Adventures of a Middle-Aged Gamer

This writing was brought to you in high-definition and surround sound by Crystal Anne with An E. Crystal is a Hufflepuff who works as an autism consultant by day and goes to Library School at night. She reads a lot, she cross-stitches a lot, and is always ready to make someone a reading list.

So a couple of months ago, I decided to dive back into a hobby that I hadn’t been heavily involved in for literal years: gaming. I’m 42 years old, and had some reservations along the lines of “Am I too old for this?”

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Steve Buschemi dressed as a teen with a skateboard over his shoulder says HOW DO YOU DO FELLOW KIDS

Then I remembered, “Oh, right. I’m 42. Rapidly running out of effs to give!”

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Anna Kendrick says I don't care

It had also been a long time since I had played anything outside of the odd puzzle game on the ol’ FB (Candy Crush Soda and Jelly Sagas have been particular favorites in that area). I also am working on Spanish in Duolingo, which, while it is a language app, is highly game-ified.

However, I grew up playing various Mario iterations on the OG Nintendo, and played the very first Mortal Kombat on the Sega Genesis. That one is a particular point of pride, as my dad had a lot of fun telling his friends about his adorable baby girl and her facility with fatalities.

In adulthood, I beat Jak and Daxter on the PS2 and had started on Ratchet and Clank when the PS2 crapped out on me. I also figured out around that time that I had very little use for Grand Theft Auto. It is possible that I was doing it wrong, but I did very little driving but a lot of standing around talking. Also, I did not really enjoy the parts of the game that involved beating up female sex workers. I had a great time with Wii Zumba and the Wii Fit later on. So there was plenty of history, but it had still been awhile.

So with the desire for games and my lack of effs in mind, I began looking at systems. I wanted it primarily for me, but also wanted to be able to involve my kids, at whatever interest level they happened to have. I also looked up some games, and after some research, I came to the conclusion that the system most likely to give us the most bang for our buck was the Nintendo Switch.

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James McAvoy does a fist pump with the caption SUCCESS

*Not sponsored by Nintendo, how would that even work?

Most of the usage has been between me and the daughter (the son prefers his Roblox and phone bowling, and kills a few zombies here and there). Below will be a quick rundown of what we’ve tried and how it has gone. If you’re looking for game ideas or recommendations, I’m here for you!

Mario and Sonic at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

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Mario and all the characters jump up in celebration

Sob, the title, though. This is a sports game in which all of our favorite Mario and Sonic friends are competing in the Olympic games, with options that include surfing, martial arts, running, swimming, gymnastics, equestrian, and a lot of other sports.

I had some fun tooling about in the running games once I figured out what I was doing. This is a good one for families, especially if you are just figuring out how the Switch works, and trying to get used to controllers. Plus, the characters are fun, because Mario and Sonic are classics. Daughter has played it more than I have, and excels at surfing and skateboarding (which kind of tracks, since the gameplay mechanics are similar).

 

Hollow Knight

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An animation of the main character of hollow knight running across a platform zapping plants

Very cute, but VERY convoluted and hard. This is a platformer* in which my little knight is going about trying to find his way around a ruined kingdom. I still haven’t found my way to the first boss. But stabbing the little bugs is pretty fun, and it works well as a platformer.

I had the slightly humiliating experience of thinking I was going to teach my daughter how to play it and having her blithely sail through a level that I was finding no success with.

Pretty sure I know how Dad felt all those years ago with Mortal Kombat.

*A platformer, if you’re not familiar, is a type of game wherein the character must be guided across a series of, well, platforms, through sequences of jumps, turns, or attack patterns that eventually solve the puzzle of that level.

 

Castlevania Anniversary Pack

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Animation of someone putting a bionic dog down on the ground

Got the idea for this one from watching the TV show, naturally. Castlevania was originally a very popular platformer for the NES that spawned a whole series of video games, with a consistent vampire mythology involving Dracula and the vampire-slaying Belmont family.

Fun fact: I’ve never played it in its original iteration, so this is a whole new thing for me. It definitely reminds me of my old days of playing Wizards and Warriors on my Nintendo (wore that thing OUT).

I’ve only futzed around with the first few levels before getting all kinds of dead, but I will say that the image transfer from the original game is beautiful and those pixelated graphics and slightly tinny quality to the music will take one back to being approximately 14 and having your mother tell you, “You’ve been playing that game for 2 hours straight, please go do something else”.

 

Subnautica

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animation of Subnautica with deep blue and fuchsia creatures swimming around

Ooof, I am so terrible at it so far. But was I going to miss out on a game where you crash land your spaceship on an aquatic alien planet and you have to figure out how to survive? NOPE.

I have been having to Google my face off to figure out how to play it, but I have managed to begin to build some equipment and I finally caught an alien fish to eat (which was then stolen from me by some other bastard alien fish, nature is cruel).

Interestingly, this hits me in the same spot as my enjoyment of books based around survival of a hostile environment (e.g. Whiteout by Adriana Anders, Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis). I hatey-hate-hate hostile environments in real life, and cannot be paid to camp. But I can happily mow through a story about someone else’s survivalist tendencies all day, as long as I am in my hermetically sealed and air-conditioned house.

The creature designs that I’ve seen range from “awww, who’s a cute widdle sea beastie” to “HOLY FINS THAT’S A LOT OF TEETH”. And the underwater design graphics are stunningly gorgeous. But yeah, so hard. Really glad that I have been able to look at other gaming sites to figure out how to proceed.

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Steve Rogers - Chris Evans - says Internet so helpful

 

Pokemon Sword

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A bewear pokemon floats

I haven’t played this one, but I wanted to convey some info from my daughter, as it’s her game.

“I like the fact that you can catch Pokemon. My favorite so far is the Bewear. I haven’t used this little guy in battle but he is SO CUTE. The game is very pretty and has nice graphics. I prefer catching Pokemon to battling them, and it has a really big environment for exploring.”

Bee says hello.

 

 

 

Bastion

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A screen image of the game play platform for Bastion with a board game some floating dice and beneath all of it is fire and a volcano

I downloaded this one after reading an article about Hades play-alikes, and indeed the gameplay is very similar to Hades, with a bit more propensity to fall off of things. Like Hades, it is produced by Supergiant Games, although it came out a few years beforehand. This is again a case where the story is very strong, with a strong mystery element to it.

The world has been destroyed by something called The Calamity, and it is as you go through the story that you begin to find out what means and what actually happened. I also got to adopt a horned alligator that follows me around, and I love her.

 

Hades

The four main characters of Hades

There was a whole-ass review about Hades right here on this very site, and I have little to add other than the fact that this game was a large contributor to my purchasing a Switch. You tell my Greek mythology loving self that there’s a whole game where I interact with Greek gods and fight battles using their powers? Um, yes, I will take ALL of that.

I’ve also taught my daughter and my nephew to play it, to the slight consternation of my husband and sister (husband was a bit unnerved when he heard his sweet, soft-spoken teenager snarl “DIE!” at the monster that she was enthusiastically stabbing).

Like Subnautica, this game speaks to a very specific subset of the kinds of stories that I like to read, which are often twists on mythology. I’m a very big Rick Riordan fan, both of his books and his publishing imprint, adored Circe by Madeline Miller, and have a library copy of Ariadne by Jennifer Saint blinking coyly at me for when I finish the book I’m currently reading. This game fit my interests perfectly.

So that’s where we’re at so far. I’m enjoying myself, and am having a lot of fun, both rediscovering how much fun gaming can be and sharing it with my teenager. For someone like myself, who loves stories and imaginative worlds, it’s another way to give myself those experiences, and to share those experiences with others, whether it be by roping in my daughter, handing my nephew my Switch at a family gathering, or writing an article about how much fun I’m having.

So until next time, I need to go work the DC Superhero Girls game into my budget.

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Animation game over insert coins to continue

What about you? Any games you are absolutely loving for Switch or other platforms? Tell us about them! 

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General Bitching...

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  1. 1
    Laurel says:

    I highly recommend Katamari Damacy Reroll on the Switch. I am in my late 50s & never really played video games until I had a child who loved them with power of a million blazing suns. I played many games of Mario Kart with him, because it was an easy game for a non-gamer like myself to master. I never really loved a video game until I played Katamari on his PlayStation. The controls were easy, it was funny, & the music was great. I bought a Switch so I could play it when they released this version of the game & I have had a lot of fun playing it.

  2. 2
    sweetfa says:

    51yo late-starter PC gamer here. Currently really, really enjoying Horizon: Zero Dawn (utterly gorgeous landscapes with stunning details, set in a re-wilded post-apocalyptic Colorado, with robot dinosaurs, strong female protagonist, diverse cast, fun gameplay with a mixture of exploration and discovery and combat-mainly against the robot dinosaurs). Also, in VR: just started Moss (adorable – you act as a supportive deity for the sword-wielding mouse protagonist, who is so convincing that I keep apologising to her when I mess up) and if it wasn’t quite so hot BeatSaber and Ragna Rock for when I just feel like bashing things to music.

  3. 3
    Bee says:

    it’s old-ish by now but you must play Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild. it’s peak game design.

    Also on other consoles: all of the Dragon Quests are good if you’re into 100+ hrs of JRPG that will (in parts) rip your heart out and stomp on it – I am looking at you, DQ VII – and then tell you lots of knickers jokes

  4. 4
    footiepjs says:

    I’m not a gamer but I’ve played some games in my day. I’m waiting for the day when Earthbound comes to the Switch.

    There was a golf RPG called Golf Story on the Switch that was very cute and fun. The follow-up Sports Story has been delayed but I think it’s back on.

  5. 5
    Lara says:

    I love me some fantasy RPGs where interacting with characters and making allies and friends is just as important as monster-hunting. Skyrim and the three Dragon Age games are perfect for this–Dragon Age especially, as your bonding with (and perhaps falling in love with) your companions effects whether and to what degree they’ll assist you in the endgame. Not for Switch, alas, but I know they’re available on Steam.

  6. 6
    Mrs. Obed Marsh says:

    Seconding open world role-playing games! BioWare games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect would be most interesting to the Bitchery. BioWare has made a name for itself in the AAA gaming world with games where you have to befriend – or, optionally, romance – non-player characters to be most successful. I especially recommend Dragon Age: Inquisition for its big beautiful fantasy open world setting, accessible gameplay, and rich web of character relationships. (Origins and II come earlier in the series and are conditionally recommended – Origins came out in 2009 and shows its age, II is more modern but suffers from a short development cycle and repeated environments).

  7. 7
    Leah says:

    I love Horizon Zero Dawn! Such a pretty game and Aloy is a kickass character! Really looking forward to the new one coming out.

  8. 8
    Kara says:

    I love a tiny little game called Stardew Valley. You can’t die. It’s open ended. You rarely have time constraints. It’s fabulous. I play on my iPhone, but there are console editions as well.

  9. 9
    Mrs. Obed Marsh says:

    Oh yeah, I forgot about Bitchery favorite Stardew Valley, one man’s loving tribute to the classic farming simulator Harvest Moon. It’s a charming, chill game with a lot of options and things to explore – including one dozen romanceable characters.

    Unlike with most RPGs, there’s no way to truly miss any in-game events: time-based events will always repeat next in-game season or next in-game year. The only exception is if you commit to fixing up the abandoned Community Center, or to helping the big box store convert it into a warehouse. Once you commit to helping the big box, there’s no going back, and once you finish fixing up the Community Center completely, the big box closes permanently. Choose wisely! (It’s the Community Center. The Community Center is the wise choice.)

    The game even a co-op mode where you work your farm with up to 3 other friends. It’s available for the PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Vita, iOS, Android, and Tesla. (Yes, Tesla.)

    My tip for starting out: spend the first few days clearing your farmland until you’re almost out of energy, then spend the rest of the day exploring the area, foraging, and greeting the other characters. Focus on chopping down mature trees, then use the wood to build storage crates to keep tools and collectibles in. Also make sure to stop at the southeast patch of the forest south of your farm every day, where the Spring Onions grow. They’re a great source of energy in the early game and are useful for exploring the monster-infested mine. Hope this helps!

  10. 10
    Denise says:

    I have been playing Two Point Hospital, which is strangely engaging. Basically you are setting up hospitals all over the place, hiring staff, setting up rooms, trying to get them to be profitable and maybe, not have any deaths. I lose hours to these darn hospitals!

  11. 11
    Susanna says:

    Ha, no 42 is not old to do this. I’m in my mid-50s and a gamer since Pong.

    I don’t think we play the same games, though. I’m heavy into city builders, RPGs (interested in those since I played AD&D at a table), grand strategy games, card builders, rogue-lites, Civ and its descendants, and simulation games (including but certainly not limited to The Sims). I’ve played on PC since the 80s, when I gave up arcade games (don’t have the reflex speed, particularly after a stroke).

  12. 12
    Maureen says:

    Thank you for this post! I’ve been kicking around the idea of buying a Switch ever since the review of Hades came up on SBTB. I’m not a gamer, the only game I’ve ever been interested in was Xena Warrior Princess, and I believe that was on Playstation 1. I did manage to work my way through to the end. In fact I wish they would update Xena so it could be played on the newer platforms. Hades seems right up my alley though, I’m thinking I might need an early Christmas present to myself. Treat Yo Self!

  13. 13
    NMCannon says:

    My partner and I got the Switch, and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild saved us during lockdown. Moving story and no end of exploring. It has a time-travel fix-it prequel called Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, which is more laid-back fighting. Outside of Zelda, I’ve got my eye on Vampire: the Masquerade – Swansong which is twisty, turny vampire narrative rpg.

    Off Switch, I’d be remiss if I didn’t rec Choice of Games and interactive fiction! They have a huge collection of CYOA stories. I’m biased since I wrote a sapphic werewolf romance Moonrise with them, but if you like Greek mythology, check out Champion of the Gods and the Saga of Oedipus Rex. Their Heart’s Choice label is all romance games. I usually buy them off Steam or play them on phone through the omnibus app.

  14. 14
    Jan says:

    Animal Crossing: New Horizon was my go-to during the height of the pandemic. It reminds me of The Sims, but way cuter. I recently purchased Super Mario Bros Deluxe, which brought me back to the old school Mario games.

  15. 15
    Mrs. Obed Marsh says:

    @NM Cannon I love Choice of Games! Some of my favorites are The Eagle’s Heir (you’re the bodyguard of Napoleon’s illegitimate son in alt-history 1830s Paris), Choice of Robots (you’re a roboticist looking back over your life, which begins when you create the first true AI as a grad student in the far-flung future year of…2019) and Creme de la Creme (you’re a teen in a fictional world based on early 20th-century Northern Europe, sent to a prestigious finishing school to restore your family’s ruined reputation).

  16. 16
    Taylor says:

    Read the title and thought “cool! A 50+ gamer”. Nope, you’re classifying middle age as one year younger than me as of last weekend. My brain is stuck on that, hard. I’m mentally retitling it as “genX gamer”.
    (Fwiw, my 71 y/o mil referred to herself as middle aged recently.)

  17. 17
    NMCannon says:

    @Mrs.ObedMarsh Oh hey, another IF fan! YESSSS, I’ve been meaning to play Creme de la Creme. But first I’ve got to pull myself away from Night Road, If It Please the Court, Tally Ho!, and Jolly Good. Been playing those on loop for awhile, haha.

    Also thirding the vote for Stardew Valley. It’s a really engrossing and adorable farming game.

  18. 18
    Emma says:

    I’ve been really into Griftlands, which is a deck-builder RPG on Steam. I’d never played deck-builders in my life, but based on how good Klei Entertainment’s last game was (Invisible Inc.), I bought it when it was almost done with early access. Now that the full game has been out for a while, I can confirm that the story and characters are awesome; as for the deck-building aspect, I’m sure I still suck at it, but it’s been pretty fun!

    Also, it’ll take a while to get there, but I highly recommend playing as Smith. The dialogue is SO funny.

  19. 19
    KB says:

    You definitely need Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild! We are big RPG fans in my house but I feel like that game appeals to the hardcore RPG fan who’s going to do everysinglething and find all the little side quests but just as much appeals to the more goal-oriented gamer who just wants to get through the main story as quickly as possible. Animal Crossing is great (in a completely different way) but beware! You cannot have more than one island on one Switch, even if you buy another copy of the game. This game has caused NO END of fighting between my two daughters and is currently languishing in time out in a drawer until they either decide to work together, or one of them decides they don’t care anymore and lets the other one have it. Horizon Zero Dawn is also great, I think not on the Switch though. And also not on the Switch but fun, my family has a rather staggering amount of hours invested in Genshin Impact, a free-to-play online RPG. We play on PS4. Although the opportunity to spend real money on that game abounds, it’s a fun game even if you never spend any real dollars on it (we’ve managed it). Good luck with being a “more mature” gamer. It’s something we enjoy sharing with our kids (teen and pre-teen) and my spouse and I often joke that it will give us something to do with all the time we’ll have once they move out!

  20. 20

    Oh, I gotta jump in on this, because this is the year I got a Nintendo Switch too! And it’s turned me into another middle-aged console gamer. 😉

    I’ve been doing a bunch of Animal Crossing, but I have also been putting a lot of effort into the Switch port of Skyrim. The other two members of my household, my wife and our housemate, are way more intense gamers than I am and have a long history with Skyrim on other platforms. But I’d watched them play a lot, and as a writer and avid reader, I always loved Skyrim’s worldbuilding. So when I got the Switch, I leapt on the chance to finally play Skyrim myself.

    I’ve been documenting my Skyrim adventures in depth on my personal blog! Come check out all my Skyrim-tagged posts on that blog if you want to read about the adventures of Alarrah the Dragonborn!

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