It would be so easy to fall back on Civilization IV and World of WarCraft and just let time run out on the gaming clock. I doubt it would take long, just a season or two until I felt like I had fallen so far behind the curve that I might just drop the habit and take up antiquing or ballroom dancing - frankly, it would likely do wonders for my marriage.
But that is not the desire. That's the nightmare scenario. Gaming, for all the many other things it may be - a timesink, a money pit, a habit scorned by elected officials - isn't just something I do because I can't think of anything better. It's a connection to my childhood. Gaming is part of what keeps me young, makes me feel like I did when I was 21 or 12, if only for a moment.
I know much is written on the ill effects of games, but for me it is an elixir of youth. Even as I feel the break down of my own physical skills, the joys of playing these games are as rich and vital as ever. Whether I am tasked with the slaying of some menacing dragon, saving the earth or just coming in first at Laguna Seca, the illusion still works for me, and I think that's why there are so very very many of us aging gamers. Where all the other wonders of childhood have been revealed as amateur tricks, somehow video games keep on working a real and indecipherable magic.
I grew up in the back corner of a 7-11 in the suburbs of the deep south, my formative years described by the wakka-wakka of a Pac-Man and the simple antics of Jumpman, who you probably know by another more Italian name. At thirty-hurrumph, I can still trace a sharp and bright line to that boy that runs through a Playstation, a Sega Genesis, an Apple IIc, a thousand video game arcades and a ransom in quarters. It's like a tether through time, and somehow I feel that sustains me.
I don't feel much older than I did in 1990 or even 1980. Even as I see my physical prowess wane, if ever so slightly, I still have a strong desire to get up on Saturday morning, watch Dungeons & Dragons, play with my Transformers for an hour or two and then finally ride my bike the three blocks to that 7-11. I can't help but feel like gaming gives me that, and so I am really quite grateful.
Sean Sands is a professional writer, co-founder of gamerswithjobs.com and an unrepentant child.