My son would have turned 21 today. Nearly four years after he was shot and killed, a day doesn’t go by when he isn’t thought of by my wife or me. As I’ve vocalized previously, it’s impossible to convey the feeling(s), and it isn’t something I would ever wish on anyone.
In 2018, after his death, I wrote The Good in Gaming. I still consider the article to be the most meaningful piece I’ve ever written, and it was the foundation for our Good in Gaming initiative. With that in mind, I wanted to reflect on how gaming has helped me over the past few years and continue to relay the positive benefits that games can provide.
As I’ve spoken about since the incident, video games took on a new purpose after that night. While they always held a special place due to the friendships and memorable moments they’ve provided over the course of my life, they grew into something even more important.
First, they became a way for me to relax and escape. Many gamers use video games as a release or escape mechanism, the same way others use music, movies, books, and other forms of entertainment. This concept took on new significance for me after that day, and it has since broadened my understanding of their importance in this vein.
Gaming was not merely about enjoyment or challenge anymore. But, rather, it became a way to explore another world, to experience a tale of redemption or success, and to overcome odds believed to be insurmountable. While I’m sure all of these aspects were true to a degree previously for me, it’s far easier to recognize them now. It’s an interesting feeling when accomplishing something digitally begins to hold personal meaning. Again, it feels like something that’s not easy to portray, but, if you’re reading this, you can likely relate to the thought in some manner.
Perhaps more important, though, is the social aspect of modern gaming. Gaming for me has always been about relationships and friends, and I often reminisce of my fortune having grown up with so many friends during the 8 and 16-bit eras which resulted in forming lifelong bonds.
Today, using games as a social means is more popular than ever, and for good reason. Unlike other entertainment mediums, video games can be a truly shared experience. And being able to share in that experience, regardless of financial means, location, or any other factor, is yet another reason gaming today is spectacular. But taking that a step further is the fact that shared, positive experiences, and the friendships that develop through them, can aid people in a number of ways.
While what I’m dealing with is unique to me, I have several friends that are facing challenges of their own. And each of those challenges are inherently unique to them and their personalities based on numerous factors. But a common thread for many of us is that sharing a gaming experience can be therapeutic.
It feels as though the age-old concept of going to have a drink with a friend has evolved. While I don’t advocate that social gaming is a replacement for in-person connections entirely, it can be a worthy substitute, and one that has grown increasingly relevant.
These concepts have been brought more into the spotlight and mainstream since the COVID pandemic. More than ever, it seems that online gaming is used as a means of social interaction, and I, for one, am happy to see new people discovering the potential joys in it.
As I sit here this morning with my cup of coffee, I feel sad, reminiscent, regretful, angry, and many other things. And yet, what I find interesting is that gaming came to mind. It is an integral part of my life, and it’s one that holds more meaning than ever before. And in that, I know I am not alone.
With that in mind, let’s all recognize how amazing this medium we love is. How powerful it can be. How special and unique it is. And what it can do for so many. Let’s respect and celebrate those aspects of gaming. It’s more important than many of us realize.
As always I would like to share some resources for those who may be interested. It should go without saying that there are endless amounts of resources that tie to the above, but these are some of my favorites.
One of my favorite creators in the space is my friend Rachel Kowert. I had the pleasure of getting to know her last year, and the work she does in the gaming space is both meaningful and admirable. You can find her Psychgeist channel here, and the work she does for TakeThis.org here.
Of course, I always point to our friends at Able Gamers and Special Effect for the tremendous work they do around gaming accessibility. In particular, I’ve spoken with Steven Spohn multiple times about his work with Able Gamers, and it’s always a joy. And as always, we support both charities as much as possible through our t-shirt sales and merch.
Lastly, there are endless resources and studies about the meaningful impact of video games. From how they are aiding public health to how using them for escapism can be a positive thing, this information is readily available.
I encourage all of us to focus on these more meaningful aspects of video games rather than the vitriol we so often see on social media. See you online.