How I Became A Gamer

How I Became a Gamer - Blogging with Dragons

 

I finally got around to sharing how I became a book blogger, but I realized I never really explained how I became a gamer either. In spirit of Blaugust 2022’s second week, of which the theme is “Introduce Yourself,” I figured there was no time like the present to talk about my lifelong enjoyment of gaming. After all, I’ve already ripped the band-aid off and started talking about myself.

 

I am really fortunate that I grew up in a casually nerdy household. As a kid, my parents were always watching Star Trek or X-Files, so I was exposed to things like the beauty of science fiction and the supernatural early on. Even luckier, my dad was a gamer. The first ever console I got to play at home was the NES. The earliest memory I have of a game is Blaster Master, which actually was first released the year I was born. I can still remember that iconic opening scene and thinking how cool it was, even as a really young girl. When I was old enough to actually hold a controller, I got to struggle with my dad through difficult levels and game overs. Later on, I also got to try my hand at Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt (my mom was amazing at the latter). I know many people would consider different ages of gaming to be “the golden age” but I cannot imagine growing up in a better era for video games—Mario was just getting started, and storytelling and graphics were progressing beyond Pong—and I learned how to play games in a time when there weren’t a lot of checkpoints. 

 

The epic opening of Blaster Master. The man really just wants his radioactive frog back and will do whatever it takes to reunite with him.

 

When I think of really, truly being a gamer though, I think of my family’s next console, the SNES. This console was released in the US when I was around three, but I distinctly remember trying to beat the impossible The Lion King game before and after preschool. I definitely learned a lot about perseverance from these games back then, and as an adult, who still enjoys pulling out her SNES, I am amazed at how much more difficult games were back then (and how my skills definitely peaked when I was a child, but that’s a whole different story). There was nothing like bonding with my dad over picking out our next game rental at Blockbuster, or struggling through impossible levels, collecting bananas in Donkey Kong, saving a wailing baby Mario in Yoshi’s Island, or navigating the wicked turns of Rainbow Road.

 

 

I didn’t just play video games at home, either. At some point, I was even blessed with a friend who had a Sega Genesis, which had different games every week. At her house, I got to play Ecco the DolphinSonic, Crystal’s Pony Tales. I still haven’t recovered from the excitement of customizing my very first character in this game ever in the latter, my own pony who went off to save her friends from an evil witch.  Eventually, years later, my parents got a home computer, and I got to experience the pure excitement of cereal box video games. My favorite of these games was by far was the game called SkiFree, which is a seemingly innocuous game featuring a skier going down the mountain, zigging and zagging through flags, until suddenly the game turns into a high speed chase down the mountain, with a yeti hot on the player’s trail. I was eaten by this horrific bundle of pixels before I could reach the end of the mountain countless times. Luckily back home on the desktop of Windows 95 I had the comfort of my little sheep buddies, who ran all over the windows, climbing and falling (though PC users could save the little guys from plummeting off their open tabs), yawning, doing handstands, and even urinating, until finally a UFO came and abducted them. This is the kind of stuff that is absolutely revolutionary to a kid.

 

Anyways, I miss the days where buying a box of cereal meant getting a free video game and I can’t help but think it’s indicative of a crueler world that we no longer do this. Back then, I remember there was such big excitement about home computers and their newfound accessibility. There were suddenly computers in classrooms with games like Reader Rabbit and Putt Putt. Each child in my first grade classroom got a designated amount of time at this “learning station” to play video games. Back in the 90s, there wasn’t this ubiquitous fear that video games were “bad” or “corrupting” our youth, but instead, there was a pervasive attitude of “isn’t this really amazing?”

 

I think growing up in this time of excitement towards all the technological advances really shaped the way I viewed video games. For me, video games were always a positive thing, sometimes educational, other times full of fun story telling and challenges. I didn’t really care what type of game I was playing, whether it was my dad’s Arnold Palmer golf game or the castle-exploring game that came with the Encyclopedia Britannica disc. In later elementary school, I was fortunate enough to get a Gameboy and then I began my love affair with the magic of all things Pokémon, the card games, the anime, and probably the most complicated game I had played yet, Pokémon Yellow. 

 

As time went on, there were other games like Spyro, which I played so much that I still had most of the maps memorized when I picked up The Reignited Trilogy as an adult, and Crash Bandicoot, and Digimon World. I played the very first The Sims game. I am pretty sure all of my Sims’ children ended up going to bootcamp, but I had fun, especially when I learned of the magical cheat code, “rosebud;;”. Unfortunately, after I hit middle school, I didn’t have energy for a lot of things outside of going to school, and my gaming hours dropped.

 

When I hit high school, my health, which had always been shaky at best, took a turn for the worse.  I had to participate in school exclusively from home, with what few teachers or volunteers my school could find to come to my house once or twice a week when I was well enough to sit for “class.” At fifteen, I was too unwell to do much other than reading and to struggle through my school work when I was able. I was depressed that I couldn’t go to school or to see my friends and that the doctors didn’t even know what was really wrong with me (it took six years for me to get a lupus diagnosis). Without Netflix, which hadn’t been created yet, and despairing of watching whatever bizarre infomercials or reruns that were on TV during the day, I would often just stare at my walls.

 

Desperate to lift my spirits, my dad bought me my very own PS2, so I could play games from my bed. Suddenly there was light and fun in my world again. It’s enough to make me cry just thinking about the difference these games made in my perspective. Old friends from my childhood, like Spyro, helped so much to fill the void in my life. When I ran out of Spyro games to beat, I hesitantly asked a friend for suggestions, even by then afraid I wasn’t a “real” enough gamer to ask for recommendations. One day, this friend blessedly came over to visit her sick friend’s house, hauling over physical guides and games up to the-girl-who-disappeared’s bedroom in what would be this hopeless girl’s very first introduction to JRPGs, Final Fantasy X and Kingdom Hearts. 

 

These games, quite honestly, changed my life, and possibly even kept me living. It was like someone had combined two things I loved—books and video games—and put them into one medium. I suddenly had games to play with fully fleshed out characters, world-spanning plots, puzzles, collectibles, and most importantly, tons of gameplay hours to fill up all the empty hours in my life. Though the girl who introduced me to these games is no longer in my life, the legacy of these games she introduced to me have remained. For that, I will be forever thankful.

 

As time went on, games progressed, and suddenly multiplayer was a thing. Now video games provided me with a way to not only escape from my reality, but also to socialize with people from the comfort of my own bed. This was huge for me, as not many people are really into visiting the chronically ill during their worst times and frankly, most of the time I didn’t (and still don’t) have the energy to go out into the world. I made friends, I got over my insecurity about using a mic, and then one day a boy waltzed into a lobby on one of those JRPGS and suddenly the sick girl had her very first boyfriend.

 

That boyfriend is still my partner to this day, over ten years later. Now, we play those RPGs together, and he doesn’t get mad when I fall asleep during his turn in Mementos in Persona 5, or if I don’t cook dinner because I’m too tired from the effort of healing a dungeon.  I have no doubt in my mind that if it weren’t for video games, I would not be the person I am today. Heck, I might not even be a person. The older I get, and the more video games change, the thing that remains the same is the sweet escape it has given me. 

 

In a video game, I am a contributing member of “society,” not a disabled person who is not able to work. I can craft things for friends or heal a team member during a fight, and do tons of other things I will never experience as a chronically ill person. I don’t think I can overstate how much this feeling of belonging means to a person like me, who has so often felt like a “lesser” or undesirable being in the eyes of the world, especially during the pandemic. I may not have the best reaction times or the longest play hours, and you’ll never catch me on camera streaming, but I have fun. I think in this day and age, we could all use a little more of it. And for me, there’s nothing quite as enjoyable as getting a break from fighting my own body or societal expectations.

 

Though it’s taken me years of blogging to muster up the courage to write about these personal things, I know that no matter what life brings, I’ll still have video games to look forward to and to keep me company. 

 

*This blog part is inspired by Blaugust 2022’s week two theme: Introduce Yourself. For more information on what Blaugust is and why I’m participating in it, check out this post.

 

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Posted August 12, 2022 in About Me, Blaugust, Geek Life

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