It's the late summer of two thousand and eight. I am an unemployed, nineteen year old, Half ass attempting community college, logging my three hundredth hour into Final fantasy X on a borrowed system, because its the only game I owned. I live at home, in my mother's basement. I am driven to class, at seven in the morning, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I am picked up at six in the evening. The rest of the week I preform yard work, clean the house, anything to earn my keep. Against my mother's genuine attempts at parenting, I have a history of violence, drugs, and general disdain for life. I would have a car but I managed to wreck it, without insurance, intoxicated on stolen painkillers and the hormones of a teenager on the harsh end of a break up.
Don't do drugs kids. The blonde is a nine year old 4'2" sister for comparison.
And then Brett asked me over to play gears 2.
I had hung out with the kid before, I actually recalled beating him senseless over a round of halo 2 years back at some party. He was a friend of a friend, But post high school, and his house being within walking distance (3.6 miles counts as walking distance in the south) we became friends of convenience. Gears of war 2 was the start of something, a symbiotic co-op gaming relationship, something that half a decade later we still covet, and something that helped center our lives.
Brett, like me, had been left behind by his former friends from the college rush in his class graduation. He was working fast food, trying to find his place in the world without the SAT scores to get any direction. I had multiple scholarships from nice colleges wanting my attendance, but I didn't have the work ethic or drive. He was an example of the no child left behind act, and I was a lazy sociopath. However on the xbox his parents had gotten him for his birthday, we were Barau and Knell, slayers of noobs.
We had a natural way of making single player games a group experience, taking turns or back seat driving. We had a natural way of making online shooters our proving ground, split-screen teamwork rare in the early 360 era. And Brett had a natural way of breaking controllers when we played fighters. To this day marvel vs capcom 2 is a forbidden topic, and Ice man is a cheap whore in his eyes.
It was the accomplishment we both needed. We proved worth to not only ourselves, but to each other. Game after Game we burned through, we had a first name basis with the local gamestops and blockbusters. Eventually we burned through my birthday money and his minimum wage. I got a job to pay for our gaming collection. I got a job, solely, to pay for more games.
Motive for any reason is still motive. In that turn-about way everything started to flow better. Most of the money was spent on our collection. We lived for new release Tuesday. We became such regulars at midnight releases that we were both offered jobs with Gamestop at one point or another. More importantly, I was getting out of the house, I had a vacation couch I slept in more than my own bed at his parent's house, I had a job to focus all my hate into, and for the first time in a long time, I found myself happy. Not quite content, I was without car, woman, or my own system, but I was just oh so occasionally happy.
We learned that in our escape, we could change ourselves, release our frustrations and weaknesses, taking only the best of ourselves to reality. Some how I burned through a lifetime of pent up rage and frustration inside of the realm of xbox live. Brett proved to himself his own intelligence, I still genuinely can't beat the guy in anything that classifies itself as a strategy title. We weren't without our problems, but we also weren't without friendship and daily confidence boosters. As crazy as it sounds, a job interview or asking a girl out just wasn't scary anymore. On any given week We had conquered china, watched rapture burn, or slain legions of enemy soldiers online.
Gaming with me is a strange affair. On my own i'm ruthless, cheese loving, and a genuine troll. I'm admittedly venomous online, often to attack players for stupidity or score. But somehow, Playing with Brett, and a few other online pals, I find my solid ground, I often play the support, the back watcher, the medic. I lose my temper consistently. Yet Somehow, I feel a dozen times more at peace than I ever have before.
Life took us separate ways physically, but we still play online multiple times a week.
Now forgive me, I have rent to pay, a girlfriend to keep happy, and a horde of orcs that don't quite know yet what strong allies I have.