Limbo / Endings and Beginnings

I have so many things I need to talk about, and (of course) I have no idea where to begin.  The following image series is more or less what I’ve been doing here for the last few weeks.

1.  One of the many reasons why I’ve been silent here of late is that there’s a BIG BIG THING that is still not 100% finished yet, and I don’t want to jinx it by spilling the beans, but at this point we’re getting pretty close to knowing for sure if this is going to happen or not, and so (since my wife says it’s OK) here’s the news:  It looks like we’re moving out of the city and into the ‘burbs.  We put an offer on a perfect (for us) house in Maplewood, New Jersey; they accepted our offer; we’re already out of attorney review; we’re getting the house inspected tomorrow (while we also examine potential day care solutions); the mortgage application has been filed; the tentative closing date is June 19.  THIS IS HAPPENING SO VERY FAST.

As you might imagine, this has more or less completely taken over my life.  My wife and I aren’t sleeping; we fret about monthly expenses, we worry about day care, we have absolutely no idea what the morning commute is going to look like (before we get on the train, that is; once we’re on the train it’s easy-peasy).  I suddenly have to get a NJ driver’s license and get the car re-registered and inspected and the dogs need to get re-registered and licensed and we need homeowner’s insurance and new car insurance and we have to find a pediatrician and we also know maybe 2 people who live in the town and and and

It’s super-exciting because the house is amazing and the town itself is amazing and we can’t wait to move in, but it’s also terrifying because HOLY SHIT IT’S A HOUSE AND WHAT IF A TREE FALLS ON THE HOUSE AND HOW MUCH WILL A REPUTABLE PLUMBER COST AND HOW WILL WE PAY FOR ANYTHING IF ANYTHING BREAKS.

2.  One of the other reasons why I’ve been silent here – and I’ve probably said this before, during similar lulls – is that it’s hard for me to talk about games when I’m not actively playing anything.  It’s true that I’ve picked up a few things here and there over the last few weeks but nothing’s held my interest; to the extent I’m playing anything at all (besides a few excellent time-wasters on my iPhone), I’ve been wrapping up old side quests in Dragon Age Inquisition since that’s at least something that I’ve already spend a considerable amount of time with.  Most of my evenings of late have been spent with both the consoles and the gaming PC turned off, though, and I haven’t felt much of a pull to get back

But if I’m being honest here, I’ve been starting to wonder how much longer I’m going to talk about games at all.

I’m starting to feel disconnected from gaming.  I’ve talked about this before, I know, but it’s different this time.  I know that I’m distracted right now, what with the house and the album and my kid and everything else, but even the eye-popping advance reviews for The Witcher 3 aren’t necessarily getting me as excited as I might’ve been only a few years ago – and if The Witcher 3 isn’t gonna do it, I honestly have no idea what would.

I had an interesting conversation with David Wolinsky yesterday over twitter.  He’d written a rather breath-taking piece for Unwinnable (which you should read right now) and I felt compelled to thank him, and then I saw his pinned tweet:

I responded that I think I might be in the middle of that specific transition, and it bothered me a little bit.  I’ve been playing games since I was 5 or 6 years old, and with the exception of my college years, I’ve been a dedicated gamer the whole time.  Within the last few years, though, I’ve been feeling myself slowly slip away from it – not just from games themselves, but from reading Twitter, from engaging with the community, from writing about games on other sites, even from delivering soliloquies such as this on this very site, where I’m free from editorial oversight and advertising pressure.  I’m feeling alienated from the culture.  Most AAA games simply aren’t made for 39-year-olds, and that’s a weird thing to wrap my head around.

I’ll end this with something I’ve quoted here before but which bears repeating in light of this feeling of alienation and disengagement – the last 3 paragraphs of Tom Bissell’s Grantland piece about GTA V, which says this so much better than I ever could:

…I have a full Xbox Live friends list, 100 people strong, and last night 25 percent of them were playing GTA V — something I’ve never seen before. The texts and messages started flying: So, what do you think? How far are you? Very few of my friends had good words to say about GTA V, even as the game’s Metacritic score holds firm at a mind-boggling 97. Then I got a text message from a game-dev friend who happens to be one of the smartest, most aesthetically sophisticated people I’ve ever met in games. He wasn’t enjoying the game, and he seemed puzzled by that. We texted for a while. Then he sent this: “I guess I’m mourning the admittance that I’m no longer the target audience of my own work.”

One of GTA V‘s characters admits at the end of the game, “I’m getting too old for this nonsense.” And you know what? I felt the same thing numerous times while playing GTA V, even though I continue to admire the hell out of much of what it accomplishes. So if I sound ambivalent, Niko, I think it’s because I’m part of a generation of gamers who just realized we’re no longer the intended audience of modern gaming’s most iconic franchise. Three steps past that realization, of course, is anticipation of one’s private, desperate hurtle into galactic heat death. I’m left wondering when I, or any of us, express a wish for GTA to grow up, what are we actually saying? What would it even mean for something like GTA to “grow up”? Our most satirically daring, adult-themed game is also our most defiantly puerile game. Maybe the biggest sin of the GTA games is the cheerful, spiteful way they rub our faces in what video games make us willing to do, in what video games are.

Playing GTA used to feel like sneaking out behind school for a quick, illicit smoke. The smoke still tastes good, Niko; the nicotine still nicely javelins into your system. But when you look up, you have to wonder what you’re actually doing here. Everyone is so young, way younger than you, with the notable exception of the guy handing out the cigarettes, and he’s smiling like he just made a billion dollars.

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