Shack Chat: How have video games helped you?

This week, the Shack Staff discusses how video games have helped them.


Shack Chat is back once again, our weekly feature each Friday where we’ll ask the Shacknews staff to give their opinion on a particular topic, then open the floor to our dedicated Chatty community to provide a diverse mixture of thoughts on the subject. It’s a great way for us to get to know one another better while inspiring healthy debates with all of you passionate gamers out there.

Question: How have video games helped you?

- Asif Khan, Used to be good at video games

Video games have always provided an escape from the real world for me. There were times growing up when sitting down and playing SNES or NES was a great way to forget about bad things happening in real life, even if it was just for a few minutes at a time. 

Later on in my video game playing life, games became a source of pride. Setting high scores, completing games on their hardest difficulty, or sitting atop the post-game carnage report with the most frags were all things that boosted my self esteem in my formative years. 

Online gaming opened a whole new world to me. It started with LAN parties, and setting up my dorm with CAT-5 wiring so we could play Doom and eventually Duke3D.exe over the school’s network. Quake opened my group of friends to a whole new world of players, and lead me to discover Shacknews back in the 1990s.

I have also made friends across the world playing games online. Gaming has been a positive force for most of my life, and it is truly unfortunate to see the industry blamed for the epidemic of mass shootings in the United States. If anything, playing games has decreased my stress levels over the years and increased my happiness. Perhaps the shootings have something to do with assault weapons of war being for sale with extended clips? But what do I know? I am a mere games journalist. 

 - Brittany Vincent, Senior Editor

I'd love to say something like video games saved my life or helped me connect with a part of myself I never knew, but I don't have anything nearly as interesting as all of that. I will say they've given me the one thing I'm an absolute expert in, though: the games themselves. Sure, I'm an anime encyclopedia and a music buff, but my knowledge lies squarely within gaming, and it's my greatest passion in life to share the knowledge and the admiration I have for the titles I've enjoyed in my 30 years on Earth. 

I don't really play games to escape or use them as release, because games are my life. They've been a constant for me as long as I can remember, and they feel like the safety blanket I can always crawl back into when I want something warm, familiar, and welcoming to wrap myself up in. They're my career, my greatest joy, and part of my biggest achievements. I love video games, the creators, the culture, and every single thing about them, even when things get dark. And honestly, they've made me a more positive person overall. 

- Josh Hawkins, Zelda aficionado

There have and always will be claims of all the bad that video games have done. It’s an old argument that we’ve seen rise again and again as calamity strikes, and it’s one that I doubt we’ll ever hear the end of. While some might claim that video games do nothing but rot our brains, or push us to do violent things, I’d actually argue the opposite. In fact, without video games, I don’t think that I’d be the person that I am today, and that wouldn’t be a good thing.

See, while some would say that video games push us to do violent things against others, they’ve done quite a lot of positive in my life. Not only did video games help put me into the career path that I’m currently walking, they also helped change a naive, sheltered kid into someone that had the courage to talk to people he didn’t know. 

I could always go into more detail about the good that video games have done in my life. In fact, I’d wager that I could probably write this entire article about just myself. But, I won’t go into all that detail right now. All I can say is that video games have helped me become an open and talkative person. They taught me how to communicate with people outside of my family, and even helped show me more of the world around me. They helped me meet my best friend and even played a part in giving me the courage to finally break away and move out of my hometown. Without video games, I honestly have no idea where I’d be, or even who I would be. 

I guess you could say video games saved my life, at least in a way.

Kevin S. Tucker, Demi-Human

Like most of us I'm sure, video games give me a way to relax and unwind. They're also great for keeping my mind sharp, and I've found that they're usually a good way to start my day. As entertainment goes, they're the most potent form available, hands-down.

With that said, I'd like to consider the ways in which games have helped me understand the world around me. Petty squabbles turned lifelong disputes, racism, gleeful ignorance — these are big problems faced by people today, and they're often the subject of video games. Like with reading books, game players are subjected to ideas, foreign concepts, even foreign beings on a regular basis. To continue through the experience, we have to accept these things upfront and move on.

It might seem subtle, but growing up in a place that's remarkably backward — where ignorance and tradition are favored over logic and reason — being introduced to demi-humans, to morally-grey allies, or fighting battles I didn't totally agree with but knew were right... it stuck with me. Right or wrong isn't always black or white, but in the classical gaming sense, good should always trump over evil, and heroes should always make an attempt to do right by their families, their friends, their people.

It's kind of odd; if someone were to outright reject an alliance with, say, the Ronso tribe in Final Fantasy X, they'd simply not be able to finish the game. Can't have a demi-human in your party? Well good luck reaching the end of the story. They're there for a reason — as are you — and you've got to accept it, even if you don't understand it. Make the effort to understand, and you'll find that the Ronso are pretty chill and there was nothing to worry about.

Such concepts might go completely unnoticed by most people, but they're not lost to me: Video games teach us comprehension, reasoning, and understanding. The tales we've helped unfold could be considered distractions, but there are lessons to be learned all throughout them. Do right by your people, help those in need, continue to grow, and by the end of your life, just maybe your story will be one of joy and victory.

- Super Chris Jarrard 2 Turbo  

Video games led me towards many friendships. Some of the friends I’ve made through a shared interest in games have become lifelong bros. I don’t really see my gaming time as an escape, but another way to entertain myself and if I’m with friends, an excellent way to interact socially. Some of my fondest gaming memories came from competitive battles with friends on the couch, where altercations in NFL Blitz resulted in real-life fights. If games didn’t matter, I would not have been punched in the face so often. I look back fondly on every clobbering I received.

- Sam Chandler, Guides Editor

Just about everything good in my life can be attributed to video games.

The friends I developed during primary school and high school? We bonded over our love of video games. Like many of us here, we would rally together on school holidays with our Xboxs and PCs and LAN together. Halo 2 was a driving force in our teenage years and it cemented the friendships that still thrive today.

Video games were the reason I met my partner. I was working in a video game store when she came in. We talked at great lengths about what we were playing and what we were excited about and from there a relationship bloomed.

Video games are also the reason I’m writing here today. Without my love and passion for gaming I wouldn’t have the pleasure of writing at Shacknews. I wouldn’t get to wake up every morning and talk to the team that I love and plan out my day of writing guides.

Video games are a force of good. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

- David L. Craddock, Longreads Editor

The short answer to this question is, “Video games give me a release.” After a long, tiring day, I enjoy nothing more than roaming the fields and mountains of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, or shooting through galleries of Imps and Pinky demons in Doom.

The longer answer is, by necessity, more complicated.

Reading and gaming have been my hobbies of choice since I can remember. I can look back at any major event in my life, and books and games go hand-in-hand with those moments. I lost my dad when I was 19. After he passed away, my little brother and I discovered WWF’s (later WWE’s) wrestling games for PlayStation 2. He’d lost our dad at the age of 13, and I wasn’t sure what I could do to be the big brother he needed. Laughing our candy asses off as we recreated classic wrestling feuds with controllers--instead of our fists--was the answer.

When I met my wife-to-be a few years later, I was mock-horrified to learn that she’d been one of those kids whose parents hadn’t allowed game consoles in the house. “Video games will rot your brain,” yada-yada. Her experience to that point had been a few point-and-click adventure games on PC--classics such as Tales of Monkey Island, I was glad to hear--and watching her childhood BFF play Sonic 2 on Sega Genesis. Soon after dating me, she became enchanted by the Zelda series, starting with The Wind Waker on GameCube, moving on (and back) to Ocarina of Time, and then pouring hours into A Link to the Past on Game Boy Advance.

My point is that video games don’t hurt people. Video games don’t tear people apart. Video games bring people together, and light our path when darkness closes in.

- Donovan Erskine, Intern

Video games have always been a wonderful tool of escapism for me. Whenever life has me feeling down and out, I can always fall back on video games for some lighthearted fun. Games like Stardew Valley and Pokemon have never failed to provide me a little bit of happiness, even on the worst days. 

- Blake Morse, Reviews Editor

It would probably be easier to list the things video games haven’t done for me at this point in my life. As a child they gave me control, taught me how to focus and problem solve. From a creative standpoint the worlds and creatures that were laid out before me would inspire all sorts of imaginative doodles. I was totally that one kid that was way too obsessed with video games.

As an adult though, games have given me so much more than escapism from pre-adolescent awkwardness. Because of video games I now have a career that has sent me around the world and had experiences I never would’ve had otherwise. I’ve met my heroes and even become friends with some of them. On top of that, there’s all the other people I’ve met and bonded with in the industry that I’ll be elated to know for the rest of my life. 

Then there’s my co-op fam: As I’ve gotten older and friends have moved, gotten married, had kids and, basically, all grown up we have less “hang time.’ Yet, we still make an hour or two just about every night to hop in a chat and game with each other. In some ways, it’s an odd little support group, but it’s mostly just a bunch of folks who really enjoy gaming together. 

To summarize, video games gave me that same type of escapism that was all too typical for isolated, nerdy kids in my generation, but then as I grew it offered me an honest-to-goodness career, several unique travel opportunities, and introduced me to some truly inspiring people. I feel more than fortunate to be here doing what I’m doing and I wish people who don’t know what they’re talking about would stop giving video games such a bad rep.  

- Ozzie Mejia, Senior Editor

I've loved video games since I was five years old, with the exception of my time in college. After my junior year, tuition reached a point where I couldn't afford to keep attending my school. Between that and illness striking my family at home, I had to drop out of school and set out to find a job. And while I was working in retail, I needed something to help pay the bills a little better than that.

After video games helped me through my youth, games helped me land on my feet. I took an open QA position at Activision, worked there for a couple of years, didn't make great money, but made enough to help support my home. And eventually, games made it so that it was possible for me to resume my education, right up until I graduated from a different school. During my first stint in college, it never occurred to me that I could get into a career writing about games. Now it's my profession, on top of my passion. I don't know where I'd be without games. They've given me everything I have.

Disagree with our picks? Think we're a bunch of clowns? Let us know in the Chatty below.

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