Of all the avenues that would reconnect me with gaming, YouTube never came to mind. I never believed that a website that teaches you how to twerk or how to properly kick flip off of a wall could return those joys once felt as a youth. While sitting inside on a summer day, watching the excel spreadsheets I created mold into one giant mass, I decided to search YouTube for the Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. Like Final Fantasy VI, Oblivion is a game that has the power to whisk me away. So, it was from that search where I discovered a Let’s Play by a German fellow named Nagidal. The playlist has over 200 videos, not surprising due to the sheer enormity of the game. I jumped into one of the videos at random, in which the dreary world of Leyawiin was covered in rain. Nagidal promptly pulled open the inventory screen, and covered up his character’s head with a wizard hood. After staring blankly at the screen for a good minute, I asked myself, “why would someone playing a video game cover up with a virtual umbrella?” Nagidal was so immersed in the game, his very essence merged with his character. I burned through the entire play through, watching Nagidal live through his character, having real conversations with the NPCs, walking through cities, sitting down to eat, and sleeping in appropriate cycles. The warmth from my childhood gaming covered me anew, but this time it was through the enjoyment of another’s experience.
There are countless Let’s Plays on YouTube. In my approximation, 95 percent are players cussing, racing through the game, or moving on without any emotion or feel behind what they just completed. It is those rare Let’s Plays that grip me.
Another great Let’s Player, Gix, is currently trekking his way through Skyrim. On one of his videos, his companion is killed. Gix has a camera on himself, and you can see the distress and the pain in his eyes when his virtual companion falls to the cold pavement. He stares at her, then at the sky. Taking a gold necklace from her body, he puts it on and slowly walks away. Gix does not say anything on the video for what feels like an eternity. His pain can be felt through my monitor.
As a counselor and an adviser, there is self-satisfaction from seeing others recover from their suffering. When a person steps foot into my office, and unloads some of the most painful details of their life, the pain is imprinted onto me. I am always looking to make a connection with these individuals; not because it’s my job, but because I am a human. So when I look at these gamers feel pain or joy from an event, the emotion crawls through thousands of miles, and seeps in. When Gix lost his companion in Skyrim, it shook me to my core. He was so incredibly invested in the game that I was able to link to his emotion and feel that pain.
I know I am not alone in this. Time demands so much of us; it leaves little to enjoy what we all truly love. Some days, I am so worn down from the demands of my job that I would rather kick back and enjoy watching others experience the joys of gaming. Do you guys feel the same way? Is life demanding so much time that you have had less time to do what you did as a youth? Is it possible to be a gamer that lives through someone else? I welcome your experiences and stories about how life has altered your gaming habits!