Mario Sleeve

Video Game Tattoos: To Ink, Or Not To Ink?

“You must really love playing games.”

“You’re pretty serious about this stuff, aren’t you?”

When we as gamers think of self-expression, we understand our statements can vary from the insane to the timid on a very short scale. I, a once-fearful fanatic, tragically used to believe that my video game individuality was best left locked away like a caged animal. The older I get, the more ironic it occurs to me that I love everything about what I do when it comes to video games. Some may call that sad that grown adults could devote so much of themselves to what is generally considered child’s play. Truthfully, games may just be the reason why we seek to let loose the chains of our true character. While it’s easy to recognize our passion, finding an idea of a suitable form of expression can be tricky. Not to mention that not pursuing it could cause serious regret.

Of course, there are those who, upon finding the courage to take our gaming leap of faith, make take radical measures to honor our personal truths. I can’t even begin to explain how many times in a day that I reach out to shake someone’s hand and can’t help but feel my own heart in my throat. I notice that the other shaker’s line of sight usually takes aim on our hands immediately on contact. It is in that moment that my tension breathes life. In that moment, I’m positive my visitor catches something that they probably didn’t expect to see. In a basic black color outline, they find what appears to be 4 simple shapes in a diamond pattern permanently printed on the inside of my wrist just below my palm.

PS Buttons

Just under a year ago, I stepped into a tattoo parlor for the first time with the intention of being a paying customer. I had been to a slew of different ink shops around the area prior to then, watching friends commit designs to their bodies without hesitation. My own wife had even had her first tattoo done long before I had ever imagined that I would ever end up deciding that I was ready to get one. I’ve always considered myself a run-of-the-mill geeky pop culture generalist, so the subject matter always seemed open game, although I felt myself getting drawn back to gaming every time I ever thought about what I would want for a tattoo. Coupled with the fascination and exoticism that body art has instilled in me over the years, I honestly felt like it was only a matter of time before I ultimately pulled the trigger on deciding to get a worthy gaming tattoo.

It only seemed natural, as Sony’s line of PlayStation consoles are the machines that I’ve had the most face time with, ergo the deepest appreciation. Though not trying to be overly dramatic, I can honestly say that labeling me as a gaming enthusiast would be an understatement. For as long as I can remember, video games have been a universal constant. I was fortunate to have an upbringing that never saw any flaw in letting me play, so long as real world responsibilities took precedence when applicable. I may not have been born with a controller with my hand but I might as well have. I can’t even think of the last day when I didn’t try to at least get in half an hour’s worth of screen time or just hit the sticks for sanity’s sake.

I’d like to think that my tattoo serves me best as a totem.

Speaking in a symbolic sense, my tattoo reminds me that no matter how serious life can get, I can remember the comfort that these shapes have given me. I know that something that feels as insignificant as plastic buttons in a video game controller doesn’t typically equate to the kind of memorial or ideology that people associate with tattoo art. When we think tattoos, we think names. We think places. Dates. Portraits. Loves. Obsessions. For others, even for introverts such as myself, these kind of tattoos are a social barrier conquered. If we fear expressing ourselves verbally, then why not eliminate a step and just show the world that, pun intended, we wear our hearts on our sleeves? For whatever reason, gamers should not be afraid to let their flags fly by whatever means considered.


Sure, there will always be detractors that have a disdain for video game tattoos. They may do their damnedest to ensure that you somehow feel regretful for your decisions. They may question your resolve to believe that, some years down the line, you may mature in a way that leaves you heartbroken that you ever decided to permanently tag a Master Chief or Mario portrait to your skin. They may call you foolish for ever idolizing what they deem as fuel for violent youths or childish adults. We live in an imperfect world where we as gamers are just another caste of society that is inevitably judged by those that deem themselves superior.

Therein lies the kicker.

Just like another group or culture, we wish to do with ourselves what we see as fit to express our adulation. More often than not, reactions to my tattoo have been positive and I revel in it. It speaks volumes for me in situations where I may not be entirely willing or comfortable enough to open up. I’ve had more than my fair share of interactions where I can tell that it steals focus from my audience. If my word cannot be heard then at least I will be remembered. Do I want to be remembered as a gaming guy? How could I possibly be sure that any of it actually leaves a positive impression?

Will I ever regret mine? Doubtful. Have I cursed myself to never being taken as serious or professional? I don’t tend to think so based on how life has played out up to this point. Just like any other circumstance or situation that may bare long-lasting effects, the go-to “mileage may vary” warning is the battle you must wage.

That isn't Sharpie on his wrist.

That isn’t Sharpie on his wrist.

If I wasn’t here at Leviathyn doing something I love as much as writing while writing about a subject I love as much as video games, do you honestly believe I would ever question my decision to emblazon myself? My tattoo is a tribute to the joy those buttons have given me in the past and the exuberance to what remains of my life that they have yet to bestow. Are gaming tattoos nonsensical? Absolutely not. Gamer tattoos shouldn’t fall into any particularly special category of judgement outside of the varied opinions that already befall tattooing in general. Someone once told me, “The most unhappy people in this world are the people who care the most about what everyone else thinks.”

By that logic, I’m the happiest gamer I know.

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