Hey, it’s me. Emily, if you’re not too sure by that greeting. We’ve known each other for decades now, but I don’t think we’ve spoken like this – so candidly, that is. I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately, how you’ve slowly slunk your way into every aspect of my life. I think it happened without me truly realizing it, but when I get a moment to stop and ponder on it, I come to the realization that I don’t think I’d be me without you. And if there’s anything that I should say to you, it’s this: thank you. I think you saved me.
Twenty something years into my life, I look back and realize that I’m different. And no, not that I’m ‘so different from those other girls,’ it’s just that I’m different. People like me, we see the world in an odd light. Sometimes so dark, you’d be certain light never existed at all. Other times it’s a light that I swear could trample and stomp on hell itself. Unbeaten. Unbroken. Whether it’s just my brain displaying science I’ll never understand, or I just happen to be unlucky in some regard, I’ve always been looking for balance; something to slay the dark or dampen the light when it becomes too overwhelming to open my eyes. And, for one reason or another, you’ve become that balance.
All of this sounds weird, right? Here I am, talking to you like you’re some kind of tangible, all-knowing entity. But for the sake of this letter, just let me think of you as a friend, sitting there with kind eyes and open ears. It makes me sound a bit less mad, and I think it’s easier that way.
When I was a kid, you allowed my brother and I to get lost for days on end. You taught us how to navigate a world together, and showed us that we each could play a role in being successful. I learned how to apply my skills with his to overcome obstacles in my way. Sure, we were kids, and the biggest obstacle was getting bedtime extended by 30 minutes, but those skills you taught us transcended into life itself. We learned how to cooperate as a team; how to stand in solidarity.
When I was ten, you got my brother and I in trouble. Apparently mothers don’t approve of picking up prostitutes in a virtual setting. That solidarity we learned years before came into play again, and we swore up and down we were only playing the game ‘for the story’, as any completely innocent, angel-like child would.
It was that same year that you showed me that the things I loved could also hold darkness – and maybe that’s one of the most important things I’ve learned. I was shown that a kid with a Keyblade could be any one of us. That magic can be real, hope can be found anywhere, and that even in the deepest depths of our own minds, we can swallow our own darkness. You taught me that when we stand together, we can overcome ourselves.
I carried that with me for a long time. Growing up is hard to do sometimes, but you stood as an anchor for my sanity. You became an outlet for my own expression. You lifted me higher on my best days, and caught me gently on my absolute worst. And because of that, I have to apologize. As I grew a bit older, I lost sight of that. There was a time when I grew to be ashamed of you. To others, you weren’t cool enough.
I guess, like any other teenager, I became so concerned with how I appeared to others that I disregarded the things I loved. They didn’t understand you. You were too nerdy, too stupid. “Guys who live in their mom’s basement,” someone told me. “They play games. Fat. Stupid. Ugly.” You became a stereotype I was embarrassed to admit I was a part of. I sacrificed my balance for an outward appearance.
I found new things to occupy my time. Boys, girls, school, music, art. I didn’t fit in anywhere, and in turn, I changed myself over and over again. I was no longer that kid with a Keyblade or the assured navigator of the world. I just a girl, lonelier than I’d ever imagined and yearning for certainty.
It wasn’t until my first year of university that I truly found you again. It’s the typical story, you know? A kid lost at college. A new world, filled with new people and the first real taste of independence. It was entry-level adulthood, and I found that it was equally as scary as it was lonely. But there you were, my balance. You didn’t care that I had pushed you aside for my own vanity. I got lost in you again, just like I did as a kid. And for the first time in what felt like an eternity, I felt my own darkness lift. I escaped every scared feeling, every impulse that plagued me.
In turn, you showed me things I could have never dreamt up in my own imagination. You brought me to lands I could never travel to, showed me new worlds that would never exist without you, and introduced me to a life full of people who accepted me for exactly what I am – exactly who I am. I found courage. I found hope. You taught me to reclaim every part of myself, and I grew to understand that it’s okay to be different – as long as I never sacrifice who I am for the sake of others.
You brought me different points of view, new realities, and finally showed me that no matter what, I could be the hero of my own story. And on the days where the darkness swirls up every inch of my insides, you’re there to calm the storm. You taught me to be light when the world was heavy, and made sense of a brain I don’t think I’ll ever understand. You’ve stuck with me through loss, heartbreak, and the inevitable plague of myself.
And now, after twenty-something years, you’ve given me one more thing: purpose. I was lost for a very long time, but now, being able to write about you—for you—has given me a sense of certainty I’ve never felt before. I like to think that some days, I’m pretty decent as this video games writing thing, and it’s given me a chance to explore you in a way I never thought I could. You make me think bigger, and push me endlessly to work hard and follow every ounce of passion I have.
There is light and dark in all things, and for the first time in my life, I have balanced it all. And hey, video games, you’re responsible. To others it probably sounds crazy, and there are a lot of folks out there who will never understand, but someday… someday I hope they can find a passion like mine. Someday I hope that all people can have something that balances them the way you balance me. I’ve got steadier footing nowadays, and the lessons you’ve taught me will transcend the paracosm in which you exist. I’m not great at expressing my feelings, but I don’t have to with you — I can just show you.
I’m the kid with the Keyblade, the child with a sword and shield. I’m that ten year old getting in trouble for picking up virtual hookers, and the girl who decided to dive in to the unknown with a brother she looked up to. And life? It’s looking pretty good.
So thank you, video games. I think you saved me.
Here’s to a few more decades,
Emily Lynn Lemay
Video games can have a profound effect on anyone — so what’s your story? Let’s hear it in the comments below, and find that common ground that brings us all together.