Many video games turning twenty-five this year could set themselves on a podium and brag until their throats are sore. "Hey, I'm Castlevania and I've released over 30 games in the last quarter-century. What have you done?"
As I turn 25 along with them (Note: see which ones they are in the video above!), I wish I could look back on my years of gaming and recount my proudest moments. But instead, I have a serious confession:
Some time around 1999, I proclaimed that I hated video games.
Oh, boy, did I hate them. I remember this vividly. My family hadn't been able to afford a console since the Super Nintendo, a system I loved possibly more than horses and making Sailor Moon costumes out of tablecloths (which I would then sport and run around the neighborhood while throwing glitter at dogs. These are things I did).
But my brother had moved out and took nearly every SNES game with him, leaving me with practically nothing. With no console and a busy schedule filled with dance, theater, and my weekly dog-glitter attacks, video games suddenly weren't such a big part of my life anymore.
And then GoldenEye 007 came out for the Nintendo 64.
I first learned about it when visiting my grandma, who ordered me, once again, to "get away from the food and go play with your cousins, dammit!" This was the worst possible punishment she could bestow, next to rinsing my mouth out with Dial. Every time I went downstairs to see my two male cousins (my same age), they were playing their stupid video games. Most were sports games with an emphasis on basketball – I hated basketball.
For hours, I would have nothing to do but watch them play and watch them fight and play and fight and play and fight until finally I would yell, "Can't we do something else? Outside? Maybe a board game? Anything?"
"No," they replied with a scoff, returning to their controllers.
Stupid, stupid video games.
But this particular visit was different. They were hunched over like trolls on the floor playing a game I'd never seen before—running around shooting each other in one-on-one matches. A nearby box said GoldenEye. I asked if I could play and they said, "After this round!" repeatedly for two hours before I demanded to be given a chance. They handed me a controller and snickered.
"How do I play?" I asked, as they started the round. There was already blood running down my side of the screen before they even told me a single button function. They laughed hysterically.
Next round, they killed me again. Clearly they found great pleasure in teaming up on me and watching my helpless character die, over and over. I finally threw down my controller and stormed upstairs, trying to ignore their comments about how "I sucked."
Not a month later, I found myself in another room with people playing GoldenEye—a room full of slightly older teens. There was a boy I liked. I was trying to look cool. You know the story. When one kid left the room, the rest told me to take over since it was four-player.
"What are the controls?" I asked.
The game had already started. The only other girl in the room tried to call them out to me while she was in the heat of battle herself, but she was too late—blood was already running down my screen, and the ridiculing from the boys in the room commenced. Again, round after round they high-fived after killing me when I barely knew how to shoot.
And here's what I remember the most: The gamer I was substituting for came back in the room and said, "Why did you guys let her play? She's screwing up my score, she sucks!"
I gave the controller back and left the room, humiliated. I really hated video games.
Obviously, now that it's twelve years later, it's safe to assume it wasn't the games I hated; it was THE STUPID KIDS.
Kids are so mean and stupid for no reason. It took me years to get over my red-hot rageful vengeance toward video games. You read that correctly: years. I stopped playing for years because no one ever showed me how to play their popular games. No one wanted me to play. Every gamer I encountered was a jerk. I was sick of the humiliation.
As a 25th birthday present to myself, I have prepared this letter that I will send back in time as soon as we have the technology:
Dear 13-Year-Old Lisa,
Hey! It's you, from the future. We totally have Time Machines with faxing capabilities these days, so you can stop looking forward to Suitcase Cars because this is way cooler, and those never really catch on.
It's your 25th birthday today here in the future and you spent the entire day playing a game called Gears of War 3. Yes. I shot people and chainsawed through necks. Just straight through ‘em. There was blood. It spurted. Doesn't that sound like something you would hate and be terrible at? That's why I'm here to tell you that, while I think it's cute you're trying to take a stand and everything, you need to stop saying you hate video games. Because you hate them for all the wrong reasons.
Just because you were ridiculed by some stupid teenage boys, who collect Pogs and wear No Fear shirts—is that when those things are popular?—doesn't mean you hate all video games. It means kids are dicks. That's a genitalia-related swear word you'll be using in the future.
Video games aren't just time-wasters and proving grounds for young people. It's not turning into a ‘multiplayer' world, and, contrary to your current belief, gamers are not the scum of the earth—they're actually going to be some of the most loyal friends you've ever had.
Games will turn into an even better escape from reality for you than your favorite movie, The Last Unicorn, which, frankly, is a really terrifying film. I've watched it recently as an adult, and I'm not sure why you think a movie where Christopher Lee tries to murder a horse-girl via drowning her in the ocean is okay, yet E.T. is the scariest thing ever.
The moral of the story for you, every little girl in the world, and the media included, is that you can't blame video games for gamers being idiots. It's not Call of Duty's fault that a 12-year-old from Germany called you the n-word, it's not World of Warcraft's fault that your boyfriend has no time for you, and it's not Grand Theft Auto's fault your kid got arrested. Well, not YOUR kid specifically, Lisa. You don't have a kid right now or anything. Rather, you're about one failed relationship away from owning 30 cats.
But just remember: GoldenEye itself didn't humiliate you. It's a great game, and you'll be playing it on this thing called the ‘Wii' someday. It won't be as good though, so enjoy that original version while you can before they screw it up.
Love, 25-Year-Old Lisa.
P.S. You might want to rethink that crush on Lance Bass.