As a gangly, pale, glasses-wearing, zitty human teenager in the early 2000’s, I had definitely grown out of my “cute” 90’s stage and liked to avoid the glare of the yellow dwarf star we know as the sun. So when I wasn’t assigning myself homework during summer vacation, I gravitated towards other activities that allowed minimal human interaction…i.e. reading and playing video games.
Reading was fun and all, but after 3rd grade, my friends were unable and unwilling to justify crawling around in the dirt during recess to reenact scenes from my favorite books. While other kids gossiped on the uneven bars, played soccer, and beat up kindergartners for lunch money, I built cat forts and solidified my status as leader of Thunderclan, the most ferocious group of undomesticated felines to rule the northeast corner of Lakeview Elementary School. I spent a majority of my 5th Grade Halloween party hissing at my classmates from underneath a table.
I quickly found out that while it was very easy to act out cat battles (I’d crawl around on all fours and claw at imaginary enemies from Shadowclan) or catch prey (mainly finches and voles, also very imaginary), it became difficult to let my freak flag fly without my peers giving me weird glances in the hallway.
When the opportunity arose to participate in something nerdy, wildly popular, and socially accepted, I got turnt AF. That year, I begged my parents to buy me what was the biggest fad since the fanny pack and green ketchup: Gameboy Color, son.
My parents sighed and gave up all hope of a normal child when they caved and bought me a beautiful, teal Gameboy that year. A few months later, my parents found me sitting in my closet with the light on playing Pokemon Blue Version at 3am. I was obsessed. I still read books, but I spent more time gaming than reading. I justified this because my teacher told me I read too much during class. Betch.
Pokemon was the height of coolness when I was in elementary school. Though my parents forbade me from playing the Pokemon trading card game with the neighborhood kids, I managed to gather a few cards by seducing a kid from my grade a few houses over. I had him wrapped around my claw finger. This was definitely on account of how great I looked when I tucked my Seaworld shirt into my high-waisted Diadora soccer shorts.
My neighbor would give me a few cards here and there so I could get my Poke-squad lit enough to defeat the other kids on my block. I had some lame cards like Bellsprouts, Pidgeys, and Clefairies, but I longed for the ever elusive holographic Charizard card that now sells on eBay for $4,000. At the time, I just wanted that card so I could Fireblast the sh*t out of the school bully’s Nidoking. He would pay for the time he facewashed my little sister’s mug in a snow bank.
When other kids began giving up Pokemon in 6th grade for cooler things like tie-dye t-shirts
and cocaine , I still snuck my Gameboy on the bus so I could use my Level 103 Articuno to icebeam Level 4 Ratatas (because screw those lame-o rat pinheads whose only move was “Scratch”). I had to get hyped up so I could effectively do long division later that day, you see. Pokemon was no longer something to brag about, but for me, the game very much lived on past the brand’s glory years. I was the best gawd damn trainer in all of Pallet Town who cried while trying to figure out 504 divided by 2.
Around the same time I got my Gameboy, my brother succeeded in getting a PlayStation for his birthday. He quickly succumbed to the lifestyle of gaming hard and avoiding sunlight at all costs. I saw this as an opportunity. I wanted to continue being a part of something that involved minimal contact with reality.
Enthusiastically, I bought several games and negotiated time with my brother (or threatened to tell his crush what color his underwear were) so I could play games like Barbie Horse Adventures, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Gallop Racer, Spyro, and ATV Off-Road Fury 1-4.
Instead of going outside and building forts, I now spent hours in the basement building an empire. I bred racehorses, beat Riptoc to release the fireflies he captured, learned how to bet, created super cute Barbie outfits to horseback ride in, and kicked major ass at stunts on my Ravage Talon ATV while jamming out to Korn’s latest CD. I knew at a young age my resume would be lit.
When my brother got the Playstation upgrade a few years later, I added Dance Dance Revolution to my repertoire. I aced the crap out of songs like “Move Your Feet” by Junior Senior and knew all the steps to Duran Duran’s “The Reflex”. Left, right, up, down, left, PLOT TWIST LEFT AND UP AT THE SAME TIME. Boiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii~
I was living my best life. I spent a majority of my teen years listening to 80’s power ballads in my room while writing in my diary and owning the crap out of video games. I was an overweight, sweaty, 40-year-old virgin in the body of a pubescent preteen.
And I loved it.
In high school, I largely abandoned the games so I had people to sit by at lunch. Every once and awhile I’d rummage through all the crap under my bed and rediscover my Gameboy or PS2 games. More recently, I brought my Gameboy with me to college for the hell of it and defeated Pokemon Blue Version for the umpteenth time just to show what a motherfrickin’ gangstah I still was. I’ve found that the older I get, the more creative I get with naming Professor Oak’s son. I started off naming him Poophead then regressed to Sh*tstain a decade later. I imagine I’ll come up with a really special name for him when I turn ninety.
My Junior year of college, I encouraged one of my roommates to bring her PS2 with her so we could play Crash Bandicoot in between two-a-days for volleyball. It was always fun to game with my friends, but I longed to kick some butt at Spyro again.
I began searching for my old haunts at GameStop and managed to hustle my favorite games for under ten dollars. I moved the PS2 from the common room into my room and neglected my homework. DID POKEMASTERS AND GALLOP RACER CHAMPIONS NEED TO WORRY ABOUT SHAKESPEARE? HELL NO THEY DID NOT.
I’ve always been an avid supporter of not doing any schoolwork after midnight. Video games are a highly different situation. It’s life and death. I either write a research paper on earthworms or stop Riptoc from committing genocide against hundreds of fireflies. Easy decision. I’d play well into the wee hours of the morning if it meant I could get closer to defeating whichever game I began playing earlier that day.
I’m sure I would’ve had more of an appreciation for Beowulf or statistical analysis if I wouldn’t have conquered so many fantasy worlds. But truth is, I was still learning by avoiding institutional learning. Screw the man.
Below, I’ve compiled a short list of things I’ve learned that translate well into real life. Bottom line, if you have children who are weird gamers and are rarely seen outside of your basement, do not freak out. I managed to grow up moderately fine and wasn’t beat up too bad. So to justify all the hours I’ve spent in a basement gaming like a baller, here’s a list of the most critical lessons I’ve learned thus far:
- Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly
- Learned resourcefulness because it took me five years to complete
- Learned how to simultaneously cuss and press the square button to use firebreath
- How to glide
- How to head-bash my enemies
- How to light sheep on fire so I can eat them
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- More resourcefulness because it also took me over five years to complete
- How to cheat via Youtube walkthroughs
- How to simultaneously cuss and insult Draco Malfoy’s mother while winning the House Cup
- How to slay a basilisk
- Gallop Racer: A New Breed (horse racing)
- Gambling, mostly
- How to cuss and whip a horse simultaneously
- How to breed horses
- Also inadvertently learned about the possible side effects of horse-incest
- Barbie Horse Adventures
- How to put together a fabulous outfit
- Learned what boobs were and that I did not have them
- How to simultaneously cuss, lasso a horse, and look fabulous
- MarioKart: Super Circuit (for Gameboy Advance)
- How to throw trash and banana peels at others so I can cut them off and beat them to the stoplights
- How to drive, mostly
- How to simultaneously cuss and hit people with turtle shells
- Learned Yoshi is the best
- Dance Dance Revolution
- How to dance within three square feet using only four foot buttons
- Great practice for playing at arcades to impress friends and the child molester at Chuck-E-Cheese
- How to simultaneously cuss and press a button with my foot
- Great for drunk dance moves for after college
- How to win a dance battle against a brain-damaged seal, probably
- Pokemon Blue Version
- How to socially isolate oneself as a human being
- How to simultaneously cuss and throw my balls at imaginary animals
- Great for self confidence
- Learned great hand-eye coordination from throwing my balls at imaginary animals
- ATV Off-Road Fury 1-4
- Learned all the words to Korn’s song “Here To Stay”
- Created my own band called “Karrot” as a result which is creativity
- How to simultaneously cuss and pull the move “One-Handed Indian Air” (Left console Triangle button + Right console) while catching air off a dirt hill
- How to be an a-hole (drive the opposite way on racetrack to crash into opponents head-first)
- How to cut people off and force them to crash into a gasoline pipe to finish a race first
- How to drive mostly
As you can clearly see, I’ve learned many skills that have translated well into my social and work life.
What if a basilisk started attacking my apartment? I’d have the know-how to either throw a ball at the beast to enslave it or how to slay the sh*t out of it so I can eventually use its fang to defeat SPOILER ALERT Voldemort.
Even more exciting, I also learned how to drive from MarioKart and ATV Off-Road Fury and can now drive like I’m from Rhode Island or Massachusetts.
Highly translatable skills. Even more so than Microsoft Excel or written and/or oral communication.
Long story short, I regret nothing. I’m a better person because of all the hours I’ve spent rotting my eyes out in front a screen in a fantasy world. Though my parents were worried for me when I started sleepwalking at night trying to catch ‘em all, the truth is I definitely got an athletic scholarship because of my highly adept hand eye coordination skills and ability to press the “square button” to whip my horse during a race.
I encourage any overbearing parent set on having their child get a scholarship to have them play Dungeons and Dragons for five hours a day. It makes complete sense. Take it from me, a nerd who is very well-adjusted in life now.