Every beginning has an end
For many of us, video games have been a regular part of our lives for years. It's difficult to recall the days when a controller was a foreign device, or the time someone introduced us to our very first arcade cabinet or console. And now, looking back, it's kind of weird to think about how life has changed, and how the way you think about and play video games has changed along with it.
You didn't always have an inherent understanding of how most games work--that was something you learned along the way. And you haven't always dedicated the same amount of time to games each week, because life often demands your attention. A gamer's life goes through multiple stages, each of which we've painstakingly detailed (and supplemented with amazing photos of real people playing real games) in the following slides.
Toddler years (ages 0-5)
During your formative childhood, the days where milestones include things like not pooping all over yourself, gaming is hard. You've barely figured out real life, let alone a pretend one, and the concept of using a simple gamepad is far more difficult than the seemingly impossible task of coloring in the lines. Luckily your older sibling is kind enough to let you play along with him/her--thing is, your still-forming brain doesn't realize he/she purposely handed you an unplugged controller. Ignorance is bliss.
Small child years (ages 5-10)
By now you've no doubt developed an understanding for gaming basics. You know how to hold a controller, and you even have a tiny bit of muscle memory that allows you to press buttons without looking, a feat of which you're particularly proud. But you've encountered a frustrating impasse in your early gaming career: though you've obtained the motor skills necessary to play the titles you love the most, you lack the worldly understanding to actually finish them. Worse, your mom keeps forcing you to go outside and "use your imagination," which you take to mean walking around aimlessly for an hour. Tough obstacles stand in your way, bosses remain unbeaten, and--worst of all--worlds continue to burn thanks to your own inability.
Early teens (ages 10-15)
These are the fabled playground years, where you and your friends talk shop at the jungle gym. "Did you finish level six?" they'll ask, hungry for details. That's when you play the ace up your sleeve: "Yes, and I found out about this really cool [insert secret here]." The children gather around as if you're some sort of wise elder full of exciting stories. They pass around the strategy guide for the latest JRPG everyone's playing before begging for your AIM name in hopes of picking your brain after school. Then the bell rings and you head to math class, where you'll proceed to draw sketches of Cloud's buster sword.
Late teens (ages 15-19)
Two types of gamers are born from the late teens stage of life: the kind who play games in secret while labeling those who openly enjoy them as nerds, and the kind who openly enjoys games and are wrongly criticized for having an awesome hobby (screw the haters). Oh, and then there's the third kind: those who become hopelessly addicted to MMOs, RTSs, and MOBAs following a horrible, horrible breakup because your significant other didn't understand you and you feel the need to bury yourself in digital worlds because the real one is so, so painful.
Early 20s (ages 20-25)
High school has come to a close, and now you're off to college (or you skipped college and you're living with a bunch of friends, which is basically the same thing). The dorm life has its perks. For starters, you can leave your door open while you're home and random people will drop by to play some N64 Super Smash Bros. with you and your roommates. Sometimes you host multi-dorm LAN parties; others, you skip class to play the game you just bought during its midnight launch. Then there are the mornings where you wake up face down on the keyboard after having spent your evening at the local watering hole's Pint Night. Only two things can cure heavy dehydration: a greasy pizza and a lengthy gaming session.
Late 20s (ages 25-30)
It's funny how fast life changed. It used to be that the biggest worry you had was how much game time you could get in without failing classes. Now? There are relationships and careers to worry about. You're buried under so much crushing debt that it feels as if you'll never escape. Thankfully, video games are a great way to take your mind off of things and blow off some steam. You play when you can on weeknights, though your precious weekends are often spent hanging out with friends. Still, every now and then you have the occasional weekend binge session where you don't shower or change out of the clothes you slept in--these are the days you will treasure above all others.
Early 30s (ages 30-35)
You just don't have time for many games these days, ya know? Especially the complex, never-ending kind. A variety of things require constant attention: your spouse wants to spend time together, your child(ren) needs a good role model, and you have to put in extra hours at the office if you want a shot at that much-needed promotion. Hell, the sad truth is you're happy to get in a few minutes of Candy Crush Saga whenever nature calls. And sometimes, on the rare occasion every planetary body in the galaxy aligns just so, you work up the courage to call home and explain that you'll be working late thanks to "heavy traffic" (aka the irresistible urge to play some games).
Late 30s (ages 35-40)
Fate is a cruel mistress. Turns out your late 30s are practically identical to your early 30s. That's a whole decade of minimal gaming. Brutal.
Early 40s (ages 40-45)
A few years back, you couldn't stand to play games with your kids because they drooling all over your expensive controllers while in the toddler phase (see slide 2). Now, though, they're at least competent enough to enjoy co-op platformers and easy-to-grasp multiplayer games, and you take way too much pleasure in utterly dominating them. You're happy to introduce them to a hobby you've loved for as long as you can remember, and you even occasionally regale them with tales of when your parents used to force you to spend time outdoors. Just then, your spouse suggests that both you and your child(ren) should probably go outside for a bit, thrusting the two of you into a fit of rage (and, as a result, back into the toddler phase--see slide 2).
Late 40s (ages 45-50)
In hindsight, you realize that maybe you introduced your children to video games a bit too early, as they have zero interest in anything that doesn't involve a controller. They spend every waking moment in front of the TV, and despite knowing you were the same way, you're baffled that they'd rather play video game bowling than go real bowling. Your attempts to hide the TV's power cord have all been for naught, and that bright idea to impose a daily limit on how long your kids can play games has only succeeded in transforming them into whiny baby hellspawn.
The fantastic 50s
For a long time, you dreaded your 50s--that is, until you actually got there and found out how awesome it is. With the kids off to college, you're free to do (and eat) whatever the hell you want, when you want to. It is during these years that you start playing video games with the intensity that you did in your late teens. Hours upon hours are lost to MMOs; you walk around wearing shirts that say "SWAG" because you've got nothin' to prove anymore. And yes, you're about to eat the whole Tombstone pizza in one sitting.
Super senior citizen years (ages 100+)
Thanks to the advancements in the medical industry, 100 is the new 50. The only thing that kind of sucks is that Earth basically looks like it did in that ancient Disney film, Wall-E (and to think you actually found the CGI looked incredible back then!). Most people stay "plugged in" to a virtual recreation of the real world, one with unlimited space where everyone has everything they could ever want. And video games? Well, there are two kinds now: the sort where your virtual avatar is actually planted into a game, and the kind where your virtual avatar sits on a pretend couch and plays games within a game.
The circle of life
How different has your experience been from the various stages described here? Are you looking forward to the desolate future, or do you think it'll be vastly different? Let us know in the comments below.
And if you're looking for more, check out the most addicting games and games that did a terrible job of predicting the future.