As a woman in my 40’s, I’m an older gamer. Not as old my ojisan-gamer husband who’s in his 50’s, but I’m definitely not part of the generation that has grown up constantly connected to everything and everyone. I discovered video games in 1993 when I was pregnant with my son. Platform games and JRPG’s were my go-to genres at Blockbuster (remember them?), so gaming was very much a solo activity. I started playing games like Phantasy Star Online and Diablo II around 2000 and then dove into the world of EverQuest in 2001. I played almost exclusively with people I actually knew in real life. On the rare occasions that I played with strangers, I was shy and nervous. Even today, I still get sweaty palms and an increased heart rate when I group up with strangers. When I played World of Warcraft, I played almost completely solo. I would group up with my real life friends and my husband, but that was pretty much it. A friend invited me to a raid once and we had to go on voice chat. That was weird and terrifying. I knew most of the people there, but still… that was really really weird to me. Nowadays, I’m fairly used to using voice chat programs to communicate with group members. Voice chat makes coordinating a lot of different people a LOT easier. I wouldn’t say it’s required, but damn, does it make things a hell of a lot easier…
Still, for me, voice chat is more of a tool for group content than a social space, although that is slowly changing. In contrast, most of today’s (often younger) online gamers chat ALL THE FREAKING TIME. They won’t even be playing a game together and they’ll be hanging out in Teamspeak chat rooms, chatting about whatever. This is weird to me. So you can imagine my overwhelming confusion when I was invited into a TS chatroom with almost 20 people in it!
Most of us were playing FFXIV, but a few were playing other games. I remember one guy mentioning XCOM. I knew MAYBE a quarter of the people in the room. People said hi and all that. But after that I felt like I was floating around in ABSOLUTE CHAOS. These kids were all talking to each other, having individual conversations while contributing to OTHERS’ conversations, as well. I spent most of my time just listening. Contributing just seemed WAY too complicated. On top of all the confusion, the room was full of (mostly) people my son’s age. One guy mentioned that he was 18 and my niece (who was also chatting) is in her late 20’s, so I’m averaging. (My son is 22.) Everything was about sex or jokes about sex. If it wasn’t sex, it was some crazy drama thing about interpersonal relationships. “Omg, is there something going on between X and Y?” Or people getting all mad and just figuratively storming out of the room by abruptly disconnecting from the channel. And everything about sex made people howl with laughter… I remember being like that. 🙂 But damn, I haven’t been exposed to it in a long while. I spent most of my time just chuckling to myself and wondering if I sounded that silly when I was that age. The answer to that, of course, it ABSO-fucking-LUTELY. I contributed a little. “If you spank it, you tank it,” elicited some amusing remarks.
Hanging out in that chat room was fun, if overwhelming. I’ll absolutely go there again, though. It was an absolutely fascinating glimpse into some of the newer and younger modes of socializing today. Honestly, I felt lucky to be invited to the party. 🙂