[Dare to Share is a community-submitted collaborative effort by gamers that seeks to put forward the stories that show the positive side of video games–the side you won’t hear about in mainstream media.]
Submission by Chris Dorahy
My dad introduced me to video games at a very young age. My brother would sit and play while I would sit right next to him, thinking I was playing, when really I was only holding a powerless controller. Still the best memories of my young childhood.
Fast forward to when I was 13: puberty kicked in and I developed incredibly bad skin [graphic details omitted]. I know a problem like that seems small compared to [those of] others out there, but at the time it was hard. Friends and other kids didn’t take kindly to me hanging around with them so I fell back to my own little world playing Runescape back in its early days of being free.
From there I met an older boy who lived two houses down and then met more and more people online, which slowly built my confidence back up.
Video games saved my teenage years
Today, I manage a small but busy motel dealing with many people each day as well as raising my daughter, and I feel without video games I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I still play games on a daily basis, as running a business takes away many social occasions I could have had. But through the good and the bad, video games have always been there for me and it hurts when others consider gaming a bad influence on children. In my eyes it’s the parenting, not the video games, that sends kids loopy.
Submission by a wonderful former Twinfinite writer, Kate Balding (Ed. note: Alex wanted to call you old.)
This is not a story about suffering, or difficult times, or hardship. This is not about how gaming provided a way to overcome bitter struggles, though it has often been a source of solace and a place of refuge.
This is simply the story of a girl who, amongst many other things, loved to play games.
I now read so many heart-breaking stories about girls who have struggled with their love of gaming, particularly girls who – like me – grew up around the ‘90s. Stories of rejection, abuse and segregation, all because their passion was unexpected. Odd. Different. And though I believe it is important that we share these stories, I think it is also sometimes easy to believe this negative perception is the only one that exists, that gaming is an exclusive ‘boys’ club’ – an aggressive and abusive community. My experience growing up couldn’t have been more different.
I grew up as one of six siblings and my parents didn’t have a lot of money. I was extremely close in age to my two younger sisters and my little brother, so we learned fast to play together, share together, and imagine together. One day, my older sister, who was working as a developer of sound design for video games, brought home a Nintendo 64, two controllers, and a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64. I was eight years old. We couldn’t have been more excited.
We grew our collection, year by year, to pretty much include every popular N64 title you can think of, unwaveringly requesting games for every single birthday and Christmas and spending blissful hours together playing GoldenEye and Mario Party. And this didn’t stop when I got to high school. I was quickly drawn to a mixed-sex friendship group who, though not on the top rung of social cliques, were comfortable and confident with their slightly off-beat interests. The boys played World of Warcraft and Counterstrike. One of my best mates was really into anime and manga, and she introduced me to weird games on the PC like American McGee’s Alice. We spent our science lessons together creating our perfect game – she did the artwork, I wrote the script and music scores. My other best mate was awesome at Halo, and she could beat almost any boy I knew in a Slayer death match – we even hired out the local village hall to have a LAN party. When we all met up for gatherings, we would crack out the Dance Mat or battle it out on Super Smash Bros.
These weren’t the only things we did. We also played basketball, went to the cinema, played guitars, and mooched around the skate park. We were teenagers. We weren’t defined by gaming, but it was something that fueled our imagination, knit us together and set us apart. And I can honestly say I never felt like an outcast because of it. In fact, I felt like it was part of the story that brought me to where I am today. It was the reason that, on the very first time I visited the house of a boy I barely knew at sixteen years old, I was inevitably entranced when he sat down at the piano and started playing the ‘Dire Dire Docks’ theme from Super Mario 64.
He was the boy I would end up marrying.
I am not saying my experience of gaming has always been positive. I am not saying I haven’t been on the wrong side of trolling or abuse in my time. But there are so many beautiful things about games, about those series of worlds of possibilities, that are illuminated when shared and loved and lived together. I was lucky enough to grow up in a time and place where I was free to know that feeling and enjoy it, and I wanted to tell you about it so that, whenever the media presents gaming as a poisonous or destructive pursuit, you would remember that games have the incredible, enduring capacity to bring people together.
Submission by Craendor Helbain
Growing up for me wasn’t always sunshine and butterflies, or any of that happy stuff. I had a mother who was – and still is actually – there for me at every twist and turn. On the fatherly side of things, however, it was not such a happy ordeal. An alcoholic for as long as I have known him, he was often abusive, verbally and physically, towards my mother and I. Nothing I ever did was good enough for him. Ever. Any accomplishment (ever) that I brought forth to him garnered me a “that as good as you could do?” and then a word or two to inform me how useless I was.
Being an eleven-year old boy and being worthless to your father was no easy thing to deal with. It brought forth some troubles for myself that took years to overcome, but one thing that assisted in my overcoming of the negative feelings was video games. Especially in my younger years. Video games provided that escape to me that allowed my mind to forget all the bad things. They prevented me from doing nothing more than burying my face into a pillow and crying.
They gave me, a then eleven or twelve year old boy, the feeling of importance. Final Fantasy VII and Ocarina of Time gave me the feeling of importance. I could step into the role of someone that was going forth to change the world, and had support from others. It allowed me to feel that I had other people who cared for me, other than my mother. Diving into the world of Final Fantasy VII, and traveling across vast lands and stopping evil, and getting to know these characters could numb a lot for me. All of the negative voices in my head would fade away. I wouldn’t notice the aching and slight swelling in my cheek. I was too busy saving the world to worry about all that.
Video games were there for me when I needed to escape, or just simply needed someone.
[Gamers are people too. To focus on how video games breed violence, killers, and criminals is unfair, unjust, and unrepresentative of the medium. The real stories you have just read were written by real people who have had their lives changed for the better by video games. It’s time for the world to learn that video games are so much more than just gun simulators. They are both teachers and friends, guidebooks and support models. It’s time the world opened its eyes a little wider so it can see video games the way we see them, and see exactly why we love them so much. If you want to get involved, check out our plan here.]