Over the last year, we’ve seen a lot of talk (and controversy) around women and video games, as though their presence in the industry or even as consumers is something new and notable. It’s hopefully no surprise that women have been playing – and making – games for about as long as they’ve been commercially available, introducing many of today’s current gamers to what has become their lifelong passion. One such gamer is games journalist Gerard “HipHopGamer” Williams, whose grandmother played a pivotal role in creating the man, the gamer, and the brand that Gerard is today.
HipHopGamer was kind enough to chat with me about his grandmother, her influence, and his advice to anyone interested in finding and pursuing their passions.
I’ve heard you talk about your grandmother a bit before – how passionate she was about games, how influential she was to your own passion for games – could you give a little background on her? What kind of woman was she?
My grandmother was an amazing woman, man. She was very talented. She played the piano. She sang. And, obviously, she played video games. I’m basically a product of that. You know what I’m saying?
She was great, man. She worked as a school crossing guard for many, many years, and she just had an incredible relationship with the kids as well. Everybody called her “mom,” or “grandma.” She had a welcoming personality.
Just to give you an example of the type of woman she was… There was a situation where my uncle had adopted a child. His name was Devon. He was seven years old at the time. He had a lot of problems, you know what I’m saying? My uncle tried to give him a great home, and we tried to fit him in the family. Because of his upbringing before the adoption, there was a lot of things that happened that led to a departure.
He went back to his foster home, but my uncle kept in contact with him because my uncle never had kids of his own. The thing that’s crazy about it is as he got older – like 15 or 16 – he came back to live with my uncle and everything and see how that could work.
There was this one night where we all went out and he broke into my house, my grandma’s house. He broke into the house and started taking stuff. We caught him, obviously. We caught him. That’s just the Brooklyn sense right there: “You ain’t getting away.” [laughs] We caught him.
It’s so easy to get caught up in negativity and anger and to act off your emotion.
We were all ready to beat this dude down. We ready to do him in! We was all full of anger, and where we come from we don’t let that slide. My grandmother, she did the most amazing thing, it was just another element of my life that changed, seeing her action in this.
Even though he stole stuff and did some horrible things, after all my grandma and my uncle and just my family did for him, the very next day – the very next day – my grandmother got up, cooked a big meal, and gave him some food, gave him some money, gave him some clothes. Told him, “I love you. I hope everything works out for you. I’m sorry I can’t let you stay here, but I care about you and I just want to see you do good.”
It’s like, it’s so easy to get caught up in negativity and anger and to act off your emotion. My grandmother showed true qualities of what an angel is. She showed true qualities of what heaven is like. That’s the type of woman she was.
I’m just proud, blessed, and honored to have had her take care of me growing up. A lot of who she was is instilled in me. I try to wear my heart on my sleeve and let her influence show to other people that meet me, so they can see a little bit of her as well.
How did your grandmother get into games?
That was funny. I never asked her like, how did she get into games? She was just always attracted to fun. She looked at games as something fun to do and she looked at it as a bonding thing.
It’s the same method that I have now, which is funny. But, fun brings joy, brings happiness. It brings nostalgia and togetherness. It’s welcoming. That’s what love is all about. That’s the type of life we all should strive to have before we go on to the afterlife. Fun brings that. Fun is the root of all of the good that can happen, and that’s the way my grandmother viewed games. That’s why she was so heavy into them.
Fun brings joy, brings happiness. It brings nostalgia and togetherness. It’s welcoming. That’s what love is all about.
One of the games that she had so much fun with was “Tomb Raider.” Tomb Raider was my grandmother’s favorite game. She ended every single Tomb Raider, even the corny one that came out on PS2 with angel of darkness, because that joint was trash. I hated that game. She played it, she finished it. She was incredible, man.
Then she also played “Grand Theft Auto.” She played “Street Fighter.” Balrog was her favorite character. She played tons of games, man.
My grandmother, she also could draw. So, she loved the artistic value of video games, as well. She was playing games for a long period of time without me, but, because of my addiction to games, me and my grandmother bonded that much more. We played games together, or I would buy her a game that she may not have known about and she’ll play it.
It’s funny because it’s like she’d be in the other room playing the game, and she’d get mad. She’d be like, “Oh, dang!” She’d get hyped like me. I see where I get it from. It’s crazy. Then I could be in the other room playing this game and I’d be like, “Grandma, check this out,” and then she’d be like, “Gerard, Gerard, come here, I need some help with this.” Or, “Gerard, check this out. What do you think of this?” I miss those days, man. I’m like crying. It’s crazy, I miss those days.
Man, I think it was just the fun and the artistic design and the action that brought her to games. She just passed it on to me.
Did she see many of your shows? What did she think of them?
Yeah, my grandmother saw plenty of my shows. She was actually in my shows. That’s one thing about me as a journalist. I give my life to the fans. My fans, they know my grandmother so much because I talk about her, I have her in my shows. We used to play in tons of games together.
I remember we did a show for my anniversary and we reenacted the scene from Batman, “The Dark Knight,” where the Joker came in [Bruce Wayne’s place], you know, like that party engagement, and the Joker came in. There was this older gentleman that said, “We are not afraid of thugs like you.” I had my grandmother reenact that with my friend that does Joker impressions. It was crazy, and it was just a fun time.
She supported me when I realized that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and I didn’t want to live the traditional life… That’s not my life, that’s not my style. I ain’t living that life.
Then my grandmother, she played the Wii a whole lot when that came out. She was playing the PlayStation Eye a lot as well, because when I first started recording my shows I was using the PlayStation Eye to record them. Oh, my god, you’re taking me back.
It was, like, my grandmother, she was heavily involved and she was very happy. She supported me when I realized that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and I didn’t want to live the traditional life in terms of going to work till you’re 65 years old and living off your pension ’til you die. That’s not my life, that’s not my style. I ain’t living that life.
When my grandmother saw that I took gaming and hip-hop and turned it into a business, she was ecstatic. Because, before, I was only rapping, and my name before “Hip Hop Gamer” was Jackal, J-A-C-K-A-L. I used to rap and only rap, in terms of entrepreneurship. You know what I’m saying?
But, the rap game is not always the nicest game to be a part of. It’s just a lot of politics there. It could be dangerous, very dangerous, at times. I didn’t care. I was down for whatever, but my grandmother cared a lot.
Things shifted and the Hip Hop Gamer was born in 2007. My grandmother was full-blown support behind it. I’m a product of her. [What I’m doing now] is the right thing to do. It feels right. Gaming is my life. I’ve got over 3,000 games at my house. Word up. This is what I do.
You said once that your grandmother’s passing reinvigorated your passion for games and what you do. How so?
Yeah, because when my grandmother passed I didn’t do anything for like two weeks. Like two weeks I was vegetable, for real. Like, I didn’t want to do nothing. I didn’t care about nothing. I felt like everything that made me who I am came from her. When she left, when she passed, I felt like I’d died too. I was just alive but dead, in terms of my soul. I didn’t have a soul at that point. You see what I’m saying?
My grandmother, she was very shy, but she had a ton of wisdom. She lived a whole lot. One thing that she always used to tell me was to be strong, to be a champion, and always put yourself in a position to win. Never give up on your dreams and never live just to live. When you live, leave a legacy. Do something that’s bigger than you. When you pass on, you’ll leave the world with something great. Something that they can remember you by that can be inspirational.
“Hip Hop Gamer” as a brand, that’s who I am. That’s inspirational. Because where I come from… I’m from Brooklyn, you know what I’m saying? Where I come from, you don’t hear too many people being a game journalist coming where I come from. Then, on top of that, the games industry has a way of making you feel like you don’t belong there because of where you come from or the way you talk.
The games industry has a way of making you feel like you don’t belong there because of where you come from or the way you talk.
Just thinking about those things for those two weeks, it just hit me. It was like my grandmother told me something, seriously. She was like, “Look, I love what you’re doing. But everything that I’ve ever given you will be for nothing if you stop what you’re doing right now.”
It was just a resurgence with a better understanding that I can’t stop because it’s not just about me. It’s about everything that makes me who I am. You know what I’m saying?
I look at it like a team sport, at this point. I can’t let my team down, so I’ve got to go hard. When she passed, after I had that realization, I just decided to go harder, and I’ve accomplished a lot in the many years that she’s been gone. I just kept her by my side and I always pray.
Even though it’s tough, things get better and better every day because of my understanding on how to have a relationship with my grandmother even though she’s physically not around. I’ve grown a lot and learned a lot. It’s a beautiful thing when you’re able to do something that’s bigger than yourself and be inspirational to others. It’s priceless. I’m telling you, it is so priceless.
Your grandmother was obviously a really powerful and inspirational figure in your life, but not everybody has a person like that to look to. What sort of advice can you give, or what would you say to someone who looks at you and thinks, “I want to be like that,” but doesn’t have someone there to support him or her?
That’s a great question. See, a lot of people, they have other people that they can look to for guidance and stuff. Then there’s those situations where you don’t have any guidance at all and you feel lost. The advice that I would say to someone that doesn’t have anyone to show them the way or things of that nature…
My advice would be… There’s things in your life that make you feel a certain way. Like, I’ll give you an example. Let’s say you’re walking down a block and you see a car and you stop and you’re looking at the car, analyzing it, and there’s something about the relationship with you and the car that makes you want to talk about it. You know so much about it. It’s like, when you realize that there’s something that you are passionate about, let that be your guidance. Let your passion be your guidance.
The reason why I say that is because people get up every day and they go to their job. They may not want to go to their job, they don’t want to do this for the rest of their life, they’re not happy.
When you find your passion, this is something you’re going to do whether you’re getting paid for it or not. You’re going to do it because it’s a part of you. Because it’s your passion. It’s just about figuring out how to make money off of your passion so you can live off of what you love to do and truly be happy.
I believe that everyone discovers their own passion, without someone showing them the passion. Just like with my grandmother – she could have shown me how to play games, but it doesn’t mean that I would be passionate about them. You know what I’m saying?
Allow your passion for things to guide you. You will meet other people just as passionate about those same things. The next thing you know, you become a part of a family.
You can’t force the passion. It just has to naturally be there and be a part of your natural instincts and interests as a person. There’s always going to be something that catches your attention in life. There’s going to be some sort of attraction that creates your passion.
What I would suggest? Anything that a person becomes attracted to passionately, learn everything about that. There are so many [resources] out there right now, from social media to YouTube tutorials. All types of information are out there now to help sustain your passion, to help you learn more about it, to become better at it, better within it, and to be creative inside it.
That would be the best advice I would have for someone that doesn’t have another person to show them the way or guide them. Allow your passion for things to guide you in the right direction. Because you will meet other people just as passionate about those same things that you are. The next thing you know, you become a part of a family, you become a part of a network of people that has the same desire as you have. When you help other people get their dreams to come true, it helps you get your dreams, as well.