Coming Home

"For I have known them all already, known them all:--
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons."
--T. S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

FILE ONE: Final Fantasy X. 48:15. 2 A.M., the day after final exams. A rainforest's worth of Kleenex at our feet, beer bottles sprouting on the end table. My closest friend and I muscling through the last hour of the game, sharing an intoxicated catharsis: noses red, glasses fogged, sniffling about unfairness and tragic love and how, after that ending, clearly all joy has been sucked from our worlds and we'll never, ever be happy again. (Even though I've never actually played the game - she's been accidentally saving to my memory card all this time - and those last 60 minutes are all I'll ever see.)

FILE TWO: Katamari Damacy. 837.5 m. The Big Ice Storm of 2003. Fallen trees have cut the power to our apartment, so rather than risk frostbite and/or a citation for burning candles against the rules, my college roommate and I and our illegal cat are squatting in my boyfriend's living room. (His roommate is not amused.) We've created a nest of bean bags and torn blankets, lounging on a couch stained by some force best left unexplained, and we pass the time by rolling a giant ball across a cartoon world, giggling at the terrified screams of children and the mooing of irritable cows, debating the morality of codpieces. I smile, wishing our homelessness could last forever.

FILE THREE: Final Fantasy 6. 11:03. The exact moment I realized I was falling in love with my future husband, sinking lightly, sweetly, like a leaf to the ground. I see this save file and in my head, I hear the tinny, garbled Aria di Mezzo Carattere, I see Celes three-stepping across a moonlit, stone tower in her white crinoline gown. I'm back in his arms, inhaling that grassy, warm scent as if for the first time; I'm uncoiled, happy. And all at once I relive a thousand box steps waltzed across our living room floor, some hesitant, some confident, each an unspoken reenactment of that first dance we took together on the Playstation.

Scanning through my memory cards is like flipping through a photo album. I see the save states and immediately fill with ghostly smells, laughter, tastes dancing on the tip of the tongue. Each file has its story, each game its own network of memories. I remember the happy days and sad ones, arguments, silly jokes, conversations, friendship, love.

J. Alfred Prufrock may have measured out his life in coffee spoons, but I use a different metric: mine is divided by save states and memory cards, cartridges blown into and discs scratched from wear. My memories are organized by console, game folder. An entire life etched out by videogames.

Some would argue - and have - that in using something as trivial as videogames to define my life, I must be as dull and trite as Prufrock - that I am a love song to unfulfilled potential, failure and waste.

But it's not about the games. It never has been.

What is the measure of a life? Is it in the company you keep, or the things you accomplish? Is it in the memories you collect, the stories, the regrets? The goals left unachieved?

Or is it in the relationships you cultivate, the people you love and who guide you?

My relationships inevitably, unconsciously trace back to these digital pursuits. I counsel my girlfriends on their Harvest Moon strategies. I teach my cousins Super Mario Brothers tricks. My grandfather still boasts of when he and I beat The Legend of Zelda, and for 15 years, my grandmother has squirreled away Metroid maps I unsteadily scrawled in crayon and marker pen. My stepbrother and I bond over the latest Castlevania; friends from high school send me Roarios in Viva Pinata; even my mother gives me stock tips about the game industry. Every meaningful connection I have or have ever had is threaded by videogames.

And it's telling, I think, that when I'm depressed and want to retreat from life, the screen goes black, the consoles gather dust. My darkest periods have no games to remember them by.

Look, Prufrock; it's not about the games but about playing them - experiencing them with others, sharing a common story to create my own. Bibliophiles, movie buffs, sports fans - they all understand. Even if the games that unite us disappear tomorrow, I will still have these relationships, I will still have my friends and family.

And in the meantime, as long as I have my memories - even if they revolve around videogames - I'll always be laughing with friends, wherever they are, always falling in love one more time, sweeping the gray flagstones in my white crinoline.

Comments

Welcome home indeed.

And in the meantime, as long as I have my memories - even if they revolve around videogames - I'll always be laughing with friends, wherever they are, always falling in love one more time, sweeping the gray flagstones in my white crinoline.

Palms sweating. Chills abating.

Thank you.

I am thoroughly humbled. Astounding.

Your article has released a floodgate within my brain allowing many, many memories of my gaming past to the surface.
I thank you Katerin. I'm amazed that I haven't thought about my past with that connection before.

Simply beautiful Katerin.

Thank you.

I don't think I have ever been upset in my entire life as when I got burgled and the realisation hit me that I had lost the hard disk contents of my original xbox, along with 6 PS2 memory cards and 3 gamecube ones.

Screw the physical cost of the consoles that were stolen, there are significant portions of my life tied up in those save games I would never see again

Wow.

You let loose a thousand and one memories book-ended by games shared with family and friends.

Thanks for reminding us, Katerin.

Great article, very well thought out.

I'm the opposite. My favourite 'alone times' are heavily laced with memories of playing games (along with getting up extra early one warm summer to paint GamesWorkshop miniatures and listen to the radio). None of my relationships really involve games and it does hurt to have that hobby only in isolation.

As someone famous once said: It's good to share.

Beautiful writing, Kat.

Glad to have your words back on the GWJ front page, Kat. Nice choices for the examples, too -- although you really ought to play FFX in full.

Radiant, Kat.

Wonderful writing, Kat.

Kat...

Thank you for that wonderful writing.

I was down on myself today because I was being a little obsessive compulsive about what I wanted to by next, the usual DSGamer stuff. But now all I can think about is the fun I have when I actually play.

Wow, I can't believe nobody's ribbed me yet for having the gaming tastes of a 13-year-old Japanese schoolgirl. Honestly, now. I expected more from zombie skaters and chainsaw-wielders. Oh well.

Many years ago, a friend lent me his copy of the original Legend of Zelda, I wrote over his save spot by accident (accident = not fully understanding the amount of hours it involved to get every treasure, every heart, etc.). I never finished Legend of Zelda and never fully understood his frustration or the fact he didn't speak to me for 2 months.

And not until today did I tie the fact that for the very same reason my friend had to walk out of the room or punch me in the face and the reason I kept saving all my FFVII game on different slots are one and the same. It's not the sterile acomplishment or gaining a treasure, weapon, XP points or finally beating that boss that drove you nuts and kept you distracted during class; but the MEMORY of sitting in your room with your brother until 3.00am and getting mad, cursing at the screen while your last party member died. And you both giggled as my dad stormed into the room for the 15th time explaining at the top of his lungs why we'd better go to bed that instant. Or receiving a phone call at 11.00pm and hearing your friend's desperate voice pleading for advice beating that same boss. I just smiled and told him to be patined, get lots of potions and sit comfortably, it would take a while.

These are great memories that you can relive time and time again, talking with my brother over the phone ("dude, I just found the box with all the PS mems, remember the time...") or just reliving when I finally moved out, deciding in the blink of an eye, "these are coming with me!"

Thanks Katerin, a really nice read and its always nice to reminisce.

Well done.

KaterinLHC wrote:

Wow, I can't believe nobody's ribbed me yet for having the gaming tastes of a 13-year-old Japanese schoolgirl. Honestly, now. I expected more from zombie skaters and chainsaw-wielders. Oh well. :)

It's probably the old glass houses thing.

How cool to beat Zelda with your grandfather or FFX with your friend. I've never beaten a game with someone else.

jonnypolite wrote:
KaterinLHC wrote:

Wow, I can't believe nobody's ribbed me yet for having the gaming tastes of a 13-year-old Japanese schoolgirl. Honestly, now. I expected more from zombie skaters and chainsaw-wielders. Oh well. :)

It's probably the old glass houses thing.

Indeed. The majority of my gaming life sounds pretty similar. I love Viva Pinata. I played tons of Harvest Moon when I was a GBA Gamer. I spent more time on Pokemon than any single game aside from Tecmo Super Bowl. Katamari Damacy is one of my favorite games of all time. And I still consider Nintendogs the best game on the DS.

KaterinLHC wrote:

Wow, I can't believe nobody's ribbed me yet for having the gaming tastes of a 13-year-old Japanese schoolgirl. Honestly, now. I expected more from zombie skaters and chainsaw-wielders. Oh well. :)

Considering I've imported music games from Japan, I'd be quite kettle like if I started throwing good natured insults

I know it wasn't - and wasn't intended - but this article is a kind of answer to yesterday's. As a complimentary set, this and yesterday's are my personal favorite for the site.

Jeez, I go on vacation and everyone gets loquacious.

Oh yeah, the Japanese imports of music games.

Yeah, at one time my game collection was...

Ouendan
Nintendogs
Animal Crossing
Electroplankton
Harvest Moon

So, yeah, no throwing stones here.

Elysium wrote:

Jeez, I go on vacation and everyone gets loquacious.

To the dictionary!

Beautiful.

KaterinLHC wrote:

Wow, I can't believe nobody's ribbed me yet for having the gaming tastes of a 13-year-old Japanese schoolgirl. Honestly, now. I expected more from zombie skaters and chainsaw-wielders. Oh well. :)

Dispite your squishy emotional tendencies, the games you picked are held in fairly universal esteem around here.

jonnypolite wrote:
KaterinLHC wrote:

Wow, I can't believe nobody's ribbed me yet for having the gaming tastes of a 13-year-old Japanese schoolgirl. Honestly, now. I expected more from zombie skaters and chainsaw-wielders. Oh well. :)

It's probably the old glass houses thing.

He nailed that one. It never dawned on me that there would be anything else.

I have never actually tried to wield a chainsaw in a sailor suit, but I bet my daughter would. Though she'd probably rather do it in a Sophitia costume.

Thankyou Kat

KaterinLHC wrote:

T. S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

These are the words that made me want to ventilate my cranium in college,. Thankfully it has been attached with word of games!

Excellent article Katerin. Unfortunately, most of my gaming memories are of the solo variety, but they are important to me nontheless. I look forward to making memories with my new family in the future however. Thanks for putting those feelings into words for us.

Reading this, I feel the way I felt at last year's PAX as I listened to Wil Wheaton's keynote. Only this is better. Thanks, Kat!