We have known each other for most of my thirty years, and though we’ve been friends most of that time, I haven’t always been able to express how I feel. There were times when I felt you took more from me than you gave. I started to believe the things my parents and friends at church said about you. They told me to move on, that I would be healthier and happier if I left you behind. They said you were too juvenile and violent. There were times when I believed them. While I never truly moved on, I neglected you and was happy enough without you. I blamed you for a lot in those days. But time has given me some perspective. At the very least I owe you an apology, but perhaps I owe you more.
My parents worried about our relationship. My mother was concerned that we saw each other too much. In many ways she was right. There were times when we spent too much time together and I am certain that our relationship kept me from studying as hard as I could have in middle school and high school. But those days weren’t easy for me, and you were there for me. I used you as a crutch and it got to be unhealthy. But you were available.
As I got older, I forgot about how you had helped me. I believed what people at church were saying about you. I grew bitter for all the time you had stolen from me. It was easier to blame you than take responsibility for my lack of self control. I owe it to you to admit that you never stole time from me–I gave it to you freely. I used you as a crutch because I didn’t know who I was and I didn’t know how to be a friend. The things I blamed you for–my lack of attention, my less than stellar grades, and my frustration with life–were never your fault.
In college and graduate school I binged on you at the end of each semester. Otherwise we only saw each other in social situations. This continued as my studies became more and more demanding. You were advancing and changing rapidly but I had convinced myself that I was fine without you, so I kept my distance. I could see that you had changed–you looked so much more beautiful these days but I’m not sure you were any wiser. You were violent and angry and demeaning toward women. I, on the other hand, met someone who didn’t particularly care for you. We soon married and I was happier than I had ever been.
I think often about what it would have been like if we had never reconnected. I would have found other things to do in my free time. I would have avoided a lot of awkward conversations with Christians where I admitted to not only enjoying videogames but writing about them in my free time. I could have joined in with those who say you are stupid and responsible for much of what is wrong with the world. I never bought that “games make people violent” but I could see why so many of my peers were either nonplussed or revolted by you. If I am honest, “juvenile,” “puerile,” and “chauvinistic” seemed to accurately describe your loudest iterations.
Shortly after taking my first pastoral position, I found a good deal on a Playstation 3. I told myself that I just wanted a Blu Ray player, but truthfully I was curious to see whether you had changed. On a friend’s recommendation I picked up Fallout 3. While playing that game, I saw something in you that I hadn’t noticed before. For perhaps the first time, I no longer saw you as a mere escape. More than just being impressed by the wasteland of Fallout 3, I found you challenging me, questioning me, and causing me to face who I was. Not long after this I played Far Cry 2. It was a shooter that didn’t glorify violence but questioned it and questioned me for enjoying it so much. I would go on to play Braid and Portal and Bioshock and Amnesia: the Dark Descent and Minecraft and El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, games that I am convinced gave as much or more than they took from me. Portal encouraged me to think about what makes me human, Bioshock explored the consequences of unbridled freedom, Amnesia challenged me to face my fears and Minecraft gave me a space to share my creativity with others. Instead of merely offering an opportunity to escape, you were opening my eyes to the world around me and my place in it.
There were times in high school when I told my mother that one day I would write about you. She scoffed at that idea–she would tell me that I would change my mind and that one day I would be over you. There are some things that I love more than you, so I can’t promise that we will always be close. I can, however, see a bright future for you—one that I hope to be a part of. And when bloody bikini-clad torsos and sexy nun assassins make me question that future, I remind myself of the moments when you were there for me. I remember those moments you told me the truth.