When I travel, I usually frontload my gameplaying, trying to pack in progress in an RPG before I leave, and then kill time with handhelds in transit. But Monday, I'll be flying to Washington. My grandfather will be buried at Arlington. Forgive me, I'm not in much of a games-playing mood right now.
It's not because Granddad disapproved of video games or that playing them somehow fails my memory of him. I lived with the man for four months in 2009, while I was writing for this site. I still had review duties, so I hooked my Xbox 360 up to a computer monitor, rather than put it on the television in the family room, which would have been painfully awkward.
If I had to characterize my grandfather to another person (obviously, his love for his family is what distinguishes him in our minds), I think I'd start with his relentless intellectual curiosity—which did not discriminate. He gave a lot of concepts a fighting first chance. So it was remarkable to see him take an interest in video games—not in playing them, or in their design per se. But when I crudely explained the games industry's similarities the studio system of moviemaking, that clicked. When I talked about the licensing involved in sports titles, he understood. When I brought up sales, growth and the big brands playing in the space, its legitimacy was apparent. My grandfather was a bank executive and a Harvard MBA. That was his second career; he was a Marine officer in his first.
Granddad did have his own peculiar influence on the discussion, though. To his friends, he called them "visual games." I think he understood, subconsciously, how trivial the "video games" label sounded to people who didn't know all they had to offer, especially older Americans. Yet he wanted this to be a subject we could discuss when his friends asked me what I did for a living over dinner. "Visual games" became a kind of personal endorsement. "My grandson reports on visual games."
I know my grandfather loved me, and I know he and my grandmother were very proud of me and of what I do with my skills, whatever subject to which they are applied. But his approval means a lot. And don't overlook the fact that it comes from a lifelong willingness to consider new things, and to always try to see the value in them. I hope all of you will remember this, into your own old age.
For now, what visual games will you be playing this weekend?