Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live within the world that is being displayed on your screen? The wish to, literally, jump into the games that help us escape from everyday life is a common trope amongst gamers, myself included.
Well, what happens when instead of ignoring your current reality and diving into a new and better digital one you instead take the bits and pieces of the worlds that you love and injected them into your everyday life?
Throughout this article, I want to share with you how my life has become like the games and t.v. shows that defined my childhood and how they have both improved and broadened how I experience every aspect of my life.
The first console I ever played on was the original NES from Nintendo. I played Duck Hunt and Mario, a lot because they were the only games we could afford at the time. I remember that when I played those games I felt a sense of joy seeing my score rise or beating a tricky stage, but also imagining the world in which these characters lived was exciting. When I got older and I got the Nintendo 64, the graphics jumped out of the screen, and the colors exploded right in front of me, at that moment I knew I was hooked. I wanted to be the warrior or mage that could mow down hordes of enemies with a sword or magic. I wanted to pilot the spaceships and explore the planets that inhabited these universes. But, of course, these are games, they aren’t real. I can’t cast magic, I can’t fly off into space whenever I wanted, yet, so I had to live vicariously through the characters on screen.
It wasn’t until the PlayStation from Sony came about that I think I started to emulate the characters in my everyday life. I remember getting Final Fantasy 7 and since we didn’t have a memory card at the time we left the game running all night, so we wouldn’t lose our progress. I would stare at the screen and watch my party of adventurers standing there. Their portraits looked so cool and strong, despite the pixelated graphics of the time and I wanted to be like them. I remember some days all I really wanted was to be them.
My days rotated around when I would go to school and act a bit like them or ask myself what would He do at this moment? How would She solve this problem? How would They cast magic and summon the power of nature itself to hit this kid for making fun of me? Needless to say, I was a strange kid for quite a while. Lots of arm-waving and making sound effects while I ran around.
When I became a teenager in high school I went through an identity crisis like most kids my age but, instead of trying to figure out what kind of person I wanted to be, I was reeling from the thought that I had no “me” and that, in truth, I was a collection of different characters from across different universes. I would ask myself did I even have a personality, to begin with? Did I create a 2D persona based on the characters I grew up with? The answer is… yes. I took the best parts of my favorite characters: a strong moral code, adaptability, caring for others, loyalty to my friends, and other such quirks. I emulated them because I thought they would be awesome to pretend to be and much better than whatever answer I, myself, might come up with.
See, I struggled with who I was for so long that it wasn’t until I looked back on my life as an adult and realized that I wasn’t emulating the games and t.v. shows anymore. I truly believed myself to be like these characters and I accepted that they molded me into the person I am today. The video games of my life didn’t corrupt me. I learned that the villains weren't strictly always bad, the good guys had to struggle and went through rough days. I took those worlds I immersed myself into and the lessons they taught me made my reality make sense to me. I saw the good guys and the bad guys in everyone and I saw how I could help or redeem both myself and others, through games.
Through video games, I became a better person. Through emulation, practice, listening, and understanding, I grew my own persona that I love and wanted to be. In the end, I no longer wanted to be like my characters. Instead, I now want to be more like me. The “me” who grew up loving games and now accepts how they affect my everyday life in the most positive ways imaginable.