Finding family in unlikely places
Video games have always been a way of getting away from it all, but recently they’ve become my favorite way to leave it all behind for a while. This interactivity is quite strong, because lately I’ve found myself much more immersed in game stories than those in other media. I’m grateful for the distraction – these days I really seem to need it.
Like everyone else, I struggled to live last year. Every part of my life has seen some really big changes, and a lot of them for the worse. It’s a little ironic that games have both been the catalyst for this change – my desire to work in the gaming industry has driven me to travel across the country and confront my own rosy ideals – and now what i use to help me deal with it.
This Thanksgiving makes me get a little more introspective than usual, I find, because I spend it far from my family. Vacationing together has always been a priority for my family, but recently things have changed and circumstances have changed. I feel a little lonely, because hey, I am. My house is not animated by familiar voices and the smells of delicious food. It’s just me, my cats, and my meal delivered to a restaurant I’ve already eaten at twice this week, and I can’t help but recognize the contrast.
So how do video games fit into this depressing mix? Well, they’ve actually helped me remember what I’m most grateful for – the people in my life who may not be my biological family, but who make up almost all of my health system. support.
I think back to the games I have played that are special to me because of the relationships they represent – The last of us, Tales from border countries, Life is Strange: True Colors, and Valley of stars come to mind most immediately. These games all represent a version of characters finding solace in the relationships they form with people who were once strangers during their respective run times. Not only are their stories so moving and heartwarming for me, but playing these games rather than reading or watching them made me feel even more attached to these characters.
For a long time, I used these fictitious relationships to make up for something I was missing in my real life. I love found family stories so much, and now I realize it’s because my found family is one of the things I value the most in my life.
I also enjoy games because my relationship with them in the real world is what has helped me build those relationships with others. The people who are closest to me now are the people I have met in my various jobs within the industry, or even the people I have met while playing online multiplayer games. I even went to a friend’s wedding online a few years ago, on that day being the first time (and so far the only time) we had seen each other in person. It’s a silly thing, but I can’t help but be grateful for the games that I loved and played in the past to have existed, because without them I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t have not these people.
So, I might not be back home with my family, but I have my Friendsgiving to go to this weekend. And you can bet your last dollar that I’ll jump in line to wish my Call of Duty friends a happy Thanksgiving.
For me, the hardest part of becoming an adult has been how much everything has changed, but if I can find happiness in these fictional stories, I can also find them without a controller in hand. And at least I know no matter how difficult things get, my favorite games will be waiting for me, just as I remember them.
Story Beat is a weekly column covering everything and everything related to storytelling in video games.