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Letters From the Editor: The Gift of Gaming

December 24, 2023
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Long after the excitement of Christmas day, the memory of holiday games never fade away.

If you’d have told 7-year old me that I’d eventually land in the gaming industry after my share of trials and tribulations in other “more serious” work, I’d have considered that knowledge better than any present that could be bought in a store.

This is the time of year for reflection. Thinking back on all those holidays that came before, I clearly remember all the food, travel and traditions… but what really stands out is the fun and games with family and friends.

Gaming Life

I was always a gamer. From the first time I put the thimble on the board in Monopoly, I was hooked. It wasn’t long after that I tagged along behind my older brothers as they rented videos from the library (Yes! We used to do that!) to learn to play chess. Five or Six years old was probably a little young for chess, but that didn’t stop me from having the board setup every day ready when my dad came home from work.

I thought about chess a lot at that time. The idea of weighing decisions and thinking about the next steps came naturally to me, and it changed the way I thought about life for the better. Not long after that came Mario and Link, and games would occupy most of the real estate in my mind for much of my childhood.

The Digital Frontier

One holiday from my early school years stands out in my memory. With the SNES, everything changed overnight. So many of the foundational classics that were essential in constructing my adult brain: Super Ghouls and Ghosts, A Link to the Past, Maximum Carnage… the list goes on.

I also ascribe my love of writing, reading and language in general with this system. Amazing, epic RPGs like Final Fantasy VI (or III depending on which international version you had), EarthBound and Chrono Trigger showed me multimedia experiences where storytelling and compelling game mechanics occupied the same space. This was my future.

It’s all a blur after that. Games evolved so fast, and I with them. Before long it was Playstation… trading the FFVI for FFVII. I’m not afraid to admit I cried (you know the part I’m talking about). My brother and I became godly good at SSX Tricky at the cost of thousands of hours. I diligently farmed every achievement on Gran Turisimo. These actually were things that I thought about when work or life got hard in the future — this is where I learned persistence and patience.

The Gift Goes On

As I grew into an adult, gaming wasn’t a lifestyle so much as it was just life. TFC LAN parties with friends on the weekend were a normal thing, what else would we do? Every activity got gamified… I learned to roll with the punches of life because I learned to think of it as a game… and you’re never out of a good game until you’re all the way out. Side note, any time anyone says “roll with the punches” I think about the mechanic in Heroes: Unlimited that let you ‘roll with a punch’, casting a d20 to see if you could take half damage by positioning your body better. 🤣

I’d known about tabletop RPGs since I was a kid and feel it was incredibly advantageous for my communication and mental organization skills to play the heck out of those games at (probably) too young of an age. As I grew into an adult though, tabletop became a way of making new friends, growing interpersonal relationships and filtering out the people I wanted in my life from those I didn’t.

D&D and MTG nights were how I met some of my best friends to this day. Settlers of Catan just became a thing that was always waiting on the coffee table with a fresh board randomized and ready to go.

Family Gaming

As a father, the first instinct I had was to play games with my children. Peekaboo, Eat the Toes, Got Your Nose… from day one, every human has a need to play and we naturally understand that. As that play grew up fast, Chase the Ticklemonster gave way to Chutes and Ladders… then eventually lots and lots of Pokemon.

Last year my daughter got her first dice set at seven. She made her first D&D character… a Dragonborn Shaman named BoomBoom. These days, sneaking my wife and I’s various Monster Manuals off our shelf is right up there with catching shinies on her priority list, and she may just find her own brand new MM under the tree this year!

It’s not just my kids though. My wife got a set of sculpted pewter dice from me as well. She’s a markedly different type of gamer, but we find our common ground. About 11 years ago, I moved into a house and thought my roommate was cute. I had an extra PC, so talked her into playing the beta of Path of Exile with me. Here we are all these years later, and we spent an hour playing that same game together last night (New league is pretty epic btw!).

Thank You

When I was a kid, I think my parents regretted getting us into games… video games most of all. In the 90s, people seemed to think that video games were inherently anti-social and would ruin a child’s life and lead to a generation of damaged and desensitized people.

As I sit here and tear up reminiscing, I’m pretty sure that I’m not desensitized. I look back on my life, and gaming didn’t ruin it… it led me to all the places I was supposed to go. Even if my parents thought games rotted my brain, the truth was every game I played was a new perspective and experience that formed my approach to life. It enriched it all. I’ll try not to make that perspective mistake with my own children, as they find all new ways to grow into a better person.

So thank you mom and dad. Thank you to my brothers for being there to explore gaming with me and challenge me. Thanks for still being there to play a game of pitch or a board game at the holidays.

I’ll make sure to pass this gift on. My son and daughter have the ability to experience more than any generation before them through the magic of gaming. How else could they feel what it’s like to be the last orc standing in the legion, or to be racing against an impending supernova to solve progressively difficult puzzles?

Presents are cool. We all love some gift cards and socks. Heck, I just asked my wife for only sweaters without the holes I’ve worn in mine this year. In my memory though, it all eventually blurs into the games.

I want my kids’ memories of the holidays to be like mine… exploring the unknown in a shiny new adventure and lazy holiday afternoons around the table playing board games and laughing. Waiting for that one day that my daughter can beat me fair and square in Scrabble.

Gaming is the best gift I’ve ever received, and giving that gift to others is just as much a way of life as playing myself.

Happy holidays everyone, and I hope you make time to play!

With love and cheer,
Jordan Roberts, Gala