Generation X(box)

I was watching my nine-year-old nephew and his friend of a similar age playing TimeSplitters 2 not long ago. Now, I’ve played Timesplitters on my own once or twice, and I thought I was pretty good at it. I haven’t played a huge catalogue of first-person shooters, but I’ve sure played my fair share. So when my nephew asked if I wouldn’t mind taking his friend’s place in competing against him for a round of ‘capture the bag’ (TimeSplitters’s version of capture the flag), I eagerly grasped the controller.

Little did I know that I was embarking on a solid 30-minute period of getting my virtual ass fervently whipped by a callous and cold-blooded young child determined to make me look as incompetent at a videogame as was humanly possible. The same humiliating string of events just kept repeating itself, much like a recurring ‘naked’ dream: I would promptly navigate my character to where I knew my team’s ‘bag’ to be and frantically pick it up, only to be shot dead not 10 seconds later by my pokerfaced nephew. Prising the bag from my game-character’s cold, dead fingers, he would let out a small chuckle before running over to his own hotspot with it, thus defeating me.

When the call of duty stops for this young man, this young man likes to stop with Call of Duty.
When the call of duty stops for this young man, this young man likes to stop with Call of Duty.

It was at this point that something quite significant dawned on me: this boy was good. I mean, he was really good. I hadn’t noticed quite how skilled he was at this game when I was watching him play against his friend who possessed the same skill level. But pitted against me, he had some real talent to demonstrate and he wasn’t doing a very good job of curbing it for the sake of sparing my feelings.

When you think about it, my nephew represents tomorrow’s nascent generation of game developers and if his ability with this and many other games is anything to go by, then it seems obvious that this generation is becoming extremely videogame savvy at a very young age. I can’t help but wonder what kind of projects these designers will be responsible for in the future.

Now I’m no fool; being twenty… in my twenties, I realise that my dream of becoming a games designer – albeit one who merely mutters a few vaguely descriptive sentences regarding some form of game concept to a team of developers eager to work day and night on the project and credit me with any glory resulting from said project – is becoming less and less likely. But that works out well, because the videogame industry seems to be undergoing a kind of ‘spiritual awakening’ at present; a transitional period from the oldskool breed of developer to a fresher, more carnal kind of designer.

Sure, we still have an abundance of below-par games on the market, and such games are likely to remain there because a significant number of people enjoy playing them. But we also have the Super Mario Galaxies, the Okamis and the Bioshocks. Upcoming games like Heavy Rain are trying to further advance immersive and meaningful gameplay through their efforts to foster agency in games. We also have relatively new features adding to the excitement, such as dynamic difficulty adjustment and motion control. So I wonder what shape the gameplay experiences of these new-skool designers will take, a breed of designer reared on the wonders of the Xbox 360 rather than the Amiga or the NES.

And on that note, you’ll have to excuse me because I have the ass of a smug-looking nephew to kick. It’s my turn to pick the next game, and I say we’re playing Trivial Goddamn Pursuit!

Ah, finally, a game I can win. Or at least not lose quite so miserably at.
Ah, finally, a game I can win. Or at least not lose quite so miserably at.

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3 responses to “Generation X(box)”

  1. i am gwailu avatar
    i am gwailu

    so, nine year olds make for better gamers than you?
    xxxx

  2. The Rook avatar
    The Rook

    Who knows what kind of games machines we’ll have when the youngsters of today are the games developers of tomorrow.

    As long as I get to continue to play and enjoy excellent games, I look forward to finding out.

  3. i am gwailu avatar
    i am gwailu

    sadly mr rock, i don’t think we’ll EVER find out.
    the kids of today will lose interest in computer games in favour of hanging outside tesco and drinking cheap booze, or hanging around in car parks and sniffing glue.
    the kids of today who can read and write will just stay in education forever and never grow up, let alone think about getting a job.
    so i think it will be left to our generation to cary on with the games and console development, which is good as they’re obviously good at it.

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