Every day you read news about some psycho in some part of the planet killing people or doing despicable things and then fall back on “a game made me do it” or some other game-blaming cockamamie excuse. And every time they do it, the media and politicians and even religious leaders raise the anti-gaming torches and pitchforks.
I won’t go into what makes some of these people do these things, because even if I point out that their upbringing and social circles are the most likely causes, no one will listen; it’s much easier to blame something than look at how you run your home.
So instead, I’ll focus on what gaming has given me, what I’ve learned from games, what I’ve gotten away from playing videogames since I was 7 years old (and my kickass upbringing and social group).
Maybe someone will read this and realize that games aren’t at fault in every case.
Anger Management: I’ve been playing games since the original NES and any gamer out there that remembers that era, or that has played those games in one way or another, can tell you those games were hard. I’m not saying that modern games aren’t, that’s a completely different topic, but classic games were punishingly difficult.
More than one controller flew off my hands, and more than once I raged and screamed and kicked stuff (and was subsequently told off by my parents), but eventually, through the years I managed to rein in that anger and controlled it, while learning to deal with failure and defeat.
These lessons I’ve put to use in my everyday life. Games prepared me for how unfair the world can be before I had to face it, because I already knew how to pick myself up, press Start to Continue and keep going.
Languages & Culture: I’m not a native English speaker, so I’ve had to learn the language and games helped me do that. There rarely were games in Spanish in my youth so I had to either learn or play blindly. Through RPGs, Adventure Games and even Action ones, I slowly picked up the language and the common phrases and idioms and how some words mean different things in different countries.
Games like When in the world is Carmen Sandiego? and even the horribly panned Mario Time Machine showed me other places and cultures and history before the Assassin’s Creed games were even conceived.
Castlevania introduced me to Dracula, a character from a novel I would read and love years later. I learned what fantasy and sci-fi were with The Legend of Zelda and Mega Man.
Over the years and once internet was at my disposal, each game I played brought a new word, a new phrase and new places and people and cultures for me to learn.
Games have taught me more about the world I live in than the books I read in school, because they presented the information in such a way that I wanted to know more.
Companionship: When I was younger, I lived in Switzerland for about three years and games brought my friends and me together. We were classmates first, but then we all had NESs and it made us click. I fondly remember days spent playing with my friends, laughing at how we each failed miserably at Duck Hunt.
When I returned to Venezuela, things were vastly different. I was the fat nerdy kid in school, bullied and tormented and somehow despised for my good grades. Friends weren’t something I had for a while and in the meantime games were my companions, I could play and have fun and smile and laugh on my own.
Eventually I managed to nab a few good and loyal friends. And guess what? Games bound us tighter. We discussed and argued and played and it just made us closer.
Games have been my icebreaker when I need one, and they helped me through bad times. They still do, a good game can lift my spirits when I’m down.
Also, in the past year, my love for games has allowed me to meet some awesome people, good friends I would never have met without video games (and internet).
Tolerance and Acceptance: It’s odd and sometimes depressing to think that even in the 21st century there’s still hatred towards people of different ethnicity (I don’t use the term race because it doesn’t make sense to me. There’s only one race, the human one) or sexual orientation or even views of the world.
That has never been a problem to me. Playing videogames from young age, I’ve seen and met and spoken to people of different planets and dimensions, of hundreds of different colours. I ran away from the blue-skinned tenants of the Maniac Mansion; I’ve battled gods next to Green-haired Terra; I’ve met the strange Purple or Blue Asari; I’ve enjoyed the yellow-skinned fatalist Kain go on longwinded speeches about fate and inevitability.
I’ve met character and places alien to me and learned to love them in their own way, even if I don’t like them.
I already loved people different from me in many ways before I even met someone gay. In my head, in my world, there are thousands of different peoples with different skins and tastes and I love and accept each of them…unless their tastes are harmful to others.
I honestly believe the world would be a better place if people dove headfirst into other fantastic worlds and met the same strange people I have. They’d learn to love and accept them and in turn, it’d make it easier for them to learn to love and accept others.
I could go on for days on what games have given me, and I may come back to this in the future, to list even more awesome things that I’ve gained from being a gamer and from playing videogames, but I think these are a good start.
If games have given you something memorable, feel free to drop in a comment or two. Or better yet, get in touch and we’ll feature you on The Mental Attic.