Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images
There was an opinion piece that caught my eye a few weeks ago from the Wall Street Journal. It alleged that a good imagination beats video games any day of the week. In it, the author reminisces about days gone by when he and his best friend would have a night of fort building, mostly, because in the dark ages there wasn’t anything else you could do. As a 90s kid, I was one of the fortunate generations to experience to not only experience but also embrace the changes that came with technology. I grew up on a farm way out in the country, so things like the internet and Radio Shacks came to us a bit slowly. I had days of playing in the woods, using sticks as make-believe firearms or building cities in the dirt that we’d flood with a garden hose.
I also had access to the Nintendo, Sega Genesis and the PlayStation, the last of which was my first console that was solely mine. I can tell you right now, that gaming can be just as fun and immersive as ‘good old fashioned imagination’. As I thought back to days gone by, I did notice something about my experiences in the past and those I have now. Some of my most cherished memories are rooted very deeply in gaming, but couldn’t transpire today despite the epic proliferation of gaming in our culture. I can also tell you exactly why these cherished memories could never be shared by the youth of today like I did with my sisters and brother in our childhood. It’s the internet’s fault. The internet ruined gaming.
Growing up, my mom and dad had never gotten married to each other. As a result, I bounced back and forth from one to the other based on weekends during the school year and weeks during the summer. My mom’s house was my primary residence and my dad’s was my secondary. So, at my mom’s is where MY video games were, but at my dad’s place, it was shared and communal. My two sisters on my mom’s side were country girls. They rode horses and loved animals, but had no interest in gaming. At my dad’s, my four sisters and brothers were the jocks. They were into sports, but also had an interest in gaming, because it’s what brought us together. So, where did I fit in between the country living and the sports? It was clear from very early on I was THE gamer of both households.
Despite the fact that I was the only gamer among us, we all played at my dad’s house, and I think that’s because our ritual involved more than just the game. When I wasn’t there, not much progress was made, because I clearly had the gift to game. But as young as we were, we couldn’t always solve puzzles or figure out how to beat bosses on our own. This is where the fond memories come in that make this story very specific to the times. We had internet access, but it was very limited and we did not have a printer. So, me and my siblings would ride our bikes two hours into town to the public library, where they had a printing limit of 10 pages per person. One sibling at a time we’d go in, find the guide or the FAQ that we needed and print off tips, tricks and other goodies for all the games we had. Between me, my four sisters and one brother, we printed 60 pages per day, sometimes multiple days per week. We had manila folders filled with walkthroughs that would rival FBI movie case files.
Stories like that would never happen today. The internet is too available. It’s faster, and the sources for helping you past a hard puzzle are only a YouTube video away. Of course, that’s not a bad thing. It’s easier than ever to find friends to play games with or against, but for some reason despite that none of my siblings play with me like they use too.
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