I’ve pretty much grown up with a controller in my hands. I can’t even remember a time when I wasn’t playing some sort of video game – gaming has been an incredibly huge part of my life. You know how certain songs often remind you of specific events or feelings you’ve experience in your life? Well, that happens to me all the time, but instead of songs it’s with video games.
When I think of Final Fantasy III for the Super Nintendo, I remember being in middle school, not having a care in the world and being totally engrossed in that game’s epic story. Seriously, who could forget when the world ended? (If you haven’t, watch the scene in the video below) Sure, maybe it seems a little outdated today, but back then Final Fantasy III opened up a new world of video gaming for me. It taught me that games have the ability to emotionally affect a person; I actually cared what happened to Terra and Locke as characters, I didn’t want them to die and their strange personalities slowly grew on me.
Then I think about the original Halo and remember playing it for the first time almost 10 years ago at my brother’s apartment. I’ve never felt that incredible feeling of excitement since that weekend all those years ago. I was playing an Xbox, an actual Xbox. I was also playing the game I’d read so much about and constantly dreamed about playing, Halo: Combat Evolved. I will always cherish that weekend my brother and I spent exploring that game. These are only two of the many video games I’ve defined my life by. I have many other fond gaming related life memories.
I come from a family that doesn’t really talk very much, even less now that we all live in different cities. But there has always been a constant common ground that brings us together (mostly me and my older bothers); video games. Before Xbox Live even existed, my two older brothers and I would system link Halo in my parent’s house. We’d strew wires all over the house in order to have our own individual screens and play for countless hours.
Eventually, they grew tired of the fact that I dominated them in the game and we stopped playing together. I had an unfair advantage, I was much younger and had almost no adult responsibilities; Halo was constantly my main focus and goal in life. My brothers had jobs and post-secondary education to worry about. They didn’t have as much time to play the game as I did. Still, I’ll always remember destroying them in Blood Gultch.
Looking a little further back in my life, some of my earliest video game related memories involve me watching my older bothers and my dad playing games. The original Mario for the NES was insanely captivating for some reason and I’d constantly bug my brothers to play with them. In order to appease me, they’d often hand me a controller and say, “Here, you can be the bad guys.” Of course, I totally believed them; I was not only thrilled to actually be playing Mario but also ecstatic that my brothers were allowing me to play the game with them.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that I wasn’t actually playing as a Koopa – a feeling of utter disappointment slowly washed it’s way across my face. Still, even though this isn’t exactly a very positive memory, it still makes me laugh. I probably played for 2 or 3 hours before my 4-year-old self actually realized that I had no control over the game’s enemies. I remember watching my brothers play other video games like the then ultra violent Doom (much to my mom’s dismay) or even taking turns playing the original Sonic The Hedgehog when my dad bought a Sega Genesis.
Then there were the summers “trapped” at my parent’s cottage with no internet access or game consoles. In hindsight, this was probably the happiest time of my life. I didn’t have a care in the world and sense of absolute freedom resonated with me during these summers. This is also when I discovered the wonders of portable gaming. Games like The Legend Of Zelda Link’s Awakening and Wario Land, killed time during those boring evenings.
It took me ages to finish Link’s Awakening and I struggled through every second of it. There were times when I’d get stuck in certain dungeons for days, sometimes even weeks . Finally solving that puzzle or beating that impossible boss, always felt like an monumental accomplishment. I did it on my own with no hint guides, no internet access and no help from my friends; I finished the game with my own sheer wit.
Today I’m lazy. The video games I play essentially complete themselves. If I get stuck there are in-game hint systems and guides all over the internet. I just don’t have the self control or the time to not read them.
Then there were the Nintendo Power and Electronic Gaming Monthly magazines I painstakingly read cover to cover multiple times. I idolized the authors, hanging on their every word and valuing their opinions like the word of God. Reputable video game journalists and prominent EGM personalities like Dan Hsu, Che Chou and Demian Linn were my idols. I hoped that one day, I too could have a job so utterly cool and amazing. These guys get paid to play video games? I literally couldn’t believe it.
Writing about video games has been my dream for as long as I can remember, I really can’t see myself truly enjoying any other profession. This was actually the entire reason I pursued a degree in journalism. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve slowly come to realize how competitive this industry truly is and I know that it will probably be some time before I actually get paid to do what I love. That’s why I started my own blog, GameJudgment.com, a little over 2 years ago. I can’t let this dream of mine die out as unfeasible as it seems at times.
Yet here I am; still in school, enrolled in a graduate public relations program, trying to finally land a job that will pay the bills (or at least let me buy a few video games). GameJudgment will always be my, “on the side grind,” as the kids say these days (at least they said stuff like that when I was in high school). It’s what keeps me going when everything else in my life turns to shit.