James' Story - A Relationship in Flux
A Gamer Story by James Whiteside
When I was first asked about how video games have impacted me, I tried to recall my first memory of playing a video game but, despite my efforts, I was unable to think of what it was. However, this led me to think about all the experiences that I’ve had playing video games, so I’ve decided to tell my story chronologically.
I remember the day my mom took my brother and I to the St. Jacob’s market and she bought me a GameBoy Color from one of the vendors there. It was a limited edition one that’s body colour was silver, and it had Pikachu and Pichu on the sides of it. She also purchased Pokémon Yellow for me which I soon took to school and obsessively played. Having no concept of Pokémon types I recall relentlessly using thunder shock on Brock’s Onix to no avail. With the help of another kid at school, I was able to beat the first gym leader.
Fast forward a few years my brother and I have a GameCube and our mom would only let us rent one video game per week. We had gotten into the habit of renting Pokémon Colosseum and playing it for seven hours straight until our mom would come downstairs and turn off the console. We’d lose all of our progress because we didn’t have enough memory on our memory card to make a save file. That GameCube connected my brother and I as we would try to take down games together like James Bond Under Fire or Sonic Adventure 2 Battle. It remained that way for a while until I started to diverge a bit from my brother. While he’d want to do something different like play mini sticks, I’d want to play video games. I remember that at that time I wasn’t happy, so I tried to use video games to at least make myself feel a bit better. I would keep playing them until I got into a state of numbness. A state where my mind would be so encapsulated with the game that it didn’t matter what was going on in my life. The reason was because I felt like I stuck out I was tall, overweight, mixed race (to which everyone would comment on), and my parents were separated. Not to mention the fact that attending Spanish mass with my brother just highlighted the fact that we aren’t native Spanish speakers. At the time, I just didn’t have anyone to relate to in ways that were both fundamental to my identity and my living situation.
However, as time passed, I found that my circle of friends expanded, and I would play video games with my new friends. We did other things of course, but video games were always a cornerstone in my friendships. Soon enough I was playing Super Smash Bros. Brawl (SSBB) with my next-door neighbours and brother for 5 hours at a time. I remember that we would play one of the Metroid maps where lava would fill the screen and we would all scream at the top of our lungs as it happened, even though we all knew that the lava hitting our characters wasn’t the end of the world. The sessions would usually end with my mom kicking all of us out of my house as she complained about electricity usage and forced us to go outside.
High school was when I was playing video games the most, no doubt the result of the abundance of free time that I had. I’d find myself wondering sometimes if I put the same amount of time that I put into video games into anything else if I could’ve gotten good at something like guitar, trombone, or basketball. Later on, in the midst of high school, some combination of three of my friends online or two friends online and a friend at my house or my brother would play COD Zombies non-stop. We’d discuss strategies, talk, argue, and inevitably would I’d be on the verge of death I’d beg for my friends to come save me. I remember one time after we had all played Zombies for about 3 hours or so, I asked my friends if they wanted to come over and hangout, they all responded “no”.
Fast forward to my first year of university, I had returned home after just barely passing my 1A semester. I had just finished my play through of The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess by myself. I did this in an attempt to reconnect with the times in which my friends who had passed away. I remembered that a group of my friends would meet at his house and try to beat the game in one night, only to fall asleep at 7am after completing the Temple of Time. I remember blankly watching the credits roll after I beat the game, only to be encumbered by a feeling of emptiness. I didn’t even enjoy my play through of the game at all. Beating it didn’t make me feel any closer to my friend. In fact, that moment was the moment when I finally realized that I didn’t enjoy playing video games by myself anymore but that it was playing them with other people that made it fun.
Eventually as time would have it, I reached my breaking point in University when my anxiety disorder crippled me to a point in which I couldn’t even do school work anymore. Although playing video games may have given me temporary relief from stress, it didn’t help solve my real problems. I was stressed so badly that I couldn’t take being with my own thoughts. My relationship took a toll, and I wasn’t sleeping. I eventually saw my doctor and got on some meds and I was able to get myself out that rut and still pass that school semester. Going forward, I’ve had to challenge myself not to play video games as a numbing agent but more for leisure and to connect with my friends.
It’s more than just the name of these games that have stuck with me through the years but rather the experiences I had with them. When I listen to Matchbox 20 I think of forcing my friend to watch me play Skyward Sword, I remember fighting with my friends about what decision to make in the Telltale Batman game, and I remember sitting on the couch with my girlfriend while we happily played Pikmin 3. I’ve had tons of experiences and I’ve realized that my relationship with video games keeps changing as I do, and it will constantly be in flux.