Darkness reigns outside as a small layer of fog descends on the small town of Blue Springs, Missouri. A few inches of snow canvas the ground, and small flurries keep falling gracefully from the sky. Inside a small duplex somewhere in the outskirts of the city sleeps a newly turned three year old boy dreaming of untold things. Suddenly, he wakes up and slowly creeps out of his room to see if his mother and father are still sleeping. Sure enough, he hears bear-like snoring coming from the room across the hallway, and he knows this means he has unwarranted time to spend doing whatever his heart desires. Unable to tell time, the dark skies means his parents will continue to sleep while he prowls the apartment. Instead of exploring the inner workings of the refrigerator, or messing with things his parents constantly discipline for, he creeps into the living room, turns on the television, and starts up the Nintendo Entertainment System. The cartridge isn’t working, of course, so he pulls out the Super Mario Bros. 3 cartridge, blows into the bottom of it a few times, puts it back, and sits down on the couch with a controller. The familiar music cascades the room as a small mustached man runs onto the screen. For the next few hours, this young boy’s imagination is going to run rampart with goombas, pipe travels, princesses, fireballs, and small “ding” sounds.
This was my first experience with video gaming. I’m not sure if I ever received any discipline or paid any reparations for spending the overnights playing video games, but I do remember countless hours in front of the television with that small controller in my hand. Funny enough, I remember never understanding exactly how the game worked, but I was always fascinated with be able to control the characters in the game.
When I was a little older and had a better appreciation and understanding of video games, my father bought me an original GameBoy and a Sega Genesis. I immediately started playing every game I got on both systems with fervor. Games like Sonic the Hedgehog, Mario, Mortal Kombat, and Jurassic Park filled my mind with imaginative scenes of grandeur. I played games with motorcycle races, Power Rangers, elves, aliens, and warfare. Each game was a different form of incredible art that allowed me to exit the real world and integrate myself into the lives of these pixelated characters. Video games were not only an escape, but a form of entertainment that allowed me to be active in its story, rather than a viewer.
As I grew older and my parents divorced, we never had a lot of money to spend fruitlessly on video game consoles. As many people know, consoles, and eventually computers, kept gradually raising in price as the years and the technology advanced. I eventually received a Playstation 2 from my family, but this console, along with the older Nintendo 64, would be my plateau for many years. Around the age of 12, I would spend entire days during the summer hunting down every last star in Super Mario 64. Enduring countless broken controllers, I would suffer through the temples and puzzles of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Immersing myself in space, I would destroy ship after ship in Starfox, only to start running around and jumping on enemies in Crash Bandicoot later that day. However, the Playstation 3 would eventually release, and my mouth would salivate with the prospect of playing a game with advanced graphics, technological wonders in gameplay, and exciting new mechanics. But why was I becoming so excited for something that I didn’t really get to share with other people? My dad would join me for a game of baseball from time to time, but nobody else really played games with me.
Video games, I’ve come to find in my adult years, are less about sharing with other people, and more about the things they make you feel. Now, with current gaming consoles, powerful computers, and the myriad of games on the market, it has become more prevalent than ever to play games with other people. However, I truly believe that certain types of games should be experienced the same way a movie is absorbed; alone and intimately.
Have you ever watched a movie by yourself where the movie, or moments therein, was so intense that you sat on the edge of your seat and found yourself completely immersed in that world? Every video game with a built in campaign is like that nowadays. I have strayed away from the world of console gaming and find myself only playing games on PC now. Just recently I played a game called Valley where a man goes in search of something called the “Lifeseed”. This “lifeseed” is said to be born from an ancient magical tree and has the power to destroy as well as provide life. On the character’s travels, you will find a suit that gives you extraordinary running speed, jumping power, and the ability to provide and take life at the click of a button. Much like movies, the music, the narrative, the cinematography, the dialogue, the voice actor choices, and the graphics make or break the game. This beautiful game was short, but the eight hours it took me to complete were some of the finest hours I’ve spent in recent memory. Throughout this game, I found myself engrossed so heavily in the story and characters that I was teary eyed at moments that would not be considered emotionally sad. It was a piece of art like I’ve never seen.
Even though video games have received a lot of hate throughout our storied history, one prevailing aspect of these games will always stand out: their art form is like nothing else out there. Some people may call me a huge nerd. Others might say I’m a loner that spends too much time in my bedroom rather than out socializing and making friends. Perhaps others believe I am wasting my life by playing video games late into the night. Even though these all may hold some form of truth, I can’t help but chuckle at these attempted insults. I don’t play video games because I am unable to socialize. I don’t play games because I have nothing better to do. I spend my free time immersed into something bigger and greater than myself. Experiencing these worlds and actively taking a role in the character’s involvement within them is as close to living out a fantasy as I’ll ever get.
Regardless of how others feel about games, one truth will always dominate my psyche. No matter how bad life has gotten or how depressing my current situation is, I will always be able to sit down, load up a game, and visualize a life outside of my own. Regardless of the sadness in my heart, video games will always provide a flickered spark of hope in my dreams. I would not be the man I am today, whether that be good or bad, without the wonderful world of video gaming.
(Below I will list some screen names, gamer tags, and other gaming related stuff for me if anybody would ever like to join me in my games)
League of Legends: JayhawkJazzy