Well folks. I did it.
I recently made the switch over to a dedicated gaming console, after spending most of my life going back and forth between makeshift PCs on minimum specs, borrowed time on friends’ consoles, and gaming in whatever form I could get my hands on. After such a prolonged drought, I am damned pleased to have given into my inner geekdom and now enjoy saving the universe on a regular basis.
As such, everything is new and fresh – there’s a lot of gaming history that I’ve missed out on, and the thrifty ninja in me revels in exploring iconic titles without hefty price tags. So, as I begin this wonderfully meandering journey in the video game candy shop, I also fondly take a look back on the mishmashed tale of ‘How I got Nerdy….’
The Good Ol’ Days
I had a crack at my first RPG early on in life with the legendary classic on the original Nintendo platform: Dragon Warrior 1. I didn’t finish this one – I hate mindless farming and repetition. Thus began the ongoing trend for my entire (gaming) life – capture and hold my attention, or Ninja out. Another gem from my early gaming days was an obscure old series on the PC called Dark Sun / Wake of the Ravanger; that is, when I found a computer that could actually process the games. The illustrations were basic, the animations beyond laughable, but I still look on this as a formative experience of my journey to Ninjahood.
I also had a brief brush with what I now know as one of the most successful titles in the Chinese/Taiwanese RPG genre - The Legend of Sword and Fairy. It had been accidentally installed on a family friend’s computer, and I remember many an afternoon in a musty apartment trying to remember enough of my childhood Chinese lessons to play it through. (If only my parents had the insight to toss a few Chinese video games at me early on, I’m sure it would’ve drastically increased my linguistic fluency and interest in the motherland…)
I remember begging strict authority figures (read: aforementioned kin) for a console – anything – to play the type of games that I didn’t even have the terminology for at the time. They didn’t cave, possibly out of fear that it would prevent me from living a happy and fulfilled life. Apparently video games were a far more insidious threat than drugs, sex, and those other teenage rites of passage.
However, I quickly learned that I preferred this genre over any other in the video game world. I got bored of Street Fighter-eque Kombat; I failed to see the draw of most first-person shooters. Strategy gaming was like Latin to me. Over the years, not having followed any logical pattern or console, I’ve developed a very scattered taste of the RPG space. I blazed through different iterations of Final Fantasy (nothing good after 6), I dug through emulators for jewels like Tales of Phantasia and Chrono Trigger. A high school friend patiently loaned me hours on hours of time on her coveted Playstation, opening my eyes to the captivating, novel-in-a-game experience of Xenogears. These were all part of the happy memories of my childhood, and I am a better geeky Ninja because of them…
Why I Do It
Gaming got me through the so-typical teenager stages and allowed escapism in those dreary high school years. A girl who opts to build Lego castles with the boys on her first day of grade four generally doesn’t win any popularity points, and I was no exception.
Over time and experience, I’ve found a balance between feminine mystique and gaming glory. I’m unequivocally, unapologetically, and unashamedly a Girly Geek. My material lust over new pretty dresses and unopened Xbox cases go hand in hand, and are not opposed to one other. Contradictory to the general consensus and negative media coverage on the pitfalls of gaming culture, playing video games does not impede on my social interactions or my contributions to society. Game time is my time: it’s a private, comfortable, introverted space in which I simultaneously recharge energies and actively participate in fascinating stories on par with what I’d get out of a novel (and exceeding most movie experiences).
Yes, it’s easy to overdo it – especially since my experience up to this point has been characterized by scarcity. Games are by nature addicting and time-intensive, and just like any other hobby or interest, it can be challenging to strike the right balance between saving the universe and, well, friends. I don’t think I’ve quite struck the right balance yet, but I do take heed when the stiff neck tells me I’m going overboard.
It’s a work in progress, but with all of the stress of our everyday lives, I’d rather this particular brand of relaxation.