Console Agoraphobia

As a life long gamer, I have previously confessed to having resigned myself to the fact that a) I just don’t have time any more and b) outdoor pursuits and/or more cerebral indoor are more appropriate pursuits for what little time that I do have outside work.

However, events have taken an unexpected turn.

We recently celebrated Punch’s 8th birthday, which coincided with an expansion that involved knocking through into next door and, in the process, we decided to keep aside one area of the new space (which has become known as ‘the creche’) for a wall mounted telly, some beanbags and a console, for some light entertainment and banter in between manic bursts of activity. Oh and we’ve gone for a retro Asteroids motif, obviously.

All very lovely. However, we bought a console and I had it at home for a few days before the grand unveiling/office party, so as to keep it under wraps until we were ready. And, in the process, I had a couple of quick goes on the odd game which, having not really played much since second generation consoles and the likes of the Dreamcast, I couldn’t but notice how much of a huge leap forward it was in terms of the overall experience.

On the obvious front, there’s the motion control aspect. Not only does that mean that the console is no longer just for those who want to sit and shoot zombies until the early hours – but it’s now (apparently) a legitimate exercise tool, dance class tutor and all around family entertainment device. Clearly I’ve not been living in a cave for the last ten years and, having myself worked in the gaming industry on several occasions, was well aware of what the latest generation did – but what was surprising was the was that gaming really has genuinely taken a huge new step in terms of embracing a far, far wider demographic than it did just a few years ago.

So, the upshot of all of this was that I ended up buying a second console, having been strongly advised by a friend that moving the latest machines from their natural habitat more than once or twice in their lifetime was nowadays akin to shaking a baby over a six floor balcony in terms of the risk factor (and to think, I used to take the Megadrive all over the place in order to play Sensible Soccer and Golden Axe at various mates’ houses – that thing was indestructible).

I confess that I’m still up for the fighty/shooty games personally, probably because of my gaming heritage. But, having spent a few housebound hours with my eldest daughter this evening after her sister fell asleep earlier than expected, we spent a super fun 60 minutes with her wiping the floor with me at bowling, followed by me beating her (just – it was sketchy) at track and field. I’m currently too scared to take her on at Zumba.

And, having done that, we then read together for half an hour before bedtime.

Time remains a huge consideration for me – and specifically how I prioritise what I do with what I have ‘spare’. Ironically (and, perhaps predictably), since having bought the second machine about ten days ago I haven’t turned it on once until this evening, simply because I’ve been working around the clock and/or with my family every other waking moment – which is how it should be. But having had a few conversations about this over the last month or so with various people in a similar situation and of a similar age, I’m reliably informed that ‘an hour or so a week’ is not uncommon – which seems absolutely fine to me.

Interestingly, I write this on the eve of the launch of a major new social game in Facebook. The next step for the industry surely has to be to move away from the superficial social games that have proven so popular and introduce some of the gameplay factors that hook in the gaming community? More on that to follow.

**UPDATE – It’s called MonsterMind, and launches today on Facebook**

Right, kids are asleep, I’m home alone – I might sneak a quick game in…