One can never forget the iridescent glow of a monstrous CRT television late at night where three, sometimes four, friends huddled around exchanging jabs, jokes, laughter, Doritos and Oreos, and a few wet willies — all with Nintendo 64 controllers in hand and furiously at work. Many my age can probably see the picture I just described vividly — albeit with a few tweaks from their own experiences. In the corners of my mind, these moments with my friends were thrust into my own personal “Hall of Friendship Memory Fame.” Sure, my friends and I shared other interests and passions as well such as comic books and movies. But the bold stamp that accented my best memories with friends was video games.
Video games remain more than a good memory. A solid portion of my friendships was built around video games. Kids bond over common interests, and that’s nothing new. But there is nothing quite like playing a game with a friend that says, “Hey, let’s do this some more!” Games are set apart from other traditional commonalities between friends. The magic behind video games isn’t just finding common ground with other gamers — it’s experiencing them together. Shared experiences run deeper than simply having shared interests.
If you were to think back on your friendships and best relationships, the standout memories are always the ones where you experienced something with someone else, whether it be the concert of a favorite band, a trip you took together in college, or simply sitting in a boat fishing together.
One time in San Diego…
Let’s be honest — most people can find common ground with 75 percent of the people they come in contact with. In fact, during my trek to San Diego Comic Con a few years back, I could say that I had something in common with 100 percent of the people I interacted with. I had some fun conversations with several comic book, movie, and video game nerds. I hardly remember any of them just a few years later, except for one. The friends I traveled to the con with and I decided to camp out in line to gain access to the big Saturday Hall H line up. If you’re an SDCC noob, Hall H is the big one where fans get to see panels with the casts and directors of films like The Avengers or Deadpool. The lines for these things are huge and it’s an experience in and of itself.
The guy we landed next to in line was our pal for the next 13 or 14 hours. The conversations started out casually getting to know one another and our experiences at the con. After some time passed, we were laughing, joking, and yanking each other’s chain. It became as if I had known this guy for several years. Sadly, he lives far from me on the West Coast. But we linked up on social media and chat every now and again. That experience is my best memory of Comic Con. It wasn’t the panels, the show floor, or the big stars we saw — it was the experience bonding with someone else on a human level over the course of several hours.
A revolving door of experiences
Games offer this opportunity in spades. Many gaming experiences are all about adventuring together or competing against one another. Sharing an experience, no matter how large or small naturally strengthens bonds between people. Whether you’re laughing together at Claptrap’s hilarious quips on Borderlands, trying for hours to complete a brutal raid in Destiny 2, or simply slinging red turtle shells at each other on the Mario Kart race track, these are defining memories that stretch beyond average daily interactions. I’ll never forget the first friend I made after my family moved during my first-grade year.
I can’t fully recall what sparked the initial connection, but I do know what started a relationship that’d carry on through high school. After interacting with my friend at school, we quickly found out that we lived very close together. So, after my mom called his mom — you know, to be a good parent and check out the home her seven-year-old is about to go to — I walked down to his house. The first thing that caught my eye was his Super Nintendo. I didn’t have to get to the question of “What games do you have?” before he lit up and jumped over to the entertainment center pulling out all of his cartridges. The choice was easy; within seconds we popped in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time. From that time forward, games were always a part of our conversations.
In third grade, I met one of my best friends that I regularly interact with to this day. I rarely text, but he is one that I text the moment I see an awesome bit of gaming news — and that happens frequently. In junior high, he convinced me to find a way to get a PlayStation. My parents have always supplied me with a Nintendo, so I was on my own for this one. One night, he slept over and brought his PlayStation. After that night, I mowed lawns and ensured that I obtained my own. Alongside Nintendo, I’ve been a PlayStation fan ever since. Now, my friend and I play games together frequently, which is made even easier by online play.
In a world that constantly seems to throw punches at us at every turn and devolves into toxic banter over differing viewpoints and opinions, it’s important to look at what we enjoy most about gaming. For most of us, it’s playing online with others, or on the couch with friends, or simply sharing our virtual experiences with one another. In fact, I’d argue that it’s more about having a connection with the world than many of us would like to admit.
In the modern age, gaming fans can revel in the fact that the popularity in the medium is surging. New opportunities and experiences like esports have sprouted up in the fertile soil of the gaming industry. Collegiate offerings for would-be game designers or esports players are broadening the reach of educational institutions to fans of the medium. Game designers and producers have become more like us, the fans. In fact, they are us. It’s amazing to see industry leaders and big-time game developers on social media talking about other games (outside of their own) that they are enjoying simply as a fan. It is absolutely a great time to be alive as a gaming fan.