When it comes to gaming, people from the older generations tend to see it as a less-than-valuable way to spend time.
The stereotype is that nothing positive or productive comes from gaming and that people could use their time more wisely by doing something productive. In many ways, they aren’t wrong. One can certainly be doing something better with their time: learning a new skill, reading a book, interacting with friends and family, or touching grass.
At the end of the day, gaming does something different for everyone. Personally, it brought me out of my shell and helped me open up to others. It helped me develop my character and find who I truly am. When I play a game, I lose myself in a sense; just forget about everything in the world, enjoy the game that I’m currently playing, and be… happy.
I started gaming at a young age.
My parents never bought me a system — not that they couldn’t afford it, but they just didn’t see it as a good use of time and I don’t blame them for that. I read a lot of books as a kid, played outside with friends and family, and participated in a lot of sports. I was a busy kid that was rarely inside. The only real times I would game would either be when I went to my grandmother’s house or on my way to school on my Gameboy Colour.
That said, going to my grandmother’s house was when I really fell in love with playing video games. I would hang out with her, my grandfather (if he wasn’t in the basement making art), and whatever other uncles, aunts, or cousins were there. I made sure to do that, but then I would go into my uncle’s room and start grinding games.
He had one of those modded PS1s with a plug that would burn games onto CDs and a book of over 200 games. I would have a field day with choosing which one to start first. Being an avid hockey fan growing up, I would always resort to playing NHL video games and love either playing against the CPU or one of my uncles or cousin who was there (I’d always dominate them because I would play NHL the most.)
Usually I’d make some silly wagers like, “If I win, you have to buy me an ice cream slurpee”, or “If I win, you have to go buy me [insert generic candy brand]”. It brought me a lot of joy being good at certain games and being able to beat people my age or older than me.
In those days, I was playing NHL ‘98/’98/’00, Spyro, Crash Bandicoot, Metal Gear Solid, PaRappa the Rapper (for the real OGs that remember that), GranTurismo, Tomb Raider, Twisted Metal, Silent Hill (wtf was I thinking playing that game at 6-8 years old), Croc, Tony Hawk, Tomba (REAL OGS real remember this one), other sports games, and miscellaneous games that I would play one-off. I gamed a lot, like A LOT when I was young when I was at my grandmother’s house, but never at my own home.
I would sometimes have sleepovers at my grandmother’s house with the full intention of staying up all night after everyone went to bed and grinding those games in a story mode that I loved. I credit those days for my love of gaming today.
The first system that my parents bought me within our own home was the N64, and I still own that same console to this day.
It’s currently on a shelf right behind me as I write this. I intend on finding the proper cords for it so that I can connect it, get my favourite games from back in the day, and relive those memories.
I remember the excitement I felt when I opened up that present under the Christmas tree — I was so excited. I don’t remember the game that it came with, but I remember the first game I got for it was Pokemon Snap. I was obsessed with Pokemon (playing it all the time on my Gameboy Colour) and wanted nothing more than that game. Once I got it, I would play it none stop, all day, every day. I wouldn’t sacrifice my time playing outside, reading books, or playing sports, but I spent a lot of time playing that game. I’m sure if I could somehow see the hours I logged, it would be something out of this world — a stupidly high number.
I never owned a lot of games for the system. I believe I only owned Pokemon Snap and Super Smash Bros, which was enough for me as a kid. I spent hours on those games. The only way I got to play other games was on the weekends when my father or mother would take me to blockbuster and we would rent 1-2 games (during the school year), and then 2-4 games (during the summer).
The main games I would rent were Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, Banjo-Kazooie, Paper Mario (I was obsessed with this game I don’t know why). Starfox, Diddy Kong Racing, Pokemon Stadium (mainly for the mini-games), Mario Tennis, Kirby 64, and NFL Blitz. I would never beat any of the games that I rented, but that was never my goal. I just wanted to have fun and just play the game, even if it was a part that I had seen already.
Keep in mind that, for both the N64 and PS1, I never had a memory card. I was in the trenches, trying to cram as much of the game as I could in a session, sometimes even leaving the system on overnight so I could continue on my journey. Eventually, I got a memory card for both systems. The only game that I had fully beat once I got the memory card was Pokemon Snap.
Once I got older, I never really got any new systems. I was still stuck with my N64 and playing my uncle’s PS1 for quite some time. Eventually, my uncle convinced my parents to let him get me the same PS1 he had, but for me. All modded out with a huge library of games to play. At that moment, my love for gaming was really big. It’s not that I couldn’t live without it, but it was a big part of my life. It brought me new friends (despite there being no online multiplayer available or at least to my knowledge at the time), new communities to be a part of, and just something else to talk about in life.
I didn’t take my gaming to the next level until my parents bought me an XBOX 360 and NHL ‘08. That’s when I really got deep with gaming. It was a year after they had introduced the skill stick into the game and had been already used to a brand new skill set. I would grind non-stop and took it very seriously. In the beginning, I wasn’t the greatest player, but as I played more I realized I was pretty good. At one point I was top 100 in the world in NHL ‘08.
In those days, I didn’t play in any tournaments or anything like that (honestly because I didn’t know they existed) but I was just having the time of my life. I was meeting new people in the NHL community and made a lot of new friends that, even though we’re not close anymore, I appreciate. They helped me break out of my bubble of being a shy little kid, not being able to talk to people much. They gave my morale a boost and helped develop who I am today in a sense. I don’t have the exact words, but they definitely helped, and will forever be thankful for that.
The majority of my gaming around that time was between NHL and Call of Duty.
I never really played any other games other than those two. I’d sprinkle in some Minecraft, Halo, Grand Theft Auto, and Guitar Hero (on the controller, not on the guitar, don’t ask) but most of my time was spent playing those two games.
When I got older, I discovered websites hosting tournaments for NHL and would enter a lot of them. I won a few and lost a lot, but once again, I was always meeting new people and being part of that community. I never entered the CoD scene competitively because I knew I wasn’t at the skill level I needed to be to do well. I knew my place, never having a K/D over 0.8 between CoD 4 till CoD: Black Ops 2. I still followed the pro scene which I wish I could have been good enough to be a part of, but sadly never was.
When I got older, I don’t know what happened, but for a little bit, I kind of fell out of love with gaming. I don’t know if it was school, sports, or what was going on in my life. I still played, but it just didn’t feel the same. I stopped playing CoD when Ghosts came out and didn’t play again until the WW2 drop, but then quickly stopped playing and did not return until Modern Warfare 2019. I was still into the pro scene and watched that — that brought me joy — but I just couldn’t bring myself to play. I was still playing NHL, but not at the rate I was doing before. I would play maybe 1-2 games a week and go on great spans of time not playing. I stopped entering online tournaments. I sponsored/hosted one tournament for NHL 16 or 17 one year, but that was the extent of it. I had fallen out of love.
It wasn’t until the pandemic that I really fell back in love with gaming like I used to. Before the pandemic, I was gaming, playing Modern Warfare 2019, mobile games, and various other games, but just wasn’t into it. Then, once the pandemic hit and Warzone dropped, I got the feeling back in playing games.
Happiness, losing yourself in the game for hours upon end, and forgetting about everything around you can happen for a few hours while gaming. As shitty as the pandemic was, it helped me more than it hurt personally. Even though we did have a lot of free time, I was back gaming regularly and actually enjoying the games I was playing. I was playing with friends, finding new friends, and feeding the competitive hunger that I have deep inside of me.
Even today, I’m loving gaming more and more. I play every day or every other day depending on work and other factors, but I’m gaming again. I could be playing Warzone or Vanguard and getting absolutely dumpster, but I’m having fun. I’m starting to play new games that I have never played before and, once again, I’m having fun even though I’m getting absolutely torched sometimes. I’m playing Apex and Fortnite (no building). I’m getting better at CoD and have a positive K/D for the first time in forever. I’m having fun, and that’s all that matters at the end of the day.
So, what does gaming mean to me? It’s an escape from my real world.
When I game, I can just lose myself and just have fun. I don’t have to worry about anything except either winning a game or just chilling out and having fun with friends. Gaming brings me happiness, it brings everyone happiness, whether you’re a bot or a sweat.
Now, I’m in the Esports space, the space I grew up watching pros compete and making a living from. I now get to work in that space and see the other side of gaming, which grows my love for gaming even more. Esports is a whole new world, I had a glimpse of it before, but now … now I get to live it. Everyone should experience the joy of gaming whether it’s from a young age or late in life.
It doesn’t matter if you aren’t good at the game, as long as you are having fun, that is all that matters.