mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Is there anything wrong with being a 27-year-old kid?

Via yesterday's Bleat (towards the bottom) comes this John Leo book review of Death of the Grown Up. Leo and Lileks both ponder when adults stopped being so adult, but I don't really have much knowledge to expand on that discussion. Nor have I actually read the book.

But I do find the discussion interesting. I agree with much of the thesis - that we as a culture are holding onto many of the things that we used to expect people to abandon as children as they grew up. Adults seem to be somewhat less serious compared to what they used to be. What I'm not sure is what's wrong with that.

I'm 27. I have a decent paying job, an MBA, a monthly mortgage payment, a credit rating in the upper 700's, and a fully-funded retirement account (if I retire tomorrow, I could keep up my current lifestyle until at least January 2008). But at the same time I own a Nintendo Wii (and a playstation 2 in a box somewhere), drive a bright yellow pickup truck, listen to rap music, and haven't worn a tie since sometime in 2002.

One of the stats at the begining of the article that struck me was the stat that the average video gamer is now around 30. I don't see that as a problem. Just today, I walked into a coworker's cube - and into a conversation between two systems engineers - both married, with children, responsible adults whose job involves keeping critical systems running - discussing plans to play each other on XBOX Live over the weekend. What's wrong with that? They are doing something they enjoy. Is playing video games over the internet worse than the other stuff people do on weekends - hanging out at a bar, watching a baseball game?

I bought my first video game system (a refurbed PS2) a few months after I got my first real job, at age 22. I bought a Wii for myself about 2 months ago. I'm not a huge gamer, but it is a fun way to spend some time - a nice break from watching TV or reading a book or surfing the web. And it's really hard to compare to anything in the past. Sure, earlier games were more kid-oriented - because the technology wasn't good enough to captivate adults. Now, with faster processors and video cards, video games are much more realistic, and much more appealing to adults. And as the price has gone up - Sony's PS3 was $599 when it first came out - systems tend to appeal to older gamers who can afford to pony several day's salary to pay for that system.

So why are adults less serious? I think part of it is other changes in culture - people are getting married later and having fewer kids, which means more time to continue to indulge in "fun" activities, plus more money to do it. More people are going to college, which for many people combines the freedom of adulthood with the lack of responsibilities of youth. People have more disposable income, so they can indulge their youthful hobbies more.

But I think there is also just a change of attitude. West talks about how the idea of "making a life" and closing off certain options as one gets older is no longer "salient". While there are certain things you probably want to change at certain points in your life - once you have kids, you might want to stop hosting swinger parties - there is no reason you should give up things you enjoy just because you are older, be it a game of Halo or an episode of Spongebob Squarepants.

I think my life is a hybrid of adult responsabilities and youthful pursuits. I like it that way, and I don't think I should have to start wearing suits or listening to NPR or stop playing with my Wii because I'm older. And I think the West will survive.


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