Before I was even born, video games were set to be an important part of my life. My parents had an NES, and I came to life as the child of a Zelda-loving mom and first-shooter player dad. Let me just share a moment of silence for the NES that drowned in a basement flood just a few years later, before I go on.
Okay, I’m all good.
When I was a kid, I didn’t ‘play’ like most other kids did. When I was with a group of other kids, it would be different, but back then I didn’t really have many friends. The friends that I did have only belonged to my school life. Back home, my two little sisters were my only friends.
I loved playing with my Barbie dolls, but I didn’t spend my time brushing their hair and playing house. My Barbies were adventurers, spies, or epic princes going on an intense journey to save the princess from the evil dragon. That doesn’t differ that much from other kids, but with video games, it was a totally different story. If I played Mario 64, I eventually did collect the stars to save Princess Peach, but usually that was not how I played the game. First of all, I wasn’t playing as Mario at all. In my head, he was another character (the name of the guy depended on which period of my childhood we go back to), and he had his own personality. I would use the open world of Mario 64 to tell my own story, and yes, I did talk to myself as I did that.
Often, the stories that I made up as I played ended up on paper, first as pictures when I was younger, and eventually into picture books that my mother would bind with yarn.
My sisters were fond of video games as well. When we played together, we would make up our own characters based on the video game characters, and make up our own stories that we would act out. Eventually, we even made up our own universes; I had the world of the sun, my middle sister had world of the moon, and the youngest had the world of the stars.
We only learned later that the sun is also a star, but shhh.
The reason we invented our own characters instead of just acting out as Mario or Princess Peach is that I, for one, was just never able to. I couldn’t bring myself to act out a character that was not mine, even as a kid. I felt restrained with what I could do. I wanted to explore, create, innovate.
That is also why I cannot write fan fiction. I have tried several times, but was only mildly successful a few times. In all cases, I was writing about video games.
That is because my imagination works from the inside. The characters I create have to come from inside only for me to be successful with them. (This is also the reason I have always had trouble working in groups at school, especially when we had to be creative; I always considered this one of my biggest flaws.) The thing with video games is that they take you inside of them. You experience the storyline much more tangibly than with a movie or a book.
Most people say that video games inhibit creativity and playtime. In my case, video games were what sparked creativity and playtime with my sisters and me. And in turn, playtime sparked my stories.
The first ‘novel’ I have ever written – I use novel very openly here, as I was only eleven and I would never actually consider this manuscript as useful for anything – was based on playtime with a friend at school. We made up characters for ourselves, and invented issues and played them out. When we finished the game several weeks later, I decided to write about it. This spawned about a hundred hand written pages of (terrible) fiction.
So what is my point here? It is that video games are not bad for kids – that is, if it is controlled. Up until I graduated high school, my parents limited the amount of video games my sisters and I were allowed to play per day. During week days, it was no more than half an hour, and one hour and a half on weekend days.
Our parents actually had more of a problem with us reading than playing video games. I can’t count the times we were yelled at because we wouldn’t put our books down to do our chores. We never had that problem with video games up until we were old enough to decide how many hours we wanted to play.
And finally, one video game in particular inspired the setting of the Rioux Fight Club in my book, Abiding Heart. The fight club is where half of the book takes place. The first room is a large, luxurious hall where people can wait until the next fight begins. The actual fighting arena is surrounded by a hallway, in which the fighters have their rooms.
If you’ve ever played Paper Mario: A Thousand Year Door, this might sound familiar.
Yes, the Rioux Fight Club from my book is almost entirely based on the Glitz Pit from A Thousand Year Door.
So I have to thank video games for where I am today. Without them, I don’t even know if I would be a writer.