I am not a casual gamer. A brief look at my console collection will attest to this: a PS4 Pro, a Switch, a 3DS here in Berlin, with an Xbox 360 and a Wii waiting patiently to be shipped out of a friend’s basement in Providence, Rhode Island. Oh, and there should still be a GameCube, GBA, N64, SNES, and Game Boy kicking around somewhere in my mother’s garage in Melbourne, Australia. This is to say nothing of the library of games I own for each console, with the 20 cases stowed under my new 65” gaming TV representing just the essentials I could afford to stuff into my suitcases as I moved to Germany earlier this year.
No, a casual I am not. Aside from my books, my games, consoles, and an absurdly large TV to play them on are essential enough that I’m willing to lug them across several continents with me. Oh, and I’ve never played Angry Birds, or Fruit Ninja, or… you know what, I just don’t play mobile games.
And yet, despite buying it on release day in October 2018, I still haven’t finished Red Dead Redemption 2(Get it for 50% off! here-Digital- & here-Physical copy-), or Breath of the Wild (at 15% off here), for that matter. Hell, I haven’t even made it past the Asylum Demon in Dark Souls, but then, who has? And any attentive reader will have deduced by now that, even at 35, I’m still a total Nintendo fanboy, having owned every one of their systems to date except for an original NES or a Game Boy Color (Virtual Boys don’t count!). Hardcore? Hardly! I’ve never even played Destiny, or Overwatch…or even Fortnite. And when I heard that LoL was one of the biggest titles in esports, I had to look it up before I knew what the acronym meant: surely I would have known if there was actually a game called Laugh Out Loud, right?
But what if it’s no coincidence that I am not only the “average” age of gamers everywhere, but also “gaming’s middle child” between hardcore and casual (another title my editor suggested for this very article), and, like Zero Punctuation’s Yahtzee, I have an identity crisis any time a game presents me with more than three difficulty settings, devout medium man that I am?
Back in my day…
As an elder millennial growing up in the 90s, I missed the gaming industry’s initial waves (and crashes) in the 70s and 80s. I did, however, get to watch video games go from a somewhat niche pseudotoy for boys to an entertainment juggernaut that now eclipses the film and music industries combined. To child Felix, a triple-A title was GoldenEye 007, Banjo–Kazooie, Perfect Dark (perhaps I wasn’t a Nintendo fan so much as a Rare fan), titles that now seem utterly quaint compared to the likes of Red Dead or the newly released Cyberpunk 2077(Get Cyberpunk 2077 for only $35 here or here )—not just quaint, but tiny.
But even before I spent months playing each of those games to death, I remember receiving my first Game Boy and getting excited every time I made it even a step further in Super Mario Land before inevitably dying again. The fact that I was 11 is no excuse when one considers that some of today’s best gamers in the world are mere teenagers.
Yes, folks: games took a long time to finish back then, but damn it, we liked it that way! I grew up in Australia, where a new game for the Nintendo 64 easily set you back $100 AUD. And with the market not yet being saturated the way it is now (good God, Ubisoft, just finish Assassin’s Creed already!), every game was not only expensive, but a true rarity. This reality forced you to savor every moment you had with a game, with enough time to finish it to absolute completion before the idea of getting another title even crossed your pocket-money-dependent mind. Ladies and gentlemen, that period between the frenzy of Space Invaders and the frenzy of Modern Warfare (pick a number—I really don’t care which one) was a contemplative, contented one. It was an age of what I call Slow Gaming, and of the Slow Gamer, like me.
In praise of Slow Gaming
While researching if anyone else had already coined these terms, I found not only a blog called Slow Gamer—touting the ingenious slogan, “Because complex opinions require time to formulate”—but also an article about Artur Ganszyniec. A former employee of CD Projekt Red who had grown tired of the pressure of AAA development cycles, Ganszyniec left the company to found Different Tales, a studio dedicated to making a new genre of games, games with stories, “[s]tories rooted in the common human experience. Stories that you discover at your own pace. Stories with the potential to bring about change.” Ganszyniec calls this new genre Slow Gaming.
And where there is a genre of games, there is a type of gamer. Yes, I am a Slow Gamer, and now that I say it, I am proud of the title. Even now, as I finally finish up the epilogue, I am still so stunned by the beauty of Red Dead Redemption 2’s landscapes that I sometimes have to stop playing just to drink them in. No wonder it’s taken so long to get through it! But you know what? I love it. Outside of the slaughter of online gaming and the anxiety of speedruns, I am happy knowing that I play games simply for the pleasure of it, with nothing to prove, not even to myself.
Since getting my first Game Boy at age 11, I have loved playing a variety of games, with an emphasis on single-player adventure and RPG titles. My favorites include Mario and Zelda games (and spinoffs like Mario Kart and Smash Bros.), The Elder Scrolls series, and basically anything by Rockstar.