It all began when I was a child. I was given an original Game Boy by my gamer uncle at the age of 2 and I was hooked instantly (although I don’t recall knowing how to win the games, I just enjoyed fiddling with the buttons and causing the tiny box to make noise). My parents, being casual gamers themselves, liked the idea of exposing their young daughter to their world. I have vivid memories of sitting on my parents’ bed and watching my mother play Sonic on the Sega Genesis my uncle had lent her.
I graduated to the N64 and Game Boy Color over the coming years, and although I was occasionally teased by the older boys on the block for liking “boy things”, my friend and I whooped them every chance I got. Pokemon cards, Mario Kart, marbles: you name it, we owned them in it. I’ve always been stubborn and driven, so when they would tell me not to do something, naturally I wanted to do it. This continued throughout the years and carries on today.
When I reached middle school, the bullying really started to pick up. I was called every name in the book for my gaming habit and for the way I looked. Having just moved 50 miles away from where I grew up and knowing no one in this scary new place, I had no one to turn to for comfort besides my family and my games. I immersed myself in the fantasy worlds and realized that by symbolically destroying bosses, I was destroying the negative things in my life.
My games became ego boosts as well as life lessons. My confidence began to grow and by the time I moved on to high school, I was bouncing off “freak” and “nerd” comments like they weren’t even being said. My friends and I were all part of that “nerd” culture and, although we were the isolated table in the back of the cafeteria, everyone knew us and would talk to us albeit secretly about things they liked. Some of the sportsy guys that gave us a hard time in English would talk to us about the new episode of Yu Yu Hakusho or Rurouni Kenshin on our way out to the track during gym. All the same, some of the popular girls that were too good to say hi to us in the hallway would occasionally come to us asking how to play this or that game to impress this guy they fancied. To me, gaming had always been my life so to spread the love was a duty.
College came and went, stress along with it, but through it all I managed to continue my habit of projecting my struggles onto the antagonists of the games I played as well as genuinely feel good about the thank you’s I received from NPCs after I had saved Azeroth from yet another disaster. Believe it or not, I actually scored higher points on papers due to the vocabulary I had picked up from various games over the years. Professors loved that I (as one of my favorite professors put it) “used terms with complete understanding of their meaning”, although I wouldn’t admit to them that I learned those pretty, big words from killing a dragoness or running from demon-hellspawn.
I graduated with honors in May of 2014 and currently plan on getting my master’s degree. All the while, I plan to continue using games as my outlet and my teacher. Sometimes the simplest side quest can open your mind to situations in ways you never thought possible.
So in a way, I suppose I game because I can and because it helps me achieve my goals one way or another. I can’t even fathom how different my life would be without the skills I learned by gaming or from hanging out with fellow gamers.