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first person

First Person is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.

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Illustration by Drew Shannon

Some may remember their graduation or learning to ride a bike. My recollections are a little different. My favourite memories include completing Super Mario Galaxy by myself or hiding my handheld Nintendo 3DS from my mom when she would check on me at night, hoping she wouldn’t hear the battle music from Pokemon X crackling out of the speaker (she definitely did). I love video games. They have always been an important part of me and shaped many aspects of my personality and outlook on life.

Growing up as a creative, anxious kid with few friends, I found myself through my favourite characters and stories. I felt a sense of community with my pixelated companions – a feeling that I couldn’t seem to find anywhere else. Lacking that connection, the games I played helped me build those important memories. I controlled the character, and therefore their heroic experiences were my experiences. “I fought zombies” and “I saved a princess” are braggable life experiences for a seven year old, don’t you think? I learned valuable skills and lessons through the stories of my favourite games, too. I picked up on quick multiplication thanks to Minecraft’s inventory system and built my fine motor skills through the rapid mashing of various buttons.

Playing co-operative games with people I care about is my primary “love language.” I had never been closer to my sister than when we played games together, and helping my mom in her various Legend of Zelda battles is the height of affection for me. I have become inseparable from friends I made through online games, all of them near and dear to my heart. The act of collaborating on a joint goal or getting distracted and messing around for hours has created some of my most cherished memories. I grew closer with one of my best friends through an online game we could play together remotely, and bonded with another by getting together and playing games on my couch.

But that changed when I became a teenager. I lost that part of myself. My consoles gathered dust and I fell out of love with video games. Looking back, these few years of my life I affectionately refer to as “the Dark Times” and often spoken in an unusually serious voice. As a teen, I bounced between movie franchises and television shows to fill the mysterious void I felt, because I was still painfully unaware of how much video games made up my identity. I kick myself for this now, because I was oblivious to a video game golden age when I was 13 while removed from the community. It still haunts me to this day, knowing that I was watching television shows I didn’t connect to instead of buying new releases of some of my favourite video games. I still spent most of my time by myself, only without the comforting presence of a controller in my hand.

Then, one day, while scrolling through endless YouTube content, I became intrigued by a video of someone showcasing a newly released game. I had vaguely heard of Resident Evil, so I pressed play. At once I was fully enveloped by the beauty of the medium again. I watched someone play through every other recent game in the franchise that I could find, and felt a longing to play any one of them myself. I hadn’t felt that drive in a long time.

A year later, I bought a PlayStation 4 gaming system for myself at Christmas. Playing Resident Evil brought back a rush I hadn’t felt in years. I craved it, and didn’t want to let it go. I picked up three versions of the game series and didn’t put my new controller down for two weeks. Relearning where the buttons were felt like learning to breathe again.

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I have always been a creative person and video games are by far the most important artistic medium in my life. The ability to engage in a story by progressing through it with my own actions fully envelops me. Good protagonists feel like an extension of the player, and a great story allows me to live experiences through others’ eyes. My favourite childhood games have the familiarity of close friends; those I could go years without speaking to, run into on the street, and pick up the conversation like no time had elapsed.

As a young adult, I continue to create beloved memories with video games. I feel a decade younger when a new anticipated game comes out and it’s a borderline sacred experience for me when I go to the store on release day to get my own copy. The joy that video games spark in me is unlike any other, and I am so thankful that I have this piece of me back.

Video games will always be an important influence on my life and I plan to create them for a living. The medium created who I am today, one online world at a time.

Jamee Myers lives in Fort Erie, Ont.

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