Throwing Punches and Taking Names: Finding community through video games

Illustration by Kevin Silva.
Illustration by Kevin Silva.

I tucked myself underneath the warmth of my blanket after my mom shut off my bedroom lights. The only thing offering any kind of light was the glow from my Game Boy.

I switched it on, loaded up Pokémon Ruby and was greeted by the familiar 32-bit songs that accompanied each area I would encounter. 

I grew up an only child, so the only things I felt like I could rely on for company were movies and video games. The reason I hold so much nostalgia for them is because these characters and stories made me feel less alone.

Toward the end of high school in 2014, I found that I had a knack for fighting games in particular. Street Fighter, to be specific. I still remember the first time I ever picked up that game. It was for fun, at first, but I have been known to be extremely competitive.

As you can imagine, a 5-foot-1-inch girl like myself felt like Zangief, an enormous, 7-foot Russian wrestler with massive muscles, was the character for me. Was I compensating for something? Maybe.

It almost felt like your typical training montage. In the beginning, I learned how to be better, practicing combinations for hours on end until my thumbs literally bled. 

It is hard to say what possessed me to hyperfixate on it, but there was something about the satisfaction of finally being able to follow through seemingly impossible combinations.

The “hard work” I had put in for a few years was paying off. I was enamored.

But what I also began to realize was that sense of satisfaction was not the only thing that I loved about gaming. I also enjoyed being a part of the community.

During the 2020 pandemic, I, like everyone else, was confined to my home outside of work. Amid the stress I had from working in the emergency room and the fear I held from the developing virus, I once again found solace in video games.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons was my saving grace. It acted as both a stress reliever and a way for me to continue to connect with my friends, despite not being able to see each other face-to-face.

It was like we were kids again and none of our problems mattered. 

Before I knew it, more games had flown into my radar. Games like Journey, The Last of Us and Hyper Light Drifter had quickly become my favorites. They were all beautifully animated, well-written and well-composed.

It was then that I learned how much complexity a lot of games had, outside of what people might think are just made for kids.

I hope that everyone gives video games a chance and does not reduce or dismiss them as a childish medium because you never know what you might find. 

You might even find the same comfort I found in them, whether that’s in Zangief or in a virtual animal friend.

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