Hearthstone: The Gamer’s Retirement Home?
As we age, do we merely give up on being competitive?
For over a decade, competitive gaming has fought, scraped, and clawed its way to worldwide recognition. Like any other sport, the professional players feel the effects of aging. No one is immune to this, which is why you don’t see many 35 year old CS:GO champions, or Master ranked Starcraft II players. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, though, in the form of competition that does not require 300+ APM(actions per minute). Professional players past their prime can move on to games like Hearthstone to engage in the rivalry they thrive on, in addition to things like streaming, casting, and coaching.
There are many reasons why the younger generation of gamers has an edge over the hardcores of yesteryear. As we age, not only do things like eyesight and hearing start to decay, so do less perceptible things like reflexes. Try as he might, a gamer in his 40’s won’t be able to compete with an 18 year old in terms of how fast he can bridge the gap from brain to fingers. In addition, wear and tear on the body is a serious factor. Things like repetitive strain injuries, and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome start to occur in the early 30’s, for lifelong gamers. No amount of hand stretching or wrist wraps can halt this process, merely slow it down. If we do some simple napkin math, the eight hours a day, 6 days a week that most pros play to keep their edge translates into almost 2,500 hours a year. While such things are necessary for complete mastery over a given task, if done year after year, the tools used begin to break down.
When it comes to low impact competition, traditional sports have little to offer. Even things like golf can put stress on the elbows and lower back. Esports is much the same, however, games like Hearthstone can offer a handy alternative to merely watching from the sidelines. On an average turn, players can expect to click anywhere from 10 to 20 times over the course of a minute. This is quite a slow pace, when one considers the 200+ APM needed to compete in a game such as Starcraft II, or even the sub 100 needed for professional DOTA. Another aspect of Hearthstone that older gamers can appreciate is the lack of structured team play. Middle aged gamers, even professionals, often lead busy lives due to starting families, social life, or work. The freedom to practice when one has the time is often a boon in comparison to a rigid team schedule. Finally, Hearthstone tends to be a mental game more than anything else. As such, it allows professionals to keep their minds sharp, and continue to hone their competitive edge long past their retirement from high APM strategy titles or FPS games, like Counter Strike.
Esports will undoubtedly continue to grow in the coming years, and with that growth will come a countless number of middle aged, and one day, senior gamers. They will not settle for merely playing a game against the AI, nor will they find satisfaction in using their vast experience to slaughter newbies. They will seek competition at every stage in life; the rush that comes with beating another player on even terms. It remains to be seen whether game developers will take this into account, but at least there will always be games like Hearthstone to even out the playing field for gamers of all ages.