'My Gaming Experience' ~ by AJ Forrisi
Exploring what video games mean to me and my connection to them
Several years ago, on my birthday, I wrote an article in honor of national video game day. It’s a pretty cool feeling having an entire day dedicated to the honoring of video games. In a society that vilifies video games, saying that they are the reasons kids today are “lazy, violent, or unmotivated,” having a day to represent a corner stone in gaming is a great feeling. It’s good to know that there is a piece of society that respects what video games are and what they do for individuals. How groups of people can bond and grow socially together when they can’t go out and physically be with others. I’ve met some of my closest friends, simply because of video games. I’ve learned new hobbies, explored new cultures, read new books; all because of video games. And that article that I wrote way back in 2017 highlighted some of my favorite video games (as of that time).
Today, my readers, I would love to revisit that topic, because some of my games have changed. But I’d also love to touch on the topic of what gaming means to me first. Gaming touches a piece of our souls, each in a different way; and as someone who comes from a heavy fiction background, gaming almost came second nature. Now, if you’ve read my previous article, you’ll know that I consider myself a bit of “an imposter” in the gaming community. I tried my hand at the First-Person Shooters like Call of Duty and Overwatch but had very little success. I found my home in third-person role playing games (RPGs). But what made me find my home here?
Like I said, I came from a fiction background. I read heavily. Whether it’s a long novel, a graphic novel, or even some poetry (though not as much as I’d like), I read predominantly fiction works. And the genres vary from realistic fiction, young adult fiction, fantasy, horror, thriller, and mystery. When I first started gaming, roughly around 6 years ago, I was young and in college, and really didn’t know much about gaming. Yes, when I was a kid, I played Pokémon, had a DS, and played ALL of the Mario games. I had a PlayStation 1 and 2, played guitar hero, Tomb Raider, Siphon Filter, Tiny Tank, and the list goes on. But of course, as an 8-year-old, I wasn’t particularly good at any of them and I really never appreciated the stories behind them. I had no idea the small nuances each character had; each in-depth personality these characters had. Now, I am looking at all of these old games through the lens of nostalgia, but I digress. I never had the full understanding of how GOOD these games actually were.
Fast forward to freshman year of college, when my younger brother decided to ask for PlayStation 4, with the Call of Duty package, so that he can play with his friends. I walk into a comic-bookstore in Brooklyn, New York and find my first game, Bloodborne. The Victorian era hack and slash piqued my curiosity. So, at the low price of $19.99, I grabbed the game, ran home, and spent HOURS in the character customizer. And then spent every free moment playing this game. I fell in love with the hidden story behind the game, the characters who bled pieces of the story for me to figure out, the small pieces of lore hidden in items and boss fights. Bloodborne became a puzzle for me to solve. I spent about a year and a half playing it 3 times to platinum the game, and it was worth every hour.
I then would discover The Witcher III, Horizon Zero Dawn, The Dark Souls Trilogy, Ghost Recon, WatchDogs 2, and most recently Days Gone and Red Dead Redemption II. The story behind each game felt as if I was playing a novel. I was living the story through each character, going through their emotions, living their lives as they would. Learning each character’s backstory and nuances. What made Geralt tick? Why was Deacon as guarded as he was? Who was Marcus? What was going on in post-apocalyptic Colorado? I played for hours and hours, fighting to platinum each of these games because at the core of it, I KNEW there was a story deeper that I needed to figure out. I loved finding that hidden easter egg that connected one game to another (two of those games are referenced here, though I won’t drop the connection, comment if you’ve figured it out).
I loved pushing through each story and discovering the secret twist. Or the foreshadowing at the beginning of the game that only came out in the DLC I would buy later for the game. I would love the twists and turns in each story, both in the plot and the emotional ride they would give me (I’m looking at you Red Dead Redemption II. You had NO right. NO RIGHT!). Some games definitely left some scars (still glaring at you RDR2), for future games. But it was all part of the experience I come to love with each game. Becoming so attached to the story and the outcome of each story made each game feel almost real to me. It would give me that connection to a story that I really don’t feel with many novels or even some real-life interactions.
Each game had such unique stories and characters that I found a way to fall in love with.
And that brings me to my next point:
Through my reading journeys I have met a host of phenomenal characters that I fell in love with and would have loved to spend time in their worlds. But I’ve also met a host of characters that were as flat as the pages they were on. These video game characters all fall into the first category of characters.
With some of my games came some of my favorite characters: Geralt of Rivia, Aloy, Deacon St. John, and Arthur Morgan. Yes, I have said that Bloodborne, the Dark Souls Trilogy, and Ghost Recon were my favorite games, but those characters were all personal creations and really didn’t have “personality.” They hold a special place because I created them and built my own storyline with them. But the characters I started with, all became personal favorites because of the personalities attached to them. It made them feel like people I could relate to, look up to, and admire. Yes, Arthur Morgan and Deacon St. John are arguably characters one should NOT look up to, but I still loved their personalities all the same.
And with video games, I have the chance to step into their world and interact as each character. I get to hear them speak as if I was standing next to them and wondering through their world. I would be hanging out and sword fighting with Geralt, or Freaker hunting with Deacon. I could be riding across the plains with Arthur. Their personalities would make me laugh when they were witty or sarcastic. Arthur and Geralt’s wit and sass fueled hours of me thinking about how I could use that in my day-to-day vernacular. Aloy’s curiosity got me thinking more about the world I live in and the adventures I could explore when I leave home. Deacon’s courage, bravery, and persistence fueled me to constantly drive and fight for what I wanted and what I felt was right. I spent hours in each game world, bonding with fictional characters and finding comfort in each character. And just like with the stories, I’ve become so attached to these characters.
This isn’t something I would come to find out during my game play. Like I said earlier, I don’t play online video games. And I will preface this section with saying this, there are communities in gaming that are incredibly toxic, especially in online gaming. There can be a lot of shaming and a lot of bullying. I’m not a particularly good gamer, especially because I’ve spent hours on levels that most would probably consider “easy,” and the last thing I would want is to be bullied by some keyboard troll, who is probably suffering from their own host of insecurities. And that’s part of the reason I’ve stayed out of online gaming. I go into each game to escape the world I live in and dive into each story and bond with characters and feel what they feel. But there are people who are genuinely friendly and love gaming for the same reasons I do. And that was something I found MUCH later on.
While on a Facebook post about the CDPR game Gwent, I found a message from a guy who was struggling through The Witcher III expansions. Me, being a Witcher veteran at this point, replied to his comment, saying he could message me anytime with questions and I’ll provide something of a walkthrough to help him play. That started a bond with someone half across the world. Every day I’d receive messages about how to fight this boss, or which path he should take. Eventually when his Witcher journey ended, I would suggest some of my other favorite games and he would suggest his. We would play games and talk about what we were doing and our struggles in each game. I will admit, there were times I wouldn’t reveal all to him, and he’d get a little angry because there was a boss when I said there wasn’t, but I wasn’t about to ruin a surprise for him! He’d thank me in the end, and I would direct him on how best to fight the boss and we’d laugh about it later.
But the best connection I found was with my brother. Since getting the PS4, we found something else to deeply bond over. A lot of the games I’ve played have been in tandem with him, and we’d laugh hysterically over a glitch that sent a character flying across the map, we’d battle it out in a match of NHL or Super Smash Bros. We’d take turns finding power stars in other Mario games. I’d sit and watch him play different games and we’d laugh about a scene or joke about the characters. Gaming was never a cornerstone in my house, but now for us, it’s become a centerpiece.
To each of us, gaming holds a special place in our souls. Whether it’s for the story and the characters like myself, or it’s just a meaningful escape from the daily grind, we can all agree that gaming has a special meaning to us. I’d love to hear what makes gaming special to each of you. Drop a comment below with why gaming is important to you, or with what connections gaming has opened for you.
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