She still plays the old consoles; she knows every secret in those games. But for her, it turned out to be a passing fancy, a childhood game with nostalgia value, that never followed her into adulthood. It turned out the same way for a lot of her childhood friends, too, "cool kids" whom she'd lure to our house with the promise of our battalion of technology, delighted in anticipation of their dropping jaws. Betrayed by her lack of proper enthusiasm at my new career in game writing, I ask her why.
"It takes 45 minutes of sitting through [cut scenes] just to start playing," she says. "Games are no longer something you can play for as long as you want and then shut off; with a lot of games, you can only save so often, at checkpoints, and it's a drag to be forced to play a game longer than I feel like it."
The idea of a modern console arriving unsolicited at the doorstep of a writer who will probably never even cover it is unheard of today. Games don't come to my parents' house anymore; hell, I write about games every day and they hardly ever come to mine, either. When I started to buy my own games - and, lucky as I was, that wasn't until I was at least 18 years old - they were still $25, maybe $30 for a hot title. Now, as my sister crests legal age, she's a little stunned to find $50 dollar titles and $400 consoles on the shelves. "I still love old games," she says, "but I'm not interested enough for those prices!" Especially when she struggles to orient herself to 3-D and infinitely more complex controls, whenever she tries them today.
When she comes to visit me in New York, I try, once again, to sit her down and force her to watch me play the newest titles, the ones I'm convinced she'll like. She watches ambivalently for about five minutes, and then demands to go clothes shopping in Midtown.
I ask Dad - now a publisher at an online magazine - whether he'd ever consider covering games again. "Never," he says. "It's a young person's beat. So much of videogames is wrapped up in youth culture, and there's just no way an old fart like me is going to get my head into it. And like I said, today's games are more complex, and they make my head hurt."
So, of all of us, I'm the only one who still plays. But whenever I come home to visit, it's like something overtakes my sister and I. No sooner have I set down my bag in the foyer than my sister suddenly seems young again, tugging me by the wrist, hurrying me upstairs to play. "Come on," she urges. "Let's play videogames." And sometimes Dad sticks his head in, just to see what we're doing.