The earliest video game memory I have takes place when I lived in a small farming town in Southern Indiana. I was maybe four or five-years old. My dad took me downtown to the local video store, which was a small hole in the wall as part of the square in town center. It was here we’d rent Sega Genesis games and it was that moment in my memory that I discovered Ghouls N’ Ghosts. My entire life, my family has been centered around the world of video games partly to blame because of my father, and being brought up in that kind of environment was an experience not a lot of other kids get to have.
Shortly after living in Indiana for a few years, my dad decided he wanted to go back to school and get his college degree. So we moved way up north to Houghton, Michigan where my dad attended Michigan Technological University as an undergrad. At the time, we not only had a Sega Genesis, but had just gotten a PlayStation One. Because my Dad’s schedule was weird due to schooling and odd jobs, he would have blocks of free time outside of homework. Having been through Michigan Tech myself, I don’t know how he made the time to play with us, but he did.
My sister and I would spend summer afternoons watching him play games at first, and the first game we watched him play was Silent Hill. Watching my dad play games was like watching a movie and it kept me engaged—it consumed me. Other games we watched him play were the early Tomb Raider games, Apocalypse (starring Bruce Willis), Soul Reaver and T'ai Fu: Wrath of the Tiger. Eventually, my sister and I took to playing and thus my childhood in gaming began.
When we weren't playing video games, our life was still filled with them. Every year around the time of E3, we were huddled on the couch watching G4 to see coverage from the event. Usually typical mornings were spent watching X-Play together and talking about the games they showed off and our opinions on them. It was this constant connection with the gaming world that kept me involved, and I didn't mind one bit.
The number one side effect of growing up in a gaming family is that we always crave adventure. We were always exploring places we probably shouldn’t have been. Being in a community that was brought up in copper mining, there were ruins and things to see in almost every town around us. Right on the canal sat an abandoned smelter used to smelt copper back in the day—and it was right across the street from our old schoolhouse apartment building. So my dad would take us on a weekend and we’d sneak across the road and through the patch of trees. We’d have to walk through old Julio’s junkyard to get to it, and my dad would hush us and tell us to be as quiet as a mouse. The smelter would appear through the trees like this great being, writhing in the dark sand around it and wrought with the memories of a time long ago.
As my sister and I got older, we of course fell out of gaming as much as we did, as homework stacks got larger and social lives got bigger. But somehow we could always make time for a round of Quake with the family. And eventually, my sister and I took part in Quake Online when we couldn’t play in the same room together anymore.
It wasn’t until college I really got back into gaming. Michigan Tech has its fair share of nerds and they aren’t afraid to let everyone know, so naturally many of my friends were heavy into gaming—so I fell into Call Of Duty, Battlefield and Halo and got an Xbox 360. My taste in gaming changed a lot through college, from being a heavy Xbox FPS user to switching to PC gaming (many of my friends built their PC’s) and becoming a heavy Steam user. But I emerged from college once again wholly dedicated to Sony PlayStation.
Being raised in an environment where video games aren’t evil, but rather this doorway into the imagination was something that was so positive for me, that fed my creativity. My life is filled with all of these adventures, from exploring the smelter in Upper Michigan to moving cross country from Michigan to California for my first real job in video games. And it’s because of this constant presence of adventure in my life that I feel I keep growing and learning. I approach a situation now analytically and work on problem-solving as if I were in the midst of a Silent Hill puzzle. I’m even less stressed when I spend a couple hours gaming. I can talk extensively about the story in a game and understand the growth of characters and the climaxes in action and plot twists. Sometimes I even wonder if the stories in video games is what got me interested in storytelling to begin with.
While growing up in a gaming family isn’t normal, I know I wouldn’t be the same person I am today if I had grown up differently. Video games have affected both my life and my family so much in so many ways that I couldn’t envision life without gaming. So if you take away one thing from this article, know that video games don’t melt kids’ brains or make them dumber, rather they are sharpening certain skills and creating this wonderful foundation for creativity and innovation that those same kids will carry with them for the rest of their lives.