This is a little story I've been meaning to share for while, something completely removed from the reality of my (mostly) anglophone fellow dtoiders, and hopefully an interesting read. It is a story of Playstation, English language, RPGs and piracy. All of these ingredients were necessary for the story to turn out as it did. An outcome that changed my life.
It starts a few months after I got a Playstation in 1997 in Fortaleza, Brazil, the city where I lived for most of my life. Back then, piracy was rampant. It still is but it was much, much worse. There is a small but growing market for legal games in Brazil today, a market that was all but non-existent 15 years ago. So much so that you'd be hard pressed to even find legal games in most game stores or rental shops.
It was a random weekend, and just like every other weekend, I went to rent a game at Play Games, the shop where I rented and bought every single one of my Playstation games. That weekend I felt like playing an action game. Mind you, that was before the internet (or at least before it became a daily part of my life), before we knew everything about every game months before even seeing it. As I was checking out the games I saw one called Wild Arms
. The CD "cover" was just a piece of paper with "Wild Arms" handwritten on it with a blue pen, so there were no pictures and no description.
That wasn't a problem for me, of course. As it so happened "Wild" and "Arms" were among the 15 English words I knew at the time so I came to the most obvious conclusion: I had found exactly the kind of action game I was looking for! A game that was... wild... and had arms!
So I excitedly went home, booted up the game and I was smitten right away by the intro. It was just so beautiful, and the music... I was speechless. For a moment I wondered if I hadn't rented an anime by mistake, though I did feel it was an odd intro for an action game. Then the game started and.. why the hell is everything so slow? I'm pressing X, why is nobody shooting and slashing? All I do is talk! Regardless, after that breathtaking intro (the music still plays in my head!) my curiosity was piqued. I figured this was probably one of those "RPGs" I had heard about. RPGs are supposed to have cool stories, so maybe there was a point to all the talking. The problem: I had no idea what all that text meant. So I started wandering around and suddenly the screen changed and I was fighting a monster. No action though, only a strange command menu. Still, even the slow fighting was satisfying, it gave an aura of strategy to it (fortunately by the time I realized most of the strategy was limited to choosing "attack" I was already hopelessly in love with the game).
Now I really, really needed to know what I was doing and what was going on. So I decided I was going to do just that no matter how long it took. I bought the game, grabbed an English-Portuguese dictionary somewhere and started trying to memorize every single word I didn't understand, which is to say anything that didn't involve the verbs "to be", "to go", "to have" and a handful of others. I would look up the same words over and over again until I remembered them, and when I finally understood a new word for the first time without having to look it up I'd smile from corner to corner. Right after Wild Arms I played Final Fantasy 7, and those two games alone probably taught me 60% of my English vocabulary. Then I played another RPG, and another and then another. In time I started to recognize rules and patterns. By the time I went to Disneyland with the school in 1998 I was pretty much the official translator since not even the teachers spoke English.
It is not an exaggeration to say that I wouldn't have the life I have if things had been different. Learning English opened so many doors and allowed me to have awesome experiences, and I'm not just talking about reading Destructoid and writing C-blogs to you fine dtoiders, though that is of course near the top of the list! I went on exchange abroad, traveled the world, met awesome people and I'm currently studying in Norway. Just like I learned English through games, I now also use them to learn other languages. So far I've learned Spanish and French, and in the future I hope to learn at least German and Italian as well(Request to publishers: please, please translate your games into Norwegian. You'll lose a ton of of money but I'll love you forever!!!).
So there you have it, a little peek at gaming life in Brazil and how this particular gamer was transformed by it. I hope you enjoyed the read!