When I was a kid, I was growing up at the beginning of a technological wave that just seems to keep getting bigger as time goes on. Video games were obviously already popular but my very first exposure to any video game was on the Nintendo. My brother’s friend had a Nintendo and was one of the only people I knew that actually had one. From the moment my brother tried the Nintendo he was hooked. I remember standing in the living room of my brother’s friend’s house watching them play and wishing I could give it a try but being too shy and afraid to actually give it a go. That small rectangular controller seemed ominous to me in some way. I just knew that I would embarrass myself if I tried to touch it. Although, I needn’t have worried about that too much as my brother would never have taken his hands off of it long enough for me to even press one button. My parents would never buy us a Nintendo (my mother had a huge problem with the company) and so I never really got to involve myself in the adventures of Mario and Yoshi and the like. By the time I got to middle school, my brother had begged and pleaded enough that my parents finally caved and purchased a Sega Genesis for us for Christmas. We played games like Eternal Champions, Road Rash and Madden. My interest in learning how to play had waned and mostly I just pressed buttons, always hoping for the best. We had fun but I never bothered to learn how to really play in a meaningful way. Throughout the years this would become my approach to most games. I rarely bothered to learn as there always seemed to either be better things to do, or because whoever I was in a relationship with at the time liked to completely control whichever console we owned. They wanted me to watch them play games. Occasionally they would ask me to play but mostly it was just all about watching them play. On a side note, what is the voyeuristic tendency? Anyone else have this problem?
In 2015, I started talking to my now husband. He informed me he was a gamer and asked if I played. Well yeah I had. Sure, I would be interested in gaming with him. Oh what a sweet summer child I was. Adorable, and god bless my little heart. I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. He directed me to a website called Steam and told me to look through to see if there were any games that piqued my interest. I pulled up the website and was in for a shock. First of all, I had only ever played one true videogame on the computer in my life (unless we count minesweeper and snake). Video games were an Xbox or PlayStation thing right? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. There were more games to browse than I knew what to do with. Overwhelmed, I was slightly nervous for our next date. He fully expected that we would be gaming together and I was starting to believe that I may have accidentally misled him when it came to my capabilities and history with gaming. I was absolutely correct. It did not take him long to figure that out. Did he give me baby steps from that point forward? From the point when he realized that I was actually pretty terrible at them? Nope. This was trial by fire. Only the strong would survive. I was going to learn one way or another the hard way how to play. I cringed as he laughed at me driving my tank backwards in an RTS. I glared at him as he laughed until he cried as he came up with new ways to torture and stomp me in game after game. I had a penchant for randomly blowing things up in the games we played, I got lost in the clouds in Minecraft and had to be lead back to base like a child, I couldn’t remember which button opened my inventory, or that I needed to level myself up as the game progressed. My characters died over and over and over again. I got his character killed over and over and over again through my own ineptitude. I never gave up, and I never gave in. I was determined to beat him in something at some point. I was determined to “get good”. In those early days, it was more about me proving myself than anything else. I remember when it became a love for me instead of a challenge. We both found ourselves temporarily out of work and decided to take things easy for a while. He suggested a survival game called Ark. Basically for anyone still reading this that is not a gamer, you start out with nothing in survival games. Typically in the middle of a forest or desert and you have to find a way to survive. You have to beat out the elements and creatures. You have to gather supplies and food. The difference with this game? Throw in some dinosaurs. Fight them off, kill them, or tame them and make them your pets. We played this game in an online server with other people. The server had its own little community. We made friends, we helped each other, and we had daily gaming sessions with people I had never met that I began to consider my friends. I had dinosaur pets and chores to do every day. It was the most immersive experience I have ever had in my life. That was the point when it stopped being about proving myself and when it became a love of mine that I hope to carry on for the rest of my life. In an earlier blog post I spoke of my love of books and stories. Video games are really just interactive stories and some of them are amazingly beautiful. They are an experience one can lose themselves in. They take effort, thought, organization, logic and force you to use and hone skills that may lay dormant otherwise. Throughout most of my life I have repeatedly heard how terrible gaming is and that it is a waste of time. I do not believe this to be the case. Both of my children play and I have watched them both become better at problem solving, and understanding that you have to start at the bottom of everything, work your way to the top, and that there is a hell of a lot of work in between before you can reach that top level. When my 6 year old complains about having to go to bed before everyone else, my husband simply says, “Buddy, you haven’t leveled up enough to stay up until 9.” He gets and understands that concept because of the fact that at 6 years old he is already an avid Minecraft player. We make him start with nothing and not only level up but use his imagination to create some pretty amazing things. Now, we do not just use video games for life lessons but I do like to use every tool at my disposal to help my children grow. The next time your loved one or child comes to you and excitedly begins to tell you about this or that in their game, sit down and listen. Better yet, try it out with them. I do not mean just humor them. Really give it a try and try different things. There is so much more out there than just the games you see or hear about in commercials. Some of my favorites you may never have heard about at all. I could go on and on about this. There are so many stories (many hilarious stories of my failures and successes) and maybe I'll start doing some short stories of my adventures if there is interest.
I am 38 years old. I am a proud gamer. What about you?