Written By: Bharathi S, PM - Board Games
Games have always been a part of my life. Like most of us, my first memory of video games is of "Super Mario"-I remember my brothers and I fighting over who would play, and me being the youngest, was always the first one to lose. Well growing up, I played a lot of games, like Contra, Pac-Man, Space Invaders, etc. I vividly remember how when my brother got his PlayStation 2, everyone in the neighbourhood started spending the majority of their time at our house - it is then when I realised that the games that I either saw them play or the ones I tried, were either extremely violent or insanely competitive. So playing video games invariably meant I always had to be competitive.
Also, all of my experiences until then with video games left me anxious and to add to that I was never very good at them. As a studious kid who needed to be good at everything, it triggered a lot of emotions I wasn't used to, so I hated games for most of my school years. 'Bully' was the first game I enjoyed playing, or liked playing. It was my first experience with open-world games and it immersed me into a fantasy environment I enjoyed being in. Other than the gameplay, I enjoyed the storyline and the character I played - I enjoyed going to school, taking exams, acing the Math test etc, but that too was sometimes insanely nerve-wracking. In retrospect, I used to believe that video games were violent, gruesome, competitive, and above all, there had to be a clear winner in every scenario.
I got introduced to mobile games only after I started college, that too when I got my first phone, and like every college student, I was hooked to my phone 24/7.Even when I began playing mobile games like Candy Crush, Fruit Ninja, Bubble Shooter, Criminal Case, I always found ways to be competitive and to beat my friends. But playing HayDay was a first of its kind yet a pleasant experience for me. Since both my parents are farmers, I could relate to the things that were going on in the game. This experience helped me deal with the loneliness I felt from being so far from my family and things I loved. Even now, in my late twenties, whenever I miss home, I open HayDay and play for a few minutes; the game somehow helps me feel less alone. I have my virtual dogs, cats, and cows there that are thrilled to see me every time I log in, or so I'd like to believe :)
As you can see, how I went from being very competitive and believing I would never be any good at gaming to forging a connection with a game that made me feel at home in a world that was rushing by. But still, I did not come around to feeling differently about ‘games’ in general - I am sure you would agree that games like HayDay are at the opposite end of the spectrum compared to titles like GTA, LOTR, and God of War.Things changed for me when I joined Gameberry Labs and here to do well in my role, I had to keep up with what was happening in the gaming space - so, I started playing a lot of casual mobile games. I fell in love with some, hated a few, and was perplexed by a lot more. Even though I was amazed that people spend millions of dollars on mobile games, it still did not alter how I felt about games or gamers.
With time, I discovered the games I enjoyed, the games I adored and those that made me feel something on the inside. I was still competitive, but gradually, I also started appreciating "games" in a new light. Games like EverMerge & June's journey caught my attention and piqued my interest to be a part of their fantasy world. June's Journey captivated me because there is no way for you to lose in the game - how beautiful is that! Eventually, both of these games became my safe havens whenever I needed to disconnect from reality and relax.
I remember the day my perspective on games changed completely - I was playing Animal Crossing(a game I had been exploring for sometime for my research) & one of my islanders decided to leave my island. Though I was aware that she wasn't a real person, yet over time, she had become an unwitting part of my daily routine - someone I looked forward to meeting every morning and returning to sleep after conversing with the other islanders and wandering around.When she told me she’s leaving I felt this wave of sadness that I didn’t quite understand. Yet, like every other emotion I have ever felt, I buried it deep within and continued on with my day. I woke up the next morning and started playing, like I always do. When I got to the location where her house used to be, it was completely deserted! That's when it dawned on me: no one is going to call me a ‘Cupcake’ or be overjoyed to see me every day! I was devastated! I felt as if I had lost a real friend, and tears began to flow. I must have wept for at least 20 minutes OVER A VIDEO GAME CHARACTER!!!!!!!
As I began to grasp what was going on, I learned there was no one word to express what it meant to be a gamer. Without even realising it, I was already engrossed in the imaginary world of gaming. If this doesn't qualify me as a gamer, I'm not sure what else would. We may call ourselves anything we want, but in my opinion, everyone is a gamer in some way (I know, it sounds cliche, but it's true!). All you have to do is find the right game for you!
It's true that games have evolved, they aren't what they used to be when I was a kid; there's so much more substance, plot, and life in them now.They are now more focused on making an emotional connection with the players & I find it endearing. I cannot recall any other story as touching as the story of the mother of a deceased player who still maintains the son's Farmville farm because she understands how important the game was to him and that it is also her way of connecting with him and feeling his presence around her. There are people I know who became best friends, even life partners with strangers they played games with! Like I said before, to enjoy this world of gaming, you just have to find the right games for you!
Now I am convinced that good games can evoke similar emotions to real life experiences, and sometimes even more! It is very important, at least to me, to play games that help me relive my childhood, connect with others, relax, and feel good. With so many titles coming out every month, don't let anyone, even your younger self, tell you that you can't be a gamer. Because, if you have ever felt connected to a game you are already a gamer. Keep playing games & exploring different genres, I assure you that you will love your life more!
Your fellow PROUD ‘Gamer’