I had a conversation with a co-worker recently and he was talking about playing Super Smash Bros. Brawl with his son and having a real blast with it. He talked about how much he plays the game and knows everything about it. I went on to tell him that people hold tournaments for that game at various on site venues like Las Vegas, San Francisco, New York, etc. and he made "the" comment. Yes, he went on to say how those people need to get lives, probably still live with mommy and daddy, the usual stereotypical statements. I could have continued on and mentioned the constant League of Legends and DOTA series tournaments that are held daily and are as popular, if not moreso, than the usual sports events broadcast on TV. It was unfortunate that this conversation happened during work hours or I could have brought some light on his opinions on gamers for another few hours. My boss is the only older person that knows I play video games, and he threw me in the stereotype pretty much instantly after I had mentioned I was going on vacation to go to PAX East this year. That's how fast society will label young introvert males if they only mention video games one time as an enthusiast.

After leaving this conversation I thought about all the gaming communities I had joined over the years and the number of people I would have never met and became friends with had I not gone so head first into gaming at a young age and stuck with it all these years. Even if years down the line, your new found friends play very little or hardly have any time at all for games, you can still count on them as being part of family that you treasure and know that you met through a simple video game. Of course not everyone you meet through gaming will hold on to that friendship, which is ok, people come and go in our lives no matter how we meet them. It's those certain individuals that touch our hearts in subtle ways that no one else in the real world could really comprehend. Maybe it's the distance that brings in the tighter bonds, or perhaps the similar ideas, interests, and experiences that bring us closer? All in all the end result broadens your own horizons and exposes you to different cultures and worlds that you would have never experienced within your own city (or country) limits.

Living in the country is a very dull and boring experience to me. I grew up in a sort of elderly neighborhood with no kids to play with outside. It was mainly just me and my dad passing a ball, playing baseball or kicking a soccer ball around. I was pretty much alone and I wanted excitement and fun all the time, which is what I found in video games. All throughout my childhood and through high school I would go to school, talk with some friends, and occasionally go to their house and play Nintendo or Sega with them. By the time I graduated high school and entered college I never really spoke with those friends anymore, or hardly at all. I have maybe one friend I still talk with on occasion who moved to Florida after my sophomore year. Entering college I made a new set of friends who I still keep in touch with and hang out every once in awhile. It was at this point I turned to the internet (still in its growing phase) to meet new people and make new friends through various video games that I would be playing at the time.

I started off in the SSX community back in 2003 where I found a video on the Twin Galaxies website of someone getting 2 million points on the Mesblanca track on SSX Tricky. Now keep in mind I'm not super big into extreme sport games, but watching that video caught my interest in SSX. I went and bought SSX Tricky, visited Merqury City and posted on their forums on a pretty regular basis to improve my game and be as excellent as in the video I saw. In the process I met a number of amazing people who were just as fond of the game as I was. These were the first group of online friends I had met mostly from around the US, but some from countries like Sweden, France, and the UK.

After a few years with the SSX community free MMORPG's had started to grow in numbers and I decided to pick up and try a few out including Maple Story, Ragnarok Online, and FlyFF. In 2006 A brand new game called Audition: Online Dance Party had just come out and it played a lot like Bust-A-Groove on the PS1. This was probably the one major community I took heavy part in joining the (now RIP) GoAudition forums and met a majority of the friends I'm still very close and still in contact with to this day. I started as a member of the forums and gradually worked my way to moderator, super mod, and admin for the forums. Because of my admin status many members mistook me for being the owner of the forums since I was so active in the community and the actual owner had just simply made the forums, tweaked the looks and left. I feel my journey from member to admin in such a small community (at the time) is what brought me the friends I know today. I've actually just recently started traveling to different countries to meet up with some of them. 2011 I went to Amsterdam and this past summer traveled to Vancouver. My next stop may be around the homeland and I'll visit some friends in California, but this may change depending on what kind of money I have.

Today I'm part of the speedrunning community, mainly the folks at Speed Demos Archive (SDA). This is a community that I've actually been lurking about since 2003 watching various speedruns of a lot of my favorite games. It wasn't until 2008 when the Classic Games Done Quick marathon was streamed over the internet that I got to see speedruns done live before my very eyes. This was the spark that started my interest in serious speedrunning aside just being the casual watcher. As more marathons were held, my interest kept growing and growing until finally in April of 2012, I registered my name on the site and started routing my first game, Catherine. I still see myself as "just another member" at the moment, but I'm slowly starting to build relationships and making friends with other runners.

Even though I'm still fairly new to the community, watching the marathons and seeing it as one huge welcoming family really showed me that having a similar interest can bring people together on a much more personal level than just a bunch of guys playing video games. It's the kind of community that would let you into their home when life has got it tough on you and you need a place to meet up with people and escape the reality to help you out and just plain have fun! Gaming, and the communities behind them, bring the level of excitement and entertainment that I've been looking for and it allows me to see and meet millions of people to interact with and get to know all within a comfortable space without the slight anxiety of face-to-face meetups.

It's in these communities that can one day set you on the front door of the industry and interact with famous gaming journalists, and even the developers of some top games. This could eventually bring you into the business itself based on how motivated you are to want to work with the best to create high end, quality content. So as a final thought, don't ever go with what society tells you how a certain group of people live their lives. There's maybe a very small fraction that live the way they say, but a majority have found ways to break that stereotype and manage to live just like any other human being on the planet while continuing to fully enjoy the games they love...and they are enjoying every minute of it.


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