Before I get started, I just want to say 2016 was a good year for me, but it was not a good year for the world. I shed more tears of sadness and despair in 2016 than in recent years. I discussed racial and gender issues almost on a daily basis not just in academic settings, but with friends and family outside of that setting. I felt for the first time an actual fear for my life by simply walking, looking, speaking, and living while black. The world is in need of a upgrade, a fresh restart, or something. Hopefully 2017 will bring a brighter, safer, and more comfortable future for all people in the world. With that said, time to briefly reflect on how gaming impacted my life in 2016.
I graduated from college! After 4 arduous years, I am finally a graduate from the University of Maryland, College Park. It was there that I firmly came to grips with the direction I wanted to go in my life. That direction meant taking my gamer identity and using that as my launching pad into a career in academia and/or industry. I am still at a lost for words because ascertaining that degree meant a lot to me and I can only imagine how my family felt seeing me walk across that stage.
Next, I moved and went back to school! I am now an Informatics PhD student at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana studying videogame culture. Yes, I know it’s broad, but I still have sometime before I narrow down my particular interest(s) in gaming culture. I have already completed my first semester and it was awesome. It took me a while to fully realize that I am in school to learn, study, and at times play videogames as an academic pursuit. All I can say is I take gaming seriously. Videogames can teach people about other people, places, and ourselves. Academia gives me a direct pipeline to disseminate scholarly information and expand my knowledge of an already familiar subject. This is a five year program, so hopefully more people will hear or see about my endeavors on a grander scale! Stay tuned for that!
Gaming in 2016 brought me closer to people than ever before. Square Enix’s Life is Strange engaged me and other friends so much in it’s narrative that we shared our thoughts and feelings about the characters in the game and our own emotional connections to the characters. Golf with Friends is a very basic causal 3D golfing game that, as the title suggests, allows you play with friends. I never took myself as a golf player, but this definitely proved that my talents are better suited for research purposes. I just need to work on flicking my wrist more or aiming better with the mouse. Lastly, the popular team-based shooter Overwatch was definitely my go to game since its release. I am not a competitive person, mainly because I can never find the time to practice to be a competitive player. At least for me, Overwatch was different because I felt that every match I played I ended up learning something new. I learned more about which characters are better suited for certain maps and team compositions. I saw, heard, and almost felt when I head shotted an enemy with Zenyatta’s orbs or when I got nearly one-shotted by a Widowmaker. Playing with my friends allowed me to feel apart of a team of jovial people, as well as catch up with friends I have not heard from in a while.
2016 was an emotional roller coaster for me! I had sad times and happy times. I went through times of loneliness. I also hung out with friends more than I ever did back at my alma mater. I got snowed in with 3 friends in January of 2016. That was incredibly fun. Even with all the upsides and downsides, one of the constants in my life was videogames. Even if I was not playing a game, I was reading an article about the next game I should pick up or be on the look out for.
2016 you are done and definitely will be a year that I and many others will never forget. Let 2017 be the year of positive change, let it be the year of a social revolution, and let it be the year that helps launch me into the heart of gaming culture through my research! Now it is time to press start on a whole new adventure!