Oh, Pickaxe Pete, the times we spent together!
Halloo, Bitch Readers! I'm Brandann Hill-Mann, AKA, Ouyang Dan. I'm a returning guest poster here, who you may remember from my brief foray with the Transcontinental Disability Choir. Your greatest dreams have come true, because I am back, and this time I am going to be a gamer nerding it up!
A few notes about me before we go on: I live in the hemisphere that rocks! Meaning, that I am currently in South Korea, and rockin' some chronic conditions that eat up energy I'd rather save for my military family. I don't have buckets of time to devote to comments during World Daylight Time, but I will respond to as many as I can during my awake time. I appreciate your patience!
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Video games have long been a fascinating escape for me. I've never been and can not now be what one would consider a "hardcore" gamer, but ever since I got my hands on my first gaming system—a hand-me-down Magnavox Odyssey²—I've enjoyed games as a way to get away. We were fortunate enough to receive the cast-offs from our cousin as his consoles upgraded, and a couple of years later I remember having my very own Atari, complete with a cartridge that included Tank. It was a great game, and in my version, or as a flaw of my console being old by the time I got it, you could make the tanks pink and blue (of course mine was pink! I was a conditioned girl!).
When I was eight my grandparents sprung for a Nintendo Entertainment System for my brother and I, and it quickly became our favorite Christmas gift ever. Never mind that this was three years after its 1985 release, we were over the moon to finally have one, and the Track and Field mat was the most used accessory two kids ever had, though it had nothing on its Dance, Dance Revolution or Wii Fit Balance Board successors. The first game we got along long enough to beat together was the arcade version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and it wasn't long before we were storming through Mario in under eight minutes. This was, of course, after endless weekend hours of figuring out all of those tunnels and vines together (and this was before the Internet or GameFaqs and Wikis). I still don't think I've ever told him you can control the ducks with the other controller in Duck Hunt …
We spent a few years living with an uncle and aunt who owned a Super Nintendo, and Mario became as much our staple entertainment as he is Nintendo's bread and butter now. Marios Two and Three were Easy Cheese hors d'oeurves for us as we tried to cope with a tumultuous life that kept uprooting us and dropping us in new places.
When I met my biological father and half brothers for the first time, I remember playing the original Sega Master System, and Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Curse. The premise being that you had to wander around some convoluted setting to find some relic to lift some curse to keep … well I don't remember. I do remember being able to fly, swim, and beat 8-bit dragon foes who were ridiculously larger than me and it was awesome. These guys I'd just met shared their games with me, and that really helped.
My brother received a Sega Genesis for one birthday or another—much to my covetous memory—and we managed some fun fighting over whose turn it was to play Sonic this time (before Tails). I have a great love of the Sega Genesis as some of the best games pre-XBox were played by me on this console, my personal favorite being Earthworm Jim, a chronically hilarious game about a spacesuit that houses the eponymous tube who goes by E-W-J, even though that has more syllables than just saying Earthworm Jim.
Somewhere along the line my brother traded up for a Sega CD that I don't remember to well, but he must have because my friends would pile into my living room and bring over Dune. Having a mother on second shift meant that our house had little parental supervision. Seriously though, if spending your afternoon playing a real-time strategy game based on a space opera while piled on a couch full of partially unwashed football players and band kids binging on Doritos is the worst you do whilst unsupervised, your parents have Sega to thank for your good turnout.
From there my gaming was hit and miss for a while, heading into a real "game of Tetris here, a round of Lemmings there" kind of kick until I became pregnant and moved back to my mother's house where the Nintendo 64 had Mario Kart 64 waiting for me, and there wasn't a family member or friend of the family who could top me on a Rainbow Road so long as I had Toadstool behind the wheel.
Now, with a partner who understands the need for a good video game bender (and who is what you could call a hardcore gamer), I've delved back into the gaming world with the privilege of being able to discover what I like, including but not limited to: Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games (or MMORPGs) à la World of Warcraft, RPGs like the Fable series and Dragon Age, and others too numerous to list. I also get to decide what I don't have the patience for, such as First Person Shooters (FPS) and Street Fighter-style fighting games with complicated controls, which result in my spamming the buttons and hating the experience.
The lens of social justice has also allowed me to view one of my favorite escapes—to pry apart the different oppressions that have permeated it in ways that my younger self never fully appreciated. That's why I'm here. Over the next eight weeks I want to delve into video games and the video game industry from the perspective of a gal who has long loved them, sporadically been able to indulge in them, and recently been privileged enough to, well, dissect the ways in which games and most gaming cultures are structured.
We'll take a look at many forms of oppression within gaming, and hopefully have a bit of fun talking about the games we enjoy, whether they be the few gems that manage to rise above the tropes, or the ones we manage to fine sparks of enjoyment in despite the many flaws. I am really excited to be here again!
Photo Credit: Boffy b on Wikimedia Commons