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How I was introduced to gaming. I think i was 8 years old or so and we went to our Uncle's place in town. I didnt know why we were visiting but looking back, I believe it was because he had just purchased an NES(Nintendo Entertainment System) with Mario and my parents wanted to check it out. I had never been to an arcade or seen an interactive game like tha, and I was immediately hooked. I cant explain why, outside of what modern observations have concluded. As children, we don't have alot of agency/control over what happens and alot of our successes are helped along by the adults in our lives. Video games give us access to something that can be just ours. All I know is I was super interested and that started a path that has been a large part of my life since.

When I got into gaming. While there would be consoles in my life starting around the age of 10, because of other circumstances, I was not able to get into them until maybe 16 or so when our grandparents purchased a computer for our family. It was a purchase meant to help with school, but as kids do, we wanted to do the fun things on it more. We played around in Delta Force, Age of Empires, Command and Conquer: Red Alert but it would be Starcraft: Brood Wars that would eventually get myself and one of my other brothers fully invested. At this point, our parents had sort of given up on controlling our exposure to games through time limits and we were able to dive in as long as chores and homework were complete. I think Starcraft had that balance where, as a new player, I could get into it and understand as well as practice against AI, but the more you learned, the more involved you could be. Once you jumped into PvP (Player versus Player), each game felt distinct and rewarding which added to its replayability. I think learning how to be a better player and solving the puzzle of strategy was core to me becoming a lifelong player.

What games do I play now. Life gets in the way and tastes change. I almost exclusively play multiplayer games of some kind but when I was younger I was playing more competitively. The first game I sank a couple thousand hours into would probably be Diablo 2: Lords of Destruction. I competed on the ladder with friends and we all did fairly well. The fall of 2004, I was encouraged to look at Blizzard's new game and the minute I booted it up, I never looked back.  WoW (World of Warcraft) would end up taking up all of my spare time for years and I would end up playing every expansion up to Shadowlands in 2020. I would take breaks but as each expansion released I would be pulled back in for half a year to a year. Between my WoW spurts,  I spent several thousand hours on Heroes of Newerth before it became clear LoL (League of Legends) and Dota2 was the direction moba's (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena Games) were going. I also played alot of Diablo 3, Borderlands with some other random games. As my career has progressed, I have stepped back from competitive style games and into more PvE (Player versus Environment) style groups where the focused is more laid back. I still try to be a good player, but with time limitations, it can be difficult to reach the goals I set for myself. The current games I am playing are Lost Ark, Diablo 4, Risk of Rain 2, Factorio, Across the Obelisk and TFT (Teamfight Tactics).

Advice for gamers reading this. Recognize when a game has gone from being fun competition with friends, or the community, to constant stress over needing to maintain MMR (Matchmaking Rating), keep up with login rewards, or fear of falling behind because of FOMO. Its ok to put a game down when succeeding or winning becomes a burden. You can always pick it up later and remember why you enjoyed it to begin with. The biggest hurdle we have in the gaming community is toxic behavior and gatekeeping to others who are interested in exploring our passion. If you have ever played a game and have wondered why it seems to be abandoned despite all the positive traits it has, it's likely we, as the gaming community, are mostly responsible. Remember, games are supposed to be fun. Sometimes the most fun we can have is when introducing non-gamer friends and family and watching our passion spark joy in others.

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