With Thanksgiving fast approaching, we often find ourselves becoming more introspective, reflecting on the people and things for which we are thankful. As we at Fanbase Press celebrate fandoms, this year, the Fanbase Press staff and contributors have chosen to honor their favorite fandoms, characters, or other elements of geekdom for which they are thankful, and how those areas of geekiness have shaped their lives and values.
“Video games are bad for you!”
If you’ve ever played video games, you’ve at one point or another had someone tell you this. Even as an adult. But I’m here today to tell you another story, one that will surprise some of you and vindicate us gamers once and for all.
I owe it all to my mom. In the ’70s, she received her bachelor’s in Computer Science. Then I was born, followed by three siblings, and she started her long, incredible career working with computers and databases for corporations like Safelight and Pizza Hut. Because she was so involved with that technology, us kids benefited. Before we had a Commodore 64 when I turned ten, we used to play Pong at my gram’s… so, yeah, I really started early. On the 64, besides learning basic programming, there was The Goonies, Summer Games, Winter Games, and The Oregon Trail. Before the 64, it was Atari, then later Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, and so on until 1996.
In 1996, I was aged out of the parents’ home and a parent of two myself. I hadn’t played a whole lot of games since turning 18, but in 1995 came the dawn of the Sony PlayStation. And I had to have one. After that, I was hooked on games like Syphon Filter, Metal Gear, and (of course) Resident Evil. Back then, I was one of the elite female gamers. There were like five of us in the entire United States (or a few more than that). Women didn’t game. That was for nerds. I was one, though, so I was hooked. Staying up all night playing Silent Hill gave me chills for days and fed this need for the ultimate zen inside me. I’ve evolved with PlayStation since then, now owning a PS5. I even tried out PC gaming back in the ’90s (Myst, anyone?) and the X-box a few times over the years, but I always returned to the PlayStation.
As a now middle-life woman (Middle age passed me by already.), I can reflect on my childhood and understand how vital it was to getting through the years. When bad things happen, I can kill some zombies or grab another trophy to add toward my completionist problem. The guys and gals at GameStop have no idea what games I’m talking about when I reminisce, and that’s okay. We can chat about the latest Naughty Dog installment or the remake of this or that game, and when they say they just got into Resident Evil, I can show my wisdom by saying I’ve been playing since 1998, the release of the second one, garnering a few “No ways!”
But back to the vital thing. In 2013, I experienced a life-altering surgery and had a life-altering diagnosis. I was suddenly, in what should have been the prime of my life, disabled. Permanently. I don’t have a wheelchair, but I’ve used walkers and canes to ambulate as needed, had way too many surgeries to fix a rapidly breaking body, and tried just about every treatment I can. With disability almost always comes depression, and it did for me. I sought treatment for that a few years after it began, and then our home burned in the California Sandalwood fire of Oct 2019. Just when I thought my mental health was on the upswing, it took a serious dive to Major Depressive Disorder, Anxiety, and PTSD. We had lost everything.
One of the first material items I wanted to replace (outside of the necessities, like a home and clothes and a toothbrush) was my PlayStation 4. I found almost immediately that I needed to spend time with Leo S. Kennedy, Isaac Clarke, and Nathan Drake along with my other video game friends. There was something quite therapeutic about it, too, something that I should have picked up on during the early days of depression.
Video games helped me.
I didn’t understand it completely at first, but a therapist later explained it to me. Video games can heal the mind, and a healed mind is a giant step toward a healed body. See, video games provide basic things to learn, like memorizing maps, solving puzzles, using stealth to get around enemies – and really, when I think about it, these are the things we need in life. Memorizing maps: getting through the map that life carved out for us (or we carved out for ourselves). Solving puzzles: finding the best solution for every problem and obstacle we encounter. Using stealth to get around enemies: like the enemies of mental illness or physical disability, or even just those around us that want to hold us back.
But video games are about so much more than that. As my therapist explained, memorization and puzzles are great for the memory, but video games overall are fun. They take us into a world that doesn’t exist, pull out our imagination, and let us soar, fly, leap, whatever the game does. It’s the same as what a book or movie does, but in a different format. It allows us to forget the world around us for a few hours and dive into something much purer, something we can defeat. And, other than those occasional rage quits, it gives us the extraordinary satisfaction of immediate happiness, something that some of us just can’t find in the real world some days.
Now, video games are bad for us… but only in the respect that too much of anything is bad for us. Back in the ’80s, we would play for an hour or two and then wander outside, into the sun. And you definitely don’t want to ignore life altogether for a side quest. Yet, when we need it, when we need to indulge our inner child for a few hours because today just sucked for whatever reason, video games are there.
One day, in a few decades, my last preorder will be left at the store, not picked up despite the multiple GameStop calls to my nursing home room or my somewhat boyfriend’s room across the hall, but even after I’ve saved my last game, obtained that last trophy, and just smiled setting down my controller for my PlayStation 47, I will never once regret my life in video games. Because video games, for all I know, did a lot more than helped me. They, along with other things around me, played a huge role in saving my life.