A life pixelized: A personal journey

Pardon my absence from the site, I know I only wrote 4 articles at this point, but anyone who cares to read this will get a story.

From a young age I was pulled into the appeal of video games, any free time I had I would spend in front of my NES or SNES. Even to this day the consoles in question may have changed, but I’m still in the same spot, albeit a bit older and more seasoned. Through the entirety of my life thus far regardless of where I was, how old I was, what was happening to me, I would fall back to video games for comfort and relief. Where I’m heading with this will hit home for many people and that is exactly why I’m writing this. In my late teens up until even this day, I suffer from crippling depression and severe anxiety, and I want to highlight exactly how video games have provided me sanctuary and even saved my life.

I grew up with a stellar support system, my parents are wonderful people and home life was never an issue. My father is very similar to myself in taste, even at the age of 55 you can find him in his rec room playing Uncharted 4 on his Batman Arkham Knight Edition PS4.  In the 80’s he was enthralled by a game called Super Mario Bros., he bought an NES and that was all she wrote, a Nintendo man through and through.  In the year of 1992 I came into his life  and from the time he handed me my first controller, video games forged a father and son bond made of pure adamantium. A lot of people say that sports or TV shows cause father/son bonding to come about, but for us, video games went beyond that, we became best friends and even to this day that remains the same. There is one prolific moment in my life , back when Kmart was still a thing, where my parents took me in the little shopping cart kiddie seats to the electronics department. That’s where I touched my first SNES, they had displays set up to test games and my father and I had to try them. My eyes lit up, as dad my fathers, and apparently someone from a local newspaper saw this as a fit moment to snap this following gem for the next issue:

563129_10152553804540343_66547_nA cute photo for the paper? Sure, but when it came down to it, if you look into those eyes you can see a whole new world opening up for a small boy, and a potential escape into imagination as life started to progress for him.

On Christmas in 97 , I opened a box the size of me and inside were what dreams were made of ; A Nintendo 64 with Goldeneye And Super Mario 64. My father stated it was for me, but my Mother knew very well that it was for him just as it was for me. For years we would continuously play games together and to constantly become closer. The years to follow would be filled with countless hours of me playing video games with my Dad. Now, this isn’t a biography of my Father and myself but just a piece of why video games will forever be a part of who I am.

When I was in the 8th grade I became friends with a kid who lived up the road, we became friends over video games when we were forced to go to Sunday school. Within that year we became the best friends each other had ever known, after school each day we would go to my house or his and play PS2 until it got too dark outside and we had to get to bed on a school night. We remained friends for 4 solid years from that point until we got older and did like most people do: Drift apart.  Back then though, we were inseparable,  my friend’s home life wasn’t the greatest but whenever we wanted to get away from it all we would put Hitman: Blood Money or MGS3: Snake Eater and lose ourselves for hours, leaving all our problems behind.

I graduated from highschool in 2010 and the following year I began my first year of university, it was then that my anxieties kicked in to full force and depression slowly began taking hold and commenced a battle that even as I write this I still fight. Perhaps it was separation from my comfortable life at home that sparked it all, maybe it was always there and I just never had to cope with it outside of that comfort zone, the only thing I knew for sure was that it wasn’t going away anytime soon.

My first year started off pretty well, I maintained upwards of a 75% average, then when Christmas break rolled around it all changed. When I returned to school, I couldn’t leave my bed in the mornings and I couldn’t sleep at night. It all added up to a bad time, but the few things that helped with all of that were Fallout : New Vegas, Dragon Age 2 (I didn’t hate it) and Call of Duty: Black Ops.  It was the start of something that I would have to learn how to deal with, but at that time I had no idea where to start.

I had to return home from school for poor marks, and I was both destroyed and relieved. I figured this time would be perfect for me to get a handle on what was going on in my head. To say the least the following year was a rough start but as far as soul searching goes, I found out enough. I ended up back at university a couple of times are that year but it never did pan out, regardless of how I tried, my mind would get the better of me. I learned lessons through it all though. I learned that friends are not easy to get rid of, cafeteria food is similar to cocaine and just as harmful to your figure and that I would never be alone even when I felt that I was the most. If ever I was at my lowest I would shut off the lights, turn on my PS3 and lose myself for hours.

In the year of 2014 during one of my attempts at returning to school I received a phone call telling me that my father has suffered a massive heart attack and was being transported to a hospital in a different city. That was it for me , my world came crashing down because for the first time I had to deal with the fact that my best friend may not be there one day.  I was scared.  In the end it ended up being fine, he pulled through, but during that time I saw myself never being able to play video games again. Depression is no easy topic, and it will affect everyone in different ways, so no one has the same remedy. I found my coping mechanism for my mental health in video games. I’ve been through heartbreak, I’ve been through deaths in the family , I’ve been through seeing Batman V Superman with high hopes. I’ve been through enough to have my mind turn to terrible ideas, but it never did. The stories I found myself engrossed in my whole life led me to believe that there is always hope, there is always a light to every dark and to never give up in the face of despair.

Now the thing about video games, to me at least, is that it is an escape from reality but also a point of reference on how to build character. I know there are games out there that really don’t give you a hero to root for or an idol to sculpt yourself after, but if anything they showed you how not to be a good person, where as others teach you how to be a great person.

I type this out now with one clear thought in my mind: Video games are who I am.  My whole life has been spent with video games and through the countless hours I have spent I have learned to appreciate all forms of art, to never give up, to always push on, that strength, wisdom and courage come from within, no man gets left behind and that no matter the obstacle, no matter the enemy, no matter the issue, if you believe in yourself you can overcome anything.

If you ever feel like you are on your last mile, that no one out there cares and that your depression is going to be the end of you , I want you to know that I care and do not hesitate to ask anyone for help.