When I was younger, I once lamented to a friend that some day we’d have to give up video games. I meant that we’d have to grow up, and growing up likely did not involve them, and he looked at me like I was crazy. “I’ll still play video games when I’m an adult,” he said, and he was the last person I expected to hear say that.
I think we were both right. I was just in his wedding, and I think that’s a conclusive sign of some sort of maturity, especially at our age. And at the wedding he told me how much he loves Tiger Woods 10 for the Wii. Full disclosure: I had never really played the Wii until his bachelor party this summer, and even then we were playing just the rinky-dink yet amazing games that come with the system. I returned from the bachelor party (at the Jersey Shore!) on Sunday. Monday, on my way home from work, I went to Target and bought a Wii… and had immediate buyer’s remorse which didn’t quite go away with hours of playing Wii Tennis, so I basically shelved it for awhile. After the wedding I wanted the Tiger Woods game, though, but it never came up again until another friend wanted to decompress after a Business School exam last Friday and suggested we take some swings. The Wii Sports games can only amuse you for so long, so I suggested I should just buy the Tiger Woods game, and I did.
We had a great time playing the game, but when the friend left, I was struck by something like a remorse that went beyond just the $80 I spent on the game and controller upgrade. It was a deep shame, really, that I was 32 years old and spending money on a video game to be played primarily by myself, behind closed doors, something I had long sworn that I wouldn’t do. I had played video games in the years since high school, and played a lot of them, but I always played them with people: They were a form of social interaction, however lowbrow. Now I was living alone, and spent a bunch of money I could have spent on picture frames or art or whatever on a game that simulates a sport I don’t even like.
So what happened? I played the everliving shit out of the game. After avoiding it for a few days based on actual, full-time work, I popped it in Tuesday night and played about 60 holes. I might have been ashamed at myself for doing so, but I wasn’t about to stop. Not that night anyway. I put aside plans to go to the gym (because I’m running a four-mile race Sunday morning with little training) until Wednesday. I woke up Wednesday with sore arms, which I thought would be an impediment to playing the game more and push me to the treadmill, which I loathe more than the real game of golf (at least you’re doing something). I was wrong. I played 120 holes.
On Thursday, my arms were sorer than before, and I planned all day to come home and play the game, but when I got home, I just couldn’t do it very effectively. I missed shots I could have made and realized that I simply had played too much, and in doing so saw where I had matured and still had room to grow up.
Do I still think video games are the provenance of children, on a fundamental level? Yes. But I think the bigger concern is the attitude one takes toward video games. If I was “missing” the shots I was “missing” yesterday 10 years ago, I would have been furious at myself, even if I didn’t want to admit it. Everything I did at any moment had to be perfect, which was the source of my problems; it wasn’t that I was playing too much XBox. Getting over that was one stage of maturity, and most assuredly a more important one that simply “not playing video games” in order to give me some false sense of maturity. My friend is naturally more even-keeled than I am, and spent more of his early twenties sitting around playing video games than I did without any sort of deleterious effect, but I suspect that married life won’t give him decreasing opportunities to wield the “club.” It’s probably waning as we speak, but maybe his rounds on the “course” are the few refuges from full-onset adulthood—ones that he most certainly knows, and fully accepts, are fleeting.
For me, playing the shit out of this game has had the opposite effect. I was so determined to “grow up” that I tried to just go around a very fundamental step: Living comfortably on my own, doing the same things I did as a child, and seeing their limits clear enough to transcend them. Playing Tiger Woods 10 fills my time with something that is necessarily worse than what I’d like to replace it with, but it’s better than avoid playing it on the grounds that doing nothing will lead me there.