Some people use the word “geek” as an insult but I take it as a huge compliment. I absolutely love being a geek. I embrace it. I’m unapologetically enthusiastic about the things I enjoy. I get jump-up-and-down excited easily and I love things fully. Everyone deserves that kind of unhindered joy. It makes life grand. I’m here to talk about one sector of geekiness that is very close to my heart; gaming.
My Childhood Best Friend, Pikachu
I’ve never been great at socializing and I don’t typically give a good first impression. At first glance I’ve been described as awkward, hard to read, and overly enthusiastic. I’m not good in social situations and for most of my life I couldn’t understand why. I’ve spent a portion of my life feeling very broken and lonely. Last year I finally received an autism diagnosis and it’s really helped me understand myself. I’m so relieved to have an autism diagnosis. When I look back on my life as a gamer and human so many blank spaces are now filled. There has always been an intense disconnect between me and other people. But I’ve always had one thing I truly connected with — Pokémon.
My young life changed between 1996 and 1998 when Nintendo released Pokémon Stadium and Pokémon Snap for the N64. I was no longer alone in the world. I finally had something to love and connect with. At eleven-years-old I would run off the school bus and power up the N64 as quickly as I could. I even recorded my battles and snap adventures on old VHS tapes so I could rewatch them. My heart would fill up with joy and excitement as I would play.
Childhood wasn’t easy for me; I was a lonely kid and was bullied a lot. I even transferred schools in an attempt to escape the bullying. But wherever I ended up my Pokémon went with me.
Growing up Gamer
As I grew into adulthood I continued loving games. I moved my N64 into my dorm room with pride. I treated that little machine like it was Excalibur. I bought a Nintendo DS and played every single game I could afford. To my surprise, I made friends with other gamers and I was miraculously introduced to the Wii and PlayStation. I seized every opportunity to play every game I could.
When I met my spouse in college we bonded over gaming. We both had many of the same childhood favorites and we shared a true love and respect for gaming. Now we are homeowners and we jump at the chance to get every console and game we can. We game together often and it makes our marriage strong. Recently we’ve been playing Diablo III on PlayStation together. It’s spectacularly fun and really helps with our communication skills. We also play Pokémon Go together on date nights. We actually fought together in a Pokémon Go raid today, we won and both caught a Snorlax, it was awesome!
Women in the gaming community aren’t always met with open arms. When I say I’m a gamer I’m often challenged with a series of slightly condescending test questions. It’s like a gatekeeper suddenly appears from beneath a bridge and requires me to answer their riddles three. It sometimes makes me hesitant to say I’m a gamer. I love gaming, so why should I have to constantly defend my status as a gamer?
Luckily this isn’t always the case, there are tons of amazing people in the gaming community who welcome everyone with open arms. I don’t typically like talking about gatekeeping. I’m an overwhelmingly positive person and I want to bring attention to the inclusive and fun aspects of gaming. I’m mentioning gatekeeping for one important reason; because I don’t want you to stop gaming because of gatekeepers. There are so many amazing gamers out there, so if you are new to gaming please don’t let the riddles three stop you!
Everyone has an idea of what a gamer is. I have my own idea, to me there is no prerequisite and only one simple requirement; that you enjoy playing games.
I am a gamer. Gaming is sewn into the fabric of my life. And I’m grateful for it.
Gaming and Mental Health: An Escape from Isolation
During 2020 people all over the world were in isolation and/or quarantine. For me, being socially isolated is commonplace. Mental illness often causes me to isolate myself for days, weeks, or even months. I guess you could say I’m a time-tested expert when it comes to coping with isolation. Sometimes the isolation can be debilitating. It’s easy to get stuck in a spiral of loneliness and lose your sense of self-worth. Gaming sincerely helps with this, especially during the global pandemic.
Gaming can offer connectivity with other people that I wouldn’t have access to otherwise. Before the pandemic I had never played an Animal Crossing game. But during the pandemic Animal Crossing: New Horizons quickly became a 2020 staple. In real life I live on a farm pretty far away from everything, I look out my window and I just see farmland. My spouse is a doctor who worked constantly during the pandemic, so this left me at home completely alone… but I had social connectivity thanks to Animal Crossing.
Animal Crossing opened a bifrost of socialization between me and people all over the world. From my farm in Kentucky (USA) I made friends with people in Germany, Great Britain, and ironically I made one friend who lives seven minutes from me who I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. Thanks to gaming, we created a community of isolated people who weren’t alone. I even got to play Animal Crossing with Gail Simone, a comic book writer that I absolutely love. It was spectacular.
Overstimulation and Hyper Fixation
Life can be tough so I use gaming as self-care. In many ways gaming helps me take care of myself. First, it’s an absolutely spectacular way for me to rest my mind at night so I can alleviate my anxiety and overstimulation. I’m currently doing a play through of Pokémon Shield nightly. I play about 20 minutes each night and it allows me to slow my mind and find comfort so I can sleep well.
Second, throwing myself into an exciting new game fills me with so much geeky joy. Getting to play Marvel’s Avengers on the PS4 as Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan) was a spectacular geeky experience for me. Kamala is one of my favorite comic book characters so it felt like a dream come true. There is something truly beautiful about geeky excitement. Geeks can feel joy so intensely and it’s so fabulous. It’s fun to hyper fixate on something so cool.
A Strong Body – Get Power Up’s
I went to college on a volleyball scholarship and I’ve always had a respectful relationship with nutrition and physical fitness. Over the past few years I’ve started diving into fitness gaming and I love it dearly. At the moment, I’m playing Ring Fit Adventure and Fitness Boxing 2: Rhythm and Exercise on the Nintendo Switch. Both offer great fun with challenging workouts that can be adjusted based on need and goals. I’ve played approximately 100 hours between these two games and I’m still having fun with them.
Outside of gaming fitness, I also love yoga. It’s nice to stretch my hips and wrists before or after a long gaming session. It allows me to strengthen my body while also resting my mind.
Remember to Eat – Even Pokémon Need Berries
It’s so easy for gamers to forget about nutrition. I’ve been guilty of this. I’ll sit down to play a game and before I know it 7-hours have passed and I haven’t eaten. This is really bad. We need to nourish our bodies so we can have strong minds. We need to respect ourselves as gamers. We need to take breaks to eat healthy foods and partake in exercise. We also need to hydrate with water. Hydration is of the utmost importance!
Seriously, we wouldn’t expect Peter Parker to save Queens without a balanced breakfast. Would we? So why are we playing Spider-Man for 10-hours without a nutritional break? We shouldn’t. With great power comes great responsibility. Spider-Man would want us to eat.
My favorite gaming snack is a super large berry smoothie, I’ll share my gaming recipe with you: 2 frozen bananas (frozen with peel on then peeled), 1 cup of frozen blueberries, 3 fresh strawberries, 1/2 cup of zero percent Greek yogurt, and 2-3 cups of coconut milk. Blend together. Enjoy! It’s a wonderful snack that is quick to make, and you can enjoy it while you game.
“Push Start to Begin”
So, my advice to you -- go game. Try something from your backlog or start a new adventure. Just have fun and spread that joy with others. Please don’t be the person that keeps people out of gaming. Gaming is open world and it can have an unlimited number of players, literally everyone is welcome. Please make sure you hold the door open for them.
If you’re a parent who can only game a few hours a month, you are a gamer. If you play on easy and use tutorials, you are a gamer. If you get all the trophies and platinum, you are a gamer. As long as you game and have fun, you are a gamer. I promise.
Elizabeth Mosley-Banks, Uncustomary Housewife
KEEP ON GAMING!
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