Few people can recognize this combination of letters, but the phrase will forever be ingrained in my memory.
I have had an obsession with console gaming from early childhood. I can remember the joys of schooling my older sister in Super Mario Bros. on the original NES, speeding through ring-filled levels as Sonic on my 16-bit SEGA Genesis, and all-night Halo LAN parties with my buddies, braving through sticky grenades and sniper rifles on the iconic Xbox.
Each time my family planned a trip to the store, the first words out of my mouth were, “can I go to the electronics section?” That was code for: find the demo console on the video games aisle and play until it was time to leave (even if it left an awful crick in my neck). I may or may not have been called to the front of the store over an intercom by some lucky employee because my parents wanted to leave.
Spoiler: that happened on more than one occasion.
Gaming for me was its own microcosm, where the imagination could be set free to experience new joys and make exciting discoveries. It gave me an avenue to set aside my inhibitions and express myself free from reproof. Moreover, I was fully committed to whatever I played, and I would put legitimate hard work into the games I favored more. That dedication garnered a competitive nature in me, which meant merely beating a game was not enough; I had to master it.
Adding friends only made the experience more entertaining. It gave me the chance to share my discoveries with other people and have them teach me new things about a game (whether intentional or not). Pooling my friends’ imaginations with my own was like ripping off the hinges of a door that led to an open playground. I wanted to explore every detail of a game by testing its limits and boundaries. I remember creating new scenarios and raising the stakes with my friends to the point where the game took on an entirely different dynamic from what the game was initially developed for.
You may recall the combo of letters at the beginning of this post. I bet you didn’t know it was the cheat code, “level skip,” for an Aladdin game on the SEGA Genesis console – unless you already cheated by typing it into a search engine, of course (how ironic). You can bypass an entire level just by pressing those buttons in sequence via the in-game pause screen. Surely you could imagine the mad scientist-like smile on my face when I greedily beat the game in less than 2 minutes. I could go on and on about the shenanigans that ensued with the introduction of cheat codes, but this would turn into a much longer post.
Video games have been an integral part of my life and also brought me much joy. Nonetheless, society influenced me to believe that playing video games was just immature or childish. The topic of gaming was a conversation I could engage in with certain friends, but a sore subject for any grown up (or girl for that matter). I felt the need to withhold this one from my list of interests when getting to know people. To be blunt, the subject was a conversation killer. Still, I continued gaming (secretly) with the same enthusiasm.
Today I still have a huge passion for console gaming, and I continue to add to the countless great memories I have made with a controller in my hands. The nostalgia that comes with those memories is priceless; like when my dad and I had an ongoing competition to hold the high score for Tetris in elementary school; or the moment I finally defeated the almighty Ganondorf, after solving a myriad of challenging puzzles in the quintessential Ocarina of Time. The list continues, but the message is the same: Gaming, in retrospect, is a deep-rooted part of who I am.
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