On childhood and gaming

A couple of days ago, the owner of this site made me promise to write something for him to put up on this page. All the criteria I was to meet, was that it had something to do with games or gaming in some way.

But, you see, I am in no way as close or as into this (huge) corner of the world as he is. I don’t think I will need to stress just how stressed I became on writing this article for you.

I had my fair share on playing games when I was little, don’t get me wrong. But somehow I lost that little bug along the way.

I debated doing some research, read some news here and there, find a little niche I could write about…  Amid thinking, though, I started wondering what it was that had driven me into games in the first place; and why I strode away.

So, go grab a cup of coffee or tea. This is a long one.

My dearest friends have been books ever since I can think of myself as a human being capable of reading. Books on fantasy, books on romance, books on history… Odd girl in class all around. A little later, besides books, my other favourite thing to do was playing Monopoly with Dad. I remember just how crazy everyone at the house went when the two of us would lay on the floor all day, building our little empire. I’d win ocasionally (I guess Dad would take pity on me); yet what thrilled me was just how genuinely happy his smile was. During those Monopoly games, Dad wasn’t a dad anymore – he was just as much of a happy kid as I was moving the pieces around the board. Those Sunday afternoons were our happy place.

Source: Wikipedia Pacman

I don’t remember how old I was or exactly when Dad’s console was brought to the house. I do remember hating it at first because it would mean less a couple hours every weekend with him. Whether it was racing cars, naval battlefield inspired games, the little demo version of Pacman… Dad would be  l o s t. And after a couple days… Mom was too. And that’s how our new Sunday routine began.  They’d sit at the feet of their bed laughing and teasing – playing whatever, me sitting behind them, watching their moves, the little controllers, the figures on the tv screen. It took me little time to understand all 20 or 30 mini games that little plastic cardboard sized box held but it would take one or two years until Dad let me play it by myself. If I remember correctly, I was only allowed to bring it out of the cabinet and set it myself a while after I was gifted my very first game console and treated it honourably. (I wished I knew where that console was so I could tell you the brand and model-)

 

Nevertheless. Absolute thrill. I felt so grownup and important that first time day I had no one supervising me while I set up my little corner for a Pacman marathon or a do over of all games in a very stupid attempt to beat my parent’s score or my own.

Almost as important as when I opened up the tiny box for my 7th or 8th birthday and dug a very neon lettuce green Game Boy Color! All equiped with a Pokémon cartridge and another game I could not name. (It was either Lion King or Camelot inspired. Something like that.) Even up to this day, when cleaning my things or going back to the past, Pokémon Red Version is the apple of my eye. I was shown a world where I could “go out on any kind of adventure I wanted” without leaving the comfort of my room. Just like my books, but this time I was the one making decisions, taking a path rather than following the author’s ideas. Except Game Boy became popular real fast and all the kids were playing Pokémon, even if different versions of the game. And having that little machine and the red game peeking from its back had other kids talking to me. Firstly, they asked easy questions.

souce: Wikipedia Pokemon Blue/ Pokemon Red

Which game was it? How many Pokémon had I caught? Which gyms had I passed on? Somewhere along the way, these kids playing the same game became my friends. I remember we’d spend our weekends at a camping park and being just so eager to go back because I’d have my friends coming by after lunch for snacks, giggles and games. Eventually, the consoles evolved, the games became harder and we were able to trade Pokémon. I have countless memories on those afternoons discussions, the bunch of accessories involved. Fun fact: there were as many girls playing as there were boys. Gender questions weren’t  an issue. Boys versus girls only happened on Hide and Seek games. We were just “Pokémon Trainers” having fun.

Some of my best trips and holidays are attached to major marks within that little red version. It is the one game I don’t think I ever started over anew. I piled up some more over the years. I always had one game for my birthday and maybe one for Christmas if I kept my grades up. My first heart break was when a friend’s dog ate one of my games. I’m not sure which one anymore. Pikachu’s?  I gave him the chance to choose which games we could trade for the weekend. He was a sweetheart and gave me one of his versions of Pokémon as an apology. That’s a close second favourite ever since.

One of the main reasons that tainted my initial “gaming” experience –  if we can call it that; however,  was loosing a friend everyone went up to looking for advice and new tricks to try to pass the gym competitions. He was a few years older and was far more advanced on those games than any of us were at the time – it was only natural. One summer day, we were all at his caravan, sitting on the shade, watching him play; the next day  we were watching an ambulance take him away. We all knew he was sick even then but that particular event got us laying our consoles down for a few days and just be together. Simply talking and playing with each other, being kids.

Now that I look back on it properly, that summer was also the last one in which Color was popular to carry. Even so, I remember I kept that damned thing well beyond the period in which it was popular to have one. Advance was brought to the market, games became smaller, consoles became cooler, edgier. More models were launched. And they became more expensive too. All of a sudden it was neither cool nor appropriate to be so attached to that green box. My girl friends started being more into makeup, boys, going out at night. And the boys either updated their game (pun not intended tbh), which my parents didn’t let me keep up with because again- expensive; or the ones who did: moved away and we lost touch. (fun fact no 2: some years ago I found some of those kids I used to be friends with at that camping park and the first thing all three of us spoke about were about those afternoons at my caravan trading tips and adventures.)

Games are often associated with children. “Because they keep them entertained”. Truth is, they develop our senses, our skills. Games – good games – make us think. Make us improve. Even the “stupid ones” which are all about killing and shooting people and stuff. If you want to “pass” a game, you have to reach a goal. And if you want to reach that goal, you have to work for it. Games also give you friends. Whether the ones you find at a camping park or the people who stay up late at night, online, talking through a speaker to strangers.

I guess my whole point with this apparently ramdom speech is… I miss that 7 year old who was obsessed with Charmander and the others. I miss how easy it was to talk to people, express ideas, share knowledge. How easy it was to approach them and how warm the greeting was. No judgements, no gender or social issues. Just people having fun.

Games, like words or books, have the outstanding gift of being friendship carriers, skill developers. It doesn’t matter what game it is, how many people like it or know it. It matters that you like it. That you can take personal satisfaction from it. It matters that you can grow with the skills you perfect on those hours “doing nothing playing”. The people you meet. Enjoy the experience and don’t be ashamed. Grown ups were all kids once. We deserve our little time off.  I think I forgot that for a while…

All the love,

MC.

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