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As Gamers Get Older, There’s a New Need for an Easy Button

As Gamers Get Older, There’s a New Need for an Easy Button (photo)

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“Splinter Cell Conviction,” the new stealth action title from Ubisoft, will be a hit. It’s currently boasting a Metacritic score of 86 and, once the NPD Group’s monthly video game sales charts hit in a few weeks, “Conviction”‘s numbers should make it one of April’s top-selling games.

Most critics agree that it’s a good (verging on great) game. But the reason SCC will be greeted warmly on hundreds of thousands of consoles isn’t only due to the game’s new mechanics like Mark & Execute and Last Known Position. Sam Fisher, the black ops agent who’s been the star of the Tom Clancy-created stealth series, is getting reinvented as he’s getting older.

That balancing act is something the players buying Fisher’s game are having to figure out, too. The average age of the first-wave hardcore gamer — the ones who’ve made successive generations of video game hardware and software in a multi-billion dollar business — falls somewhere in the early to mid-30s now. And their lives are changing. What “Splinter Cell” does in an uncanny subtextual fashion is mirror those changes in both plot and game design.

In the game’s opening levels, Sam’s motivation is to track down the men responsible for his daughter’s death, a narrative that resonates because lots of the hardcore players are hitting the age when they’re starting to plan families, if they don’t already have kids. The loss of a child gets used as a story beat often in adventure fiction, but a big chunk of the game’s audience is reaching the point in their own lives where that may hit home a little harder.

Then, as “Conviction” goes on, Sam uncovers a conspiracy to assassinate the Commander-In-Chief. It’s a been-there plot device, but one that echoes effectively in these days where Tea Party antics grab headlines and Facebook has pages where people pray for the President to die. Where it would’ve remained the province of make-believe in past years, the meme of political dissatisfaction turning into open revolt cuts a little deeper nowadays.

It’s not just plot elements that ping the thirtysomething audience, either. Those game mechanics mentioned above make “Conviction” less rigorous than its “Splinter Cell” forebears. Mark & Execute lets you tag multiple bad guys and dispatch them quickly with the press of a button, while Last Known Position generates a virtual decoy for enemies to shoot at, letting you skulk around them.

These features have generated a bit of disdain from some who say they make “Conviction” a too-easy installment in what was once a notoriously hard series. But, aside from being clever and well-implemented, they’re just what a time-crunched new parent needs to balance the challenge of the game. The mechanics give players an older, warier Sam Fisher who’s finding his footing in a new gameworld, just like the older, warier person controlling him may be navigating new financial or familial circumstances.

The common theme here, for Fisher and gamer, is that we have to change how we play as we get older. For most first-wave hardcore gamers, gone are the days of Mountain Dew-fueled all-night sessions. That Japanese RPG with more than 60 hours of playtime? Just not an option anymore, with a wife and/or kids. Yet, in defiance of all that, the faithful still want to squeeze some button-mashing into their lives. The tweaks in “Splinter Cell” create a way to scratch that itch without necessarily having to play the same thing over and over in frustration.

Still, Sam Fisher’s lethal brand of play isn’t one you can share with the wife and kids. For that, we still have Nintendo’s iconic Mario.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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