You’ve seen it everywhere – news, media, politicians, and parents who all swear on their life that if video games were removed from society, it would end gun crimes, violence, and homicides. Whether or not there is a measure of truth in this, those whose lives have been shaped by video games are thrown to the wayside. Very rarely do you hear a personal testimony of the industry’s goodness, and if you do, it’s because the conversation was prompted.
My definition of a gamer is this: Someone whose life was shaped, molded, and inspired by the gaming industry. While gaming throughout the years has changed me and continues to do so, most of us can agree that there is one game that is held near and dear. For me, that was Final Fantasy 7.
This is my story.
I was about 9 circa 1998 when my parents would drag me around to do errands. Whenever I would go to Circuit City or Best Buy, I always bee-lined straight to the musical instruments aisle. I would spend the whole time trying to learn the songs that were built into the keyboard’s library. Eventually, my parents bought me one of my own. To this day, it was the best thing they ever have done.
My older brother would play Final Fantasy 7 and I would always beg to sit and watch him play. I don’t know why, I just really wanted to. He hated the fact that whenever he was playing, I would ask him to watch, and with a disgruntled moan, he agreed. After weeks of doing this, there then came the scene of one of the most memorable cut-scenes in gaming history: Aeris’ death. Mouth agape, eyes peeled open, I watched as Cloud tried to kill her as she knelt in solemn, silent prayer. In one swift motion, from the darkness came Sephiroth with his katana, and without hesitation impaled Aeris. Her arms fell to her sides, motionless, and took her last breath. My mind fixated on the emotional storm that was now raging inside of me, allowing Aeris’ theme to embed itself into my head.
I was depressed for days, and at 10 years old, I couldn’t understand why. I didn’t think about it; I just knew I was upset. My dad tried to cheer me up, but his attempts were met with quiet shrugs. I played piano, but I would just plink them, not knowing what I was doing. A particular key that I hit was the same one that starts out Aeris’ Theme, so from there, I just figured out how the song went somehow. Matching the melody in my head to the instrument in front of me, I learned how to play the song. That was 14 years ago, and it’s because of Final Fantasy 7 that I am a pianist and currently a music teacher.
Eventually I got tired of watching my brother and cousin play video games. It was my turn. I started Final Fantasy 7 from the beginning and it opened an impossible world that I could escape into when reality became chaotic. Throughout the hours spent on the game, so many scenes stuck in my head like a still image. At night, my mind would drift to the events that unfolded. Not too soon after I started playing the game, I was with my father and I told him I wanted a sketchbook. I never took an art class save for what was mandatory in school, and never doodled anything. It just hit me like a ton of bricks that this was what I wanted.
My father bought me a sketchbook. Nothing fancy – just something you would pick up at CVS. I sat down at my white desk one day, lights off except for my small desk lamp, and drew the back of the Final Fantasy 7 case. I didn’t stop there though; I drew Midgar in the background, and then drew the FF7 logo to try to make it look like a promotional flyer. At 10 years old, no experience, I thought my drawing was terrific.
I continued to make more – Aeris with her arms spread out and the Lifestream covering Midgar, Aeris and Red XIII in the Shinra building before she was about to be eaten, and everyone around the campfire in Cosmo Canyon. Soon enough, I couldn’t stop drawing and my sketchbook came with me everywhere I went. To this day, I still have a giant plastic box with all of my drawings and sketchbooks from when I first started out. My artistic skills have made me a great deal of money and also has become in decent demand within my friends and family.
I was enraptured by the story. Coming from playing simple and fun games like Sonic and Monopoly for the Genesis to grandeur worlds was something I had never imagined possible. I fell in love with each character and their contribution to the story, all the plot twists, the expositions, climaxes, and resolutions. When I beat a game, I felt accomplished, but I still yearned for more. This is not an uncommon feeling within the gaming community, I began to realize. By the time FF7 was complete, I had moved onto Tomb Raider, Chocobo’s Dungeon, Wild Arms, and Chrono Cross. Every game, every story – everything was always different and I couldn’t get enough.
AOL/AIM was the popular thing back in the day, and eventually I found out about chat-rooms. Some nice, some… well, questionable. I found a chat-room called the Dark Chocobo Knights (Final Fantasy X reference for those who haven’t played it), where people would role-play various Final Fantasy characters. For a while, I simply watched and tried to figure out what this trend was all about, and then I picked up on it. I could create my own fictional story with my favorite Final Fantasy character. For years, I role-played with the DCK and other forums, chat-rooms, and websites. Coupled with having a certain aficionado for reading, my diction and syntax within my short stories and poems became strong due to my constant role-playing.
The Jane of All Trades
Gaming shapes character, and I don’t think anyone could doubt that. It has won me a number of jobs due to confidence and my ability to speak, which only came from my ability to write, which only came from role-playing, which consequently was because of gaming. Aggression and competitiveness are prime traits a gamer gains. In addition to everything stated above, I model because I love to cosplay. I developed a love for theater because during my younger years, I took my online role-playing to reality, where a few of my like-minded friends would act in character when we hung out.
What It Come Down To Is…
… Gaming changed my life. It changed who I would have become if I was never introduced to this world. No words I could ever say would describe how vital video-games were and are to me. Frankly, the person I might have become might have been terrifying because of the different friends I would have surrounded myself with.
For those who agree with the politicians and activists that wish to eradicate gaming from society, please take heed to these words. To take things a step further, the gaming community saved me from breakdowns, freak outs, or worse. It was therapy. When my home was torn apart (as many homes are), I could escape somewhere else instead of covering my ears with a pillow. I made some of the best friends anyone could ever ask for.
To sum it up, video-games literally saved my life.