Geek Life Rants & Essays

My Origin Story – Why I Became A Video Game Blogger

My Origin Story |

My Origin Story | This post is part of a link-up created by Mickey of Nerdily. Be sure to read her post on the topic here.

This post is sort of a companion piece to the post I wrote a couple of weeks ago explaining the name of my blog that I’d been meaning to write for a while, but when I saw Mickey’s call out for bloggers to share their ‘origin stories’ I knew I’d finally have to get off my duff and write it. While my other post deals with how I got into games in a serious way, I realized I still hadn’t really explained what it was about video games that got me excited enough to start a whole blog about them. So, here goes nothing.

As I alluded to in my previous post, I’d never really considered myself much of a gamer until well into starting this blog. Being a child at the height of the first video game boom (yes, I know I look a lot younger than I am, thanks for noticing), video games were all around me in the culture, but neither of my parents were particularly techie so bringing that stuff into the house was never really that much of a priority for them. As a kid my parents spent more money on experiences, like family trips, than things, so we didn’t get anything resembling a computer until around 1988 when my parents found a Texas Instruments TI-99/4A at a garage sale. It came with two game cartridges, but the only one I remember (because it was the only one I played) was Space Invaders. I never got very good at it, but I still loved playing it, watching those pixelated aliens zig zag across the tiny black and white TV my parents had sacrificed to our digital dreams. I don’t even think we had the disk drive add-on for the thing, and in any event we had no floppy disks (yes, I get it, I’m old) so we couldn’t actually save anything, making it useless for anything but playing one very old console port.

Later that year, or maybe the year after, we got an NES for Christmas and my brother and sister and I traded off playing Super Mario Bros. and Bubble Bobble. Being that there were three of us and only two controllers, my younger brother and sister somehow found a way to dominate our play time and I became more interested in more ‘mature’ things like boys and makeup (although I was never very good at either of them). As much as I wanted to get into video games, I knew I’d never be able to dedicate the time to actually get any good at them.

In high school a boyfriend introduced me to Wolfenstein 3D and our local arcade (man, could I date myself any more in this post?) and our parents finally got a computer we could use for school. They also got us three games, all with some sort of educational bent: Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego, Life & Death, and Treasure Mountain. The former had actually been bought for my younger brother, aimed as it was at kids aged 5 – 9, but to this day it is one of only a handful of games I have successfully played to completion.

Being involved in figure skating and my growing interest in film meant that again time was the enemy of me getting any good at video games and they sat on the back burner of my interests until my second year of university when I started dating my first “hard-core” gamer. His father was a computer engineer and he’d spent his childhood playing with computers and computer games. When we met he was working part-time at an EB Games while attending a local college. He tried to introduce me to games like Grim Fandango and Quake Arena, but already my lack of fundamental skills (and a rig at home to run them) meant that I could never keep up with him. While I did read his PC Gamer and PC Accelerator magazines cover to cover, developing an interest in the culture and history of games, a spectacularly messy break up (99% my bad) left a bad taste in my mouth where games were concerned and I developed a very “anti-video games” stance that held more or less until I moved to Montreal.

Upon arriving in La Belle Province, I was able to use my bilingualism to get a job as a translator/tester at a mid-sized mobile game developer. This is where I met Rick, and my new journey as Gamerwife really started. Being into film and pop-culture in general, the leap to learning about games wasn’t dramatic, but my journey was helped along by two simultaneous developments: the rise of mobile gaming (this was right at the dawn of the smartphone era) and the ascent of indie games. While I’m sure part of me had always been interested in video games, up until this point I had been prevented by a lack of skills and prior knowledge from really engaging with them. The barrier to entry was too high. The controls too obtuse. The time investment too daunting. But now, all sorts of weird and personal games were getting made. And everyone now had a game console in their pocket.

This is a lot of what inspired me to start Gamerwife. To give a voice to people like me who were interested in video games and saw the significance of their cultural impact, but hadn’t grown up with them to the point where playing a game was like breathing. I love games because of the opportunities they represent. Games can be used in so many interesting and innovative ways and we’re only starting to scratch the surface of what those are. Because they are interactive, the story telling and teaching opportunities games could facilitate are limited only by our imaginations. I believe in the good that games can do, whether that be teaching empathy or motor skills or just as a creative outlet for someone to create something meaningful. If only for them.

I also think writing about video games is interesting to me because we’re at a very crucial point in the history of video games. The question of whether games can be art has more of less been answered with museums around the world showing games regularly, but we still haven’t really figured out how to talk about them. Especially academically. There is no Cahiers du cinema for video games. There’s no established language for how to discuss games seriously. Borrowing from classic art or film theory is a start, but in most cases those forms are based on a passive observer. How does what a player does in a game affect the intention of the work as art? Should games be discussed as products or as works? Can the same language apply to an auteur work like The Stanley Parable as to a huge AAA title like Assassin’s Creed? And where does the internet really fit into all of this? Can websites that give favourable reviews in exchange for review copies be trusted to discuss games seriously, or should they just be considered as part of the marketing machine?

I don’t know the answers to any of this. But I can’t wait to see where things go from here.

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  • Reply
    July 11, 2016 at 8:21 am

    OMG! Space Invaders!!! I know it!!! ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ I played it with delay, as well as Mario, etc. I think that many families were like that: trying to provide their kids with more experiences than tech. (I also got a computer pretty late) You made me have so many memories back! ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Reply
      July 11, 2016 at 12:31 pm

      Yay for video game nostalgia! Glad I could bring back some happy memories for you.

  • Reply
    July 11, 2016 at 9:25 am

    The only console I had as a kid was my cousin’s hand-me-down NES so I didn’t really get into playing games until my parents bought our Windows 95. The computer came with a bunch of games and I also had educational stuff like Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, American Girl Premiere, and Oregon Trail. I definitely didn’t grow up playing games like other kids my age did though. When my cousin would bring his consoles with him at Christmas, I’d be helpless at playing first person shooters and Mario Kart. I still have trouble playing “proper” video games. I have a 3DS now, but I’m hopeless at it most of the time. I’m realizing that I still prefer gaming on my computer. Once I upgrade my laptop–which I’ve had for six years–I definitely want to make more use of my Steam account, and your blog’s definitely given me a lot of games to add to my wish list!

    • Reply
      July 11, 2016 at 12:31 pm

      I’m glad to hear I’ve inspired you to explore gaming again. I’ve found I actually prefer to game on my computer as well, but we still get a lot of use out of our console for co-op games.

  • Reply
    July 11, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    Ahhh super interesting read, I’m not a huge games person, I’ll become addicted to a game every once in a while but I think you’re perspective on the whole gaming world is really diverse and open and therefore makes for a great blog ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply
      July 12, 2016 at 12:48 pm

      Thanks, Fiona. My eyes have definitely been opened during this journey to how much potential games represent and I think that’s really what I want to share with people.

  • Reply
    Heather Marie
    July 12, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    Love this! It can be hard to break into the video game world if you haven’t been there from the start. Love your story ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply
      July 12, 2016 at 3:14 pm

      Thanks! I think I’d been curious about games for a long time, but they can be pretty intimidating if you aren’t already a gamer. Luckily I got into it at just the right time with indies and mobile gaming. Now I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

  • Reply
    Origin Story: Part I - Prima GeekPrima Geek
    July 12, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    […] Mariko at GamerWife […]

  • Reply
    July 12, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    Loved this post Mariko! I love that you found a love of gaming in a ‘non-traditional’ manner. It reminds me of my dad, in a way, who used to be so completely anti video game until he saw the technology developing and he began to see them as a new art form. Then, he fell in love with many of them. ๐Ÿ™‚ Also, reading about Where in the World is Carmen San Diego gave me THE most awesome nostalgic flashbacks. I loved that game (and show!)

    • Reply
      July 13, 2016 at 1:28 pm

      Oh man, I was hooked on that show. Although my sense of geography is still garbage.

  • Reply
    Dina Farmer
    July 13, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    Oh my gosh I played Carmen San Diego until the disk finally gave up! I loved that game and if it wasn’t enough I enjoyed the TV show throughly. I was so sad when it went off the air.

    I love this post Mariko! I like how you came into the game late but you decided to embrace gaming and you did it in such an organic manner! Fantastic!!

  • Reply
    Jane Y.
    July 26, 2016 at 10:51 am

    Loved this post, Mariko!! And I played Carmen San Diego too! Oh those days ๐Ÿ™‚ I think my favorite games to play were the less complicated ones (D&D on Dos like circa 1987 – that was kind of the best!)

    • Reply
      July 28, 2016 at 7:35 pm

      I’m not familiar with that one (I’ll have to ask Rick, I’m sure he’s played it). But yeah, there’s something to be said for simple games we already know how to beat. There’s something comforting in them.

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