I have always been a gamer. Though no one believes me, I think I was born with a NES controller in my hand. While I also enjoy playing sports and participating in other activities, my heart will always lie with the fantastical worlds and excruciatingly frustrating challenges of video games. Fortunately, upon entering high school, I found myself located in a gaming “safe-haven,” a place where you had no reason to fear that someone would label you uncool or judge you for being a gamer. I count myself among the lucky to have such an experience.
My high school, GCA, has very few students. The graduating class of 2011 claimed only 60 people and the entire high school only enrolled 240 students (with a rather even distribution between guys and girls.) That being said, we were a very close group of kids. Because our school was so small, it seemed everyone had to play a sport in order to keep the teams populated. That fact erased any sense of division between the “jocks” and the non-sports folk. And then there was the odd case that around 80 of the 120 guys who attended GCA high school owned an Xbox 360. So imagine now, a community of friends where the majority play sports at a varsity level, AND where the majority play video games. This rare concoction of circumstances resulted in an environment where there was no enmity between hardcore gamers and “normal people.”
I remember a specific circumstance that occurred Sophomore year that shows the level of camaraderie that games provided at my school. I had been playing Gears of War 2 with a group of friends when our party joined someone else’s game. I was soon told we were going to play with Phillip. Now please understand, Phillip was a senior, as well as a star of the football team. Therefore, I was a bit intimidated. Anyway, We joined the game, and I proceeded to absolutely own Phillip’s team. At the time, I couldn’t figure out if that would be a good thing, or a bad thing, socially speaking. Fast forward through the weekend to Monday morning Spanish class. Phillip strolls into class, promptly strides directly toward me, and stops about 2 feet away, staring at me for a few seconds. This short amount of time seemed like an eternity to me of course, with the rest of the class quietly observing why on earth Phillip would be confronting a underclassmen.
After what was probably a few short seconds he said, “That was some ridiculous shooting you did last night.”
Being completely caught off guard by that remark, I simply mumbled, “Thanks, you too.”
Little did I know that within the next four or five months, Phillip would become one of my best friends. We still game together to this day, whether it’s getting a character to 85 in World of Warcraft, or patiently struggling to survive until Gears of War 3 is released. I suppose that my main point is, gamers aren’t always social outcast. In fact, at GCA, people who didn’t game often times had trouble keeping up socially. Gamers aren’t lifeless beings who can’t function in society. I would say one of the main reasons gamers have trouble fitting in is because non-gamers won’t give them a chance. They won’t look past a hobby that is frowned upon to see that us gamers are quite like everyone else.
I am so thankful I grew up in an accepting society for gamers. My whole life, the people who are closest to me see that gaming done in healthy amounts is fun and engaging. They have looked at gaming with a non-biased eye. They judge gaming for what it really is. A mean that can be applied in many ways to reach many ends.