[Welcome to Game Start, an ongoing retrospective where video game editors and personalities share their tales of growing up gamers. We take a walk down memory lane with Mike Staub, COO of Nerd Blerp.]
When I finally got around to reading the email that Jeff [Wilson] sent to me about participating in Game Start, I was in the middle of writing an article about platforming games; an opinion piece that led me to pick a handful of my favorite platformers that have nothing to do with Mario. As I organized my thoughts, I kept thinking about the wonderful years of my youth spent in front of a television playing video games. I thought about how important gaming is to me, and of the reasons why I still continue to pick up the controller, even after over two decades of playing.
I’ve never been paid to play video games, nor have I ever gotten much financially out of talking or writing about video games. I do it all out of passion. I love the medium! Gamers are in their own little world, a great place where I’ve had the joy of residing for most of my life. Games have matured with me, as they evolved from innocent bleeps and bloops of the 1980s and early 1990s, to the grand epics that we see today. As a adult I look back and sometimes ask myself, “Why am I still doing this? Why do I still game?”
Gaming is a little different on a person to person basis. It speaks to each individual personality type and and adheres to different interests. Some gamers like to game because of the natural competition, others because they love crunching numbers. Some people just need the mental distraction. I’m not entirely sure which group I fit into and the slight smattering of “types” I just mentioned barely scratches the surface on different types of gamers. I always end up feeling that gaming is an escape. It’s a place here I don’t have to worry about bills, loans, work, or the pressures of life. In gaming I just move to the left, jump on some evil mushrooms, and save a princess. I’m not about accepting realism in my video games, games to me need to be fantastic to a degree. This sentiment is probably why I never got myself too into sports games. I can go outside and play baseball if I really wanted to (and do). Sure, I’ll never be Alex Rodriguez, the starting 3rd baseman for the NY Yankees, but I can still find the enjoyment from hitting an actual baseball diamond.
Gaming relies heavily on the gamers’ need to disconnect. It’s all about living in a new world for a while.
Games are all about that loss of connection, for me. It’s the same reason why I still read comics regularly, and have gotten myself lost in fantasy novels since I was a youngster. The real world can be a rough place to live sometimes, and while I try not to wallow in my own problems, a quick trip to Hyrule is sometimes better than occupational therapy or a bottle of beer.
Gaming also holds its childhood close to its heart. When I sit down and play a video game, whether it is classic or new age, there’s a wonderful learning experience that I witness. It’s a transformation back to the days of my childhood, where I sat wide-eyed watching a heavy-set Italian immigrant-worker bash bricks with gloved fists. To this day every time I turn on any of my gaming systems I get to relive my childhood all over again. As I’ve gotten older I’ve grown to appreciate different styles of play and different genres, but all games still have that same effect. They’re something new to explore and experience every time. I may know the game like the back of my hand, but each time I turn on a game, I’m back in a world of wonder. Even the most familiar games feel new when compared to the “real world.” That’s what gaming is all about. It’s not about violence, or high scores, it’s about breaking away. Gaming relies heavily on the gamers’ need to disconnect. It’s all about living in a new world for a while.
Gaming led me to want to share my opinions and views openly. I’m a fairly opinionated person, but when I started working with Nerd Blerp in 2010 I assumed the role as Viral Staub, an internet video-hound, and a gaming writer. I was driven to share my experience with gamers as a way to help communicate the things I loved about gaming. It’s a passion, something that I feel separates nerds from geeks. While we’re never 100% sure on what the difference between what a geek and a nerd is, but I’m of the belief that nerds are all about passion. They are some of the most passionate people I have ever met, and through Nerd Blerp I wanted to communicate directly with those people. By writing about games, I was among my brethren, the gamers and the nerds and I have never felt more comfortable. Being a gamer and a nerd assures that you have some wonderful, crazy, and intense family out there.
I would trade my years playing video games for nothing else. They have partially made me the type of person I am. My imagination, personality, and sense of humor all can somewhat trace their roots back to my years as a gamer. My friends are gamers, my life revolves around playing games. I’m happy for that, and I know that without video games I would have never survived high school, college, or my professional life. The necessary escape from the natural world is the selling point for me. I love playing video games and I’m proud to be both a nerd and a gamer. I hope that when I’m in my retired years I can still be found sitting on a couch with a controller in my hand, still sitting with the same expression as the little kid who had the Mushroom Kingdom in his eyes and a cheerful melody in his heart, humming the soundtrack of a generation.