Here we are in Destiny 2’s launch week, and while I must say that I’m terribly excited to begin a brand new adventure in the cosmos, there’s something else I’m looking forward to far more. You see, I never really considered myself a hardcore gamer. What constitutes one? Who’s to say that’s an absolute definition? Nothing makes my eyes roll faster than Sonic the Hedgehog than seeing someone retort with, “only a true gamer would” in an argument. They’re certainly passionate if anything. Maybe there’s a heartfelt message to be had, too. Where am I going with this?
There was a time when the likes of Call of Duty (please stay with me here) drove me to subscribe to Xbox Live time after time. Come to think of it, my very first foray into online gaming came with Left 4 Dead. Why? That was also the early days of YouTube gaming video bliss. A YouTube channel I was watching at the time had a group of friends playing it, and they offered up their shenanigans for all of us to see. I was immediately hooked and I set out to find a copy of the game. Little did I know that a spark had just lit within me.
While, at the time, online gaming was no new feature – Xbox Live had already launched on the original Xbox hardware well before Left 4 Dead came along – to me it was completely uncharted territory. As I’m sure anyone my age would tell you when asked, “What’s a video game?”, I would not respond with the Call of Dutys, the Battlefields, nor World of Warcrafts. Most likely I’m going to think of where it all started for me: Jumping. Running. Platforms. Super Mario Bros. That’s where my mind usually goes to.
I’m going to paraphrase some Shrek philosophy here for a moment. Gaming is like an onion. Gaming has a lot of layers. It tastes good when properly prepared. It can make you cry in some cases, depending on your own point of view. Over the years, my appreciation and love for gaming has focused and been redefined. All of a sudden it’s not necessarily defined by the first game I ever played. I began to see other memories come into focus. Playing Super Mario Kart with my sister. Leafing through the latest gaming magazine at the store while my parents checked out. Humming catchy music from hundreds of games. Trading Pokemon cards. Sharing cheat codes with friends. Playful teabagging online. Groaning and fanboying together at E3. Gaming had evolved into a community for me.
Community. A highly opinionated, fiercely passionate community. My first true exposure to this wider world was when I became a contributor for my first gaming website. I wrote news to begin with, and gradually tested the waters of writing reviews. To keep things brief, this gracious opportunity opened so many doors that I can barely fathom to comprehend. The most important of which is the people that I’ve come to know and now call friends. People who I probably would have never met otherwise. There’s even the risks I would never have taken. Limits that I wouldn’t have surpassed. Nor would I have met the one I love most.
Even now, many of us are separated by distance. Some have moved away. There are even some who aren’t with us anymore. Yet, at one time this was a group of people who persuaded me to join them for Halo 3 matches. Wow! What a time! Then Halo: Reach was soon upon us. I can’t recall a time when over a dozen people, good friends, congregated online just to play a game with each other. Heck, even for some mild griefing – gosh do I still suck at Uncharted multiplayer. That grenade drop/roll move gets me every time.
Those of us who were local and close to one another, our weekly podcasts would find us competing for a turn at the mic, laughing and taking lighthearted jabs at both each other and the gaming industry. Pizzas would be had and remained tasty when it got cold, even as the night grew late. We never seemed to stop until we had our gaming fill.
Years could pass before we all played a new game with each other and my heart would fill at the sound of our familiar banter, like the years had been mere days. How could we hit our stride so quickly? After all, it had been awhile since we last played together. The games had come and gone. Many of them not having the staying power I thought they would. This was a trend I saw as the years passed. We were getting the games, but we just weren’t playing them. Did we grow up a bit? Did the games get a little boring? Did we not have as much time as we used to? I’d say there’s a little of everything in the bigger picture.
So why haven’t we completely disappeared from each other? Because I think there’s a solid foundation beneath it all that we’ve taken turns building up. A reason why we formed a camaraderie that’s as distinct as the people who’ve lent their personal touch to it. A reason why we can “boot up an old save file” and pick up where we left off. It’s that simple joy of gaming; the invisible, yet ethereal connection we share together.
Because, today, I most certainly include you in my definition of gaming. In fact, you’re a larger part of it than you may realize. Truthfully, I bugged a good friend of mine into getting Destiny 2, not because I just want to play a good game together. I did so in the hopes that we can share a laugh, even fashion some new memories together. Maybe it’s also because I miss those good old days when gaming together was at its peak. A time when you barely had to ask each other if you wanted to jump online. “Halo tonight? [7:00]? Okay, see you there.”
Today, after work, I’ll be going to pick up my copy of Destiny 2 for my PS4. I don’t know what to expect. I’ve remained largely ignorant to this game’s time in development and that’s just fine. I don’t even know which of my friends are picking it up. Yet I’ll be secretly hoping you have – or will pick it up in time. If so, you can carry me and the rest of the team. After all, the game, like the many that came before and the many that are yet to come, is a blank slate. One that we can use as a jumping off point together.
If you’ve played a game online with me, even a few times, I thank you, and I remember you. If you know me in person and have no off button when we talk games together all night at our get togethers, I thank you and I remember you. We always said we’d play one more match, and we ended up playing five more. You lent a hand in making gaming more special and memorable for me. Considering that gaming is a huge passion in my life, that’s no understatement. I hope to see you online. The games will always vary, they may even be shelved for a long time, but that bond with you won’t be completely nullified.
Shall we play a game?