The Zen of Video Games – Thanks


I recently read a post on Reddit from a gamer asking how other gamers cope with people in their lives who are anti-gaming, making ignorant comments like “I can’t for the life of me understand why you’d waste so much time with this TRASH…”, and generally being negative about gaming to the point of being poisonous. The general consensus seemed to be that the author should distance himself from these people, and I agree; not only are they not doing anything positive for him, but they are coloring his worldview by making him think the whole world sees gaming in a negative light, and that’s simply not true anymore.

I can’t stop thinking about it now….I’ve been lucky in that pretty much everyone in my life is either part of gamer culture themselves, or are understanding and accepting when it comes to my gaming – even my co-worker and my boss, both of whom are older than I am. They didn’t bat an eye when I told them I played video games in my spare time. Hell, my boss has a Wii and a 360!

Which makes him a big nerd. Unless he’s actually reading this, in which case, he’s a HUGE nerd.

Some gamers find their family a big source of opposition, but I think I’ve been lucky in that respect as well. My brother’s not a huge gamer, but he does enjoy playing games every now and then. My father seemed to share in my amusement at a lot of my games – I think I’ve mentioned he’s a pretty big Zelda fan, and he likes Resident Evil, too – and my mother might’ve wished that I spent less time playing games, but she never tried to discourage me from playing them at all. In fact, even though they’ve never really been gamers themselves, she recently bought a Wii for my father and herself. My parents have done some pretty amazing things, but I swear I’ve never been so proud.

Thinking about all this has made me realize how grateful I am. So I just wanted to share that with everyone. It would probably be smarter to save this until Thanksgiving, to time it properly, but my entire life has been a brilliant example of how to take a bad idea and run with it, so here we are. Also, this might help those of my friends who still don’t get my ‘obsession’ to understand me a little better.

Admittedly, that’s a strange goal to have.

Thank you, video games, for allowing me to explore such fantastic, unique, fully realized worlds. Searching dungeons for that ever-so-important new tool or weapon in The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past, driving the rover on strange planets in Mass Effect, taking in the wondrous sights of Skyrim, I’ve enjoyed exploring every nook and cranny of these worlds, because I always knew there would be something new or interesting to see just around the next corner.

As long as you weren’t driving for five minutes to get from one interesting thing to another, that is.

Thank you, video games, for introducing me to so many intriguing characters and species. I could write a dissertation on the characters of Silent Hill 2, and the deeper themes they reveal in their relations to each other. Magus’ Machiavellian machinations in Chrono Trigger seemingly paint him as villainous, but one’s opinion of him changes drastically when one understands why he’s done the things he’s done. And the myriad races and cultures in games like Mass Effect, World of Warcraft, and all of The Elder Scrolls games are fascinating to learn more about.

Thank you, video games, for mostly inadvertently teaching me about real-life cultures, histories, and locations. As I’ve mentioned before, Fear Effect got me interested enough in Chinese folklore to get me to do actual research on it when I was done playing the game – and many games have done this to me. Sephiroth from Final Fantasy 7 is named after a tenet in Kabbala describing the path to God. The Pandora Directive got me interested in Roswell, Area 51, and alien conspiracy theories – I don’t believe any of them, but they were interesting reads! And Medal of Honor and other WW2-era shooters contain a lot of real historical information about the war – and even feature real battles and events.

There’s always one easily excited history nerd in your gaming circle.

Thank you, video games, for providing an escape when I needed one. I’ve not had the easiest life, and even today, I occasionally play games just to get away from my troubles. After all, it’s easier to fight off entire armies single-handedly than it is to deal with your feelings about that girl who just wants to be friends. Mind you, I’m not saying this is an acceptable or healthy way to deal with these problems, I am not a psychologist, and I’m much better about it now, but still, I’m grateful that they allowed me to be someone else for a while when I needed it.

Thank you, video games, for inspiring my creative side. More and more, games are encouraging players’ creativity, from allowing them to design their own characters, their own level maps, their own logos, hell, some ‘games’ let players build their own game. I haven’t done much game modding, outside of small projects here and there, but I’ve greatly enjoyed the creative pursuits gaming has afforded me, even those cases where it wasn’t deliberate, like when I took monologues from Metal Gear Solid 2 and Tex Murphy: Overseer, and performed them at an audition or for an acting class.

Which has led to me getting to do things like this….why did I want this again?

Thank you, video games, for encouraging my intellectual side as well. Puzzles, puzzles everywhere! Some games are based entirely out of them, but most games have at least ONE mental challenge players must surpass, and I frequently get a bigger kick out of defeating them than I would for defeating an entire cruise liner full of zombies. Outsmarting a villain beats outshooting them any day of the week, in my opinion, and I’m grateful that so many video games give you the option to do just that.

Thank you, video games, for bringing me and my friends together. I have so many wonderful memories of playing so many fun games with my friends – like playing Super Mario Bros. 3 for the first time on my neighbor’s front porch. Or the night six of us decided to play NHL 11, all on the same team, and won in sudden death overtime – my brother pulled a brilliant play, getting past the defense, passing me the puck, and I one-timed it past the goalie – our celebration probably woke up the neighbors. And of course, there’s my oldest friend, Hor-Hay. We started our friendship playing Mega Man 2 together (alternating turns of course), and just last night, we had a blast playing Resident Evil 6 in split-screen co-op.

Capcom, feel free to model a character after me. As long as he gets laid before he dies, I’m cool with it. Just like real life.

Finally, thank you, video games, for teaching me things about myself – so many things, in fact, that I started writing about them in this article series, which led to being part of Leviathyn. I’ve found the staff to be warm and inviting, and I’ve enjoyed the challenge of writing regularly. Will it go anywhere? I can’t say, but even if it doesn’t, it has been a wonderfully positive experience working here, and I’d recommend it to anyone with a passion for games and a gift for the written word.