More often than not, when I bring up the subject of gaming to people, I usually get the typical response of them rolling their eyes. I frequently hear comments such as, “Aren't there better things to spend your money on?” or, “Video games are such a waste of time.” And while video games can be a waste of time and money, they can also be a life saver. They certainly saved mine.
My brother and I grew up in a troubled home and lived out in the middle of nowhere. There was no place to meet people, no malls to hangout with friends, and there was little to do. If we weren't tossing the football or kicking the soccer ball, we were most likely playing video games. The NES was the first console we ever owned and we played it all the time, (when we weren't blowing on the cartridges.) I'd have to say my favorite console growing up would have to be the SNES, and there is a good reason for that. No matter what my family was going through, we could all sit down and play Super Mario Kart or some other game to have a few laughs. For just a brief time a console and video games were able bring my family together when nothing else could. To me that was and is a powerful thing. Hours and hours were spent watching each other play as we encountered new areas, enemies, comical allies and exciting stories. It was amazing and I was immediately hooked.
As my brother and I got older we begged for a PlayStation. The graphics were lifelike and could get no better, plus the games were unlike anything we had seen before. Years later on Christmas day we finally got one, and I'll never forget it. I had hoped we would, but couldn't wait until Christmas to find out. I went on a top secret mission to my parents closet and found it hidden just inside, (waiting the next few months was unbearable). Even though I already knew what I was opening Christmas morning, I was beyond ecstatic. Hours were spent playing with and against each other, whether we were racing, playing Madden or helping one another through a difficult RPG. It was a way to escape reality for a moment to enjoy something new, and to spark our imagination. I remember playing Final Fantasy VII, (mostly watching my brother play) and thinking to myself how amazing the characters and environments were. It was as much inspiring as it was mesmerizing. My brother would frequently request that I go get him ice pops or he might lose the fight. I fetched them as if it was my only purpose. Video games were a part of our lives and one of the ways we bonded. Games shielded us from whatever else was going on at home.
Years later my brother moved out of the house and my home situation became much worse after that. As an adolescent with few friends and nowhere to go, all I had was my imagination and video games. That was the only escape from my family so I clung to it. Things really changed when I obtained simple game maker software on the PC. I loved to express myself through art and creativity, but now I had an opportunity to do that with a game. Now instead of playing games I was making them. Looking back, they were terrible but it kept me busy and it fed my passion and admiration for the game industry.
We skip ahead to 2008. While at a friends house I watched him talk with people while playing Halo 3. Laughing, joking, trash talking and carrying on with friends on his Xbox 360, this was amazing and I had to get one. After saving money for awhile I was able to and soon created my first Xbox Live account. Not long after I was connected to people from all over the world, people I soon developed deep friendships with. I wasn't alone anymore. I could turn on that console and immediately be met by friends and endless worlds to lose myself in. It was an incredible experience and one of the only ways I had to meet people. Now you may say, “You're being dramatic, surely you had friends and better ways to deal with your home life.” but I really didn't. Growing up the way I did, I was rarely able to leave home. There a plethora of unfortunate circumstances that kept me from having a normal childhood. After so many years in such a situation, a lot of issues begin to develop. I struggled with feeling alone, anxiety, depression and a handful of other problems. Video games helped keep a lot of it at bay. Of course they are no cure and other means were needed to get past it all, but still they helped and continue to help a great deal. I'm not here to say video games can fix everything, but they can be a huge positive force in situations like mine if played responsibly.
Because of my past, I have developed a strong appreciation and respect for video games. They have been and will always be so much more to me than just a game. I was never much of a reader but video games allowed me to see amazing worlds, characters and so much more. To this day games still blow my mind. They take me out of myself and let me enjoy something unique and special. Even in my darkest days I could always count on the experiences games gave me, and as I got older the friendships that arose from it. I still talk with friends I met online long ago and I have had the pleasure of meeting some of them personally. I think what I've come to discover is that games bring all kinds of people with all kinds of backgrounds together. We all have a common passion and love for something that's important to us. I'm very blessed to be a part of that.
Video games are so easily accessible and are more mainstream than ever. The industry is a center point for art, writing, music, stories, character development and much more, it is because of this that gaming is able to touch so many people. We are all unified by one thing that is created from so many wonderful talents. Video games have touched us all in one way or another. I am sure you can instantly think of a fond memory you have with video games. Maybe they brought you through a difficult time like me, or they allow you to express yourself and to connect with other people. Some will never understand our culture or the impact that it has had on us, and that's okay. I will always remember what games have done for me and continue to do, with the impact and inspiration that the industry and community has had on me. I can think back to the Summer of last year, when Pokemon GO released on mobile platforms. Most of the youth in my town emptied into the streets in search of Pokemon. I witnessed complete strangers talking with one another, breaking out of their comfort zones, and opening up because of a game. The impact and power that had shocked and amazed me, while confirming everything I have said so far. I can't wait for new experiences and friendships that await as time goes on.
Please don't pity my personal experiences. Instead, the next time someone rolls their eyes at you when you talk about video games, think about this and be thankful that you are part of an ever-growing world and community. A community where everyone belongs and wants to escape into a universe of endless adventure and possibilities.
I grew up on the East Coast where I currently live. I cut my teeth on Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Super Mario World and I'm a sucker for all things nerdy. I enjoy working on music and sound production when I'm not working or drooling over a new game.