I was born on a balmy Tampa Bay mid-day in March of 1979. 1979 – right on the cusp of the birth of the eighties, just before the death of disco and the need for widespread punk rock. I was born to an era that found video games leave the arcades and enter the private homes of average Americans. I was born into a time of artistic entertainment revolution. I am a product of that artistic entertainment revolution.
It didn’t occur to me, at the time, that what we had was luxury. Games were books you could play, films that progressed based on your own ability to hit thresholds, scores of incredible 8-bit music to flow along strange loops, designed for the purpose of celebrating, informing, and motivating the player. It was amazing. It was interactive art and the power to control adventure.
It was where I went when life got too big. Many parents at the time saw the kids of my generation as escaping our problems with games when in actuality, we were coping. The world, as it always does, was changing, and rapidly. Games provided the quiet kids someplace to feel heard, provided those who were bored with the challenge of absolutely skin-curling boss difficulties, usually through upticks in speed or obstacles and gave those who felt powerless, hope and control. We weren’t escaping. We were learning to be heard, to face challenges, and find our own hope and control.
I have a vivid memory of sitting on-base housing floor, flicking my pinky nail over the corduroy of my dark green pants, my dad was playing the Creedence Clearwater Revival album, Willy and the Poor Boys. Fortunate Son came on and during the song, I absolutely wrecked Pac-Man to the point where I could finally quit the game because I wanted to, not because it defeated me. I was 5. I felt like a god. Something about that moment informed the little girl that I was that I really could do almost anything I truly worked at.
I don’t know if I can express how much that feeling shaped my existence, or how it still does, but as my tenure as your resident Game Geek, I’m certain I’ll try.
Moving along the beats of my upbringing, so many more moments like the 5-year old muttering CCR “It ain’t me, it ain’t me,” while pensively staring into the huge box of television come to mind. My memories are dotted with the anchors of moments from games: the setting of the events build up around what was happening with a controller in my hand.
I grew into ‘That Goth Girl’ on campus. Subgroups seem so second-nature to the experience of education. I did alright in school, finished strong, then walked all over obtaining two degrees in college just as I had years ago with CCR playing my victory lap around Pac-Man.
I wrote a lot. I started a band, I moved on from NES, Sega Genesis, and Play Station to Dreamcast and PS2. Games were growing up with me and seemed almost lockstep with my own development. The stories had hit their late adolescence: the angst and horror of a dying world.
My relationships grew from the fertile soil of the stories in games, and the experience of sharing that story with others. I can’t play Tekken without thinking of my dear friend Tony and my now-husband Mike. They were roommates, and bandmates, and the best mates that anyone could ever hope for. We lived literal days in the custom build Time Splitters maps, Resident Evil: Code Veronica, and Final Fantasy X, which we experienced as a trio. The three of us, cross-legged on an open futon, chuckling about the awkward way Tidus would laugh. Those days were beautiful and vital to expressing the person I am today.
Even earlier than that, my baby brother and I would play a cocktail of Legend of Dragoon and Chrono Cross while bracing for the moment when he would be off to basic training. Those games captured all of my anxiety and gave us a platform to stave off the earth-crumbling worry of the older sister who dreaded a baby brother entering into military service in the months that led up to a 9-11 world.
Later yet, right as we were figuring out whether we were soul mates or just best friends, aforementioned now-husband Mike overwrote my Xbox save of Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. I guess it was the test needed: we stayed together. If I could withstand the loss of my beautiful OP hundreds-of-hours invested Khajiit, El Tigre Diablo, our love could withstand anything.
Morrowind gave me the confidence and inspiration to enter into the world of written fiction in many ways. Something about the immersion of existing in a world populated with characters so believably real and flawed in their own humanity informed me that there was a place for stories like these. There are great works of fiction that I could point to as inspiration, but truly, the act of wandering along the canal of Balmora did more for my mind with showing me all I needed to see when I needed to see it, to see it clearly enough to construct it.
I began my career as a writer and never looked back. Through fiction, and later games, I learned to build and populate universes of possibility. I put forth a platter of worlds and trust the reader, or gamer, to see themselves among the offerings. I strive to provide the art of humanity and fret at my failings, only to grow and do better, because it matters.
Anyone willing to ingest the narrative of anything, games, books, film, song, image, should have the opportunity to see themselves in the story.
I think back to that moment where I sat on the base housing floor and smile about the child I once was. “It ain’t me, it ain’t me,” – But it IS you little one. Look, you’re doing it.
You tried and have failed but learned to carry on and win.
And so, the game goes on.