Was your childhood in the 80’s and your teenage years in the 90’s? Did you discover games as a child and continue to play through your teens and beyond? Yes? Then you are an original gamer. No generation after the 1980’s can say this. To discover gaming as an adult in that amazing era meant you had already had your childhood pastimes and playing games was something to escape your normal responsibilities (and you were probably thought of as a bit weird). You had to be a kid at that time to qualify for this future fantasy I am about to propose. Although technically an adult who played games in the 80s could be seen as an original gamer, it is not something they were brought up on, and it’s not something that has been infused in to their DNA and their whole psyche. Also, this idealistic picture I am about to paint in the next few paragraphs would mean an adult in the 80’s would already be dead.
Back then, Retro gaming wasn’t retro gaming, it was just “gaming” and every game was a new discovery and a learning experience of what a computer was and what it was capable of. In the 1980’s, the question wasn’t “what is this game?” the question was “What is gaming?” – gaming was brand new, it wasn’t a medium that had penetrated the mainstream yet; it was still something that strange people were doing in their bedrooms. It can even go a step further: to mainstream society, computers themselves were brand new; to speak of computers was to speak science fiction. It was something only seen in comic books and far-fetched TV shows. It was jargon, a foreign language that the world hadn’t learned yet; a secret code amongst a new generation of (as they were only known as back then) “nerds” who were saying “This is what I will be doing for the rest of my life”. 35 years later childhood “games” would usually have been put away a long time ago and that statement would have been a bit of a fairytale of a young mindset. But 35 years later, the original gamers are still doing it, and their children are too, and it’s a normal every day part of life no matter what age you are. You are not a Nerd anymore if you play games and use computers; that title has now been reserved for much more mainstream society disconnected activities.. (see if you can name some in the comments below).
So here it is; here is my dream of the future. A future that should be and must be. In the future, and for the first time in history, retirement homes will occupied by the original gamers, and (this is the best part) these retirement homes will be equipped with computers and games consoles (“YES!! I’m old but this is awesome.”).
In the same way that today’s elderly are entertained by singers booked to perform songs of the rat pack, or when tea and cake mornings are enjoyed to the soundtrack of a grainy George Formby record, or there is a singalong to “It’s a long way to tiperary” and everyone has a jolly time; old people will be having LAN sessions on Doom. Shinobi and Double Dragon arcade machines will be brought in for the day and ZX Spectrums and Nintendo Entertainment Systems will be installed in the activity room and played to a distant sound of the Thriller album coming from the next room (which after morning soda streams, will be cranked up to some Prodigy and other 1990’s rave music). To be a young child from the 80’s and a teenager from the 90’s, means that your final years, months and days will be spent (just as it is with the generation of the elderly today), reliving “the good old days” from your youth and these good old days will be a retro gaming fan’s paradise. The current mellow non-adrenalised activities and pass-times of the retired will be replaced by energetic and excitement filled gaming sessions. Knitting and embroidery will be out; Gameboy Tetris and Donkey Kong will be in. When visiting grandparents the “When I was young” stories will shift from tales of jumping jacks, hopscotch and charades, to 8-bit memories of mario, jet set willy and space invaders and these are the stories that will influence a new generation of retro gaming fans to pick up a NES gamepad, just like their grandparents did.
This all said, whether a tired mind and a set of aged thumbs will be able to be react quickly enough to the games, or whether arthritis (and similar ailments) sufferers will even be able to hold and use their controller at all; well that’s a different story. But one thing is certain, if the agenda of retirement homes is still to help old people in their final years to re-experience a little piece of their youth and the joy it brought; then the original gamer generation (now in their 30’s and 40’s at the time of writing this) should know that their retirement home will be an awesome place to be.