"This month’s Round Table invites you to explore your earliest memories of playing games with your family. Although this is slowly changing, video games have traditionally been seen as an isolating medium." I was certain I would not contribute to this month's Round Table when I read the topic. I seldom want to talk about family. I reconsidered after reading the second sentence. Some have taken the opportunity to tell stories of family gaming that refute the "isolating medium" stereotype, something I cannot do. In many ways, videogames were an isolating experience during my childhood, and I am profoundly thankful for it.
It may be an understatement to say I did not grow up in the healthiest of homes. My parents were not great caregivers. Instead, my siblings and I filled their roles as best we could. My older brother first got me into gaming (some of which I've detailed here) by picking up a used NES. We were far from a wealthy family, so most of the games and peripherals were procured used. Once my brother stole an Iron Man game from Best Buy for me and my sister to play. Though not a great moral lesson, I remember the moment fondly.
One game I remember playing with my brother and sister was Caveman Games, a set of prehistoric Olympic competitions. My brother was the Michael Phelps of Neanderthal sporting events... at first. After hours of training, my gaming improved noticeably. I distinctly remember toying with my sister by almost letting her caveman light a fire before I whacked her with a club. She was furious.
My brother encouraged my skill development and offered his praise when I could defeat particularly difficult bosses. My gaming efforts set me apart from my siblings. I was becoming a gamer long before I knew there were others who bore this title. I formed a sense of identity separate from the unfortunate family environment my siblings and I found ourselves in. I lived in a rural area with no neighbors. Though some see it as derogatory, I valued the escapism videogames and literature provided.
Though perhaps unintentional, I like to think my brother saw what videogames could offer me: a much needed distraction from my family situation and a sense of accomplishment in an atmosphere largely devoid of positive encouragement. For this I am forever grateful.
Video games did not bring my family together. Apart from the occasional games my brother would play with me, and until I met other gamers, it was largely an isolating experience. Fortunately, this was exactly what I needed. Though I'm the only hardcore gamer in the family, I'll still find time to talk about my latest gaming experiences around the Thanksgiving table.
The growing casual market may explain my family's acceptance of videogames (my sisters will play a mean Rock Band guitar!). I like to think they appreciate games because of me. Because of my family, and my brother in particular, my identity as a gamer exists regardless of the games I play today. I would still be the gamer in the family if games were outlawed. If that day were to come, I would wear the mantle with pride and consider myself lucky.