When Grim Fandango
came out in 1998, I was just a little kid, but I was already more computer savvy than any of my family members. While walking through an electronics store with my mom one fateful day, the cover art for Grim Fandango
caught my eye. It scared me a little... but also it intrigued me. I wanted it. After pestering my mom about it for the duration of our time in the store, she finally crumbled and bought the game for me. I wasn't expecting it to change my life.
Upon getting home, I ran to our computer den and put the disc in, and my fate as an incorrigible nerd was sealed. I was whisked away to a beautiful, vibrant world and I wanted to stay there forever. Manny, Meche, Glottis, and all the rest of the colorful characters had huge places in my heart. I drew pictures, wrote stories, did everything I could to keep myself in the Land of the Dead. When I finally beat the game, I couldn't put my emotions into words, and even today I don't think I could if I tried, but there was something truly magical about the experience that game provided me.
I came to the realization that I wanted to leave people with the wonderful feeling Grim Fandango
had given me. I wanted to make video games, beautiful ones, epic ones, games that would make people feel the way I had. I made little attempts, at first just writing stories for games, drawing pictures of characters I invented, eventually teaching myself to mod using the Neverwinter Nights
toolkit as soon as it came out. As I grew up I lost sight of this vision. I became jaded to everything and increasingly apathetic to my future. I was cracking under pressure as my family pressured me to “do something with my life”, my dad telling me that making video games was unrealistic for a woman. I was letting everyone walk all over me. By the time sophomore year of high school rolled around I had lost my passion and stopped caring.
Sophomore year of high school was also the year one of my best friends died.
As you can imagine, this didn't help my current situation much.
I sunk deeper and deeper into depression, hating everything. I felt empty inside. My grades absolutely plummeted and I was convinced nothing mattered, and nothing would ever feel good again. There was a time when I genuinely wanted nothing more than to die, because if what was going on was all life had to offer, I didn't want any part of it. And one day I came close to fulfilling my wish of dying. I was in my room, going through my belongings for what I thought would be one last time. In a cardboard box under my bed, I found my old copy of Grim Fandango
. I'm not sure what inspired me to install it and play, but I did.
From the second the install screen loaded, it was like Manny slapped me across the face, asking me what the hell I was doing, and where my head was at. I played it all the way through in that one sitting, the puzzles still burned into my brain from all the times I'd beaten them before. During the ending cutscene, Manny turns to Meche, who is worried about the future, and says to her, "You know, sweetheart, if there's one thing I've learned, it's this: nobody knows what's gonna happen at the end of the line, so you might as well enjoy the trip."
I put my head down on my desk and sobbed. And from that day forward, I was a changed girl. I pulled my grades up and chased down my passions of making games at my dream college, and succeeded. I'm enjoying the trip. It took a game all about death to show me how beautiful life really is.