“Games can be that release valve for real life.”



Games can be art. Games can educate. Games can solve real-world problems. But, even at their most basic level – as sheer escapism –games can just plain make life better (or at least bearable). In today’s gamer story, amazing storyteller Susan Arendt tells us how one game got her through a pretty rough patch.

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So, I was unemployed and had been for a while. And, I had reached that stage of unemployment where you really begin to feel horrible about yourself. I was sending out dozens of résumés every week. I was applying to every job that I was remotely qualified for and nobody was calling. I wasn’t getting any interviews. And, I had reached that point where I was convinced I was just worthless, and there was clearly something wrong with me because otherwise somebody would have at least called, and I was never going to work again.

This is a very common state of mind for people who have been unemployed for a while. And, it was exacerbated by the fact that, hey, all my friends had jobs so they were all busy all day. And, I had nothing to do all day except sit in my house and fixate on how I didn’t have a job, and how nobody was calling me, and how I was clearly just terrible and was never going to work again. And so, I started playing Morrowind.

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Kill Confirmed


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So, my fiancé is not much of gamer, but over the last, maybe 7 of the 14 years we’ve been together he’s really come around. He’ll play some couch co-op with me and even occasionally play some games on his own, which is pretty amazing. But, more often than not, he will just watch me play video games. He’ll sit on the couch and give me his really good advice.

So, this one time I am playing Call of Duty and he’s not split-screening it with me which is odd because that’s a game he will split-screen with me. But, anyway, he is just sitting on the couch, watching me play, giving his usual advice like: “Oh, over there!” or “Look out!”

This time, however, he goes silent for a bit. And, I can feel him looking at me, but I’m playing Kill Confirmed. Dudes are trying to kill me and I’m trying to kill them, so I’m not really looking back. I just feel him looking at me. And he’s quiet. And then he says, “I like your grey hairs.”

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“In the end, we all love video games.”


Question: How do you feel about terms like “casual gamer” or “hardcore gamer?”

I hate terms. A Flappy Bird addict versus an MLG player, both love what they’re playing. Some people are just more passionate about a certain game or genre than others, and others play professionally. Whether it’s competitive gaming or full-time commentaries on Twitch or YouTube.  Someone calling themselves a “hardcore gamer” is as ridiculous sounding as someone calling themselves a “girl gamer.” We get it. In the end, we all love video games.




My name is Beau Ryan and I’m the Head of Entertainment at Robotoki. I’m basically leading a brand new entertainment division at a indie video game studio. I love the entertainment and game industry, so as a creative, it’s pretty much the dream job for me.




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“I could never get past the first goomba…”


Before I really got hooked, I must have played around with some of the early off-brand consoles at friends’ houses. I know because I remember flashes of light and sound and fun. Maybe some space monsters. However, the first clear memory I have of video games is playing a cocktail table version of Super Mario Bros at a hamburger joint in a college town near my family’s farm in upstate New York.

We were pretty poor, so we didn’t get to go to the burger joint very often. Sometimes in the summer, though, my mom would take us on the way home from the beach. On those days, I’d rush through my food as quickly as I could and plop myself down at the game table. I could never get past the first goomba, but I played over and over again just the same. I was 8, and I was hooked.  

Well, a handful of trips after I discovered the game, my mother must have figured out how many quarters were disappearing down that black hole. She finally came to investigate. One look at that goomba killing Mario, and she forbade me from ever again “wasting my savings on this stupid trash.” In addition to being frugal, my mother also prided herself on sheltering her children from what she considered mindless entertainment, especially anything violent. Just to give you an idea: on our three-channel television, we were only allowed to watch PBS— and only for an hour a day.

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“One of the most disturbing and awesome moments of video gaming I ever had. “


Listen to this gamer story (1 min, 25 seconds):

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So, I was playing Fallout for a long time. And, I would play that game for like 8 hours at a time. Not even blink. And it would just keep pulling me in. And, I got so sucked into that world, in the story, that, as I was playing it… One of the things that you do in the game, right, is you have to pick locks with a hairpin or whatever. And, I’d spent a couple days where I couldn’t find any hairpins. I’d been looking around and I had to get into this door that I wanted to get into because I knew there was going to be something cool behind it. So, I took a break from playing the game, which I rarely did at that time, and I was… I thought I’d sweep up and clean up my room. So, I’m going around, I’m sweeping, and I lean down to sweep something up and I see a hairpin. And I go: “Fuck yes!” And I reach down to grab it and then I realized that this was real life – that this hairpin was something that was on the ground. But, I was so caught up in that game that I thought that I had found something that would help me in the game. And that was when I realized how immersed in that world that I was, where the two had blended together. And it was one of the most disturbing and awesome moments of video gaming I ever had.


Keith Michael Hostert is an Associate Creative Director working in “advertising.” He has been playing “blippers” since the Atari days and has yet to beat RYGAR or MIKE TYSON’S PUNCH OUT. Please don’t judge him.



“There was a point in my life where a relationship caused me to leave games behind entirely.”

...photo by Dennis Powers...

…photo by Dennis Powers...

QUESTION: Is your significant other a gamer too?

Absolutely, she is, in that video games are a part of her life. It is something that I relish more than just about anything else about her. Why? Because she understands my love, she understands a part of me that so very few others have in my life in general – a part that nearly none of my past partners have. It was something I didn’t actually realize I loved about her until this very question. I was, of course, attracted to it subconsciously. I just never thought about it. In addition, it made me realize that there was a point in my life where a relationship, and namely my then-partner’s views on video games, caused me to leave games behind entirely. I am happy to say neither the relationship nor my forsaking of video games lasted a full year.


…the lovely Kyle…

With my lovely Kyle it was something we had in common: the fond NES and SNES days early in both our lives. We would talk about how neither of our families could afford consoles early in the console’s launch windows, and instead rented or got them much later. It brought us together. We spent quite a few dates at arcades playing Street Fighter, or pinball (she kills me every time, it isn’t even remotely fair), or talking about old games we loved. Once we shared the same roof we actually played less together as our tastes are different. She is all about the puzzle games and pinball. There have been times though, especially early in the Wii’s life. She will still happily tell you how bad I am at Sonic games “Michael can’t even run upside down!!”… or that she can beat the hell out of me at Boomblox. She has no patience or interest in shooters, or sports games, or more realistic 3D games in general. So, I learned early on to recruit our daughter as my sidekick in Portal 2 or Ibb & Obb instead. While she may not play split-screen Call of Duty with me (opting instead to point out HOW MANY TIMES DO THEY NEED TO SAY “UAV ONLINE”?!?!) what she does and always has done is support me (and our daughter) in our love of games, as she shares that love as well. Would I love it if she played more of the games I love alongside me? I don’t think so, but I wouldn’t hate it. I love that she has her tastes and I have mine. I love that I will never beat her at pinball or Tetris, and that if I somehow ever convinced her to play FIFA for just 5 minutes it would end in tears most likely. One of ours.




Michael Beach by day is a salaryman and photographer in the Pacific Northwest… who happens to wish that he got paid for the mess of damn video games he plays.



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Cautionary Tale: E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial

Storyteller Matt Holohan shares a cautionary tale of video games adapted from films…



Holohan prior to the purchase of E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial.


My first video game console was the Atari 2600, which I bought used from a friend when he got an NES for his birthday. The importance of the Atari 2600 in the history of gaming cannot be overstated. It was the hardware equivalent of Super Mario Bros.

But this isn’t a story about how great the 2600 was. This is a story about the worst video game ever made, for any console. A game that I bought at the tender age of ten, with a dragon’s hoard of saved allowance and lunch money. This is a story about E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.


To say that E.T. is a bad video game is an affront to the word “bad.” And the word “game” for that matter. The fact is that E.T. is barely a game at all. There are enemies (which can be disabled by difficulty settings), but all you can do is run away from them. There is, nominally, a plot, but the only way to play the game is by randomly falling into pits. It’s like Minesweeper without the mines. There is no combat. There is no strategy. There is no beginning and no end. There is only a middle. An endless middle.


A pit.


At the time I was naive enough to be enthralled with the game, at least for a time. I was young enough to think that playing video games AT MY HOUSE was an amazing privilege, regardless of the quality of the game. And, of course, like all children of the 80s, I thought E.T. was great. I played the game for hours, convincing myself that I was having fun, that if I varied the mundane gameplay thusly and suchly I could make it interesting.

But eventually even I realized what a dud the game was. And when I had other, more fun (meaning more-than-zero fun, or even exactly-zero fun, as opposed to the negative fun of E.T.) games to play like Missile Command, Space Invaders, and the graphically atrocious yet serviceable ports of Kung Fu and Jungle Hunt, my copy of E.T. eventually found its place under a permanent layer of dust on my shelf, much as Atari’s legendary extra copies of the game became buried in landfills.

The lessons of E.T. were stark and enduring:

1. There are good video games and bad video games. This may seem elementary but it’s not necessarily obvious to a child, or at least it wasn’t in the salad days of gaming before kids started playing video games before potty training (as my kids have).

2. A video game adapted from a popular entertainment property is not necessarily good and, in fact, many game designers of the 80s and 90s were notorious for cutting corners on adaptations because the underlying property was a sales booster regardless of the quality of the game.

3. Spend your allowance wisely.

Matt Holohan is an attorney living in Denver, Colorado. He specializes in intellectual property and is a fan of retro gaming.

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