- ['Chewing Pixels' is a regular GameSetWatch column written by British games journalist and producer, Simon Parkin. This time, a message from the future.]

One of the grandchildren is browsing my achievement points. It's a record filled with tens of thousands of entries, an indelible, almost embarrassing testimony to a life spent in games.

She looks round. “Grandpa, what’s your favourite videogame of all time?”

It’s always been an awkward question but these days it’s near impossible to answer truthfully. She might as well have asked about my favourite meal. Who can possibly remember every plate of food they ever sat down to? You know that you ate most days and you know that you must have been nourished to some extent or other, but the details of what was on the menu, how it felt in the mouth, what it smelled and looked like are all lost to time.

After a while games lose their definition in memory too. You know that you played most days and that you must have been nourished to some extent or other, but the details... A few stand out, for sure, but most slip forgotten.

It's been six weeks since I was told that I'm dying.

The problem with death, for the lifelong gamer, is its supreme familiarity. There aren’t hairs on my head to measure the virtual lives I’ve lost over a lifetime of play. So when you’re told you’ve three months at best, it’s easy to be flippant.

In my time I’ve fallen foul of countless mis-timed jumps, stray bullets, car crashes and drug deals gone wrong; I’ve flown fighter jets into solid ground at 300 miles per hour, fallen under the heavy tread of a London bus and watched incredulous as my space ship dissolved in the mute explosion of a sun. The blocks reached the top of the screen time after time.

Playing a videogame is to enter into a state of inescapable impending doom: they are the moments between leaping from the clifftop and hitting the rocks below. Games only become games when you’ve a Game Over screen to avoid. Lives, profoundly perhaps, only gain value when they can be lost.

In a way then, videogames are the ultimate preparation for life’s ultimate event: through them you’ve died a million times.

Yes. Death should be easy: it’s virtually all I’ve ever known.

Except no, of course. There’s no such thing as one life left in videogames. If you’ve got another quarter, you’ve got another chance. There’s always another go, another opportunity to perfect your technique and claw closer to the final prize. There’s always another chance.

Not so for this world, for this body, for these cells. Not so for this man.

I think I’m one of the first generation to have lived their whole life with videogames. From cradle to deathbed, my life breaks down into legion roles, ghost lives led in pixel dimensions. You could write ten thousand obituaries of my life and every one of them would be as true as it is distinct.

A crack sniper who served his country with skill and determination through the Second World War; six times winner of the Le Mans 24 hour; he scored the winning goal in no less than twenty World Cup finals. This giant yellow vegan was relentlessly chased through life by his ghosts. Simon was the finest plumber in all the Mushroom kingdom. A loving father.

But while the lines of identity between virtual and real world experiences have blurred, there’s only one obituary for me that could really be written: gamer till the end. I never served in Dresden; I can’t drive, or kick a football where I want it to go. I’ve never eaten a ghost and I couldn’t fix a dripping tap, let alone rescue a flirtatious princess.

No. I sat and precision twitched in front of screens. I moved light from A to B and back again and played make believe forever.

They say our actions in this life echo through eternity. But what of those actions outplayed in videogame lives? Or does the very fact we acted in virtual worlds and neglected this one echo through the years; save game files a history of mis-spent time, energy and resources. How did my virtual choices shape tomorrow’s reality? Did I simply deplete our resources all the faster, escapism that fueled Armageddon’s engines?

It’s something we rarely speak of: gamer’s guilt. The generations that came before us feared our hobby, its intrusion into our lives, the distraction it brought. Indeed, their damnations made us all experts in defending any and every accusation aimed at gaming.

Now those older generations are all dead their mistrust is gone with them. Everybody plays games and, with nobody left to justify our hobby to, the protestations we learned rote echo as loud as they do pointless.

Did I waste my time? It’s a question you can only truly ask when you’ve no time left to give, no time left to justify. Play is the first step to knowledge and development, for sure, but as you streak into adulthood haven’t all the lessons game mechanics could teach been learned a thousand times over?

Aren’t games, as we defended against time after time after time, simply a colossal waste of time, a leisure pursuit as meaningless as a stack of blank Sudoku? Aren't they little more than a comfortable distraction of consciousness from the grim realities of this world, realities we would have been better off running toward, not from.

And if all videogames could ever aspire to was being big, dumb, blockbusting escapism, does that even matter? Hasn’t every generation that ever lived created make-believe worlds to climb into and take refuge?

I don’t know. I don’t know. I just wish we’d asked each other the questions a bit more fifty years ago.

Back to her question, the one being asked now. I look deep into young eyes, the eyes of a life with all of its cards left to deal.

‘Tetris,’ I murmer. ‘It was my first’.

[Simon Parkin does not, in fact, have any grandchildren and, while he rarely feels it, he’s still in his twenties. Just.]