Many of my friends, acquaintances, and colleagues would be stunned to see what I was like as a child (i.e premiddle school–not that I was refined at 12 either). You could say I was plagued by fear since birth: I was the baby who would cry over everything and the toddler who still had her pacifier (& was clinging for dear life). After that I was cripplingly shy: literally running away from anyone who did not live in my house. But by the time I went to school that was all over; finally, my fear matured into its final, more abstract stage: the fear of failure & dealing with my own shortcomings.
This is where videogames come in…
My earliest gaming memories are with the Super Nintendo. During my developmental years this system was my Jesus. And I have fond memories of frustratingly exploding over the pettiest things in F-Zero; but racing games didn’t really cause me too much trouble. What terrified me–and what still gives me a sort of “phantom anxiety”–was boss battles. I remember this most vividly with Yoshi’s Island.
As you can see, Yoshi’s Island is divided into worlds, each consisting of levels and a whopping 2 bosses–at least that’s how it felt as a petrified kid. The worst thing about this was I could see the bosses coming clear as day. The looming castle shaped box was so uninviting compared to the warm familiarity of the simple, square shaped, regular levels. You enter the castle and the music is darker, the scenery is drabber, and it’s clear that the last few levels were mere preparation for this moment: right here, right now. You walk through those fancy red doors and you knew what would be on the otherside…
Unlike regular enemies what intimidated me about bosses is that they required your prolonged skill. This wasn’t a one-and-done enemy; a single egg couldn’t solve all my problems. These bosses were grand in size but lets be honest, most weren’t particularly hard. What really stopped me from conquering these bosses with the ease my previous gameplay suggested was in my own head. It was all mental. And that’s how fear of failure works; you lose before you even begin. It happened to me in little league too, fear of striking out would keep me from swinging.
Videogames are not as detached from the real world as naysayers would have you believe.
I was forced to do what terrified me over & over again until I emerged victorious. I didn’t like fighting bosses, but it was part of the game I loved and I was determined to see it through. This is something I carry with me today; getting over my fear of failure has empowered me to take on anything & everything. That satisfaction of finishing a goal–one that takes time and patience and some short-sighted controller damage–plays a huge role in my every day life.
Video games taught me not to walk away from weaknesses: for instance, there would be a move I would avoid using because it was too hard… then come the boss battle that very same move would be key to defeating the enemy. You see, despite glitches and cheats, video games taught me you can’t take shortcuts. To this day looking at a gamer’s guide makes me feel dirty (though at times I admit defeat and get my cheap answer). Some of you may think I’m blowing this out of proportion. They’re just video games, right? But that’s my point. People are so quick to write off videogames as a waste of time. But they can be just as transformative & meaningful as anything else.
Flash forward to present day and a lot has changed in gaming since my yoshi island days, but the core elements remains the same for me. I still love to playing video games whether that means turning on my PS3 or loading up Steam. I love watching others plays videogames which, thanks to the internet, can be a lot more than just my older brother/friends. And I love hearing/learning about ones I’ve yet to play, which now can be a lot more frequent, accessible, & diverse than what I was getting from my EGM subscription in the early 2000’s.
I’ve been spending 2014, in part, making more time for videogames. Not just because it’s something I’ve always loved to do, but because it’s more than just a break–it’s a challenge. Because no matter much I’ve grown physically, mentally, & emotionally there is always work to be done; there are always bosses to face. No matter how much my hours/week of gaming may falter & fluctuate, no matter how long my next hiatus will be, I will always return to videogames. The industry is an ever expanding world: one that continues to surprise, delight, & inspire me. People give their whole lives to coding, programming, doing art design, marketing, testing, fundraising for, and reviewing these games. So no, I do not think videogames are a waste of time.
They have always been and will always be worth every second.