My Grandmother died this month. The funeral was last week and I read a eulogy about her during the service. The eulogy had covered a great many of the aspects of my relationship with her, but there was one thing that I held back. One revelation that I believed would be too shocking for my family in mourning…
My Grandmother accidentally turned me into a gamer.
I didn’t consider myself a gamer when I first got hold of a Game Boy Color purely to play Pokémon Blue. I wasn’t interested in any other games for more than a year, having got the game on launch due to being enthralled by the original anime series of Pokémon. When you only play one game (Skyrim aside at this point) and show no excitement for other titles or franchises then allowing yourself to be labelled as a gamer seems redundant. A fan of Pokémon? Yes. A gamer? no.
So the latter half of 1999 and the first half of the new Millennium saw me beat Blue numerous times, buy Red as well in order to complete my Pokédex with the help of a loaned Game Boy and I showed no interest in anything else. A few Game Boy/Color games were given to me, but I didn’t touch them, at least, not straight away.
It would take another year before I would begin to realise that there was more to videogames than just catching Pokémon and telling Team Rocket to get lost.
My Grandmother, through much of her adult life, had been prolific in entering competitions from women’s magazines to win stuff. From cars to holidays and everything in-between, my middle Brother and I ended up with some of the latest toys and boardgames thanks to our Grandmother’s luck. And then in 2000, she won a videogame console (plus games) for the first time.
A Sony PlayStation with Army Men 3D and Tomb Raider III. One game I was old enough to play and one I wasn’t. And it was all “given” to my middle Brother, despite him being too young to play either game, so I “borrowed” the console and the games. Neither title ending up holding my interest much, Army Men 3D was outright boring to me and I couldn’t progress in the first level of Tomb Raider III. I went back to my Game Boy Color, but I started being interested in the other games I had now been given for the system, like The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.
It was starting.
In the run-up to the Christmas of 2000, it had been well documented in our house that while the PlayStation was certainly quite an amazing device, no one really wanted to play on it. The two games we had were entirely unsuitable. And so it was with a childish realisation that I figured out that I could ask for a new videogame or two for Christmas to play on it. One cold Saturday, I dragged my Father into Truro’s Electronics Boutique store, (which later became a GAME and was then abandoned in recent years in light of the company’s financial difficulties), and started looking at PlayStation games.
I was looking at brand new games, but I did see a product spot for games that had gone Platinum on the system. Nestled among other, now, iconic titles there was a Platinum edition of 1999’s Final Fantasy VIII. The beautiful EU cover with Rinoa being embraced by Squall in two-tone artwork. It looked romantic, but the bleakness of the front cover, the lack of other details, bar the game’s title and so on, intrigued me enough to look beyond what appeared to be a love story and glance over the back cover.
Story and epic battles were the focus. It was like Pokémon had been joined up with some of the most astounding novels I’d read as a kid. A good combination. I asked if I might have the game as a Christmas present, my Dad was all like, “We’ll see,” and we moved on.
That Christmas I battled through FF VIII. My middle-Brother watched me as he battled with the flu.
In our house we’d had a computer for a while and they had come with free games, which, as my interest in gaming grew, I played a bit, but found myself to be somewhat lacking in ability on. Then my Grandmother bought a PC for herself, won Theme Park World and picked up The Sims (for reasons I don’t recall). This meant that in-between helping her learn how to use her PC, I was playing Theme Park World or The Sims.
As if I didn’t already have enough access to gaming platforms, my Grandfather (on the other side of the family) bought a PlayStation for us grandkids to use while visiting, plus the Tomorrow Never Dies game for it and some random Rayman game. All of a sudden, my cousins, younger Brother and I loved videogames and played them loads on weekends.
When the summer of 2002 rolled round, along with my Birthday, my parents, along with the help of my Grandmother, bought a PlayStation 2 for me and a copy of Final Fantasy X. This was followed one year later by a joint present of my first laptop, which I picked up The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind for while visiting Console Connections in Truro, (who are still going).
All of this has culminated in several important aspects to my adult life: I wrote a dissertation on gender in videogames for my BA. Games helped to strengthen my relationship with Paul B. I’ve written about videogames for some cool sites. I started Nerds Assemble and this site, partially due to my love of videogames.
Earlier this year I also wrote my first Twine game.
It’s strange how my Grandmother’s luck has translated into becoming a huge part of my life and identity, and I am incredibly grateful for it.