Tyson's Story - Blockbuster and Basketball

Blockbuster and Basketball

A Story by Tyson Hinz

Friday afternoons in the classroom could never tick by fast enough and with each hopeful glance at the mechanical clock on the wall, that no doubt took pride in taunting us, we would all eventually be set free. I’d rush home as quick as humanly possible and wait patiently for my parents to arrive home from work. My weekends consisted of one common ritual: video games.

Once my parents arrived at home we would make the exciting trek down to Blockbuster. We would part ways upon entering the building; they would head for the new releases and I would make a beeline to the games aisle to select my Friday night entertainment. At this point in time, the internet was still a budding space and the existence of online reviews for games were limited. Without this kind of guidance, my selection was a toss-up between the latest sports game or if I was brave enough, I’d risk it and chose a game based on how intricate the cover was.

Now I’ve selected my game and, if I was lucky, some overpriced snacks. It was time to hunker down and start playing. Again, given the time, I couldn’t just put my disk or cartridge in my console just yet. I’d have to call my friends houses (R.I.P. to the landline) and politely ask their parents if my friend was free to save the world from alien invasion this evening.

Video games have always been a hobby of mine, and perhaps in some alternate universe I would admit to logging too many hours, but the friendships that rest comfortably on the foundation of Friday night video games is unbreakable. That feeling of being able to invite some of your friends over to feast on a pile of snacks and become NBA champions or save the world, well this sensation never quite loses its lustre. Though most of the time the games did not exactly meet our expectations, I would rather play a terrible game with my friends than a good game all alone. These evenings had a unique way of bringing a group of seemingly very different people together to bond over a shared interest and as we have all physically gotten older and our lives have taken us all in different directions, video games seem to be the consistent thread holding our friendships together.

I was fortunate enough to spend the last three years living in Europe playing professional basketball and there were many incredible perks to this experience, but as you might imagine living on your own on the other side of the world makes it challenging to connect with your friends back home. Don’t get me wrong, today’s technology makes talking with your friends across the ocean a lot simpler, but the time difference and busy schedules provided its own set of challenges for sustaining these friendships. Most of my teammates would have the occasional Skype call with their friends back home so they could catch-up but aside from my parents, I don’t think I used Skype once. Instead, I would fire off a message to a group my friends back home to pencil in a gaming session on my off day, which usually fell on a Sunday. We may not have all been crammed in the same basement, we may not have ordered a pizza to snack on while we played, and we may not have been able to play the whole night like we did as kids, but that same feeling of camaraderie and enjoyment was still there. While playing whatever game was on the docket for that night, we would have the chance to catch up on each other’s lives, joke about the latest dumb online memes and recreate some of that childhood excitement, if only for a little while.

Now that I’m back in Canada, I often do the same thing with my old teammates back in Europe, and while we’re playing our chosen game for the evening I can’t help but feel this immense joy knowing that these friendships, though brief in person, will not disappear just because I’ve moved back home.

Contrary to popular belief, video games have always been more than just a solo experience in a dimly lit room, locked away from the world. They are so much more than that. They are about connection, communication, and of course entertainment. And like most things in life, it is about shared experiences because it is more memorable and meaningful to share an adventure with someone than to venture off into this artificial world alone. 

Though the future of gaming is unpredictable, the ability to develop and sustain friendships through intricate puzzles and missions will no doubt remain the same.