Mid Life Crisis…Over

Being over “the hump” has been interesting.  From the start of it all at the age of 45 until now I never really felt like I was going through anything.  Realizing now, during that specific period I purchased my third motorcycle, my Camaro, and I was trying (desperately) to get in good enough shape to continue Breakdancing…I would have to say there was “something” going on there.

I was thinking about how now that I’m 50 years old my midlife technically is over.  But my wife and I have a three-year-old child, almost 4.  So is it really over?  I know I’m only going to live another 40 years maximum but it’s just something to contemplate so I thought I’d put a few words out here ins the blog world.

I figure I’m one of the few men in this world who actually knows there was something that I went through.  Most of my life I was late doing everything.  Late getting married, late graduating from college, late having kids…well, kid.  I don’t consider any of this a bad thing.  I did a lot of stuff people do after they retire while I was still young and could enjoy it.  Not that retirement time would be a bad time to do “things.”  I just don’t believe that I’m ever going to actually get to retire.

My wife and I both purchased our houses around the time when the real estate agents were doing their worst to the public.  We tried to hold on to our homes but lost both because each was too small to start a family in and we needed to sell them to join our lives together.  Being that the economy tanked we weren’t able to sell.  Although buying one was REALLY easy at that time.  So at one point, yes, we had three mortgages.  Oh, it was horrible.  Needless to say, we weren’t the best in class when it came to a prominent financial situation.  My current situational understanding regarding my retiring before I turn 70 is that it would be a bad thing.

I’m just glad that I am now feeling that a “settle down” situation has started in my life.  I smoked cigarettes starting at the age of 12.  I worked as a DJ from the age of 17 so I began drinking well before I was old enough.  I partied with drug dealers girlfriends.  I dated well outside my age range and I lived an overactive life.  I continued smoking until my wife and I got together.  She “made” me quit, which was a good thing.  I bought a TV with the money I saved during that first year.  Now I haven’t smoked in over a decade.

I slowed down on the drinking and am trying to get into better shape.  As Kathleen Madigan says, “I’m just trying to pull a ‘Hail Mary” out of my butt in this last quarter.  Currently I walk about two miles a day and run a 5k at night.  I’m still overweight, but I’m trying to change my diet to compensate and actually get to where I look like I feel, because oddly enough, I feel great – most days.

The home we bought is starting to come into some shape too.  At least we know what needs to be done and are starting to make plans to do it.  The goal is to leave behind an investment for our kid.  To let her get a jump start on life.  One we never had.  I guess the whole thing about the mid-life crisis being over is understanding there is an end in sight.  Not wanting it to come, but preparing for it anyway.

Personally, I would love to hear from some other people about their situations.  Maybe about their crisis’.  Some of the silly things people bought, sold, tried, or did.  I know this blog isn’t a revelation of any type, but it’s just something I wanted to say.


There will always be stories about “game changers.”  You know, those things that happen in one’s life that affect how they perceive a situation, how they turn out and, overall, who they become in life.  This story is along those same lines; although, there are some twists to it and it isn’t from the side one normally hears life stories from.  This story is from the side of the actual “bully.”

It was fall 1982 and the din from the hustle and bustle of children’s chatter, shuffling shoes, and rustling papers filled the hallways.   (Yes, this story takes place in school, as one would expect when you hear the word “bully.”  I mean, you wouldn’t expect the story to happen at work in one’s thirties.)  The halls were filled with the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of children.  Seasoned ninth graders as well as us new seventh graders beginning our first day of a new school year at John D. Pierce Junior High School [now known as Pierce Middle school] in Redford Township Michigan. 

I only lived three blocks away so I walked to school every day.  In 1982 we were allowed to walk miles to school if we had, or wanted, too.  There was one winter of my High School career that the busses wouldn’t start because of how cold it was outside.  We were told to walk to school, and we did.  Of course some kids got rides from their parents, but many of us walked.  I was over a mile away, had to cross one main road and a set of railroad tracks to get there.   (When I tell that story to my daughter it is, of course, uphill both ways in six inches of snow.  In actuality there were a few inches of snow and it was below freezing, but that’s just how it was done then.)

In 1985 kids were still “allowed” to smoke just outside the school grounds.  This group of children, known as the “Druggies,” gathered at the United Methodist Church on the corner of Beech Daly road and Orangelawn street.   These were the kids from the “wrong side of the tracks,” as my mom would say.  They wore jean jackets with patches of rock and speed metal bands, leather jackets that looked as if they had been through a war, ripped pants, and bandanas.  Their hair, typically, was long and ratty and you could see there were probably parental issues with most of them. 

Growing up in a drug free home I didn’t do drugs, but, somehow, I knew what pot smelled like.  It was perfect that we started school in the fall and it smelled like burning leaves every day when I walked past this little group of “overachievers.”  [My insult here is actually aimed back toward myself as I would eventually join this band of merry boys and girls – but that is another story for another time.]  On this day in particular I was in more fear of these kids because; although they were doing drugs and smoking pot, they appeared angry and as most of us do, I too feared the unknown. 

As I passed by all of the different cliques on the way to school, the overwhelming feeling for how small I actually was compared to this leviathan of never ending labyrinth hallways, lockers, rooms, and closed doors began to fill my gut as I looked up at the three stories of brick, mortar, and glass.  This school was larger than all of the Elementary schools in our district combined, for obvious reasons.  Of course this “new world” is intimidating and scary for most of us newcomers, but back then it seemed like I was the only one who was feeling out of place. 

As I mentioned, once inside, the hallways were loud.  We didn’t receive any type of orientation from Elementary school so I had never seen the inside of Pierce before the first day of classes so, once in, I had no idea where to go.   We had a schedule that listed the room numbers so finding “Homeroom” was the first task after I figured out where my locker was.  I missed the ease of Elementary school.

In Elementary school, I was at the top of the food chain.   I achieved that recognition through the game of Dodge ball.  Dodge ball can be a fantastic game, for those who are good at it, or a horrible symbol of torture for those who are not.  Jeff V. was the most powerful kid in school.  His throw caused welts on the weaker kids.  He knocked out more kids than the rats of the black plague in the 1300’s.  I don’t remember anyone who could catch the ball when he threw it…except for me. 

I always wanted to be on his team because he was a friend of mine and I had seen the devastation his throwing arm caused.  He was unstoppable.  Alas, one day I ended up on the opposite side.  I don’t recall who the two Captains were, that day but usually Peter M. and Dan K. were one of them if Jeff V. wasn’t.  Jeff V. was always called first.  Typically I ended up being called in the middle, but at least I wasn’t last. 

Being picked last was sheer torture.  Usually kids like Alan W. and Jeffrey F. were picked last.  Of course, in their defense, they were much more academic than the other kids.  Myself and many of the other boys were more physical.  At that age, we were always trying to prove ourselves to each other.

One way of proving oneself was by coming up with something no one else had.  I had a paper route and earned my own money and was able to buy things for myself that my parents couldn’t or wouldn’t.  I had found the perfect item.  It was a watch that played “Space Invaders.”  The watch was made by Nelsonic, a company long since out of business as far as I know.   It was an electronic marvel.

The watch played a simple game where a space ship flew over the top of a turret and you would point left or right to shoot the ship out of the sky.  When I bought the watch I, of course, took it to school to show it off.  The entire class gathered around to see the game.  Back then this was a huge deal.  I mean I had a video game on my wrist.  No one else had that.   I bought the watch sometime in 1981 just after it came out.  I don’t recall the exact amount but I believe it was somewhere between $35 and $50.  That was an incredible amount of money to pay for anything in that year, especially for a kid.

Of course I didn’t want the watch ruined so I wouldn’t let anyone play with it on their wrist.  They could watch me play it or play it while it was on my wrist but I wouldn’t take it off, except when we went to Gym or Recess outside.  I would enclose it in my desk as we all exited the classroom.  Well, it appears that one child REALLY wanted to play with the watch.  Apparently he left recess and snuck back into the classroom, went into my desk, took the watch and played with it.  While he was playing with it he dropped it cracking the screen and breaking several connections to where the watch wouldn’t even turn on anymore.

I returned from recess and found the broken watch in my desk.  I have blocked out how upset I was but I’m pretty positive I cried.  I know that I was very angry but I couldn’t do anything about it because I had no idea who it was that did it.  Fortunately for that kid it was the end of the school year and I wouldn’t find out.  However, during summer break someone, I don’t recall who, told me that it was Jeffrey F.   They saw him or he mentioned it to them.  I’m not positive why they told me and he never did.

You remember Jeffrey F.  He is one of the kids who was always picked last.  He was annoying as a person and, to be honest, I didn’t really like him as it was.  This made me hate him…with a passion.  He didn’t apologize to me even though we had spoken before Elementary school let out and we graduated.  He didn’t offer to pay for the watch even though he was an only child who I am quite sure had much more money than I did.  Nothing!  He offered nothing!  I was pissed and I held that grudge until this first day of seventh grade.

I walked the hallways with my hands filled with the books for my classes.  I was following the numbers on the lockers to my eventual remuneration.  By this time I had begun to recognize several faces.  The school grouped us into sections of lockers by grade, which made sense.  I don’t know how it all started but another individual came up behind me and said: “Hey, there’s Jeffrey F.  Isn’t he the kid that stole your watch?”

I yelled to him.  “Hey jerk, you owe me a watch!”  I don’t recall exactly what our conversation was but I remembered his lack of taking responsibility for his actions several months before.  I had said something that eventually upset him to where he finally engaged.  My anger had grown very quickly and I could feel my ears turning red.  By this time our outbursts had already drawn a pretty good crowd.  It didn’t take much in those days.  Everyone wanted to see some type of altercation.  

No one really knew me in this school, but this ninth grader came out of nowhere.  He was towering over me and I recall he didn’t like one of my brothers (again that is another story for another time).  He looked at me standing there holding my stack of books and very calmly said “Can I hold your books for you?”  As I handed him my books I quickly looked around at all of the faces that had gathered around us.  I knew I had no choice now, I was definitely going to have to fight this kid. 

When I grew up I was always taught that fighting is bad, losing your temper is worse, and being out of control is unacceptable.  Unfortunately most of my heritage is Irish.  Some may know about the Irish temper, but let me just say the red hair on so many Irish heads is a genetic result of years of anger passed down through the generations.  We see red for so long that our children actually become red.  Now, I don’t have red hair making me a carrier of said anger gene.   For the most part, I’m always angry but I bury it.  My favorite line from a movie is “That’s my secret Captain, I’m always angry.”  But I only let it surface in extreme situations.

The brother I told you wasn’t liked by the ninth grader is my next oldest brother Eric.  He is one of the four brothers I have.  He is incredibly odd and had a very hard time growing up.  Jim M. was the ninth grader who was so kind to me but Jim M. was friends with several other kids who felt Eric was a strange bird.  One day when Eric and I got off the bus from Elementary school (I was in fourth grade, he was in sixth), four kids got off at our bus stop who didn’t normally get off there.  Brian C. was the instigator and he wanted to tear Eric apart.  Eric was a jerk and had mouthed off to several of these kids.

I was much smaller than all of them.  They started in on my brother.  It was winter.  Slippery.  Icy.  A man was at his house on that particular corner chipping the ice off of his sidewalk with a spade shovel.  As the boys were kicking and punching Eric I started crying.  The rest is a blur.  I turned around to the man, who was doing nothing to stop the fight, and I grabbed the shovel out of his hands.  I swung it up and over my head to bring down the sharpest part of the blade near Brian’s face but across his chest ripping his jacket.  Everyone stopped fighting immediately. 

Brian was, at this point, crying too.  Partly because I hurt him but I think mostly because I told him that I would kill him if he ever touched my brother again.   The raw anger I expressed was beyond my control at that time.  I was crying still for what they were doing to my brother but I was also crying because I was out of control. 

The anger had taken over.  I couldn’t stop it.  I could easily have killed him with that shovel.  At some point the man who owned the shovel came up behind me and grabbed it with both of his hands.  He then told the other four boys to “Go home!” and he sent us home down the street without saying another word.

Jeffrey F. actually started the fight in the hallway that first day of school.  He came up quickly and punched me in the face.  Several times.  This was three years after the shovel incident.  By this time I had learned to control my tears, but the anger was still another story.  He went for my body.  Punching me in the stomach and then back to my face again.  I was frozen.  I was in awe at the audacity of this incident.  Why was he hitting me?  I didn’t steal and break his watch.  Furthermore, why couldn’t I feel it?  In any instance, all this did was infuriate me.

I smacked both of his arms down at the same time.  Then I punched him in his stomach and uppercut his jaw.  I must have come back with another hit to his face because he was bleeding.  Badly.  I pushed him into the lockers behind him several times and then I opened up a locker and began shoving him into it.  He tried to fight back but it was useless.  I pushed him deep into the locker and he cut his hand on the shelf above his head.  Then I slammed the door on him and the foot that remained outside of the locker.  Then the rage subsided.

I looked at this weak little boy shoved halfway inside the locker and all I could see was myself staring back.  What if someone had beat me up like that?  How could I explain that to my dad?  What would my dad say if I had to tell him that I did something to someone else and they obliterated me in front of a bunch of other kids at school and humiliated me by shoving me into a locker?  I felt bad for what I did but I just grabbed my books and walked away.  I never spoke to Jeffrey F. again but this incident changed my perspective on bullies because, apparently I had just become one. 

Most of kids in the school had no idea why I beat him up.  They just saw me kick his ass for what appeared to be no reason and then walk away.  I guess that was my “prison moment.”  It didn’t have to be the largest person.  It just needed to be someone and just brutal enough that other people would pass the word around about you.

The change in my attitude was one that denounced bullies though.  I wasn’t one!  I wasn’t taught to be one!  I would make sure that smaller kids weren’t picked on or bullied by someone like me!  That attitude was an eighties attitude though, as it turns out.  This stigmatic teaching was ingrained in most of our after school specials, movies of the time, and inspirational posters of the day.  We were all to stand up to someone bullying us.  My group of friends took it one step further.

The kids I hung out with in High School were the larger kids.  If anyone was being a bully it would have been someone in our group and we had all decided we weren’t going to be like that.  An example of our credo was when we heard of a smaller kid being picked on in one of the back hallways.  A good friend of mine, Jocko, and I went back to help him out.  We told him to sit with us during lunch and the word spread that we would wreck anyone who picked on him again.

We didn’t exert any force and we didn’t bully anyone, but we did make sure the smaller people were being taken care of.  The cool thing about this last part of this story is this last guy grew up and became one of the best martial art trainers in Michigan.  Now he teaches other people how not to be bullied through controlling their situation and not through aggression.  He teaches that strength used properly is true power but used improperly is true evil.

Although I still, to this day, feel bad about what happened in school that day I don’t condone fighting for any situation – regardless of the reason.  In every situation we should be able to resolve the circumstance without using our fists, or worse in today’s era – guns and knives.  There is too much anger in the world today.  We have consistent road rage here in Michigan.  Our political officials don’t give us any reason to be happy and much of what is on television is very dark in nature.  All I can say is hang in there.  It always gets better.

Trump Blames Video Games For Social Violence. (Studies prove he couldn’t be more wrong.)


With all of the talk about video games coming back up again I wanted to write this diatribe. The ideas expressed here are backed by facts. With all of the violence in the world today and the history of video game violence and the blame laid on video games you might think that the advisors of our President would have “peeped” him to the fact that the studies performed by reputable organizations have shown and proven that (violent) video games do not make people violent. These studies have gone on for decades. (Video gaming has been around since the 1960’s).


I mention culture first before violence (see below) because there is a defining nature to the culture of video games. One’s background, meaning how they were raised, the factors that influence someone’s life, teacher and parent trainings, friends, family, Church, God, relationships with others socially, and a myriad of other factors all go into the “design” of any one human being. So in saying that…I never gave culture much thought outside of, in my head, thinking that there are gamers and there are non-gamers. Simply put: you do or you do not. I never gave much thought to how video games actually affect our society in all of the different ways that they do because there are so many different gaming genres. I mean video games are a definite mode of expression just as a religion or something along the lines of the Southern culture.

Video gaming displays a specific set of transmitted behavioral patterns. Of those types there is a breakdown of the different games one plays. I fit those into categories, as Frans Mayra alluded to in a paper she wrote (feel free to Google any of my references), LARP, Cosplay, MMORPG, and etc…(punks, mods, and skinheads), obviously not as
that, but you get the idea.

I appreciated the statement “culture should be seen as intersubjective domain of experience that takes shape in social relations”, because it sums up the different genres of the culture of games that have developed. Think about it, you have your Larpers, for example. This may not appeal to everyone, but there are specifics to it. In and of itself, it is a particular category, it is subjective to only certain “rules”, they have their own communities, and it goes deeper. Where it gets deeper is as Mayra states, each specific gaming culture has its own knowledge base. How the games are played, information gathering and sharing, and etc.

A classmate of mine at The University of Michigan mentioned how he grew up and how the gaming that he does is directly related to his specific background. He grew up in a sports oriented home and the games he plays are all sports related. That is a great definition of culture. It shows the “customs, norms, and ideas” that another student sited to me. This was obviously something he had learned and adopted from his environment growing up.


In the book “The Routledge Companion to Video Game Studies”, I didn’t become engrossed into the chapter on culture alluded to above, but I appreciated more the views of Peter Krapp (no his views are not crap) on violence. His views paralleled mine so there IS a slight bias here. A research paper that I wrote for the University of Michigan about video games had me do quite a bit of research on the violence factor, and the studies I came across gave the same conclusion as the findings mentioned in Krapp’s essay. People speak about the “side effects” of gaming but typically in reference to something bad. I quote “Just as the history of the subjective shot in cinema cannot be reduced to making all audience members voyeurs, gaming cannot be reduced to a mere training mechanism.” It is not viable to think that gaming is the single most influential tool responsible for tragedies such as Columbine or any other lunatic’s rants and raves.

My brothers and I used to play the game of Risk growing up. This is a game of conquering the world. Dare I say that none of us grew up to become Adolf Hitler or to even show those tendencies. Many of our games, as noted in Krapp’s essay, are violent. I still hold that “violent games are a means to get aggression out of one’s system.” is a true and valid statement. When I was growing up, the last of five boys, I retained a lot of aggression that I needed to get out because, as the youngest, I was picked on a lot by my older brothers. To my decree I won a lot of Dodgeball games at school, but that wasn’t enough, I had a lot of energy to spare so I joined a Karate class. The fighting we did in the class helped me learn to hone my aggression and it taught me what was right and wrong about fighting. I do have to admit that, along those lines, the fighting done in class did desensitize me on a smaller level to fighting in general, but by no means do I go around picking fights or getting into them for absolutely no reason.

Violent video games and games in general are not the cause of mental instability. For a great read about what games can do for people, please feel free to read “Reality is Broken” by Jane McGonigal. It is a really good book. See her Ted talk too that prefaces the subjects within the book. https://www.ted.com/speakers/jane_mcgonigal

As a last note, I have to admit, I also agree with the indication that a violent video game will increase aggression in someone (as some studies have also proven). I feel this in myself when I play certain games with increased violence (Call of Duty); however, I don’t go downstairs, kick the dog, slap my wife, and slam my kid into a corner. For me, I feel energized after a good firefight. My blood is pumping and, if successful in the game, I am typically in a really good mood. I’ll close this post with another line from Video Game Studies, “Just Dance-4…has not led to spontaneous dance-offs in the streets of America.”; although, I think that would be pretty cool to see.

Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum – Farmington Hills, MI

In a previous post I mentioned my wife and I foster a little girl.  She has siblings so we try to get together with them every so often outside of the normal visits that are required by law. This weekend we went to Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum in Farmington Hills.  Now our daughter is only 2 years old so many of the items in this museum were too large for her to play on; however, they did have some children’s rides and a couple of games that she could experience.

Here are a few pictures of the place just before people started to arrive. As you can see there is an amazing amount of things just to look at. Ultimately this place resembles an old style arcade; although the prices are nothing of the such.

The games were actually pretty expensive for what was in there. They have a really good array of pinball machines though. Pinball, for one ball, was $1.00. If you wanted to play a standard game it was $2.00 for three balls. The games are in really good condition though. This specific Pinball machine “Abra-ca-Dabra” is from 1975. I had to take a picture of it because of how well it has been maintained. Granted it isn’t as fun as the newer ones, it was still really nice to play it.

There are a bunch of signs hanging from the walls and ceiling but one caught my eye. They also have a “plane train”, which is a bunch of planes suspended from the ceiling on a track. When it works the planes “fly” through the building. It wasn’t working when we were there, but it was quite amazing to see all of the different types of planes that were hanging up there.

This appears that it might be a good place to throw a birthday party for “tweens” but I really didn’t see a kitchen so you might have to bring in your own food. They sold drinks and popcorn, but I didn’t see much else or how it could be cooked. They also run the games on the ticket scheme. You play and you win tickets. Which they have a bunch of prizes for…mostly candy and the standard trinkets and trash. On another note: I was fortunate enough to be able to park right next to the main entrance as they also don’t have a changing table in their incredibly small restroom. I had to take the baby out to the car and change her in the back seat.

As for the games, there are plenty of pretty good games here. They have some good classics, as well as some of the newer, games. They had two “roller coaster” type games that children can sit in and watch a short movie on the screen and be shaken by the moving seat. My daughter liked that because there were things happening and that she could experience. For a place to take your kids for some good gaming fun I give this place a 7 out of 10. It isn’t a bad place and I would suggest going, if for nothing else, just to take a look at everything that is in the building.

Golf – The Live Video Game

So the main focus of this blog has been on gaming for people over the age of 50.  I know you are probably already wondering about the title and saying to yourself that a golf range isn’t a video game; but I beg to differ.  My wife took me to TopGolf in Auburn Hills for my most recent birthday (Sunday) and I was amazed to find the entire experience wasn’t much different than playing a video game.  

Concierge and Main Lobby Check-In Desk

Once we walked into the main lobby we noticed the concierge on the left and the check in desk on the right.  Yes, just like a hotel…very cool. This reminded me of the check in process in some of the older Star Wars games like X-Wing. Just past the concierge there is a dining area. It wasn’t too large, but that is because they want people to go to their respective gaming areas to play.  We only had their nachos but were thoroughly impressed with them. Like nothing we ever had before. We didn’t get anything else to eat but we had a few drinks and another appetizer that TopGolf paid for when we sat down before playing. Overall the little bit of dining experience we shared there was quite impressive. (No this isn’t a blog about food).

Several Monitors Display the Action

There are two main screens that the players interact with.  One is a 40” television that is informational only whereas the other one, much smaller, requires input by the player before, or after, taking your turn.  There is also a map of the environment and an infrared “button” that must be activated (see the picture below) in order to begin each level. There are also 7 different “joysticks” (golf clubs) to choose from to play the game.  When playing each round of the game the “video game” technology automatically tracks and calculates the score.

Ball Dispenser & Game Map

When you are standing in the ready position you will cross your club over an “eye” located in the upper right hand corner of the console. This action will program and release a ball.  Yes, I said “program”. The ball has an RF-ID microchip inside of it, which once programmed, knows who is taking a turn. (For a split view of the TopGolf golf ball see the video below). The field of play has 10 areas to hit your ball into for points.  Each section knows where you hit your ball from and what the distance is once your ball falls through the specific area of the RF-ID reader at each scoring target.

What’s Inside A TopGolf Golf Ball? RF-ID Chip.

There are several different types of games, but we chose the practice mode which left it “open” for us to just hit and score.  They have a 20 ball “scramble” that you go head to head with the other players on that looked interesting too. Once your ball has registered the score it is immediately displayed on the interactive screen. This screen will also tell you exactly what target you hit the ball into and it will also tell you the exact position that it registered at within that target itself.  The targets have RF readers (see the picture above). The primary screen will revert to a totals view when it’s at rest. The video game portion keeps track of total balls used as well as the scores for everyone. The secondary, 40″ television, screen shows who the current player is and what their last ball score was. This screen faces toward the sitting area so everyone can keep track.

Men’s & Women’s Clubs

The seating area is laid out incredibly well.  There is a nice sectional couch and a little gathering table in the center of it all.  Two convenient exits on each side of the couch for easy access to play. As I mentioned, my wife took me there as a surprise so she wasn’t able to bring my clubs without giving it away.  Not a problem at all, as mentioned, this “game” comes with everything that you need to play. I am right handed so I don’t know, but I’m sure they probably have options for lefties too. They have some really great practice clubs.  My favorite was the hybrid 3 wood. I was spiking them in the white without issue and racking up the points (after I got used to my stance and swing again – the video below shows my third “practice” swing.

We will definitely be going back.  Oh yeah, before I forget to mention this…my wife hates golf…with a passion…and she is the one who suggested going back.  She had a really good time too. I suggest going, to anyone of any age, but for us over 50’s this is a great place. Take friends, family, and anyone who wants to have a nice time, good food, good drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), and a fantastic gaming experience.

Cartridge or DVD/Blu-Ray?

Samples of Cartridge Games

Just like us (people in their 50’s), the older the better.  The phrase “They just don’t make ‘em like they used to.” is fitting for this discussion.  Cartridges are the equivalent of a nice hard plastic safe for gaming software. The entire program is contained in one area whereas DVD’s have the data laid out across an extremely fragile surface.  Granted we used to have to blow the dust out of the cart but that usually got it to work correctly. With DVD’s and Blu-Ray discs one little scratch and the game is ruined.

Damaged CD/DVD

Needless to say with age comes a conspiracy theory (or two).  I think this is done by design so that we go out and purchase more games.  I still have most of the cartridge games I grew up with. I did, unfortunately, sell my original Nintendo Entertainment System.  I only had 26 game cartridges with that system but I was broke, living on my own, and I needed money. That was the most valuable thing I owned that would be worth something to someone else and could be easily sold.

In all actuality my class at University is currently reviewing a chapter on convergence and how a company like Sony worked to release the game Spiderman 3 with the new PS3 all at the same time the movie was set to be released.  This was obviously done on purpose to introduce the new tech to the consumer (us) and at the same time promote the other mediums. They even went so far as to use the same font in all of their brand logos just to subconsciously marry them all together in the mind of the consumer.

In sticking to the old tech, during my 50+ years on this planet there have been more than a dozen cartridge game consoles.  Below is a list of the more popular ones that I remember and this list doesn’t even include the handheld ones.

  • Intellivision
  • Atari 2600, 5200, & 7800
  • Magnavox Odyssey
  • Neo Geo
  • ColecoVision
  • Nintendo ES & N64
  • Fairchild Channel F
  • TurboGrafx-16
  • Atari Jaguar
  • Vectrex
  • Bally Astrocade
  • SEGA Genesis
PS4 & XBOX One

Now with convergence and the push for new technologies there are only two gaming consoles that I am aware of and those are the Sony PlayStation and the Microsoft XBox.  I am not even sure what Nintendo is using anymore since they changed to the Switch, which is a handheld unit and not a console. If there is another, outside of these, it is so far off the beaten path that it doesn’t have a horse in the running.  Out of the long list of cartridge game consoles there are only two contenders now and both of them use discs to retain their software.

Although, as you probably already concluded, I am a fan of the cartridges but I don’t believe the gaming industry will ever revert to those again; although, if they were thinking of reducing their carbon footprint they could go to flash drive games.  They are RAM (Random Accessible Memory) based so they could be backed up. They could also be password protected, or married to the console it is played on first, so that someone couldn’t just make copies and they are much smaller so packaging would be less.  The only drawback would be the people who would lose them and have to buy the game again.

Technological differences between HDD, SSD, and Flash

The access in a cartridge or flash drive running through a USB 3.1 connection can be as fast as 10 Gbps, which would be much faster than any DVD (10 Mbps) or Blu-Ray (36 Mbps) disc.  This chart shows the difference in opening a certain program using a HDD, SSD, or a Flash Drive. The Flash Drive wins…hands down. Look at Solid State HDD shown here. Those statistics are obviously better and faster than even the best standard gaming eSATA HDD with 256MB of cache.  Perhaps I am just being nostalgic or it might be a better idea to go back to technology like this.

Please Stand Up Mr. Chuck E. Cheese

Chuck E. Cheese’s in Novi, MI

Being that my wife and I are “older” parents and didn’t have children when we were younger we didn’t go to places like this very much.  Now that we are the “representatives” of a budding 2 year old baby girl we are getting out to bounce houses, trampoline villages, and other places like Chuck E. Cheese’s play place and restaurant.  In Detroit these places have always had a bad reputation for the fighting that people get into over tables, presents, and who gets to spend the most time with “the mouse”. I have heard some doozies in my time.  Fortunately we didn’t have any issues which is why I am choosing to write about the experience.

Prize Station in Chuck E. Cheese’s

My university has touched on the subject of interactivity but mostly the discussion is regarding the act of an individual interacting with the controls and the avatar they are playing and not so much a concern of interaction with another individual.  My point in a few of the items I have written for class are in regard to the experience one actually gets when they interact with other people while playing. More importantly, interacting with people in real life and not just online.  I know that most people in their 50’s have children who have children now, but that is my point. Taking your kids and your grand-kids to a place like this will help you engage with them in a different way. I know most people will say, “We can just play games at home and not spend the money.”, but I say it is good to get out and frequent your arcade with the kids.  No matter what their ages are. Besides, everyone loves to earn a prize, and that you can’t get at home. The games here spit out tickets and if you get enough tickets you can “purchase” prizes with them. They have quite a bit of children friendly toys. We made it a game when we went in, just to add to the fun. We had her pick out a toy that she wanted and we explained to her that to earn the toy we had to play games and have fun.  She loved it.

There aren’t a whole lot of games for a 2 year old, but there are a few that attract their attention.  There is one game that simulates a roller coaster, of sorts, that we must have sat in for about a half an hour.  The seats shake with the action on the screen and move you back and forth. I know it may seem a little “lame” for the older people, but it was an experience that our baby loved and we got to share that with her.  In the truest sense of the reason, isn’t this what games and gaming are all about? We played the games that gave out the tickets and we were able to earn her the toy she wanted. All in all, it was a good day.

A study performed about 8 or 9 years ago when iPhone and Android gaming was getting a big push asked people what they liked about phone game applications and the overwhelming response was that people were able to connect with their parents, old friends, siblings, and their children.  Whether they played these games constantly or intermittently the finalizing thought was that people liked being interactive with one another in a gaming environment. Although that study was done in regard to online items, being with friends or family in the actual world is, and can be, much more fun.

Flavored Crust Pizza

The pictures in this posting are from the Internet so don’t get the wrong idea.  It was a Saturday and they were packed inside but I chose to live in the moment instead of trying to document the event. They have quite a few games in the “mouse house” located in Novi.  They even have games that us older people will appreciate, like Skee-Ball. For the most part though, they have games that are good for interaction with someone else.  On a totally different note, they also changed their pizza and added some flavor to it. It was greasy (like Silvio’s Pizza from Redford Township for those who are familiar with it)…but it was good!

Now, I do have to mention that they have a mechanical Chuck E. Cheese in the back of the building.  We thought it would be nice to get a picture of her with the human sized machine. We thought wrong, the mouse scared the crap out of her…in more ways than one.  But, outside of the five minute crying session she did have a great time and she is still talking about playing games and wants to know when we will be going back. That’s the type of interaction I think gaming was meant for.

Get Out There and Play!

Dave & Buster’s – Livonia MI

So my wife and I patronized Dave & Buster’s for my first time ever this past Saturday.  I have to be honest, I am not sure I liked it as much as when we went to Lucky Strike in Novi.  Here’s the thing…Dave and Buster’s has every popular game known to mankind that is available right now.  They even cater to the nostalgic and the novice players in a pretty fantastic way but the only reason that I would not rate my experience as a 9 or 10 is because I prefer playing in an environment that isn’t so busy.  I’m just not a “crowd” person…per se, but that is the ONLY reason.

For the most part I found that the environment is incredibly family friendly…at least at the time we went.  We stopped in to the one on 7 Mile Road at about 15:30 hrs. About $120.00 later, which included the tip, we left.  Now, that total involves drinks, food, and games so don’t think this place is expensive. We just went a little overboard is all.  The cuisine is “bar” food. The drinks are where they get you but I thought that the bar looked pretty nice. Pricing for the game cards is standard, I guess.  I didn’t do the math on any of the games. The card records points and each game requests X amount of points for each play. This was the same theme that was at Lucky Strike.

I wasn’t too surprised, even with all of the reading that I have been doing lately on gaming, that the crowd consisted mostly of people between the ages of 4 and 60.  Obviously there were a plethora of children there. With them were their parents who were mostly in their 30’s. There were only a handful of people my age (around 50).  I didn’t speak with any of them but I did corner a few of the children who were playing some of the more violent games and one father whose daughters were playing my new favorite game Halo.  I introduced myself and indicated to them what I was studying at school.

Ron was there with his two daughters Elisa (8) and Monique (7) who were busy playing Halo.  The game itself was incredible. There are two large screens and positions for four total players.  The players are working in tandem and can play on either screen. There were two other children who were older than these two girls sitting on the right side.  Elisa was sitting in the second seat from the left and she was “killing it”. I asked Ron how long she had been playing this game and he said since she was about 4 or 5 she started gaming in general but he keeps it alive at his home where they play Halo and other FPS games.  I inquired about the violence in the game and if he thought that was too much for a child and he indicated that he has explained that it is a game to his children and not something that happens in reality.

I didn’t catch the names of the two boys I interviewed.  They were teenagers from what I could tell, but too young to drive was my guess.  I also asked them about their feelings regarding the violence in certain video games.  They were both playing Alien and as you may already be able to establish, based on the movie, this is just a game of killing (see the video below).  Needless to say, coming from two teenage boys, you can imagine their satisfaction with the game and the violence. They wouldn’t have it any other way.  Of course, I tend to agree with them as those types of games attract my attention too.

Although this blog is wrapping itself around the idea of people who are over the age of 50 and still gaming I will still say that this place is a good place to go to experience some pretty good games.  I would take the family there at least once a month. As I mentioned, they have games for pretty much every type of gamer. They even have the largest Pac-Man and Space Invaders games I have ever seen not to mention the larger than human size Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots game. Unfortunately it was out of order so we didn’t have a chance to play it.  Overall, I give this place an 8 out of 10 for the environment and excellent choice of games they have. I find it better than the old arcades I used to go to but that is mostly because I wasn’t able to drink in those. Not that drinking makes it more fun…just more adult.

What is the best choice – Gaming via PC or Console…?

So for people in their 50’s gaming can be hard on the hands.  For me, I have worked with my hands all my life. Not rigorously, but I have used my hands to do a lot of work throughout the years like carpentry, I used to work on my own cars, construction, I substituted as a volunteer Fireman for a little while, and I used to do a lot of Karate (Tang Soo Do).  So my hands have seen some use. In fact I have broken many bones in them from karate, getting them smashed under vehicle parts, and crushed from demolition jobs. So using my hands now, as I grow a little older, and depending on the weather, can be a task.

Video Game Controllers

What it boils down to is the controllers.  I am very partial to using a keyboard and a mouse to control the action on the screen.  I also like to use the larger controllers like steering wheels or a nice joystick that has quite a few programmable buttons (like a flight stick).  I am not admonishing the console games…in fact I will be writing about a few console games in the future. It is a preference, but when you have as many miles on you as I do you tend to want to play games that allow you to have fun and not get all cramped up or feel it the next day in your bones.


Console gaming requires the use and mastering of a smaller controlling unit whereas you could also purchase a unit of the like for your PC gaming you don’t have to.  There are a number of alternative controlling ideas out there for PC gaming. I visited the Dell website to check on a few options and it appears there are well over 50 different options just on their site alone.  Alienware, Corsair, Logitech, and Razer are a majority of the options. They range in price from $30 to over $200. Mostly the differences I noted are the prominently raised keys. My assumption is they are more heavy duty than a standard keyboard.  Now, I have to admit that I haven’t broken a keyboard yet, but they are making them much more flimsy nowadays. Tech Radar suggests the keyboards from the list below.

Cooler Master MasterSet MS120
  • Logitech G513. …
  • Cooler Master MasterSet MS120. …
  • Corsair K63 Wireless. …
  • HyperX Alloy Elite. …
  • Corsair K95 RGB Platinum. …
  • Razer Cynosa Chroma. …
  • Corsair K68 RGB. The snack-proof gaming keyboard. …
  • SteelSeries Apex M750. Great for gaming, just OK for everything else.
Corsair K63 Wireless Keyboard

There are even special gaming mouses (mice?) too.  There are several that are rated as being the best, but I have found that these fancy mice are individual specific.  When you go out to purchase any controller for your PC or Mac you should experience the unit and not just take the word of some Salesperson.  Best Buy is a good place to do that. I found a nice list of some preferred units and I posted it below. They are quite fancy.

  • Logitech G502 – Highest Native DPI Mouse. …
  • Razer DeathAdder Chroma – Best Budget Mouse. …
  • Corsair Scimitar RGB – Most Programmable Buttons. …
  • Razer Naga Hex V2 – Another mouse for MOBA Games. …
  • Corsair Sabre RGB – Budget FPS Gaming Mouse.

Personally I prefer wireless controllers.  It doesn’t matter if it is console or PC. I am not one for being tethered to anything.  Not that I am walking around my office with my mouse and keyboard in hand I just prefer the look.  The largest issue, as you can guess, is if the power runs out in the middle of a game.

I do find it strange that the XBox 360 allows the use of a USB keyboard with their “computer” but you cannot modify the controls to play games with it.  Personally I feel this is a market they should look into. Since I can plug my XBox into any device that takes an HDMI connection it would just be an area they could possibly gain a few more acolytes for their console.

HORI PS4 Keypad & Mouse

This is where the PS4 blows XBox out of the water (again).  They do allow for control via keyboard. They even have specific suggestions for which ones to use and they have games that allow them.  PS4 suggests the Logitech G19 Gaming Keyboard and the HORI Tactical Assault Commander Pro. The games that they allow are in the list below.  You can see that some of them are made ONLY for the keyboard.

  • Final Fantasy XIV
  • Overwatch
  • War Thunder
  • Elder Scrolls Online (keyboard only)
  • Neverwinter (keyboard only)
  • DC Universe Online (you can only use the keyboard)
  • Paragon

The website below is a good list for the PS4 and how to set it up for control of this fashion.


PC Flight Simulator Cockpit

Now, no matter what your preference in the end, it will all boil down to what games are even available for the choice you make.  Obviously consoles would be the better choice just for variety alone. My father passed away about 8 years ago. He was 87 when he died and he played games on his PC up until his death.  He loved Myst and Flight Simulator mostly but he wasn’t a fan of console games. He verbally mentioned that the controllers were too hard for him to use. Now, not growing up using a controller I can see that.  Overall it is the preference of the player and what they either want to play or what they are willing to play. With all of the retro gaming sites that have games available for downloading there is a wide variety/library of choices.  For the best graphics and gaming experiences though, excluding MMOG games, then consoles are more than likely the way to go.

You can probably tell that I have a definite preference toward making the controls easier for the older generation.  I mean, these companies should respect the pioneers of the gaming industry. Even though we are older and may not have as much time to game…we are older and have some (more) expendable income than we did when we first started gaming.  I’m just saying, they can cater to the target audience, but they should still consider the loyal audience too. I have been gaming my whole life and the only way I will stop is if I physically can’t do it anymore.

Takin’ It Back to the Old School

Space Invaders Controls

So without rejecting the theme I am trying to formulate here I want to continue with gaming for people over 50.  In doing so I don’t want to reject the classics. This blog post discusses a few classic games and will mix in some topics we have been discussing in the class I am currently taking at the University of Michigan this semester.  One of the topics will be the ability to manipulate these games through their controllers as related to interactivity. I know, you already know about the controllers…joystick, buttons, a trackball or even a gun so my point is not to bore you with the basics but to mix in the classic argument of interaction and maybe a little about challenge and the objectives of each game discussed.

Ms. Pac-Man & Galaga

Pong, (Ms.)Pac-Man, Defender, and Frogger… some of the mindless classics played by millions of kids, and adults, around the world with nothing more than a joystick and maybe a single button for the purpose of jumping or some other linear action.  These games appealed to people of my age, and hell, why shouldn’t they have. They were fresh off the block. Nothing out there was ever like them before. People who are now around the age of 50 were the target audience for these games then. The idea behind the simplicity was in that a frog should only do a few basic movements in order to cross the road and they wanted to keep these games simple.  The question comes back to would a game like this be considered challenging given that the actual objectives were so mundane?


The interaction for these new “students” of video gaming was in the give and take.  I gave these games a quarter and they took my three lives, which pissed me off enough to put in another quarter to continue to get better at these games.  The interaction of these early games and gamers was mostly in the attitude that, myself and so many others retained, I was going to beat “you”. You have to think about the fact that we were the children of those who fought in WWII or Korea.  We weren’t hard, but we were raised harder than the kids today but not as tough as those who raised us. We retained part of the “you mess with me and I’ll kill ya” gene which was just enough to make us come back for more and more “punishment” from these inanimate objects.

Dodgeball – Greatest American Sport Ever!

We weren’t an entirely different breed than the kids growing up today, we were just limited on our challenges back then.  Doing 10 pull-ups, climbing the gym class rope up twenty feet, and beaning another child in the head with a rubber Dodgeball were the best we had then.  Although I LOVED the Dodgeball challenge, mostly because I was fortunate enough to be good at it, I still wanted more challenges in life though. Kids now have such an extensive amount of challenges that I would have never fathomed what was to explode from a square “ball” bouncing back and forth across a black background to which would be deflected by a vertical “racket”.  In the beginning the extremely limited interactivity of games has blow up to something much more now.

“Feed Me!!!”

In review of any of the original games objectives, one can see that they couldn’t have been more simple.  That wasn’t the crux of the idea behind these early games. They were supposed to be easy. The idea was to draw in the masses with an easy concept and keep their attention with the challenge of completing these simple objectives with the hope of completing the game, if there was even a completion to them (and in many cases I don’t believe there actually was one).  If there was, then the completion would be the ultimate goal of the game. I can’t tell you how many quarters I spent on these games. I would run home from school, go out on my paper route, deliver my papers and then collect money from “just enough” customers to make sure my papers were paid for, then I would head right up to the arcade with the rest of the money.

For any younger readers, you have to understand these games were “out there” and there wasn’t anything like them that we had ever seen.  Playing them was cutting edge. Relate it to the over 200 VR games that PS4 has out now. It was as exciting as that “new” technology is. (VR tech has actually been out for many years but is just now catching on…kind of like 3D movies, been there for years, never quite made it, but they keep coming back).  The interaction with these games was, obviously through the controls laid out in front of us, but it was also psychological in that we wanted, dare I say needed, to beat these machines.

VR Gear from PS4

These games were simple, challenging, and they had obvious objectives to a final goal.  For us “old timers” these were the epitome of the computer age. Overall, with the classic games, I don’t believe there was very much in the way of physical connection to the games.  At least not like the gaming industry is creating for us now with technology like VR and the full immersion VR that is soon to come from companies like Virtuix Omni who will, hopefully, work with PS to integrate their tech to the games PS has.  This is the new wave of the future which I hope catches on in a big way because after experiencing it first hand…it is incredible and needs to become the next big thing.