Weekend Reader: Games, My Guardian Angel

It is hard to read of a young man, essentially homeless, spending Christmas alone in a games store and not feel a twinge of sadness. But it's a memory more sweet than bitter to someone who considers games a lifesaver.

Kreyg Dezgo is the editor of Hot Blooded Gaming and a friend of mine. We can sometimes be found in Borderlands (he's a level 47 soldier, I'm a level 50 hunter.) He's written a long personal account of the role video games have played in his life. As his parents fought and split up, when was slow to make friends in grade school, when he started building a life for himself, games provided more than entertainment. They were a diversion, a social encounter, a job, and structure that would help keep a life centered, though it had all the symptoms of one going of the rails.

Rather than descend into another argument about design qualities over the weekend, I found Kreyg's story to be interesting and admirable in its forthrightness. Please do read the entire piece, not just the excerpt below. I think it might call to mind some of your own feelings and recollections about where video games have fit in difficult times - and in the better ones, too.

We're used to hearing about them as a poor substitute for parenting, for normal interactions, for setting normal expectations of the world. This is undeniably true. But when you don't have normal in the first place, you look to anything for balance, and in this case, the games didn't do too badly.

Video Games: My Guardian Angel [Hot Blooded Gaming, Feb. 18, 2010]

While things with my "professional" life at the time were back in order, my personal life was not so great. My friends had all gone away to school while I decided to work for the following year to save up money. Luckily X-Zone did more than give me employment, it gave me many new friends as well. The other 5 employees and I got along great and are still good friends to this day. While that part of my personal life had been solved, there was still the trouble at home. I was eventually thrown out of my mother's and was forced to leave X-Zone and my friends to live with my father in California. While I was in California I discovered how awesome Xbox Live was. I kept in contact with all of my friends back home and we were still able to game together. While I might have been 3000 miles away from them, we could all still hang out and play games as if I was back in NY. I can tell you that a lot of Halo 2 got played, but there was also a lot of time spent BSing in pre-game lobbies. While it was better than nothing, I wanted to go back.

My sister and her husband eventually offered to house me for a while if I wanted to move back to New York. Missing the few friends I had and X-Zone, I instantly decided to move back. There was only one condition to living with my sister though. I had to have a job within a set time or I would have to move back in with my father. The week before I moved back, I called X-Zone to inquire if I could have my old job back. When I called, I was given the sad news that Steven had just recently passed away. While I thought this meant the end of X-Zone, Steven's assistant at the time Mike had taken charge and was keeping X-Zone alive. He was thrilled to hear I was coming back and wanted me to stop in and talk when I was in New York. Within 3 hours of being back in New York, I was at X-Zone and talking to Mike. He welcomed me back with open arms, my old position, and a raise. I was back in New York with my friends and once again working with what I loved – video games.

While things were great when I first came back, after a few months, certain parts of my personal life started falling apart - again. My sister and her husband started getting into illegal substances, pills, and alcohol. It wasn't a great environment to live in and due to objections of certain things, I had been thrown out 2 days before Christmas of 2005. I spent my Christmas in the back room of X-Zone playing practically any game I wanted and eating food my boss had dropped off for me. While I should have been upset or hurt, I had a pretty awesome Christmas that year. I had access to virtually every video game console and every hit title that was out that holiday season. While it's not exactly a normal way to spend Christmas, it's one I'll remember for the rest of my life – guaranteed. Video games saved Christmas for me that year. After a few days, my sister let me come back and stay with her again. It lasted for about another month and then it happened again. My sister kicked me out and this time it was for good.

At this point in time, I had no where else to go. I remember showing up to X-Zone with my packed bags and going into the backroom. Mike came out of the back office, looked at me and said, "where are you going?" I looked at him and before I could say a word, I broke down. I left X-Zone after I gained my composure to think about what I was going to do. My younger sister had taken my room at my father's, so I couldn't just move back in with him. Even if I could, at that time, not only did I have my friends and a great job, but a love interest as well. I went back to X-Zone and while I was talking to my co-worker, I was called into the back office. When I walked in the back office, I saw on one of the desks, an air mattress, a pillow, and a blanket. Mike looked at me and said "it's not much, but you can call it home for now." I again broke down and embraced him for what he had just done for me – it was amazing.

I was technically homeless, but still had a place to sleep at night. I made it my mission to save all my cash and get an apartment. The time I spent at X-Zone wasn't exactly what I would call "great," but video games made the experience easier on me. I had access to games of the past and present. I was once again living what most people would call a little kids dream come true. I made the best of the time there and played as many games as I could to pass the time as quickly as possible. While it might not have been the ideal living situation, it was better than living on the streets. I eventually got out of the backroom of X-Zone and into my own place. I spent 3 years on my own before the economy forced X-Zone to close at the end of 2008. Within the course of a week, I lost not only my job, but my girlfriend of 3 years as well. I should have been devastated by both events being so close, but guess what was there for me again – video games.

- Kreyg Dezgo

Weekend Reader is Kotaku's look at the critical thinking in, and of video games. It appears Sundays at noon. Please take the time to read the full article cited before getting involved in the debate here.