Ian Fleming

So my name is Ian Fleming and, yes, I am an Ian Fleming, but not the Ian Fleming. [Laughs.]

To me, you're the Ian Fleming.

Okay, well that's good. So I'm 33 and I live in a Northwest suburb, maybe even exurb, of Atlanta called Cartersville. City of probably 800,000 or at least in the rough area. We're in the county. So kinda right on the edge of civilization out here.

But I've been playing games on and off since I got my first NES when I was six years old and there have been times where I kinda jumped platforms, so to speak. There was a time where I didn't really touch games during the crossover from the late 2D 16-bit era to the early 3D era. I remember seeing early PlayStation and Nintendo 64 games but thinking -- man, I guess everyone was really excited and I can appreciate what Mario 64 did well, but I remember looking at those games and being like, "Man, I don't know. I think I'm ready to stick with the 16-bit stuff."

I went over to play stuff on the PC for a while and got to discover whole new genres of games like RTS games were pretty big and I got pretty into those. And then I sorta had my first smaller falling out with games during the late '90s/early 2000's, and that may have been more about budget concerns and where I had free money, I was feeding it into a growing obsession with a card game called Magic: The Gathering, which is now apparently bigger than ever before and I've kinda stuck my toe back in that water again. I don't know. That's a whole other can of worms.

So I kinda fell away from games a little bit then and started really being the most passionate I've ever been about games when the Xbox and the GameCube launched in what was that probably -- 2001? 2002?

That sounds about right.

That was when I had to have all the consoles to make sure I could play all exclusives and when my gaming consumption was at its highest and that kinda followed through until probably a couple years ago and the new consoles -- I guess the current consoles, the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One -- came out. I don't know. I still don't have one. I don't know when I'll get one. I still kinda tinker with indie games or something that catches my eye on Steam, but a lot of my desire to play the games -- it's not really there anymore.

And there's just no burning excitement. I think the last game I had to get day one and come home, and I'm dead to the rest of the world just let let me play this was probably Mass Effect 3, and that seems like it's been at least several years ago.

You mentioned in your email thread that day-one games "were a letdown for high-profile games like Diablo 3 and SimCity."

There was a feeling of being burned by a few of those, and some of them I didn't even purchase day-one. It's like I was skeptical enough, I guess, rightfully so, with things like SimCity to say, "Well, let's wait and see and then hear all the fuss about it." I just kinda skipped it over and said, "Well, it's a good thing I didn't purchase it or try it out."

And so there may have been some times where there were games I may have still liked and I just missed over them because there was so much negative talk online about them. And then there were other games like Diablo 3 where I got day one and sometimes -- to borrow a clichéd expression: "You can't go home again."


You just can't go back to that nostalgia and you can't go back and play Diablo 2 all over again. Like, 'cause, you want it to be enough like Diablo 2 where it relives all those memories, but then if it's too much like Diablo 2, it's not fun. I think that's where Diablo 3 fell a little bit. It's like it's too much the same kind of thing and after, I think, 20 or so hours into it I'm like, "What am I really doing? Why is this a game that I was counting on so much for three, four, five, six months of enjoyment where I'm probably two weeks in and I feel like I already wrung out all the enjoyment I could get from it."

Nostalgia inevitably comes up in these conversations. But if you can put aside nostalgia, what do you think is missing about those earlier games that you've stopped seeing in newer games?

Some of it's purely the game mechanics and design. I think some of it is genuinely a right place or right time thing that you just can't recreate. I think a good example of that for me is the spiritual sequel to Link to the Past that came out on the 3DS [A Link Between Worlds], and I thought, "Well, okay, this is the game that can't miss. It's Nintendo. It's a Zelda game."

And it was fine.


Like, I played through it, but I never finished it. And it's like, as much as I enjoyed hearing the remixed or orchestrated versions of those songs from Link to the Past and as much as I liked looking at that world again, it's like -- I don't know. I feel like on paper there's no reason why that game shouldn't have been amazing to me and for everything I could appreciate about the game, I still couldn't finish it. I'm hard-pressed to say why.

I think you said it: You can't go home again.

Yeah. I think other than that, I don't see -- I think there are certain trends in the industry right now, I think it's probably a well-worn trope to blame the first-person shooter and the proliferation of games like Call of Duty and things like that as being part of the culprits in games being more iterative and more about sequels because of how expensive they've gotten to produce, so, I think there's something in that, too. But I don't know. At the same time, I feel like the 14-year-old me would have loved Assassin's Creed -- whatever version they're on now. Where, like, the 33-year-old me couldn't care less.

That's another thing, that certain series will stand in as shorthand for something else going on the industry. When we talk about Call of Duty, or whatever, as adults, if we aren't really feeling like we're the audience anymore -- what are we really poo-pooing?

You mean thematically or just the type of game it is?

Either? Both? We can use those two series as an example that you just mentioned.

I don't know, with Call of Duty I see way more of a -- I guess you could get into the discussion of the morality and ethics of what it's portraying. But with Call of Duty, I see it more being like a rollercoaster ride where it's very "move straight forward," which you would think would hearken back to a lot of the older games like platformers or games like Contra where you do just move straight forward, too.

But maybe that's the problem -- is that it's so well-worn that maybe we expect more from modern games than we did from games back then. Or I did.

I would think that budgets being what they are that I'm sure the technology is much more expensive to develop for, but I don't think it's unreasonable as an audience to expect more from games in general as well as to expect more from series such as those.

Yeah, I guess I can agree. I had to think about that for a second. I feel like there was something else I was going to add, but I totally lost whatever it was.

Well, so let me ask you this, then: How do games seem limited?

I think there's an illusion with newer games that with the technology, that they're fully realized worlds -- where there was no illusion with games like Link to the Past or Super Metroid of what you could or couldn't do. Whereas with games like Grand Theft Auto V or something like that, you want to look in every door. When the facade kinda breaks down -- like, a good example of that for me was Skyrim, which I really liked and did end up spending a lot of time on. But after a while it felt like every cave I went into was the exact same cave. Like, the layout was a little different but the rocks were the same. Some of the illusion of it being this large world that you could explore, this fully realized world, you start to see, I guess, the nuts and bolts behind it -- you start to see the stage behind the props and other games that are ambitious like that.

Even with Call of Duty and things like that, there are certainly times even back -- I think the last one I played through was Modern Warfare 2, and there were certainly times where I got confused or wasn't quite sure what the next thing I was supposed to do was. But in a lot of places, if you just sorta stand there or don't interact with the game or don't constantly move in the direction the game wants you to move in, the game kinda breaks down and, like, you can see the scripting kinda doing weird things, like guys spawning indefinitely or things that break the illusion. Maybe also part of the problem is newer games have all this technology and you have this illusion, this immersive illusion, where you didn't have an expectation of that before.

But then because that's such an impossible thing to get 100 percent right, because it's not like it's a movie where you can focus the camera and the viewer has to look at where you're focusing the camera. With a game, a viewer can go off the rails or a player can go off the players. If I'm in Call of Duty, I can go and see if I can go through a bush or jump over a hedge that you don't want me to go over. Maybe that's an impossible thing or a really difficult thing for a game designer to cope with.

I remember back in the PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube days, a big subject of consternation among reviewers was the invisible walls that some games had, where, like, you literally couldn't go through this door because the game didn't have the memory to build in something that was over there, or there was no part of the level that was over there and it was just blocked off or something like that. So, maybe it's like I said, there's more expectations that are harder to fulfill on a newer game, possibly.

So, but in those older games, what did you like about them?

I don't know. I think some of it was just because at the time it was genuinely new, or it felt like something bigger than it was. Like, I remember playing Super Metroid when it first came out and and it feels clichéd to say it transcends games, I guess, but something along those lines where it was like -- it had a resonance or something. It felt bigger than the games I'd played before. It felt more important.

When later on, like, during my second time I got really interested in games, I remember getting a GameCube on launch and playing Rogue Leader, the Star Wars game that launched with it, thinking, "Man, these graphics look really good. We're finally here with 3D, good-looking graphics that really take you into that world."

So I guess in both cases it was feeling like it was seeing something new and maybe that's part of falling out with games, it's like there's nothing that the Xbox One and PS4 can't show me that's really new. Like, better graphics, HD graphics, or more HD graphics, or better sound quality -- it's more iterative. It's more subtle, even if you know what you're looking for on a nuts and bolts level. Like, "Oh, they can do this. They can animate so much more because they have RAM." It's not a fundamentally new thing, like transitioning to 3D smoothly, or seeing a game like Super Metroid for the first time.

Do you engage less with stuff about games online? Do you just pay less attention in general?

I feel in a lot of ways that's where I am. As little as I play games now -- I follow a couple websites with RSS feeds and I listen to a games podcast called Rebel FM every week and another week called Retronauts from some of the guys who used to work at 1UP.

So, I still listen to those podcasts weekly, I still consume media about games. A lot of times, I wonder, especially with the podcasts if it's more because they're just fun to listen to. Of course, Retronauts, talking about older stuff. So, there it doesn't have to be the latest and greatest, but even podcasts that talk about newer games, it's just fun to listen to people talk about that and have that excitement -- to hear people with that excitement that I don't really have anymore.

Why do you think you've lost that excitement and maybe they haven't?

I don't know. I wonder sometimes if it's like when I was younger, or obviously when you're in college you just have more free time, where now it's -- my attention is kinda all over the place. And some of it's just being an adult and learning to take care yourself and not eat Healthy Choice dinners out of the freezer every night and going out and being social and things like that. Adult responsibilities.

I don't even have kids and I know some of my co-workers, we talk about this, or similar topics, where you never feel like you have enough time or when you do have a few hours of free time, it's easier to pick up a book than say, "Oh, I want to start a game like Witcher 3, which apparently is a major investment for a long time." [Laughs.] It kinda feels like it's a daunting task when it's 8:30 and I'm just now wrapping up what I need to do on an average week night and it's like, "Okay, I got an hour, hour and a half, what am I gonna do with it?" Seems like the prospect of starting a game that's going to take 20, 25 hours is fairly daunting.

Also, it may take about an hour to install or to update.

Oh, I hadn't even thought about that. Yeah, I guess that's a thing with new systems now, right? [Laughs.]

When you were more actively into videogames, how did the games media impact what you were interested in?

Some of it was more just steering my interest and some of it was just like when I was in college and had a limited budget, I wanted to make sure that I wasn't going to spend money on a game that wasn't fairly awful. I seem to remember for a while with the PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox generation that it was at least fairly easy to -- if you didn't like a game and you didn't like it, it was fairly easy to recover most of your investment out of it, either through a local game store or there was even a game-trading site that I was using for a couple of years that I think we talked about in an email.

Yeah! Goozex. I remember it.

I remember the first two years I was in my apartment, I moved in, and the very next week at work they're like, "Well, the budget's kinda tight and the economy's collapsed so we're gonna have furloughs this year." I'm like, "Well, this is gonna hinder this hobby." But I ended up getting through a whole year, year and a half at least, without spending any money other than postage to trade games through there and kinda keep up. So, I feel like it was easier, I guess, to be a little more adventurous, and I feel like games media steered a lot of my purchasing for the most part.

What trends did you notice in terms of things outlets would cover or never cover?

It felt like it's certainly here now, but it felt like in the early days of indie games that they didn't get a lot of attention. I felt like -- I know the portable consoles like the Game Boy Advance and the DS were kinda dumping grounds anyway, but it seems like there was a general lack of interest by the games media about those, I guess. I didn't really buy a lot for those, either. So, I don't know if it's something that I noticed at the time or cared about, I should say or if it informed me to not buy a lot of games because I assumed, "Well, they're not talking about stuff on the DS all that much, there must not be a lot worth buying on a DS."

When I was younger, I'll admit that game reviews were very important to me. Not in such a sense that, "Oh, my game got this score and your game got that score, my game's better." But I know, "Oh, if this game didn't get a good review, you probably don't want to play it even if it's a game that's a licensed game for a thing I cared about." If a Magic: The Gathering game or something got a low review, I'd probably still skip over it just because I'd be afraid to waste my money so to speak.

So you mentioned "indie" games, and even just with the coverage you've seen, how has that changed over the years?

It seems like there's a saturation that's definitely happened, and discoverability seems awful. I remember when smartphones became a thing and I got my first iPhone: I think it was the 3G, the second one they came out with, and the software update at the time, maybe iOS 3? It allowed app purchases and it just seemed like there was a lot of cool stuff happening there. I remember the only place that I really noticed talking about it was 1UP's video podcast, The 1UP Show. Those guys talked about it a lot and that kinda clued me in, and it felt like that was back in the good old times, so to speak of, "Oh man, here we go. This is something totally new, this is totally different." That went from that to free-to-play garbage, it seemed like, really fast.


I'm sure there's some free-to-play games that are really good.

How do you think the games media could be helping improve the industry?

Kinda on that point and on the previous topic, I think that maybe I'm certainly not the authority or anybody important, but maybe people in positions like mine or maybe people that don't play a lot of games are the people that need to voice an opinion or people need to ask about for that very reason. "How do we get a game in front of somebody that might like to play it or might be interested in it but doesn't have the mental energy to go digging through Steam Greenlight or something like that to find stuff to track down something based on what people are talking about on Reddit or what game reviewers are talking about?"

How would an indie developer or even a AAA developer get in front of me and say, "You really need to try my game" in a sea of all that noise out there? And I don't know. I don't know what the right answer -- what is it Steam tried to do? The little curated lists I've seen on my Steam account? But I don't know. It doesn't seem like that much different from back when I was in college and high school and would go to Gamespot.com and look at their top reviewed games lists or something. It just seems very -- it's everybody talking about the same kind of stuff, which is just the stuff that hit that critical mass and mainstream's not the right word, but it's the game that everyone's talking about, like Five Nights at Freddy's and stuff.


Well, so if you're talking about media just hitting the same points and talking about the same games as everyone else -- who does that really serve?

Exactly. And I know that -- it still seems pretty strange to me, too, that in the last few years that YouTube has become so big, that there are personalities on YouTube now that can drive a lot of traffic. I've read things about game studios both big and small going to larger YouTubers to get exposure and maybe that's an attempt at a solution there. But it's hard for me. Maybe this is like "you kids and your loud music" kind of moment, but I don't know. I don't see the YouTube -- I follow YouTubers, but not on the topic of games.

I feel like the people that are out there talking about games, or at least the ones I've seen, are very about this very insular, "This is what games are and this is what gaming culture is, and if you're not a part of that, we don't like you." That kind of culture, I guess. Kind of back -- it reminds me of back when I was really young and the Internet was in the dial-up days and people talked about, like, you went onto a forum or something like that and it's like, "A geek is this. A nerd is this." I feel like there's a lot of YouTube personalities out there where it's like, "A gamer is this." It kinda reminds me of the same thing.

I've not really found that very interesting.

Or maybe I'm just not seeing the right stuff in the YouTube suggestions, possibly.

What's the depiction of what it means to be a person who plays games or to fit in with that group? What are you hearing or seeing be described?

Well, it's probably a tired and risque subject, but the whole -- what was it called -- Gamergate thing last year, or was it earlier this year? Whenever it was. This very, "Games mean this and Thou Shalt Not Criticize Games, I guess." That's what I saw a lot of.

But a lot of that, and you can't not -- it seems like there's one website, and it may have been Polygon because some of the guys on the Rebel FM podcast, I think, work at Polygon. It seems like it was one games website that criticized game websites for stuff other than strictly technical stuff and that was part of that whole, "You can't say you like this or you don't like this art or something like that." I remember seeing a lot of stuff like that.

I don't know. Maybe it reminded me of the worst parts of me being a teenager or something like. I'm like, "I don't know about all this."

When you think about people who play videogames or you hear the word "gamer," what do you feel we don't hear articulated?

I think this term -- and I think you kinda mentioned it in an email, when we were talking about this. I feel like that term's been appropriated by a very insular group who's kinda reacted to how mainstream the culture has become. Even people like my brother and sister-in-law, who've never really cared about videogames will tell me about something they're playing on their iPhone like Candy Crush and I'll think, "Oh, that's pretty neat!" Or, he's even playing Hearthstone now, and I can't believe my brother, the accountant is playing Hearthstone. [Laughs.]

But I guess what's going unsaid is there are people -- that "gamer" doesn't have the resonance it did back when I was a kid. Or maybe it does to a certain group of people, but they've appropriated that term to mean a very specific thing to them, when I don't know that there isn't really -- I don't know, I feel like it's calling somebody a moviegoer. Like, I feel like pretty much everyone is a moviegoer, but people don't talk to each other and go, "Hey man, are you a moviegoer?"

[Laughs.] And yet moviegoing is treated as a really big deal. It's reported on as news, like, how movies are doing. And yet, to be a gamer, yes, the word has been appropriated, but it seems like no matter what spin that word gets -- games are still not as mainstream as movies. I don't know. Why do you think that is?

I wonder if there's a certain amount of resistivity to it, just because it is interactive and it does require focus. Like, it's easy to plop down on a couch or be laying in bed and stream some media, stream Netflix, or watch something on TV for anybody, no matter if you're eight or 80. But playing a videogame requires more focus and I guess dexterity for lack of a better word, right? Like, my girlfriend, I've tried to get her to play games on all these game consoles I have just kinda getting dusty over there to see if she has any interest. And that's been her biggest obstacle: She just doesn't have the dexterity and doesn't want to put the time in to develop it to play more reflex-driven games, but she loves Carcassonne on Xbox Live Arcade. That and Settlers of Catan are her favorite things. But would you call her a gamer? A lot of people would probably say no. But she is a person who plays videogames.

And I guess that gets back to what I'm getting at with the appropriation of the term. Whether it's bad as far as a culture identification thing, a tribalism thing, or a marketing thing, or even in a positive light, I guess it's just less and less necessary to identify as. And I think games will become more mainstream, barring limitations like dexterity and things like that. But maybe there will always be some obstacles, just like it will always be a subset of the general population because of things like that. I'm not sure.

Is there ways you don't feel included by videogames right now?

I think like we kinda talked about before when emailing back and forth, like, I feel like I'm not particularly well-served by what's going on in the AAA development big-budget game community right now, like on the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4. I feel like that's the biggest reason that I haven't bought one because I don't feel like there's compelling content for me, and sometimes it does feel like games coming out, like, just aren't for me. But I'd be hard-pressed to articulate exactly why.

I think PC games have kind of had a renaissance with Steam, and I found more stuff there that kind of piques my interest. I haven't purchased it yet. I'd like to give Pillars of Eternity a try. I tried the Cities: Skylines to be the SimCity I always wanted, but I felt that it kinda felt a little flat after a little while. So, here again is another game like Diablo 3 where I thought was going to be this amazing thing and it just kinda fell flat. That may be a wholly separate issue, but I guess the short answer I just don't feel I'm being particularly well-served by the majority of what's going on in game development.

What's missing?

I don't know. Maybe diversity in the sense of what kinds of games are out there. I feel like there's maybe not as many genres of games, and a sense of this is something new like I talked about before. Maybe the VR stuff that's just now kinda getting to be looked at is that next thing. But then, I don't know what it says about the hobby or the media if you're always looking for something revolutionary if you're trying to do like Nintendo's doing, right, and you have to find that gimmick to make games exciting. Because movies and books and other media don't really have that problem. A book is as a book was. But do we have different expectations for games as far as -- is our expectation for a game now the same as it was 20 years ago? For myself, I'm not sure that it is.

What's the renaissance on Steam you're talking about?

Maybe it's not so much Steam, but it's things like Kickstarter that are getting people to develop in genres of games that otherwise were maybe just looking at as not being profitable. But maybe it's the same problem that the movie industry is kinda having right now, too, where you have to spend a fortune to make something and because you're doing that, you have to be as safe as possible and that's why there's such a proliferation of things like Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed on consoles. That's because you have to spend a fortune to make 'em so you have to play it safe with what sells where something like Steam, a smaller developer, a group of guys, can make something like City: Skylines and sell it out there for a discounted price and see who it bites. Or someone can Kickstart something like Pillars of Eternity and catch people's interests like mine that're like, "Woah, no one's made a game like this in a long, long time."

Yeah, but there certainly has to be room for more than just cyclical. And even then, that seems fickle. It's certainly been a long while since we've seen a lot of new fighting games or RTS games. But there's room to still broaden that circle or at least change its shape or trajectory.

Right, and that's the other thing, too. I feel like there's a conflict and maybe I'm not considering it when we're talking about, like, on one hand I'm saying go back to these tried and true things. Go back and bring back these lost genres like RTS games or like a space-flight game, which I haven't played in a while, but apparently there are a few out there that are trying at least. I've forgotten the names of them. I'm saying on one hand, go back to this kinda stuff, but on the other hand, I'm not seeing anything new. So maybe that's -- maybe you need a mix of both. Or at least if you have a very diverse set of games, there's always going to be something to check out, something that will strike your mood, but like a movie, right? You can watch a horror movie, you can watch a drama, you can watch a documentary, but what shape would the movie industry be in if everything was an action movie or a drama? But I guess, then again, if you look in movie theaters a lot of times everything is an action movie or a drama, so maybe that's not the best example. [Laughs.]

No, I think it's a good example because there's Hulu, Netflix, Yahoo, all sorts of different platforms where people are either revisiting old ideas as we've seen with Mindy Kaling's show, which gets canceled by Fox and goes immediately to Hulu, but you also see things that may not have had a chance of getting made otherwise have a chance.

Maybe look at Arrested Development -- what it was on Netflix was not at all what it was on TV. And what I'm saying is games has no shortage of platforms, and yet we're largely still just seeing those same movies you're talking about. And I wonder why, the same games over and over again.

I guess it's because, like I said, the easiest thing you could do. Especially if you have a large studio and it's like, okay, you made Call of Duty and you've made some money on it, and now you're gonna make the next thing and what're you gonna make? It's like, well, if you have 200 people that are employed and you have to build the next product, you can't really -- it's hard to take a chance on something different. You just go back and make another Call of Duty. Or maybe we're cynical about that or I'm cynical about that. I don't know. About it being the natural and, I guess, logical choice for a game studio to keep making iterative games for the sake of safety and budgets and things like that.

Is it cynical to say that you don't even know what Assassin's Creed they're up to now?

[Laughs.] Exactly. I don't know what Assassin's Creed they're up to, for the record.

I don't think it's cynical at all, if what you're saying is true. But: When was the first time you ran into the expectation that maybe you should have already moved on from videogames or outgrown them?

Oh, well, I guess I've probably been fairly well there considering I work in an IT department at a college and I get kind of shrugs or, "Oh yeah, me too!" from faculty I interact with because of that. I have random game trinkets, a handful of them, from back when I was in college and it seemed like every collector-edition thing or whatever came with some trinket. So I think there's a little cool Spore collectors' edition sitting on my shelf at work just because the box looks neat, but man, that was an awful, awful purchase. [Laughs.]


So that's sitting on my shelf and I feel like right when games started transitioning over to the Steam model, there were a couple things you bought and you open the box and it's just a sticker with a CD key in it or something like that that are sitting on the shelf and students and faculty will walk in and look at it and be like, "Oh yeah, have you tried this?"

I remember an English professor a couple years ago asked me about a shooter called Homefront, which I think kinda bombed.

Yeah, at THQ.

Right! Yeah. And so he was asking me about Homefront and if I'd played it because he had picked it out of a clearance bin or something. I'm like, "Okay, this is pretty cool."

So maybe I fare pretty well as far as that goes, working at a college. As far as outside of that, I don't know. I feel like sometimes, going back to what we were talking about before, about the appropriation of the the term "gamer," I feel kind of at odds with a lot of the community and the talk, like I said, the YouTubers and what I see online [about] what a "gamer" is or what a gamer "shouldn't be." Or what a gamer can or can't talk about.

And maybe that's just kids being kids, like when you're younger you're very passionate about things. I grew up and the whole 16-bit Sega Genesis/Super Nintendo era and we had heated arguments about which one was better and maybe it's just that and you don't recognize it because it's all online, right? Like, you assume everyone's all rational adults -- or maybe I do -- and you don't realize, oh, how many of them are younger kids who are just being really passionate about things and don't look at stuff with the nuance I would see it with.

I was going to ask you about what seems weird about the intersection of videogames and the Internet.

I don't know. I feel like in a certain sense it always seems weird to me. Maybe this is purely a generational thing. I remember when my friends and I first got online with Xbox Live and kind of experimented on the original Xbox and really played a lot of stuff together on Xbox Live, it always seems like a hostile kind of environment. Even back when I was younger, just getting on forums and talking about games, it was always kind of a hostile environment, but when you were playing online with a group of friends or something you be in your bubble and not have to deal with random people in online games, I guess?

What's the hostility over?

I don't know. I think some of it's cultural. Some of it is just people are abrasive, I guess, and you don't really want to deal with that after work -- or enthusiastic, I guess, would be a more politically correct way to approach it. [Laughs.] I don't really care about if I'm not the best person at Call of Duty. I just want to run around and have fun. The whole "you have to play this game exactly perfectly" in a lot of competitive shooters or "you're a terrible human being" kind of thing.

The last little dimension of that is that friends of mine are about the same age as me and a lot of us are in the same boat of -- maybe not fully "aging out" in a sense like you've talked about, but maybe just playing less games in general. A lot of us have let our Xbox Live or PSN Plus accounts expire and we just don't do that online. So when some people fall away, the barrier entry to get online and engage with the community around the game goes up and up and up and up because it's like, "Well, you don't have your friends to join a game with you and play."

Like, I've had people at work tell me that League of Legends is really cool but I don't know a lot of people that play that game -- so it seems like the barrier to entry with stuff like that or Defense of the Ancients, I guess, the barrier to entry with those games is sky-high because it just seems like it's going to be back playing Starcraft 2 or something where it's just going to be ultra cutthroat competitive. And that's not gonna be the thing you do after work to relax and have fun for an hour.

So why does all this stuff matter? Who is it hurting if games in some circles are less creative and it's harder to discover other, more different things?

Well, I don't know. I guess if you think about it, it seems like there's inherently a bubble in that kind of thinking. Like, as long as my interests are being served and the people who are buying this product are being served, everything's all right -- a bury-your-head-in-the-sand mentality that eventually when that community goes away or maybe that community, that core audience, maybe it's not on an age rotation and maybe there is, like, a Call of Duty that's not profitable in the future, or a Grand Theft Auto that doesn't sell 5 million copies in the first day and somebody loses a lot of money on that because it's just always assumed to be safe. I would think it's a basic business thing, right? Like, you always want to grow your audience and it's not really good if your audience is cycling out and you're basically maintaining a certain number of consumers on the basis that, "Well, we had old consumers but they're gone now so we'll get new consumers."

I don't think companies like Coca-Cola are in business because they said, "Well, when people turn 40 they'll stop drinking Coke and we'll just get the next generation." Right? They want everyone to buy Coke all the time, and they want to appeal to as many people as possible, so I guess what I'm getting at is it seems like it's inherently a bubble that'll collapse if you're only worried about the 18-to-25 crowd or something like that because that's a thing that could change or interests could change and the bigger the audience that's already left may not come back.

Yesterday I talked to a 25-year-old who told me he started to feel old in this stuff when he hit 20.

Oh wow.

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