Games aren’t just a momentary distraction. They help us through tough times, or bolster our confidence when the world has worn us down. The experiences we have in games, the memories we create, stick with us throughout our lives, whether we realize it or not. –Marie


I grew up playing video games. It all started with an Odyssey 4000. It had 8 variations of Pong – just monochrome lines and dots on the screen – and it was amazing. My brother and I always played against each other because back then it was all about high score. But, Atari 2600, NES, SNES and Genesis were my glory days of gaming. Each system brought a new world to me and my brother. We would spend endless hours trying to figure out every aspect of every game, finding secrets, bugs and hopefully getting to the end. When stores started renting games it was like a buffet for us. We had one goal: beat the game before it was due back! When sports games started getting better (mainly with SNES and Genesis) it became a nightly ritual to play Madden or some Baseball title. In our heads we knew who was leading between us and it was always a blast as he would stomp me and then eventually I would do the same back.

Playing games really got us through a lot of crazy times in our young lives. I think we used games to escape from whatever bad stuff was going on. Games did not warp us or keep us from reality. They let us be kids while the adults in our life were going through things that kept uprooting our lives. No matter what was going on, we could huddle at the end of the day and play through Mike Tyson’s Punchout, build some tracks with Excitebike or just run through some Mario levels. This kept us grounded with something familiar, fun and consistent. Since those years of using games as a stress relief or an escape, they became a staple in my life. Some 30 years later I still play games almost every day and have had almost every system known to man.

Just the other day I was visiting with some friends and somehow got in a conversation about retro games – the different games that influenced them and the things they remembered. They mentioned cheat codes. Of course the Contra code and all the secret ways to get through Mario were at the top of the list. But, when they asked me which one I remembered best, all I said was “007-373-5963.” They looked at me funny and asked, “What’s that?” Of course, you already know the answer: the code to go directly to Mike Tyson in Punchout. And, right then it dawned on me just how important gaming has been to me – off the top of my head I knew a cheat code for a game I hadn’t played in 30 years.

There are so many others out there just like me – people with spots in their lives (and in their heads) permanently filled with video games that will never be forgotten.

Games keep creating moments for me. I am grateful to everyone that works in the industry – those people who bring us so many forms of entertainment and escape, and who have filled our lives with some of the best stories ever created.

bio-picShane Hepler is IT Director for an entertainment retailer. He plays games as a part of life….. Find him on Facebook.

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