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On The Level: iNerd

Posted on May 27, 2012 AT 08:12pm

As gamers, we have had many enemies in our lives. I’m not talking about the ones we have defeated with barrels, guns, or magic either. I’m talking about the ones in our everyday lives that mean to regulate gaming, a non-destructive hobby, by fabricating scientific data that video games cause violence in children. While we are all unconvinced by their “evidence,” there are still people who are likely to believe them without doing some research on their own. But I can understand societies tired plight of media against children, as I have heard many variations of the “________ is causing children to turn violent!” arguments. Well, after a good portion of my life spent hearing these arguments, I thought I would do something special. I think if they are allowed to bombard us with all of their negative propaganda that we can only respond by telling the truth. These people will have you believe that playing video games will be the end of our civilization and that playing them will make us violent hate-filled creatures. Well, it’s time we stand up and tell our side of the story. Fight their lies with the truth. My name is Roberto “Bobby” Rivera, I am 26 years old and gaming has changed my life for the better.

I would like to warn you that from here on out is going to be a small interlude into my life story. While this may not be conventional for these articles, I think gamers need to share their success stories and how gaming has changed their lives for the better. I believe it’s by sharing these stories we can dispel the lies that are being told about the medium as a whole. My story doesn’t begin with me, but with my Mother. As a single mother, she was always busy working, but when she had a day off she would always play a game with us. At first, they were simple tabletop games like Monopoly, Clue, and Battleship, but they soon evolved into more complex games like Hero Quest, and finally Dungeons and Dragons. She became our first Dungeon Master and would do sessions of it every week. She would always challenge us, by changing the pre-built dungeons and asking us to play different characters. I know it doesn’t sound challenging, but for me it was a real challenge since at the time we had discovered my learning disabilities. With dyslexia, and an auditory processing difficulty, I didn’t like to read or learn. It was here that games went from a having a good time to a teaching tool as my Mother had invested more and more time and energy into helping me through this. My grandparents had bought a Commodore 64 and a copy of “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego”; which, like my education, hadn’t been very fun as my Mother made me read the giant encyclopedia that came with the game to find all the answers. It slowly started to become fun as I realized that our success depended on my ability to read. As the years went on, I started doing better at school, the games got better, and we only grew stronger as a family. It got to the point that we stopped asking about our day at school or work, and would only talk about the current puzzle we were having problems with. Things changed when I had received my Playstation.

The Playstation had shifted the dynamic and now I was the director to a show that we all watched. I would play long roleplaying games like Chrono Cross, Final Fantasy 7-9, Legend of Dragoon, because each session would entertain everyone. We would even solve puzzles or a boss fight together as I would get encouragement, and my family wouldn’t tell me what to do but engage me by asking questions that would lead to me finding the answer. I learned how to read between the lines and create a proper strategy by reading boss behaviors, and not to rule out any strategy no matter how dumb it seemed. This was when I stopped looking at games as just a form of entertainment and started looking under the hood. I started to ask why was the game built like this instead of how much fun I could have. From there I started to draw and read more, and look for literary elements in the games. Every aspect of a game, from the atmosphere of the environments to the way the HUD was constructed and laid out, had something to say about the themes and messages of a game.

That’s when I played a game called Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, that only confirmed what I was thinking all along. This game was like playing through a gothic Shakespearean tragedy, as the two main characters were fleshed out and dynamic. The world was oppressive, intriguing and ultimately fun. I started working on my artwork more, and eventually graduated from high school and started going to college to become a teacher. But something didn’t feel right, I was drawing and honing my skills but I didn’t feel artistically challenged. There was something missing from my life and becoming an art teacher wasn’t going to do it. During that time, the latest issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly came out and it officially changed my life. During that issue, they examined what it was like to be in the gaming industry and how to get into it. I read about what they did and realized that the special moments in my life all involved video games and my family. Some of my greatest friends and I were introduced through gaming. And now I want to give those moments, those games to people all around the world.

From there, I got a degree in Game Art and Design several years later and found something I can truly be passionate about. Gaming helped unite me with friends and family, and help me overcome my learning disabilities. Gaming also gave me drive and determination, I learned that no matter what happens in life what is important is to keep going no matter how bleak it may seem. So the next time you hear somebody dissing games, I want you to remember all the good things that gaming has done for you. Go on the forums and share some stories with strangers. Because for every made up statistic about violence in gaming there are a hundred of our stories. We just have to tell them.

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