My Life and How I Became a Gamer

I can't believe it. I've had this blog for 12 years now, and there's one story I have never told. The story behind pretty much everything this blog stands for! The reason I became a gamer, and how my life went down this long, long road. It's not a standard story either -- nor is it one I can easily explain without giving more background. You see, it relates directly back to who I am as a person. It's a life that only a handful of people in this world have experienced, and it's the reason I have such compassion and understanding for the way the world is. You see, me becoming a gamer all ties back to this one thing... Sure, I might've gotten into games anyway, but I don't think it would've been as impactful. Of course I've mentioned this "thing" multiple times in the past, but I've never actually explained how it worked, or how it really related to me playing games. So, today, I'm going to do just that. I'm going back to the beginning, and sharing as much of the story as I can. Confidentiality prevents me from going into too much detail, but I'll say what I can. There's also some details I do not remember myself, so I'll be relying on what others have told me. That being said, it's not like I don't have some memories of my own of these events, but I was so young that it's just really small things I can recall. (Small, yet impactful enough on me that I remembered it for some reason.)

Anyway, this is the story of how I became a gamer.

So, growing up, my mom had a unique job. She managed a home for the developed mentally disabled. By the time I was born, she had two clients which I will simply call A and S. I cannot go into the details of what their disabilities were, but A was a younger lady at the time (although older than my mom), while S was the older of the two. My mom's job was to basically live with these two women, and make sure their needs were met. They were mentally not capable of living on their own, and were basically kids. It was my mom's job to teach them to be as independent as possible of course (and she did a great job), but ultimately it would never be possible. They would always need someone. During the day they went to their school/work program, and my mom would be back at the home after 3:00 PM to take care of them when they returned. Back then this house was located roughly an hour away from our real home, so my mom usually just lived there full time. My grandma worked for the same company, so she would take over for my mom on the weekends, but usually we would stay on the weekends as well. Yes, it was a demanding job for my mom with a lot of responsibilities, but it became a second home to us, and those two clients became family. Heck, they even spent a lot of the holidays with us throughout my entire life. Yeah it was a job, but it was also more than that.

Being born in 91, I only have so many memories of this "original" home. When I was getting close to turning 5, my mom's work home got moved to a house closer to our actual home. This way I could stay within the same school district of where I really lived. This original house is where everything started for me though, and I still have a lot of fond memories of it -- as well as some sad ones. For example, when I was really young, we had a dog named Ginger who got hit by a train... She got replaced by a dog named Daisy, who I then grew up with. I was really young when Ginger was around, but I still remember her, and I still remember the day she died. Then you have the house itself. I still remember it's layout nearly perfectly. It's been 28 years since I've seen inside, but those memories have never left me. Like when my dad would leave for work early in the morning, and he'd get toys out of the closet for me. I still remember sitting there playing with those TMNT figures. The memory was impactful enough, that it's never faded. Or that time I wanted to watch the Doug marathon on Nick, but he shut it off after possibly hours! Dumb little things like that are what I remember most honestly, but maybe that's why I remember this so clearly as well. The day I got my Nintendo.

I was 2 years old, and apparently I was already showing interest in video games. I'd go to my cousin's house, and apparently they would hand me a not plugged in controller to play with, while they took control of the actual game. Little kid me was smart enough to realize I wasn't doing anything, and I'd get mad at them and REALLY want to play. But I was too little, and they figured I wouldn't be able to. But eventually they replaced their Nintendo with a Super Nintendo, and decided to pass on the original NES to me. Now I don't remember seeing the NES at their house, nor do I remember them giving me the controller to play, but I do remember the day the NES was brought home to my mom's work home.

What I didn't know until maybe 5-6 years ago, was that my cousin's NES actually didn't work anymore. I knew they replaced it with a SNES, but didn't know about the NES being broken. In fact, I didn't even know that my uncle (my mom's brother who passed away back in 2013 -- not the father to my cousin's) had one as well. And wouldn't you know it? His was broken too! So the NES I received from my cousins? It was actually a mismatch of working parts taken from the two broken NES consoles. But none of that would've mattered to me at the time -- I just wanted to play with my new toy. And that's what I did!

I still remember my dad hooking it up in the corner of that living room. It was right by the window. He sat down with me and got Super Mario Bros working (putting it in resulted in a blue screen, so you had to jam the game cart into the corner, and mess with it until it worked), and I got to work playing it! I only really remember dying non stop, and not getting very far. I remember thinking that it would take me awhile to get to the end, and didn't know how I ever would. I guess I really was too young for it, as my parents did have to help me get through some of the basics. (I couldn't read, I was only 2 going on 3!) I know shortly after we did disconnect the NES and take it to our actual house, but eventually we would bring it back to the work home as well. That's when my gaming addiction began.

When I was a little older, my mom sat down and taught me how to play Mario. She taught me how to swim in the underwater levels, and started showing me all the tricks and secrets. Of course my cousins would play with me as well, and my uncle would invite me over to my grandma's house (where he lived at the time) to play his new SNES also. The more I played/watched, the more I learned, and the better I became. Getting older helped also, but it's mainly because I got to spend so much time just learning. Of course I still loved being outside as a kid, but when I was stuck inside, the NES became my best friend. My mom's client A also really loved watching Mario, and she'd actually ask me to play it for her -- so I would. This is how I would pass the time while my mom was at work, but I really didn't get too much freedom with this until we moved to the new house. Again, by then I was 4 (going on 5), and things became a bit different. 

Moving to the new house was a chore. The place was extremely dirty, and the old lady who used to live there had dropped pills allover the floor. I remember my mom telling me not to touch anything, and made sure I didn't get into anything that would hurt me, but she also hooked up my NES in the living room for me to play while we were there. We spent a lot of days (while the clients were in the work program) down there as she tried to get things ready to move in, and the entire time I just stood around playing my Nintendo on the little TV we had moved in ahead of time. I remember being excited that we got to go to a new house, but I honestly remember playing my games more than I remember what my mom was doing at the time. This new house had more rooms as well, so for the first time I was actually able to play my Nintendo without hogging the TV -- so I got more time with it. Of course A still wanted to watch me play Mario, so we did set it up in other rooms too, but overall I spent more time on my own with the TV than with others. Well, except for all the times my parents played them with me that is.

Over the next, many, years, my game consoles became my go to. This new work home didn't have a yard to play in, so I mainly would play inside with me toys while watching TV, or start up a game when I felt like it. It kept me entertained, that's for sure, and of course things wouldn't stop at the NES. I would later go on to get a SNES, N64, GameCube, Wii, etc, but those are all stories for another time. Some of which are stories I have shared before, but maybe I'll touch on them again sometime. 

For me, games aren't just something to play though. They're memories from different moments in my life. Looking at games, or replaying them takes me back to those days, and I realize just how special those memories really were. Sometimes it's not even the game itself that I remember fondly, but the memories of what was happening at the time of getting/playing the game are what makes me feel so nostalgic for it. Growing up in that house is what made me who I am today. Video games gave me something to do, and got me hooked for life, but living in that environment was a unique experience. It's the reason I am who I am today. It taught me to be more understanding when it comes to people with disabilities, and it helped me understand a world that many people overlook or know absolutely nothing about. For me, growing up around such people was normal, and it wasn't until I went to school that I realized just how unusual my life really had been. But even so, those clients were family to me, and I never saw them as anything other than... Well, people. Seeing the world how it is today, it's unfortunate that many still don't understand such things, but I'm also happy to see we are taking steps forward. I mean, heck, mental health has become more of a focus in recent years, and things like ADHD and forms of autism are being brought to the light. Of course there is still so much more out there, and being who I am, my life is still tied to those with such disabilities. My mom continues to work in the field, my dad retired from the field, and my wife has worked in the field and is currently a paraprofessional for a high school. She has grown up around and been connected with the population her entire life as well, and they will always have a special place in her heart -- as with mine as well. Yes, video games were there for me during all the time that I lived in that work home, but it's really the home and the memories of the people that I treasure most. When it burned down awhile back, that was one of the saddest days for me... I still miss that place, and wish I could return sometime -- if even just for a visit. But sadly, it's impossible. Modeling it in VR is as close as I can get, but even that's not the same. It's unfortunate, but life moves on. At least the memories remain.

And, there you go. Now not only do you guys know how I got into gaming, but you got to learn a little more about what makes me tick. I hope you enjoyed reading! 

Until next time guys.

Side Note: This picture still makes me sad. We moved out of the work home when I was 17, because S sadly passed away. This meant A had to be put in another home, and my mom lost her job as a result. She was already working at a second job at the time, so she switched over to full time, and continued working there. 

Years later the house was sold to someone else, and the boyfriend of the lady living there actually tried to kill her. He set the house on fire, and it was damaged beyond repair. It was torn down a few weeks later -- the picture was taken before the demolition began. A tragic end to a place I cared about so much.

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