By: Richard Wilcox
On April 3, 2013, what started as a normal day quickly devolved into a terrible nightmare I couldn't shake myself awake from. A very close family friend of mine, who I considered my sister, unexpectedly died at the young age of 21 and this completely rocked my world. I had experienced death before, but nothing so unexpected and of this magnitude. Alyssa Sialaris was a star athlete, All-American volleyball player, all state discus thrower. Needless to say, she was truly amazing. I was devastated. “A sophomore in high school shouldn’t have to deal with something like this,” I told myself, as I quickly went into a downward spiral that set in motion the worst year of my life. I pushed away friends, family, and effectively ruined every single relationship I valued in my life. Although I subconsciously made that choice, I felt abandoned, alone, and that no one truly understood what I was going through. That’s when I turned to video games.
Hindsight is 20:20 and looking back now I know I had an entire network of people to turn to: My parents, my girlfriend, and my brother who I know took it harder than anyone. But In that year I never felt as good as I did when I picked up that controller, forgot about all the things in my world, and stepped into someone else’s virtual shoes, specifically those of Booker Dewitt’s in Bioshock Infinite. Grinding from rail to rail using my skyhook, killing enemies using a wide variety of vigors, and fighting murderous George Washington robots is something that will stick with me forever. It solely helped me take a step back from all of the dark clouds in my life and live a fantasy better than my reality. This wasn’t a cure though, I enjoyed the gameplay but the narrative of Bioshock never really stuck with me. I actually fell away from video games for a while, barely having the energy, between school,assuring everyone I was okay, and the insomnia that kept me up at night. I didn’t feel like me anymore. I finished the school year with sub-par grades , just waiting for the moment summer began so I could just get away from everything and everyone.
Then in comes that game, The Last of Us. I really didn’t know much about it until a friend of mine offered me his PS3 to play it. When I accepted his offer I experienced the game that single handedly changed my life. January 15, 2014, I sat down and dove into what would be the most memorable 12 hour experience I’ve ever had. Naughty Dog and The Last of Us changed my life and I wish I could personally thank them for turning my entire perspective around. I know this may not make sense to some people: How can something like a videogame change someone’s life? Let alone one about killing infected ‘zombies’. Joel in The Last of Us taught me a very important lesson and that is you can lose everything, but there will always be something to live for. Throughout the entire game Joel kept fighting, first for his daughter, for himself, and then finally for Ellie. There were so many points in that game where Joel could have given up, but he didn’t, and that spoke volumes to me. I started to open up again to family and friends, and, slowly but surely, felt like myself again all thanks to one video game.
I can’t quite put into words how thankful I am that video games exist, but I can almost guarantee you if it weren’t for video games I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to write this article for you all. I wouldn’t be as strong or as happy as i’m proud to say I am now. To all the developers out there, big or small, THANK YOU and keep doing what you do. You’re making a difference in lives everywhere, including mine.