Last Sunday morning, I zip-lined through a South American jungle, shot and killed several enemies, grabbed a fully loaded rocket launcher, and blew up a jeep filled with incoming hostiles. Once clear, I crept to an enemy occupied mansion that held the lost treasure I planned to steal. I climbed undetected up the side of the structure, pulled out my silencer, dispatched more enemies, grabbed the treasure, and bounced!
Thirty minutes later, I had a champagne brunch with my girlfriends.
Hi. My name is Tamara. I’m 36 years old … and I’m a gamer.
Being a gamer my age comes with a stigma. When I tell my friends that I bought a new video game, they balk. “Aren’t you too old for that?” I’m seen as immature or geeky, which apparently doesn’t fit my fashion executive persona. What they don’t understand is that gaming is no longer just for the dorky kid with no friends who masturbates to the well-endowed female characters. It’s a pastime similar to watching T.V. or a movie, but you have control of the action. For instance, let’s say you really enjoyed the T.V. series “Game of Thrones” earlier this year. Imagine someone saying to you, “Hey, would like to be a character in ‘Game of Thrones’?”
“Yes, I would!”
“Well, here is your controller. Choose you character, and your weapon!”
I already know who I want to be when the PS3 adaptation comes out in 2012.
And did I mention that most of the games rated “Mature” have sexual content? I repeat, there is sex. Heavy Rain had nudity and a full sex scene. Who’s mad at that?
One of my co-worker’s told me not to tell guys I like video games. “It makes you sound like a loser,” she said. This same girl puts pink bows in her dog’s hair and arranges her schedule around Basketball Wives L.A. She has never played a game, nor is she aware that girls are beginning to dominate the gaming community, and rightly so. These games take smarts, strategy, and multi-tasking ability. We girls are naturals at this stuff, and guys think that’s hot!
Case in point: a few years ago, Time Out New York had a “Date Our Friends” section where the editors created dating profiles for their single friends. I was absently flipping through the magazine when I stumbled across the picture of an attractive guy, who wrote that he was hoping his date would be up for a PlayStation face-off.
The subject line of my email to him read “You had me at PlayStation face-off.” I admit that it wasn’t his looks, his good job, or his witty profile that made me want to reach out. It was the PlayStation. Time Out guy wrote me back a day later. We exchanged a few emails about our favorite games, but it turned out that he was looking for a Jewish girl. We never met, which was fine, because relationships can cut into gaming time.
My gaming started in grade school with an Atari: Pitfall, Frogger, Mario Bros., and of course Donkey Kong. I played in the morning before school, after school, in between band practices (I was the drum captain), cheerleading practices (also captain), and softball (M.V.P.). I wasn’t lonely or a recluse; I just liked to play. And then it was Mortal Kombat my senior year in high school. On weekends, I took trips to the hoagie shop two blocks away where the brand new arcade game stood proud and inviting. I spent hours as Princess Kitana, slaying all the male characters using the “kiss of death,” a move that delivered the coveted “Fatality!”
Fast forward to my twenties, when my boyfriend and I moved into our new apartment and he pulled out a dusty game console that I had never seen.
“What’s this?” I asked. I had fallen off of the game circuit in college, unaware that gaming had become a whole new experience.
“It’s a PlayStation 2. Wanna’ play Madden?”
“Sure…” I didn’t know what Madden was, but when he fired up the game, I was in awe of the 3D like characters and the advanced graphics. The controller buttons were weird — long gone was the joystick — but I quickly got the hang of it.
Playing Madden with my boyfriend was fun, but I never loved sports games. Searching for an adventure game, I came across good reviews for something called Grand Theft Auto. On a whim I bought Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
And my gaming life changed forever.
I didn’t just play Tony, the drug lord of Vice City, I was Tony; blowing up cars, soliciting hookers, killing those who crossed me and taking their money. Each completed mission took me to another level of crime. I stole expensive cars, bought hot clothes, flipped on the best ‘80s rock station, and drove along the techno-colored, ocean-view coast. I loved this game so much I wanted my guy to play it too, but it was a single player game. I picked up Lord of the Rings, a multi-player game we could play together, but he preferred watching football. We played together a bit in the beginning, but I finished it alone.
My boyfriend and I didn’t last, but my love for gaming stayed strong.
Now in my 30s, there are times that I wonder if I am getting too old to game. I’m usually standing in line at GameStop with kids and their parents. Cashiers get red-faced when I explain that “Yes, I can see the rating. This game is for me, I don’t have kids.” And the last time I played Wii boxing, I was sore!
In the interest of “growing up,” I only bought two games this year, the most recent being the fourth installment of the Assassin’s Creed series. I had already played the previous three. After purchasing, I went to Whole Foods for lunch, where a group of children on a class trip were also eating. Laying my GameStop bag on the table, I began to eat when a boy, no older than 10, appeared at my table and put his finger on the bag.
“Oooh, what’d you get?” His face was alight with wonder.
“Assassin’s Creed Revelations,” I boasted.
“Oh yeah,” he nodded, closing his eyes and nodding in appreciation. “Good one.” Then he went back to his juice box.
I felt like I had been touched by the Dalai Lama. That two second conversation wiped out my concerns about my image, my age, and my gender. I love to play video games, and that’s the bottom line. That kid and I shared an unspoken knowledge that all gamers share — that gaming is awesome. And I like to think I’m awesome for gaming.