I was a lucky child. My mom had a Bachelor’s degree in both math and computer sciences, back when the general public didn’t really know what a computer was. At 10 years old, my parents brought home my first computer: a Commodore 64. Mom made us learn to program it (which helped out a lot later in life), but we also got to play video games. I can still see the movements of the game on that computer monitor as I played The Goonies, Winter Olympics, and Summer Olympics.
Before this, my initial introduction to video games was my Uncle Mike’s Pong game. It was a little miracle on television to play Pong – and boy, did I hate to lose. Around the time of the Commodore 64, we also got our first Atari. Oh, how the world of gaming opened up to me!
You can imagine how my life went from there. Sega Genesis, Nintendo, and eventually evolving to Playstation, X-box, Wii, etc. Each new bit of technology brought gaming to a whole new level for me. I have adult sons now, one who is really into video games. I don’t mind so much. I wasn’t raised with that whole “video games are evil” vibe. But, as a child growing up, I didn’t realize that video games would one day save my life.
I’ve had health issues off and on my entire life. From a gum tissue transplant in fourth grade (around the time I met the Commodore 64) all the way through eight surgeries and a permanent disability. My disability began in January 2013. Doesn’t matter much about the details, except life changed drastically. I could no longer work, or even work out, for that matter, I currently use a walker to get around, and I have been in chronic pain since the beginning. With chronic pain comes depression. They pretty much go hand-in-hand.
Very few things kept me looking forward. I had some extremely down moments – deep, deep down where you don’t think you’ll climb back out. But, I’ll never forget the day my therapist asked what made me happy. I listed a few things, and she said, “Play more video games.” She explained further. They not only made me happy, but they helped my mind. From my medications, my brain power has slowly dwindled. Video games help me with reflexes, memorization, puzzle solving, etc. It was a multi-purpose “drug” she had prescribed, and one that I was more than happy to take.
I hadn’t realized until then what video games had done for me. How focusing on them could help me ignore the pain for a short time. That I could feel like I’d accomplished something by getting a trophy, whereas I would never obtain another accomplishment in a job or participating in a sport or even going on an all-day shopping spree. You know, like normal people.
More than that, as a writer, I’m always looking for inspiration – and I found some in video games. I’ve now written two novels with a spark of ideas from Uncharted 3 for one book and both Assassin’s Creed Syndicate and Assassin’s Creed Unity for another.
I tell people all the time: Video games aren’t bad for you. Of course, don’t spend 15 hours a day playing them, but look to see what they can do for you. They’ve helped me tremendously in emotional health, have kept my mind strong, and even acted as a muse for my creativity. I’m not sure where I would be right now without gaming, how I would be faring with my battle against chronic pain and depression, but I’m sure grateful that I don’t have to find out. It’s why out of all things geek culture, I’m most thankful for video games, and I know there are more gamers out there like me.