I’ve been writing for Cheat Code Central for four years, and I’ve written about all sorts of things. I’ve written about the good and bad in gaming. I’ve written about gamers, game journalists, game designers, and game publishers. I’ve seen the scandals and the controversies, and I’ve also seen the charity drives and conventions. Gaming is a complex and multi-faceted world that means a lot to a lot of different people. But today, now that the year is ending and we are all stopping to reflect on the things that mean the most to us, I figured I would take a minute to write a bit of a sappy article on a topic that I never touched before. I want to talk about what gaming means to me.
My career in gaming, oddly enough, started as a form of physical therapy. When I was young, barely even five, I was diagnosed with dysgraphia and hand tremors, as well as with several developmental problems with my fine motor skills. My doctor at the time suggested activities that would help build my hand-eye coordination, and videogames were one of them. My parents had an old Intellivision, and when the NES hit the market, after I had spent several years playing the console at my friend’s house, my parents finally got me one, and it became my main source of therapy. So before it could mean anything deeper to me, gaming was a medical tool.
In school, I was kind of the weird nerdy kid. I was taller than the other kids, a natural pacifist, got good grades, wore glasses, had an odd name, and was decently poor, a perfect combination for getting made fun of… and I did. But gaming was still a new thing back then and people who actually owned a gaming console were really rare. So if you had one, you were kind of a member of an exclusive club, and that made me feel good. While everyone made fun of me for not being the most athletic kid out there, or for having kind of outdated hand me down clothes, I was the king of the nerds when I proved I could get to level 19 on Tetris and when I showed everyone how to skip to the final world in Super Mario Bros. This lead to me making friends in a pretty hostile social environment, so gaming was also a social tool for me.
Throughout my years growing up, I became more dedicated to gaming. I had other past times of course, but gaming was the one that never faded. I got subscriptions to gaming magazines, wore gaming t-shirts, carried around gaming bags, and more, and while this only got me picked on more by who I had come to consider “the popular kids,” it gave me tons of cultural sway with the other gamers I had met. It was then that gaming became an identity. I wasn’t just a person who played games, I was a gamer. I knew what the Konami code was. I knew that Final Fantasy 3 was really Final Fantasy 6. I memorized every Goldeneye map so I could be that douchebag with the mines. Going to E3 was on my bucket list. I was proud to be someone who chose this as my selected pastime.
As time went, on I grew older, as tends to happen with human beings. In college, I held tight to my gamer identity and found even more geeks and nerds like me who had held onto that identity as a sort of safety blanket throughout their school years. We took that identity and did great things with it. We made gaming clubs, and wrote our own gaming magazines. We held tournaments and conventions. We dabbled in our own video game projects. Gaming became not just a thing we consumed, but also produced.
And those of us who were bold enough also used gaming in their educational career. They would write papers on gaming, perform studies on gaming. Games started to be a thing that we analyze, both in design and story. We would get together to discuss the finer points of the mechanics of our favorite games, while simultaneously pushing to be the best. We talked about how mechanics informed storytelling, and how genres are changing. We discussed how to make games and gaming better. We started to quote designers and authors and point out exceptional games that broke the mold of traditional design. This was when gaming became more than a hobby. Gaming became an art. It became something that we can talk about, deconstruct, and perfect, as much as any play, poem, novel, or movie.
Now, gaming is a career. While it’s still everything I said before – an identity, an art, a hobby – now it’s a thing I do for money, both on the professional gaming circuit and as a game journalist. It’s a craft I have to perfect in order to secure a safe and prosperous future. It’s a thing I have to know everything about, from the simplest mobile games to the most profound AAA releases. It’s a research subject. It’s a duty.
But at the same time, gaming has also become a cause. I’ve written several articles about how I want to see games change. Why? Because when I look back at all of what gaming has meant to me, I look at all the good it has done. Gaming helped me use my hands. It helped me find friends. It helped me discover myself. It helped me become more intelligent. It broadened my horizons and gave me the drive to create. It forged me into who I am, and I want to make sure that everyone, no matter who they are, has the same opportunity I had.
So, whenever I see something that is sure to ostracize people from the gaming community, I write about how gaming should be inclusionary. I write about how gaming is many things to many people, and no one definition is right. Whenever I see someone calling games violent murder simulators, I write about Child’s Play and Desert Bus for hope and why people should donate to them. More than anything else, gaming is now my cause. It’s something I can support. Something I can make better. Something I can devote my life to and not feel ashamed about it. That’s what gaming means to me.
What about you? What does gaming mean to you? Let us know in the comments.