Have your gaming habits changed as you've gotten older?

Xbox One X
Xbox One X (Image credit: Matt Brown | Windows Central)

Hello, fellow gamers. I am getting old. This upsets me. But what upsets me more than the acute awareness of my impending mortality, is the fact that my gaming habits are changing. I find games I used to love frustrating, and genres I used to love alien and scary. Games I like seem to be less and less profitable, as studios seek an ever-increasing slice of the freemium service model, popularized by Fortnite, et al.

What to do, other than yell about it into the void? And realize that I am succumbing to uncoolness. Fellow older gamers, are you experiencing the same?

Changing times

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Throughout the years, I've flipped from primarily Nintendo, to primarily PlayStation, to primarily PC, then to primarily Xbox. As of today, I sit somewhere between Xbox and PC, seeking out a dwindling number of games that I feel are designed specifically for me. And hey, that's fine too. This isn't about "woe is me, gaming was better back in my day," and I appreciate the opportunities for the industry as they react to shifting demographics and interests of the next generation of younger gamers. Roblox, a game which on the surface looks as though it flopped out of a low-budget '90s indie studio, launched an IPO that immediately made it more valuable than Ubisoft and EA. These are numbers most publishers can barely even dream of.

Similar megablockbuster games like Minecraft and Fortnite dominate monthly active users and sales figures. I've spent a great deal of time enjoying the creativity and survival mechanics in Minecraft, but Fortnite and other similar battle royale games, I simply can't get invested in, especially on smartphones. I have no idea how youngsters can prefer the glossy, intangible controls of a touch screen over the tactile, ergonomics of a full controller. But that seems to be the age we live in, with games like PUBG Mobile and Call of Duty Mobile driving hundreds of millions of monthly active users — more than the entirety of Xbox Live itself. Yet I sit here, lamenting the fact Epic Games focuses its efforts on Fortnite, over Unreal Tournament.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Recently, I found myself playing Mass Effect Legendary Edition. I casually tweeted something along the lines of "they don't make them like this anymore," realizing I'd fallen into the same mindset my parents had while showing me old movies or music. Nostalgia is a bit of a trap, and can make us accept flaws and cut corners for the simple feeling the game provides. I thoroughly accept and realize that the 200-plus hours I spent in Pokémon Shield on my Nintendo Switch was driven mostly by nostalgia. If the gameplay and graphics were identical, slapped with a different brand, I can't help but feel like it would've hit 4/10 on Metacritic at best, rather than the 8/10 it currently enjoys.

I genuinely feel that isn't the case with some titles like Mass Effect, though, since the genre has virtually vanished out of popularity. Single-player games aren't profitable enough for big-name players anymore. There's not enough word-of-mouth FOMO factor driving friends to the game, as there might be in a multiplayer game. There's not enough on-going sales opportunities from microtransactions, although Mass Effect did dabble with a surprisingly capable multiplayer PvE mode in its heyday. It wasn't enough for EA, though, whose revenues are driven by and large by the likes of FIFA Ultimate Team and Apex Legends in-game purchases.

None of this is a particularly new trend though, and the discourse over single player vs. service games has been examined to death. What is new, for me, is that I'm barely finding the time to indulge in these multiplayer experiences that utterly dominate the industry now.

Changing habits

Sea Of Thieves Skeleton Ship Battle

Source: Xbox Game Studios / Rare (Image credit: Source: Xbox Game Studios / Rare)

I was really excited by Sea of Thieves when it was first announced, and the game has only gone from strength to strength since then. Yet, I failed to really get into the game properly, which flies in the face of the gaming habits of my past.

Sea of Thieves reminded me of the chaotic PvP in World of Warcraft's early days — specifically Booty Bay — a tropical pirate haven run by goblins. It was here players could sell junk and get quests, but were virtually unprotected by city guards typically found in non-neutral faction cities. Thus, it was a true cut-throat experience, where griefers and gankers would stalk unaware players purely for sport. It was exciting to level in Booty Bay and the surrounding Stranglethorn Vale jungles. There was a real sense of risk and reward — the quests were so densely packed you could get mountains of EXP very easily, but it was also full of enemy Horde or Alliance players, roaming in murderous groups.

I adored that experience in my teens and early 20s, but despite Sea of Thieves offering something very similar with its open world PvP antics, I realized I was no longer the type of player that would get anything from it.

PvP games are at their most fun when you're playing with friends. Alas, my job often doesn't revolve around standardized 9-5 work hours, making scheduling with friends difficult by itself. Plus, a lot of my friends find themselves in similar situations — erratic work schedules, too tired to play afterwards, and more recently, often with young kids to tend for. Playing Sea of Thieves or any other similar game alone is a lonely and oftentimes frustrating experience. It's clear these games aren't designed with loners in mind, and in some ways that's what it feels like I've become to some degree, at least where gaming is concerned.

Dragon Quest Xi S Review Hero Image

Source: Square Enix (Image credit: Source: Square Enix)

This is why I've been enjoying Xbox Game Pass cloud a ton recently. It fits around my lifestyle a little bit more if I can take my Xbox with me, in my pocket. I've also found games like Dragon Quest XI to be great to play on the go, with turn-based combat and paused text-based dialogue, complete with story recaps after re-loading the game. For someone who can only angle longer gaming sessions for work reasons right now, these types of single-player experiences that are a little more thoughtful about the user's time have become a real godsend as of late. I can easily put Dragon Quest XI down to answer a call or respond to a work message without getting myself killed, thanks to the gameplay style.

Solo play is always best with good characters and world building that suck you into the story, but so few of the publishers chasing service type games seem to make that kind of investment nowadays. Although, there are some refreshing games that have bucked the trend, both from big studios and smaller indies. Resident Evil Village was a great experience that didn't overstay its welcome, and I still hold firm that despite its flaws, Cyberpunk 2077 made for an incredible RPG. Microsoft too is investing big in this space, with Starfield, Hellblade II, and various other single-player franchises in the pipeline. I just wonder whether these types of games will remain profitable enough to sate the appetites of the corporations that make them, while games like Fortnite and PUBG Mobile rake in absurd amounts of cash in the mobile arena.

Your thoughts

E3

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

I asked on Twitter if other people had seen their gaming habits change over time, and got a huge number of responses from gamers of all types and ages, offering their experiences. It seems that prevailing trends dictate that many of us just have less time to play as we get older, I also resonate with the people who feel like they can't practice enough to keep up to speed in competitive shooters. I used to play Battlefield and Unreal Tournament religiously, but I fear what would happen if I tried to jump into a server after skipping them for the past couple of years.

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What are your thoughts? Hit the comments, vote in our poll, and let us know what you think about the current state of gaming, and how getting older may have changed your gaming habits over time.

Jez Corden
Managing Editor

Jez Corden is the Managing Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

22 Comments
  • Yep, absolutely. I'm 44 and I love games as much as I did when I fell in love with them in the 80s with my first system the Atari 2600. Now, it's a time thing. Don't have as much time as I used to.
  • I bought the Series X just to have a better platform for RetroArch. Developer Mode + RetroArch = Worth It.
  • Yes. I am 47 and can't spend the time I used to due to kiddos. So I have lots of games I ha e tried, but just don't ha e the time to finish
  • Yes. I now play Wordament more than I do FPS games.
  • Dude same. Gaming to me is like cereal. The older I get, the less I care about all these fancy flavors. I'd much rather eat a bowl of Cornflakes over a bowl of Lucky Charms. Wordament is as simple as I need my game to be.
  • The older I get the more I play. About 1500 hours this past year.
  • As a kid, I spent summer days inside playing video games. Now at 28, I'll play a game for an hour and feel sh**ty about myself. I should be doing something with my life!
  • 45 with two boys. They play my Xbox more than I do. I find I've gone back to where I started, flight sims. Latest and greatest don't I terest me, give me msfs or falcon or dcs or elite and I'm good.
  • I have been playing less as I got older.... but that's due to the simple fact that I I must work to pay bills and am too tired to invest the time some days.
  • For sure! I still game a lot but, at 35 with a husband and 4 kids to take care of, the types of games I am willing to play have shrunk and being able to move between devices is a must. I still play JRPGs but for much shorter times and online games are limited to one MMO at a time (and usually for equal parts gameplay and dress-up). With having to play mommy psychiatrist with the kiddos in real life, gripping realistic narrative games that ask for emotional investment sound about as much fun as punching myself in the face.
  • I've returned almost 100% to my deep roots in classic arcade games.
  • I've actually increased my gameplay do to the fact I'm out of University and working odd and end jobs between a full time job to pay for school. Now I only have one good paying job and it's left my evenings and weekends open to game. I do find it harder to play with my friends because they seem to watch more TV now than before which I still don't do. Plus I'm not really on social media to interrupt my gameplay activities. And I can afford to buy more games now and am going back and buying and playing games I was too busy to play before.
  • Yep, my habits have shifted away from consoles that are docked to one space. My Switch, Vita, and 3DS get the most play, but when Project XCloud gets going on PC I might consider it for something like a Surface Pro, or Pro X.
  • I haven't had time to game in years at this poin