A Month of Throwback Thursdays: April

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In case you missed them, here are all my #throwbackthursday posts for the month of April.

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“It helped me belong and, from there, find myself.”

I had a non-gamer colleague once tell me he believed only people without personalities play video games. He said they don’t know who they are, so they pretend to be other people. Their identities wink out the moment they turn off the game. While I do think games provide a tremendous opportunity to role-play, almost all the gamers I know have remarkably strong personal identities. If anything, games enrich these identities with experiences and opportunities that both mirror and surpass those offered by everyday life. Today’s storyteller shares how one game offered him not only an escape from a tough childhood, but the opportunity to find friendship and himself. – Marie


EQ-LoadScreen

Growing up, video games had always been around and an integral part of my identity. A lot of my hobbies spawned from gaming. Through games I came to writing, anime, skateboarding, programming. Games even shaped my interest in music.

The reason why games were so prevalent in my life? It was an escape from a rough childhood. I was the youngest of three growing up in a household with an alcoholic parent. My siblings were old enough to always go out with friends when there was trouble at home, but I was six years behind them. So, I had to endure my father’s unpredictable temper and mood swings. Then, when I was 13, my mother finally left him, and I was stuck in the middle of the divorce. My parents went back and forth vying for custody, with me overhearing and knowing it was because whoever had me collected child support from the other. Growing up in that environment combined with feeling like the only worth I had to my parents was a child support payment, I had no self-esteem to speak of and just wanted not to exist. I also still had to deal with the consequences of my father’s alcoholism. He couldn’t keep a job; we moved a lot. At 15, I dropped out of high school when he moved us away from my friends. He didn’t even care, he was so wrapped up in the bottle.

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

 

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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.


Listen to this gamer story (5 mins):



Or, read the transcript:

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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“Eat leaden death…”

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Over the centuries, mankind has tried many ways of combating the forces of evil… prayer, fasting, good works and so on. Up until Doom, no one seemed to have thought about the double-barrel shotgun. Eat leaden death, demon…

Terry Pratchett

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“I’d walk into work and see people coming down with boxes in their hands…”

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Question: What’s it like working in the games industry?

The editorial side is brutal, just because of how unpredictable it can be. I witnessed too many layoffs at Ziff-Davis to ever sleep well again. I’d walk into work and see people coming down with boxes in their hands and be like “what closed now?” That’s disheartening. And then there’s the whole thing about writing about other people’s creative efforts. The game industry opened a lot of doors for me, but it’s such a machine at this point I couldn’t do it any longer if I wanted to. 

Making games is equally stressful, but more creatively satisfying. One of these days I’d just like to make my own games with a small team, that really only need to be successful enough to keep making games for a living. It’s impossible to know how successful your game will turn out, but not having to answer to anyone besides the taxman is a pretty liberating thing.


JamesAbout James Mielke

My mother calls me ‘James’ and my dad calls me ‘Jim.’ Everyone else seems to call me ‘Mielke’ which sounds like ‘Milky.’ I produce video games, and before I got into the business of making games, I wrote about other people’s games while enjoying a 10 year run at Ziff-Davis Media, running EGM and 1UP.com by the time I was done. 

Like games? Like talking about them? Share your story.

“It was a huge moment for me…”

kfuQuestion: What’s one of your earliest memories of video games?

The first really memorable moment with a video game was the day I bought Kung Fu. I remember my parents let me stay up a little late to play the game and I was on my last life before I had to go to bed. Somehow, I managed to go from the first level to the final boss all in one life. It was a huge moment for me where I felt this major sense of accomplishment. My parents even made a point of congratulating me, but I’m sure they were more excited that everyone was finally going to bed.

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It’s-a-Me!

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The other franchises let you experience the adrenaline and horror of war, or deep fantasy worlds, or pro sports. A Mario game lets you pretend to be a middle-aged chubster hopping onto a turtle shell.

― Jeff Ryan, Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America

 

Super Mario by Juyan16

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