I'm very fortunate to be where I am right now with the people I love. I want to say before I start that this is something I've never gotten to write about. With that being said I'm going to try to to keep this from being too emotional and just share my experience.
August 2005. D'iberville, Mississippi(Just north of Biloxi).I had just turned 16 and started the school year as a sophomore. I had typical 16 year old problems. I hated school. I hated Mississippi more and wanted to leave that backwards ass place more than anything. I had girl problems. I was dating a girl I loved and yet still loved my ex, who in return loved me. There was nothing more that I wanted than a great escape. A 'win' button. Anything.
The last week of August 2005. A hurricane formed over the Bahamas and they called it Katrina. Not a big deal. I'd been living on the Gulf Coast my entire life and I'd stayed through plenty of hurricanes. Even one in '98 that knocked our power out for a week. My biggest concern at that time was the fact that I couldn't play Diddy Kong Racing until it was back on. In any case, this hurricane wasn't even supposed to hit us head on. Not a big deal.
Of course anyone that even glanced at the news during 2005 knows that it turned out to be a big deal. The day before Katrina made landfall. We all sat around our first floor apartment and watched the news. Katrina was turning straight into us as a Category 4 hurricane. We talked about going to my grandparents house(2 hours south of New Orleans), but my mother was sick so we decided to stay. We'd done it before.
Now before you think I'm setting up some melodramatic tale about how everything I owned was destroyed and how horrible it was for me, I'm not. Everything I owned was pretty much destroyed, sure. My family was put through a horrible traumatizing event. Water poured into our apartment and flooded it. My mom, dad, 10 year old sister and I had to wade our way out and find higher ground so we wouldn't drown. We had to wait it out and I had to try and call people to tell them I loved them so they'd know if I died. I grabbed a painting my ex-girlfriend painted for me before we ran out and that was it.
After the dust had settled(so to speak) we all piled in my Dad's new Dodge Ram he had just bought the week before(didn't look so new now). As it was the only car that wasn't flooded. We went to my grandparents for a few days, and after those few days of Louisiana heat with no power or air-conditioning we decided to leave before we all tore each others' throats out. We decided to head to Memphis to stay with some friends for a while so we could figure out what we were doing.
This my friends leads me up to my great escape. After I settled into a stranger's home where I would be staying the next month or so, I found it...my salvation. A PlayStation 2. Two games called Star Ocean: Till the End of Time and Ico would fit snugly inside my newfound love and keep me company throughout the chaos. Only something I've been doing since I was 3 years old could provide the escapism necessary to keep me sane. Talking to my friends about where they were and how bad the damage to their houses was takes a toll on you. Realizing that things will never be the same.
I remember beating Ico and feeling the same sense of accomplishment that I've always felt from beating games. I remember feeling the beauty and the simplicity of the game. I remember that feeling life goes on. As small of a part as these games played in this small, yet undoubtedly important chapter of my life, I feel that they really helped me to maintain order. I look back on Ico not as an amazing game that changed the way I looked at games, but a game that helped me when no one else could.
I ended up having quite a journey. After Memphis I moved to Upstate New York where I graduated with new friends and incredible memories. I moved right after graduation to Kansas City where I live now. Life has gone on and I've still got quite a bit left.
The Gulf Coast is my home. I've showed pictures of destruction that tug at my heartstrings because these are places I grew up and knew. I don't want the theme of this blog to be a total downer, so I'll tell you that my family was helped out in a big way by people from New York that were volunteering and giving out food in D'iberville. I later met this group of people in what can be called a highly unlikely coincidence when I moved to New York. I know, right?
Like I said, I'm very fortunate to be where I am today with the people that I love. And I'm fortunate to have an awesome community to share it with.
I walk in the door and exchange hi's and hellos with the two behind the counter. "Got any trade-ins today, Alex?". Yes, they know me by name. "Nah...I'm just looking for now." Of course I have trade-ins.
I plop the 4 games on the counter. Battlefield Bad Company 2. Gears of War 2, Red Faction: Guerrilla, and Killzone 2. 60, 40, 20, 60 bucks, respectively. That's how much I paid for these games when I first bought them. Between the 'promo' and my 'edge card' I'm now right at 50 bucks in store credit. I don't have to sit here and tell you how terrible that is. But what is terrible is how I say "Oh wow. I didn't think I'd get that much."
I'll give you guys a little backstory now. I'm 20 years old, still live at home, and got laid off in January from my seasonal job. When I had a job and steady paycheck, I would purchase on average 2 full price games every two weeks. Now jobless and pretty much broke, I still manage to pull this off...at the expense of my gaming collection.
First it was the PSP and around 8 games I had for it. "I never play it anyways." Then the DS. "Nintendo will just announce a new one at E3, anyways." Then the games I said I'd never get rid of. "I don't think I'll ever play them again. And I can always buy them used if I get the urge to play them...I guess." My games are evaporating in front of my very eyes. The only thing that kept me from throwing out my Wii was the glorious promise of No More Heroes 2.
Browsing the games with Edge card in hand, I pick them off the shelf. This is a bountiful harvest, indeed. I pick one up off the shelf. Plenty of research still in fresh in my head. "Well, this one's got an 87 on metacritic and seems like something I'd enjoy...but I really want this..." I get a text message mid-thought. It's from my lover girl. She asks me where I've gone. I freeze. "I just needed to get out of the house for a bit. I'll be back soon. Be patient. :)" Later that night, she half-jokingly admits suspicions of me out with some other girl. The way I acted, I don't blame her.
Later, I admitted I was at Gamestop. Obviously, she really didn't care nor understand why I dodged the question. I didn't either.
I plopped Little King's Story and Rune Factory on the counter. After assuring them I didn't want to pre-order 'Generic Shooter XIV'. Yes I'm sure. Yes. I am. I know. I'm sure. I grabbed my bag and I left the store. There I stood out in the open with my shiny new games in my hand. That's when the feeling crept up on me and punched me in the face. Breaking my proverbial nose and blood gushing down my face. I was ashamed. I was just here last week. I will be here next week. I will play this game and after one week of enjoying it I will stop playing it. I will think about how I can't believe I wasted money like that. But alas, I will be here next week.
I've written this chiefly because I want to bring awareness not only to other people, but to myself. I've been in love with video games since I was 3 years old. I have no qualms about spending money on them in order to not only help out the game creators, but to push the medium forward towards prosperity. But as it stands, I have a problem, and the only thing growing is my games list on Steam.
So let's start a discussion D-toid. I'm really curious as to what you guys think.
So, are games art? Or not?
I personally don't look back on the original Legend of Zelda and think how artsy it was. I look back fondly on it's music as art, though. Which of course I firmly believe that music is art, and who would disagree?
So that begs the question, are games just 'craft'? Or do they truly transcend into the realms of art? Is art just completely subjective? Or...have video games just not been around long enough when compared to film and photography? In 50 years will we finally be at the point when a video game can be called art without a second thought?
I'm well aware that this is well-tread ground, but I think it's still a very valid discussion.
I guess I'll write my first blog post about the recent Modern Warfare 2 controversy surrounding their viral video ad that ended with the "Fight Against Grenade Spam" tagline. Every gaming journalist and their mother has had something to say about this, and even Adam Sessler had a 'Sessler's Soapbox' surrounding the ordeal. I believe this was foolish of Infinity Ward to produce a video that promotes such a hateful term while haphazardly encouraging the continuation of bigoted remarks to flood the cesspools of voice chat on Xbox Live and PSN.
Maybe I'm being a bit radical here, and for the record I will be picking up Modern Warfare 2 at launch, but don't you think Infinity Ward should have realized that they are a big brother-esque figure to not only other developers, but as well as kids(M-rated or not) that will play this game? Video games play a huge role in raising kids these days, as strange as that sounds. So shouldn't we as adults make an effort to teach teamwork and the spirit of competition rather than calling someone words that are fueled by nothing but hatred? It doesn't seem like it's such a far-fetched cause.
Sure you could use the arguments of "they're just words, you're the one that gives them power", or that you claim your First Amendment Freedom of Speech, but can't we just be considerate of other people?
As for the post title, I was reading through the comments on the 'Soapbox' , and it seemed every post was very positive, but every other post started with "I'm not gay, but".
I'll let that speak for itself.
(Anthony Burch's revrant earlier brought up many excellent points about homosexuality in gaming and really pointed to what's wrong with the image of sexual preference in gaming.)