Only Beth and I remained. Whoever could spell this last word would become spelling bee champ of our middle school. "Accumulate," my 7th grade teacher, who thought I was a delinquent and wouldn’t make it this far in the competition, said as both of us stood ready. My classmate went first. She stumbled, crumbled, and failed at her attempt to spell it.
My turn. I could tell my classmates and teacher felt this word wouldn’t be the decider. But I had a little help on my side: Final Fantasy Tactics.
See, I had to change Ramza, the main character of the PlayStation classic, to the monk class and learn the "Accumulate" spell to defeat a particularly difficult one-on-one boss battle. I had seen this word and used the ability so many times (to turn my Ramza into a Superman) that I could spell it while half asleep.
And so I did, because everyone knows I stayed up late at night playing PlayStation back in those glory days of middle school. I won. Everyone went crazy at the fact that I could spell such a hard word (looking back I can’t believe we couldn’t spell it in 7th grade), and I divulged my secret. Video games made the win possible. Of course, my teacher scoffed at my proclamation, and my friends were amazed, confused, and shocked.
The thing is, video games have helped me throughout many aspects of my life, and as much as I ponder — and even despise the fact at times — I can’t help but see how much they have shaped this 24-year-old soccer-playing Hispanic from Northern Wisconsin.
Of course, not all of the ways they’ve assisted me have been particularly useful. Let’s look at Taboo for a minute. For those who don’t know, Taboo is a board game where players split up into teams and try to guess a word on a card based on clues from a teammate. The trick is that you can’t say certain words (also listed on the card) that would give away the word your teammate needs to guess. It's a lot tougher to guess the word "winter," for example, when snow, Santa, or cold aren't available clues.
But again, video games helped me to win. "Bandana" — that’s the word I had to get my cousin, also a video-game guru, to say.
"It gives Solid Snake unlimited ammo," I said, as my friend’s wife, who was looking over my shoulder to make sure I didn’t say any restricted clues, laughed at how hard the card seemed.
"Bandana," Zack shot back.
In that very next sequence of cards popped up the word "Zodiac."
"What kind of spear is really rare and powerful in Final Fantasy…umm, I think all Final Fantasy games?" I asked Zack as everyone’s faces grew even more contorted with puzzled looks.
"Hmm…. Oh, duh, Zodiac spear," Zack shot back.
And this happened many more times, and will happen again the next time I play with my cousin. It may make the ladies mad (we play in teams divided by sexes) but we have to put the years of playing…err…studying video games to good use.
Games even influenced my choice of college — University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, which has a damn good journalism program (I loved Electronic Gaming Monthly and wanted to write for it some day) and a Japanese program.
Hell, most of my best college research papers and newspaper articles had to do with games. English professors enjoyed the fresh areas I explored, and my journalism professors loved that that’s what I wanted to do with my journalism degree. The hobby made me feel…unique, I suppose.
And video games still motivate me to write — only it’s not just for journalism purposes. Creative writing has always been my favorite form of writing, and one day I hope to pen the next highly acclaimed RPG story.
Above all else I believe it’s the stories they tell and the worlds they suck you into that get me every time I turn one on. I couldn’t imagine any other medium inspiring me in the same way.