Gaming, Planning, and Growing Up

Here I am, a week shy of my 30th birthday, and I feel like I’ve come full circle as a gamer. I spent my entire childhood being infatuated with video games. At the age of 3, I literally crapped myself because I was so engaged watching my grandfather play Super Mario Bros. (or so the story according to my mother goes, but I don’t doubt it for one second). By the age of 5, was showing him how to go North, West, South, West in Zelda to get to the graveyard (and I had also gained control of my bowels, to boot). So began a life-long relationship with video games. Or so I thought.

A life revolving around video games

As a child, my life revolved around gaming. I’d wake up early and get a quick session of Mario in before my mom bugged me to get dressed and comb my hair. Nothing could possibly start my day off better than finally getting through a level in Chocolate Island that had been driving me nuts the night before. Of course, nothing could start my day off in a more aggravating way than dying the same way I had twenty times in a row the night before, either. It was always a crapshoot, but it was a risk I was always willing to take.

After my mom would drag me away from the TV and bring me to school, I’d meet with friends who had different games, different systems, and parents that let them play Mortal Kombat. We’d share instruction manuals, secret moves, code books, and anything else that had to do with the virtual worlds we’d plan on diving back into once the bell rang at 3:00.

After school, I’d always have a friend nearby to slam-dunk on in NBA Jam, or help me beat that dastardly level in Battletoads (you know the one). We’d get lost for hours, taking Street Fighter tournaments much more seriously than our spelling homework, and haggle with our parents for “fifteen more minutes” four times a night, 5 days a week. If only YouTube existed when I was ten, I’d be a Let’s Play millionaire by now.

I know it doesn’t sound like much planning went into all of this gaming, but this was only daily life. I had long-term goals, after all. Of course, these goals also included video games. When I was about ten, my mom finally broke down and got a Blockbuster membership (fun fact: they closed up shop solely because of my unpaid late fees). The only caveat was that I could only go once a month, and rent, at most, two games. This required some heavy research on my part. Luckily, I also had a subscription to Game Players magazine, which helped me make an informed decision about which games to lose myself in for a weekend. So I’d head to Blockbuster on a Friday night with a list of games in mind, and this is where I would often get a dose of real-world disappointment: The games at the top of my list had already been checked out. I know, I had a tough childhood. But, like I said, I learned something through these experiences: sometimes, no matter how much planning you put into something, other forces beyond your control could derail your objectives at any minute.

Looking back on my youth, it might be easy to say I wasted a ton of time playing video games. Okay, it might be truthful to say that. But, on the other hand, I also learned how to read by becoming infatuated with video game manuals and storylines. I learned the ins and outs of journalism through reading Game Players and other magazines, and analyzing the differences between their reviews for games on my radar. It was a passion of mine that, unfortunately, as I got older, seemed to fade away, but not for want of trying.

Putting away childish things

As a kid, there were never enough games to fill the vast expanse of free time I had. As I got older, the relationship between amount of free time and amount of games I wanted to play completely flip-flopped.

I’d always considered myself a core gamer, even when my gaming hit a lull. I would like to think that the ridiculous amount of time I spent on Final Fantasy 7 would solidify me in the core gamer club for life, but, unfortunately, it’s been almost 10 years since I’ve played a game with the sheer intention of completing it. Nowadays, I barely find time to get a quick game of Hearthstone in on a lunch break; hardly enough to consider myself a gamer.

My attention to the world of gaming has slowly drifted, as well. In middle and high school, IGN might as well have been my homepage. I was one of the first people in my town to play the PS2, which I did for the local newspaper the day before it hit stores. Such a monumental release was something I’d looked forward to for years. By the time the PS3 came out, I had gotten so wrapped up in the real world that I didn’t even notice it’d been out for months. Same with the PS4. I do own both systems today, but I’d venture to say my wife uses them for Netflix more than I do for games.

Now, instead of planning my day around gaming, I have to plan my gaming around my life. I’m not so far gone that I haven’t bought The Witcher 3, and I do believe I’ll end up beating it (it really is incredible). But what might have taken me a month at best at the age of 15 will most likely take me through 2015, and possibly into next year. I literally have time planned today that I’ve set aside to play the game, and unlike my 10-year-old self, I won’t be able to negotiate “just another 30 minutes.” I’ve unfortunately reached the age where lack of sleep actually does something to your body. I definitely never planned for that.

Coming full circle

I mentioned my love for video game magazines and websites as a child, and the fact that I let that passion get away from me as I grew up. Well, it recently hit me that the career path I was on was not the path I wanted to be on, and I decided to pursue that original passion. Lucky for me, the awesome team at Pixel Dynamo took me on as a contributor, and in one short month of curating breaking news in the world of video games, I’m beginning to realize a childhood dream.

But, as was to be expected, writing about video games isn’t full of zaniness (like writing for Mad Magazine is). It requires dedication and utilizing technology in a way I never had before (i.e.: Using Twitter for something other than sharing jokes about cats). There might actually be nothing worse than covering news about a game while simultaneously knowing you’ll never actually have the time to play it. Okay, there’s probably much worse than that, but this is a close second.

On the upside, I’m diving much deeper into the video game industry than I ever had as a child. I’m making connections with likeminded individuals who share my love of video games. I’m also finding that gaming is a legitimate part of our culture, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with spending some time getting lost in a virtual world…as long as you come out every once in a while.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have exactly 60 minutes of The Wild Hunt to attend to.

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