I watched people playing video games when I was younger. And when I say 'watched', well, that's it.
Look, it's not that I was invisible, reader - you can burn that myth. It's just... for whatever inner 9-year old, "it's complicated" reason that existed back then - whenever someone handed me a controller; I'd inevitably reject it faster than vegetables (what the hell were those things, anyways?) on my plate. From there on out...? I suppose it was the same reoccurring script:
They'd quickly eye me for the strange kid I was (am). And then, much like a pendulum swinging back, their eyes would return to the screen.
...as always, mine would return as well.
For some reason I didn't want to play. And yet, I couldn't look away. It was a conundrum for the ages. Honestly, reader: I don't know why I was 'afraid' to play video games at first. I don't know why it took me over six months to finally pick up a controller.
What I do know...?
I was a backseat gamer. Which, ultimately, meant that I loved everything about video games, even if I wasn't the one pushing the buttons.
You know, it's funny. Thinking back, if a game changing (pun, admittedly, horribly intended) platform such as Twitch were to exist back in the 90's - I wouldn't have watched anything else. But hey? It didn't (instead we had POGS). And thus, my Saturday afternoons became me sitting around, dunking vanilla flavored dunk-a-roos, and slowly succumbing to a trance-like state of watching my friends try to progress/beat video games.
Honestly? I think to a lot of rational people, that would probably sound like I was missing out. Still, the reality at that point in time...? I had never actually PLAYED a video game before and that virtual cherry was very much UN-popped. To me, it was almost like this "impossible" concept or form of art that I couldn't believe my friends were performing on the screen. Which, if you hold under a microscope - seems to be the trend for a lot of things in the mind of a kid (hell, the prospect of learning to ride a bike seemed like going to outer space at first).
...Regardless, I'd be cheering them on. Whether it was during the thrill of victory or the cringing agony of that all too familiar crimson red 'GAME OVER' sign; I'd always be cheering them on. Until one day - six fateful months later on an unusually warm, Christmas morning - everything in my life changed.
Enter my parents buying me a Super Nintendo. Furthermore, enter the first game I ever played:
Super Mario World.
Bold move, mom and dad. Apparently, they had been watching me watching others (...that was hard to write) play video games long enough. So long, in fact, that they quite literally threw a controller into the palm of my hand and uttered those few fateful words I'll always remember, "Son... it's time for you to start controlling your own destiny."
...Okay, I'll be honest - I just wanted to write that pun. I think they said, "Merry Christmas, Kyle!" Or, you know, something (less epic) like that. Legendary fictional speeches aside; I couldn't see it back then, but the moment was bigger than me. I was now in possession of something that, quite literally, ALL my friends at the time had. There was no longer an excuse. There was no longer this voice inside my head telling me, "You're not worthy enough to play video games."
Suddenly, I had the ripping urge to slide that purple power button on and see how I would fare. And so, with the courage given to me by my then 13-year old sister - together, we sat down on that carpet floor after opening all our presents and embarked on a journey I'll never forget.
A journey that, ultimately, would lead me into falling in love with playing video games for the next 20 years (and counting) of my life.