For many years, there was this concept that video games cater only to the young, but despite popular belief, the gaming industry is an ever-evolving one, attracting people of all ages.
Does anyone recall the long-standing history of video games? “The Brown Box” was created in 1967 by Sanders Associates. It was licensed to Magnavox, giving birth to the first console, the Odyssey. While that didn’t last, one of its 28 games inspired the more famous Pong on the Atari system.
Various milestones in gaming were made in the following decades, including the launch of the first third-party game developer, Activision, and games such as Space Invaders, Pac-Man, and Donkey-Kong (where Mario got his start!). The industry really took shape when Nintendo created the NES along with long-standing franchises like Metroid, Super Mario Bros., and Legend of Zelda.
From the surface, it seems that these older games were geared more toward the younger audience while modern gaming is flooded with adult titles such as the Halo and Grand Theft Auto franchise. If we look closer, we see that mature games have actually been around for a long time. The first M-rated game was DOOM for the SNES back in 1994, and as we all know, M-rated games are meant for those ages 17 and older.
Of course, ESRB ratings aren’t the only thing that draws the line for adults. There are a significant amount of titles that deal with content that only mature minds can grasp. Take Gris and its attempt to tackle the stages of grief. Night in the Woods features a twenty-year-old college drop out, as we, the player, experience her return home, and we realize how dissociated she becomes. How about parenting? Joel loses his daughter in the shocking start of The Last of Us, and he spends the rest of the game transporting a girl named Ellie across the country as they form their own special parent-child bond. Loss and mental illness are heavy, deep topics clearly not meant for an eleven-year-old.
Finally, we now have an entire generation that grew up with video games, experiencing it as a normal part of life. This generation, my generation, doesn’t see gaming in this archaic light.
The perception that people should outgrow video games once they reach adulthood is simply an illusion. Mature games, whether in a physical or abstract sense (or both), have existed for many years. The gaming industry doesn’t discriminate against player age, and an adult can benefit from playing games just as much as a teenager can. Just check out the stats:
According to a 2020 survey, only 21% of gamers were under the age of 18. This leaves 38% in the 18 to 34 age group, 26% in the 34 to 54 age group, and even 6% in the 65+ group!
It’s really unfortunate that there are pockets of society that attribute video games as child-like or even childish. The attitude can be toxic, like a very unnecessary stigma. I was certainly not immune to it: I personally had been shamed for enjoying video games past high school, and even more so out of college. There’s this expectation to “grow up” and enjoy adult things like sniffing wine and trying to identify the subtle notes of chocolate or bitter almonds…or coupon clipping.
There is no golden rule for when to stop playing video games. Sure, we take on more responsibilities as we grow. We have jobs and other major commitments. Some choose to start a family. Perhaps that impacts the amount of time spent playing video games, but that doesn’t mean someone outgrew them. As long as the person enjoys video games in a healthy, balanced way (much like with any other hobby), there shouldn’t be an age cap.
Besides, even if it continues to read as child-like to some, don’t we always want a little bit of youth to remain in us until the day we die?
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