Everyone needs a center. Something that their life might not necessarily revolve around, but at very least drives them. That can be directly or indirectly. I've been taking a hard look at my life lately, something I've never really done before. I'm only 22 but I have had the luxury of having countless life experiences, most notably my combat deployment to the war in Afghanistan. My life has been in the fast lane, and that has been my purposeful doing. I want life experiences and the wisdom that comes with it.
My entire life can be rooted to videogames. That might sound a bit obsessive, but the thing that we like to think of as our fun little hobby has had such a dramatic impact on my life that if I were never exposed to them I would be an entirely different person. My love life would be different, education level, my current living location, employment, everything is the result of videogames.
How it Started:
Surprisingly didn't have a fondness for games at first. Didn't expect that one did you!? My parents owned a PC and a Genesis and tried to get me to game at a young age. I played games at an extremely casual level. I didn't know my Sonics from my Marios or my Quakes from Unreals. Most of my game time was me sucking terribly at Sonic 2 and giving up after 30 minutes to go outside. My Mom and Dad were way bigger gamers than I ever thought I would be.
Everyone I encountered was way into videogames. I almost got to the point I was outcasted for lacking in game knowledge or experience. Of course I accepted them and on occasions sought out game time but they were never an active thought on my mind. Just more like background noise. Yet every friend I made between Pre-School through early Elementary were way into gaming. Through osmosis I eventually adopted videogames as a hobby, but they still weren't my creed.
Probably the turning point my videogame playing career was Pokemon Red. That perfect adoption of a show I loved and a complex enough portable game was perfect. I was completely hooked! Pokemon was the perfect social tool. Through that game I learned about RPG mechanics, how to look up tips/cheats on the Internet, and made a ton of friends.
It was probably 1997 when I officially proclaimed videogames were my hobby. But I was confused on where to take it. Then in 1999 I found the Resident Evil 3 cover issue of GamePro. It was my first memorable exposure to games journalism. No one article jumped out, the magazine as a whole was a portal to a world I was interested in. It successfully engaged conversations about upcoming titles and industry topics. But I still didn't know game journalism existed despite having it in my hands.
Every weekend I would visit my friend Landon's house to play Tekken 3, Future Cop, or whatever dumb game we were into. He introduced me to G4 and I saw the likes of Tommy Tallarico and Adam Sessler talking games and it was then I knew I wanted to do that. I've already been helping my friends make purchasing choices on games for years, it clicked in my head that was an actual job.
I'm now in my Pre-Teens and have a solid hobby and a career in mind. Then I started listening to podcasts, reading articles, and learning everything I can about videogames. I continue to do this today at 22.
When I was 15 I met my first love, Liz. I know at 15 that sounds kind of dumb. Yet nearly 8 years later I look back and believe that little Steve was in love. I spent most of my small McDonald's earnings on flowers and shitty dates. We met on the Internet. Yes, that's lame as hell but it worked out fine. I distinctly remember her expressing interest in my videogame blogs early on and that made me want to date her. She was an active reader. I asked her out and we went on a
horrible fantastic first date to John Tucker Must Die. We ended up dating for awhile. That was my first real exposer to a woman and I got over all my pre-teen awkwardness. Overtime I got a basic understanding on how to treat a lady. That girl even had me take a stab at poetry. Holy shit that hobby didn't last long! No, I didn't save any examples. I'm sure she still has some to show her future daughter to giggle at.
At this point I'm 16 and getting heavily into blogging on GameSpot. I was an avid listener of The HotSpot and started following what is now the GiantBomb crew. All this videogame writing eventually built my skills as a writer which lead me to advanced English courses in school. I always graduated at the top of my class. Videogames made me care about school. I saw English class as an avenue to develop my reviewing skills. My 10th grade teacher even helped me edit my game reviews.
My Sophomore year challenged me with a reality: If I want this game journalism job I need education and skills. My school district offers a chance to go to a technical school for your Junior and Senior year of High School. I saw their Broadcasting class as an opportunity to make myself useful in the game business. I busted ass to get my GPA maxed out and eventually was granted access to the tech school.
I was spending tons of time outside of school playing and learning videogames. My desire to get in the press drove me to become an expert in the skills taught in the program such as video editing, directing, and podcast editing. It was their I met my next girlfriend, Jennifer.
As High School came to a close a new reality hit me: college. How the fuck am I going to pay for this shit? I have a belief every able bodied young man should serve his country at a time of war. I believed in the conflict in Afghanistan to my bones. To my mother's dismay, I enlisted in the Army as a Cavalry Scout at the age of 17 and went to Basic Training at Fort Knox. I actually lied to my mother about what job I was going into. Being a Scout is one of the most dangerous jobs in the Army. I told her I was going in as Military Police. There were combined elements of patriotism and getting the means to break into game journalism. Not too sure if my love for videogames really made my decision for me. However, I'm sure it was the tipping point.
I proposed to Jennifer at my Basic Training graduation. We moved in together and made wedding plans. Behind her back I volunteered for an upcoming Infantry deployment to Afghanistan. As a young soldier, I desperately wanted to do my part. Being in combat arms without combat experience is embarrassing and shameful, even if it isn't your fault that you haven't had the opportunity. My unit just got back from a combat tour and was grounded for a long time. I took matters into my own hands and found a unit that was about to deploy.
That was in 2010. My paperwork was approved and was awaiting the deployment that year. It eventually got cancelled and I moved on with my life. I got an internship at GiantBomb in 2011. My first day there I was called to return to Ohio immediately to ship overseas. My internship lasted one week.
I spent most of my deployment exposing the rest of the men to videogames. The goal was to give them a hobby to distract them from boredom and the horrors of war. I didn't want them to be susceptible to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression. You can read that full story here. I was also able to tell this story on Kotaku. This also lead me to have a little bit on Gamespot and my school paper.
In March 2012 my Platoon and I were on a dismounted patrol. We were ambushed by Taliban. An RPG round hit a wall I was standing against just (from what I'm told) inches from my face. I was knocked unconscious and eventually diagnosed with my second concussion. Over the course of the deployment I would have 3 diagnosed concussions.
I awoke in Bastion Hospital outside Leatherneck in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Two of my buddies were with me and told me they called a MEDEVAC, Airforce Pararescue saved my life. Immediately I called Jennifer to tell her the news. To my surprise she told me she didn't have time to talk to me. We were having relationship problems already and I decided to end it all their. I almost died, I just wanted 10 minutes of the lady's time. To think videogames lead me in that hospital. Maybe if I never went to Landon's to watch G4 I would've never been shot?
To think videogames did so much for me is insane. They inspired me in school, lead me to higher education, kindled two long/life changing relationships, made me go to war, and write this blog to you now.
Games have been a driving force in my life. I like to think I saved a lot of men's minds from diving into madness with games. Possibly that can be linked with prevented suicides. Our Brigade has had 5 suicides since the return home.
I also believe that they've benefitted my life. At no time was I bored in life, so I never got into drugs or got into serious trouble growing up. Thanks to the game industry, I've been inspired to chase a career. Even if that never develops I will still walk away with valuable skills and education. I believe I'm more well-rounded than the alternate-universe Steve who never got into gaming. I'm a more driven and experienced individual. Every major event since I was 10 wouldn't have happened if not for videogames. I've traveled the world, met tons of interesting people at places like PAX, and have stories to tell for days.
I'm now a student at Miami University majoring in Mass Communication with a focus in Media Criticism.
Please share stories on how games have changed your life for better or worse below!
Thanks for Reading!