The season of giving thanks is upon us once more, and it is time to once again discuss what we’re thankful for when it comes to our favorite hobby. My whole life has been consumed by one drastic change after another, but never before has this been more apparent than now, when the entire world is in a state of unprecedented strangeness, what with the mask-wearing and the quarantining! While life as we know it has been greatly altered, I know I’m not the only person who is massively grateful for video games and their ability to make things feel just a bit more normal.
As I mentioned before, the only constant in my life seems to be change. Ever since ducklinghood, I have had to move all over the continental United States. Houses changed. Schools changed. Friends changed. The one thing that made my life feel normal…that connected all these varying locations with shared memories and experiences…seemed to be video games. They provided me comfort when life was at its most uncertain. As recently as a few weeks ago, I replayed Donkey Kong Country 2 for the umpteenth time, a game I had played in every state (except for the one we lived in for only a year). This game had been in my life since before the moves began. Since before I ever even knew my life would be filled with a stream of upheavals. While the memories can be bittersweet, it is always nice to be able to pinpoint something that has not changed.
The first time I got my own TV, I remember coming home from a rough day at school, my first year in a high school where I knew absolutely no one because we had just moved yet again. And I would play my video games and feel comfort in how very normal this simple act felt when nothing else seemed like it could be any more different.
Fast forward to the present day, and I was driven from my house once more, but this time, not for the usual reasons, but because the crime in my neighborhood had grown to be too much to bear. I moved into a rental about a year ago. I couldn’t believe my life was changing yet again because, this time, I had actually gotten to live in the same house for a whopping twelve years! Most of my consoles are now packed in boxes, with the PS3 being one of the few available to me. (I mean, I can unpack, but I’d just rather wait and see if I can find a new house before then.) A little while back, I skimmed over my greatly diminished list of gaming options, and the only game I hadn’t played recently was Ni no Kuni. And once again, as I sat down to replay one of my favorite games more out of necessity than actual choice, I felt comfort and familiarity wash over me. This is one game in particular where I really feel a connection to the main characters. Maybe it’s silly to bond, in a sense, with fictional people, but it really is comforting to know that, when everything else is changing around you, you can still revisit these familiar characters and locations as many times as you want, and no matter where you live, it can never be taken away from you.
Cue the weirdness that is 2020, and when it was all just getting started, I know I was not the only person grateful for the amazing timing of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. While countless people were getting used to being quarantined (and a startling lack of toilet paper!), people around the world could connect in their shared love of this new game. Maybe we were discouraged from going outside, but that didn’t stop of us from exploring and decorating and terraforming our virtual island and meeting new animal friends. Who needs the real outdoors when you have a fake version that you can bend to your will, am I right?
Even now, the pandemic is, sadly, not over, but looking at an uncertain future, I am so thankful I have such an amazing hobby as video games to make things feel like they’re normal, even when they’re anything but. Maybe I can’t go outside without wearing a mask. Maybe we all have to keep our distance from other people and have to limit the number of hand sanitizer bottles we can buy. But darn it, when I come home from another visit to the grocery store spent wearing a mask and social distancing, I love that I can play my video games and pretend that 2020 is just another regular year. I can forget that I’m living in a rental. I can forget that I have another move in my future. We all need our escape from this crazy realty we’re all a part of. I’m grateful that I have that. I’m grateful video games are a part of my life. It makes everything else that much more tolerable.