I game because it relaxes me but also inspires me. I was a costume design student before I had to leave school for health and finance reasons and for me, gaming and by extension cosplay help me to continue to practice doing what I love and keep sharp. Gaming also is a constantly growing, innovative field of art that is continuously improving its views on gender, race, sexuality, etc. It is a living, breathing concept and one that is interactive.
In gaming, I can find characters that I relate to, Bioware in particular. Bioware creates some of the most relatable, in depth characters I have ever had the privilege of getting to know. There is Sera who shows unabashed the raw, unlovely side of someone who struggles with mental illness but at the same time is fun and vibrant and shown to be absolutely worthy of being loved and being a trusted ally. There is Merrill who is outcast from her friends and family for doing what she can to try and help them and learns that she will be alright on her own, that she has friends who care about her and accept her and that she is strong and doesn’t need to give up who she is to be accepted. There is Leliana who overcomes immense trauma and betrayal only to become one of the strongest, most devoted and forward moving characters I’ve ever seen, and finally…finally there’s Tali’Zorah Vas Normandy from Mass Effect, I have never identified with a character more in my life.
When I first started playing Mass Effect, I was going through a rough patch of my life, I was deep in untreated depression and suffering from EDNOS. I was also dealing with a weak immune system which I’ve had all my life and a family that was very busy and very high up in a lot of social circles that expected a lot of me. When I played Mass Effect, I found this intelligent, determined, brave young woman who shared a lot of my own troubles but also personality traits my friends and family told me I had as well, good ones, like will power and inner strength. As I played through the series, I came to identify immensely with Tali, more than any other character. This identification pushed me to go get help and to put myself forward to help others as well, to become a leader.
In the four years I’ve played the game, I am making huge strides in recovery as well as being part of a great support system of amazing friends and fellow gamers/cosplayers I met entirely through Mass Effect and other Bioware games. I would say without videogames, particularly Bioware games, I might not have had to push I needed to save myself.