Games? Must we?

I have a confession to make: I haven’t played a video game since I was a teenager. Really.

I’m old enough to have been impressed by Pong, and I came of age during the Atari era. Nevertheless, my parents decided it would be forward-thinking and responsible of them to buy me and my sister… an Odyssey console. (But Mom! Everyone has Atari!) It had a real keyboard, not just a joystick, and even some cartridges that purported to teach you about computers. Deep! It also had a game called K.C. Munchkin that was suspiciously a lot like Pac-Man. This made us happy, along with the jolly little dance that the Shootout! gunslingers did when you shot them (or when you made them shoot themselves).

When you don’t have kids yourself, it’s very easy to stay insulated from video game culture, so I completely missed out on Nintendo, Gameboys, Playstations and Wii’s. Or maybe I’m trying really hard to stay insulated, because “gaming” is now a noun and it has leaked into nearly every aspect of entertainment and life. It would be easy to complain about “video game violence,” but I guess what amazes me is that even real life has become a big game now. I have a Twitter stream that I read every day, and quite a few people seem to like to “play” Foursquare (for lack of a better word), which involves having an application tweet your every whereabout and then proclaim you “mayor” of your location. (One of the guys I follow on Twitter recently tweeted that he was “Mayor of Lowe’s” so I asked him if I could get a discount on carpeting. I didn’t get an answer.) On Facebook, it’s all about Farmville.

Then there are the folks sitting in a room at Hancock piloting automated drones over Afghanistan, probably much like these guys in Nevada, who might as well be playing a video game with real bombs. There are lobbyists in Albany playing games, as always, and using their cheat codes.

Is the trend toward 24-hour playtime ever going to stop, or will grown men (in particular) be deeply concerned with games and gaming for the foreseeable future? Is it a problem, or not?