Video games for me are the ultimate form of real life disconnection. This could be dangerous at some times since we could pass by important events of our life, but when its used as a medium to cope with life changing events or hard times, I dare say its the most powerful tool we have as emotional human beings. Now, I'm a very emotional guy, enough to get watery eyes when I see a very well done CGI or when powerful moments happen in the stories we all love and cherish since the day we played that game that defined our future as gamers. I would never forget seeing the opening of FF VIII or the title screen of A Link to the Past and how my heart felt so calm and cozy.
Now, there have been hard moments in my life where video games have made the difference or even when life changing events like my parent's divorce or that moment when the girl I liked said no in high school made some games be tattooed to my heart forever. Its interesting to think that opening my heart in the way I'm about to do 10 years ago would have only gotten me bullied or called nerd, or whatever, but today the form of entertainment we fondly know as video games is part of everyday life, we see gamification in schools with tasks and reward systems, at jobs, exercise apps, etc. We see grannies playing Angry Birds or even hardcore AAA games like GTAV. There is a little bit of gamer in everyone nowadays, even without they noticing sometimes.
But cutting to the point of this article...and sorry for the wall of text...
JAWS - My Parents Divorce (7 Years Old)
Jaws wasn't that great of a NES game, but I had it since when I was this old I wasn't even deciding what I was going to play. Mom came from the US with about 20 games for the NES which included Punch Out, Ninja Gaiden, Burai Fighter, Thundercade, Dragon Spirit, 1943 and others I can't even remember well. At that point my Dad and I had a family tradition of going every weekend to rent 2 or 3 more NES games, so basically I played countless hours of NES games, but Jaws, a game that I didn't really liked much, which was very punishing an repetitive for a 7 year old kept me coming back to play it. You see, when I was 7 my Dad came to me one day and said he was leaving to make some money to the US as a Doctor, which he did, but little did I know that he was actually leaving me and my Mom. Time passed and well he didn't come back (today I have an amazing relationship with my dad and I went to visit him to US every vacations I had), and for some strange reason JAWS helped me through that time as a kid, I was in pain for not seeing my dad and my mom not knowing how to be mom and dad at the same time. Now I understand that this punishing game that I never finished was actually my way of saying I've lost something important in the same way I keep loosing in this stupid game. JAWS helped me understand that loosing was part of life, and I'm being totally serious here, at 7 you don't get much of whats happening, but I knew I was bound to loose other stuff in life...and I was ok with that...
Here is the final battle of JAWS which I never saw as a kid...
TLOZ A Link to the Past - The Game That Made Me a Gamer (10 or 11 Years Old I think)
If yo've been gaming as long as I have, you know how the title screen of this game goes, first the triforce pieces come flying with their particular and beautiful sound then the title of the game appears and finally the master sword falls, the music rolls in and Hyrule Castle shows in the background...you can watch it here...
Now, this game is my Favorite Zelda, and probably in my top 3 games of all time with Xenogears and Symphony of the Night. But A Link to the Past did something in me...it changed me.
It was summer vacations and I was visiting my Dad in Miami, he bought this game for me in a time when I was choosing what to play or not based on Gamepro and Nintendo Power, the moment I started this game, its difficult to explain, but I knew at that precise moment that I was going to play video games all my life. I was totally ok with the divorce, in fact in a way I liked it because I always looked foward to vacations in Miami, my paradise where dad bought games as if they were candy, even when times were difficult he would get me at least one. I will never forget that I made a scene when we were at a mall and I saw Megaman X, I cried because he told me I could not have it, there was no money, but I cried so damn much, than he said in spanish "COÑO HIJO YA LO VOY A COMPRAR CARAJO" which roughly translates to "GOD DAMMIT SON I WILL BUY IT". I got home and guess what? He disciplined me hard, which thought me that can't have everything I want when I want it (well I have learned that around 70%, its still hard)
But back to Zelda, the magnitude of the quest, seeing Link in 16bits for the first time really defined me as someone who would never stop playing games. Things in Panama with my mom were not that great, there wasn't much money, she was a bit grumpy and I was starting to become a problematic kid, in fact if it wasn't for video games I'm pretty sure I would have turned out a worst person than what I've turned to be, I mean, I'm ok but I did give a lot of headaches to my parents growing up, but video games set a standard in my life, I got drunk a lot, but I preferred playing that video game I was waiting to be released way more than going to a Club or doing drugs or whatever I was doing on each step of my life.
A Link to the Past was a game I finished in one sit, 24 hours of gaming, no walkthroughs, no nothing, just a kid with a desire stronger than food, sleep or bathroom breaks that needed to consume this masterpiece or die trying I guess...
Final Fantasy VIII - The Broken Heart Solution (14 or 15)
You got to understand where I'm coming from, I was a Nintendo kid until this point. A dear friend of mine told me, Johan you are missing out, PS1 has amazing games called rpgs, I had no idea what he was talking about, although I had heard of Final Fantasy I never actually played any on NES or SNES, except for FFVI (my favorite FF). I did not had a PS1 so he let me borrow his just to finish this game. When the intro played, tears came out of my eyes, I had no idea what was wrong but the beauty of the CGI made me understand this was the path to a new world. Robust stories, deep characters and hundreds of hours of gameplay opened the path to rpgs, I suddenly found myself devouring every ps1 rpg I could an emulating the SNES ones I missed.
But how did this game helped? Well I got rejected by the girl I liked..or actually I never had the confidence to tell her I liked her. I got into a depression and well went all emo on life. But this game distracted me so much from this life experience and at the end it gave me hope somehow, when I saw Rinoa kiss Squall at the end, I somehow felt there was someone for me out there...and there was, I'm happily married with a beautiful wife and the cutest baby ever.
I will keep writing about this on a second part, believe me it gets more powerful, almost dying, drugs, loosing my first unborn child, leaving church and other life events in which video games where there to help, to give me hope and carry my to the next chapter of my life...I'm sure there will always be a special game in every chapter I live through.