Today is my birthday. It’s my 21st too, which means I’ll be able to celebrate later tonight by getting drinks and whatnot! However, my birthday has a quite a bit of added meaning for me. An event happened on my birthday ten years ago, that sent me down this path towards videogames, and inadvertently molded me into the person that I am today. So, I figure that on the day is the perfect time to let my online peoples know a little bit more about myself, and what my birthday means to me.
I’ve always liked playing videogames. As a kid, my Dad and I played Banjo Kazooie together, collecting notes and transforming into an ant along the way. My brothers and I competed in Super Smash Bros, Mario Kart 64, and later Halo. Hell, I think at certain point I created a Club Penguin account to play games with my sister. This form of media has always appealed to me, but I didn’t really understand why when I first started playing. I just…thought they were fun! As does everyone else when they first experience anything they like, really.
I mention this because gaming as a medium is incredibly powerful, more so than I believed at the time, in both its ability to enable escapism and to give its audience hope. It’s also why I leaned hard into videogames when my Mom unexpectedly died on my eleventh birthday.
It was sudden. One minute she was fine, and the next her heart had stopped. She had an irregular heartbeat, and due to some roll of the dice, on that day, her heart failed. It was an awful, terrible moment in my life. Nothing that has happened to me since, or will happen to me in the future, will rival the pain that my family and I felt on that day.
Time doesn’t wait for anyone though, so I needed a way to cope. The only thing I really had for me to escape to was an Xbox. I would come home from school and flatly ignore the homework I was assigned, opting instead to play hours of Need for Speed, Halo 2, and Jet Set Radio Future. I was lost in life, it felt like my whole world had been shattered in an instant. I mean…who expects something like that to happen, with no warning, no mental preparation at all. Regardless, I was experiencing escapism at its finest, and I accepted the nature of that relationship for a while.
Later in the year, I reached a critical juncture. It was September, and I was still incredibly depressed. I hadn’t really spent time with my family in months, we were like ships passing in the night, each one of us too focused on getting back to normal when we could have been with each other. Some of us were doing better than others, but It was clear that out of all of us, I was taking it the hardest.
Then, and it’s honestly a small thing really, my dad brought home a copy of Halo 3 from the store on launch day. Halo had been something that my brothers and I had bonded over many times in the past, and now with this new game, we were all excited again. We started playing through the campaign in co-op mode, just having a good time playing with each other and cracking jokes for what seemed like the first time in forever. It was incredible. For a moment, laughter took he place of grief, and saving the world with my brothers was the only thing I was focused on. It was incredible, and the idea was planted in my brain that videogames have an unreal power connect people that is unmatched by any other medium.
Since then, I've realized there is a shit ton of things that video games can help with. The interactive nature and challenge inherent to videogames can make one feel like they can make a change for the better in their own life. Mastery of in game mechanics can give you a nugget of belief in yourself. Plus, the lengthy duration of most games (well, at least the ones I play) makes the experience a journey, and completing the adventure can give people real inspiration to try again in life. I know it did for me.
I’m not saying games cured the depression I was experiencing. I fell victim to severe depression for nearly 6 years after that, and still struggle with it (though to a lesser extent) today. What videogames did do for me though is allow me to cope with the loss of my mother by providing an outlet to leave it behind for a time, and once I was ready, to connect with people again. Video games encouraged me to be more social, and connect with people who shared a love for this art form. I mean, that’s why I joined this website! I love talking to all of you wonderful people about games, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. Video games truly can bring people together, no matter who we are, what we believe, or where we come from.
Well, on that final note, I’m out. There’s still daylight left, and I need to get to class! Peace to you all, and have a lovely day.