In my family video games have became a connective tissue of sorts for me and the generations around me. I have been part of and witness to how games can bring people together. How they can influence a person's development. I've seen how they can build relationships. Let me explain some of the things I'm talking about.
When I was about 7 years old a cousin of mine, who sadly passed away many years ago, brought to my house a Colecovision with some games, and gave them to my family. Yes I said Colecovision. I am 41 years old and still an active player and collector. Anyway...... In those games was the Coleco version of Donkey Kong, the pack-in title for the system in those days. While my brothers and I found the games fun from the moment we plugged it in, the suprise was that my dad picked up the controller and really took an interest in Donkey Kong. I must be honest. My dad and I never had a really close relationship. I was the last of five children and very different from him personality wise. I don't think he ever understood his geek son. Because of Donkey Kong though I remember times of setting with my dad in front of the television taking turns trying to get the high score. He was actually pretty good too. He was the first to make the score counter turn over back to zeroes, and we would try to see how many times we could do it in one game. Because of video games I do have fond memories as father and son.
As I got older I continued playing games with my older brothers and friends. One of my brothers would buy a Nintendo ntertainment System, and later a Sega Genesis. It was when I turned 14 though I got my first summer job. At that time the brother right above me in age was working for the summer too. We decided to buy a Super NES together. I also bought a Gameboy that summer, but that's not as relevant to this story. With that system came Super Mario World, and we also bought The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and F-Zero. Truely an overload to a teenage nerd like me. That system got played and played to the point I'm amazed it didn't overheat and burn out. From those first games to Street Fighter 2, we played together and often had friends over to play. Looking back on it that system may be the start of why that particlar brother and I have always been so close. Still one of my best friends to this day.
Not much later. Only a year I think. Another cousin of mine started sending her son out to my house on the weekends. Where I live in rural Eastern Kentucky where I live large extended families are common and live close enough to see each other often. (And no the people are not backwards like many of you think.) This kid was five years old when he started coming to my house. I guess his mom recognized that he was a bit like me, and since he didn't have any older brothers of his own, it would be good for him. I won't lie for a good while the kid was a pain in the butt. Like I was growing up, he was socially very awkward, and just gravitated toward geek intersts. Remember, this was before geek culture was mainstream. It wasn't always easy being yourself growing up this way. One day though the kid was at my house like any other weekend . He was laying in front of the TV totally absorbed and playing a game called Robo Aleste, a shooter on the Sega CD (Which was an add-on to the Genesis). I admit, I have always been terrible at shooters, and this one was a challenging one. I could barely beat level 1. At one point I look and this five year old is blazing through level four. He was a natural, and at that point it was already obvious how intelligent he was. Impressed I gave the kid more of a chance. He stuck around and became my little brother. I'm proud to say years later I got him into reading and he took off with that too. Today he is married with a kid and my other best friend.
Moving on to a bit after my college years, there's another kid in my house. My oldest nephew was about six or seven himself. I was home one day playing Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic on the original X-box. I was really into this game. It was one of those I spent hours and hours on. This little boy would keep coming into my room and watching me play and of course wanting to play himself. I kept telling him that he might be a little young to play that one. He got tired of waiting though. Next thing I know there is a kid jumping on my back, hanging onto my neck, and dragging me down while yelling, "share with bubby! Share with bubby!" A lot of little boys get called bubby or bub in my family, I'm not sure why. That's where I remember starting to spend a lot more time with him and showing him lots of games. In time it wouldn't be just video games. We've played Board games, miniature games, Magic: the Gathering, and plenty of Dungeons and Dragons. He's 19 now and and DMing his own game. He even joins me in my game collecting to an extent.
Now we are to his younger brother and my youngest nephew. At 13 he loves games himself and a lot of that may have to do with how much he looks up to his older brother. Something I can appreciate. He's an ADHD kid and yeah, a bit socially awkward himself. He loves Five Nights at Freddy's and just played his way through Boarderland's 3. Like a lot of us, and like I did, he connects to others through his interests. It's like a chain that keeps going, or as I said at the start, connective tissue. As I write this we are just into the holiday season and we are all thinking about family. I encourage everyone reading to find a game to play with the younger members of their family and make some memeories like I have.