In The (Comfort) Zone
We all have one, right? We have many. Many comfort zones in life and many in gaming. Some believe that life can only be ‘truly’ lived outside of those lines. Even the word “comfort” does exactly that to us. We are often content in our comfort zones because it’s familiar and usually simpler. Although I am not sure that life can only be ‘truly’ experienced outside of one’s comfort zone, I did learn a clear lesson in 2016, that there are some amazing things outside those walls.
The Game Changer
What a year it was, 2016. I hit a hole in one the morning of my wedding, married the woman of my dreams, went to Universal Studios on our honeymoon, and attended E3...all in about a month span. All of these are game changers, but E3 changed gaming for me. Attending E3 (Electronics Entertainment Expo) in Los Angeles was something I will never forget (more on my E3 experience coming soon) and an event that really opened my eyes to all things gaming, rather than just “the usual”, which was typically Madden, FIFA, NBA2K, Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed, GTA V, etc., or what some would call “the basics”. I still love all of these games, and play them often, but I began to supplement them with games of different genres and quickly started seeing things a bit differently.
I came to a realization while I was in L.A. for E3. It was, that I always tended to prefer ‘realistic’ games like many of those mentioned above. I would dismiss Sci-fi, anime, and cartoonish looking games because I never had a great appreciation for that kind of imagination and creativity. I was literally judging these games by their covers, which is something we all feel like we learned to avoid when we were kids. Moreover, although I always have that gamer craving to find something new and different to play, I would still avoid these enormously popular genres. However, it’s the easy thing to do, so it can be hard to avoid. I would also refuse to play NCAA Football games unless I had all the players names, and I would not put a purple camo on my Call of Duty SMG, because who WOULD do that in real life? Is it just me?
After feeling a huge sense of renewed passion for video games coming off of the E3 trip, I had also gotten the push I needed to finally start trying different games. Although some of the following games are fairly or even extremely popular, at the time, they all felt like big leaps for me. Especially after E3, I wanted to know what all the indie fuss was about, so I tried a few and I was taken aback on several occasions while playing Unravel, Super Meat Boy, Limbo, and Inside. The emotions that those games elicit and the craftsmanship you can see and feel are really special experiences. Playing those games ㅡ which were refreshingly shorter games than I was used to ㅡ made me aware of a type of game that I always wanted, but never knew it. Now, sometimes I love nothing more than to sit back and play some of these relaxing puzzle games, or story driven platformers. I began to then ask myself ‘why didn’t I try this before?’, which ended up becoming the theme of my entire year.
Despite thoroughly enjoying the indie games, it was a few others that really wowed me and made me question EVERY gaming decision I have made. Games such as Diablo 3, Final Fantasy 15, Overwatch, Witcher 3, and a little series called Mass Effect. I had never played a Diablo, Final Fantasy, or Witcher game, and Overwatch was a game I would have normally written off because it was cartoonish. I remember watching a college roommate playing Mass Effect 1 and 2, years ago (while I played Red Dead Redemption) and thinking ‘what is that garbage?’. Well, many gameplay hours later, I am aware that Mass Effect is far from garbage and, in fact, it has really pulled me into that world and made me feel close to the characters in a way that I have never experienced in a video game before. Mass Effect, with its dialog choices, is the series that added another layer to my passion for gaming, as it made me really care about choices and how it would affect the story and people in it. Recently, when I replayed Red Dead Redemption, even though it wasn’t a choose-your-dialog game, I looked at the story closer and was much more interested in words and cutscenes. Thank you, Mass Effect.
For many reasons, good and bad, 2016 was the biggest year of my life. I made a huge step out of one comfort zone by getting married, which I believe inspired me to start stepping out of other comfort zones. I started appreciating creativity and imagination, even if I don’t have much much of either, myself. In fact, that may help me appreciate it more now that I see things through a bit of a different lens. It may be needless to say at this point, but 2016 was definitely the best gaming year of my life. I tried several foreign (to me) genres and it really paid off, even in my daily life. I’m more willing to try new foods, take on new responsibilities, and here I am writing a blog for the first time. It took until I was 30 years old to stop judging books (games) by their covers and screenshots, and to try new things sometimes. So, if you feel like you’re in a rut or if you feel like you want to try something different, gaming or otherwise, there’s no better time to try something new than now.
Senior Legal Advertiser at Towne Auction, graduate from Grand Valley State University and (not so) slightly obsessed with gaming, listening to gaming podcasts, consuming E-Sports, and writing about my gaming experiences. I enjoy writing about the funny, scary, interesting, and devastating moments I encounter while playing games and enjoy interviewing others to learn about how they experience games. I also offer a unique perspective and some insight on coping with Tourette’s syndrome, tic disorders, stammering, and stuttering. Diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome at a young age, gaming provided me an escape from the rigors of daily life, and still does to this day. In 2016, I had the opportunity to attend my first E3 convention in Los Angeles, which took my gaming fandom to another level. Recently married, my very gamer-friendly wife and I currently reside in Sterling Heights, Michigan with our dog Clyde, Xbox One, PS4 Slim, and Wii U.
Xbox Gamertag: Bartonaa