This morning as I was habitually scrolling through Facebook (as though it were the morning paper) I came across a thread posted in a closed group I belong to. Hear me out, what you will read next may make you roll your eyes and want to close the tab; but I promise there is something meaningful here!
The aforementioned group is "World of Warcraft" and the thread posed a simple question, "What influenced you to start playing video games?"
Something clicked. When I saw that simple question asked, my mind immediately flashed back to an instance (no pun intended) in December of 1988. I was four years old. As a family of 3 then, we were watching a live local broadcast on basic cable television on a small box TV in our small house in our small town. It was Christmastime, and I remember our tree was up; lights twinkling. The TV droned on. A church pastor doing a segment at a shelter interviewing families. The camera zoomed in on a young boy, maybe 8 years old. 
"What would you wish for on Christmas young man?"
"A Nintendo!" The boy said into the microphone, looking up at the pastor.
Let's rewind to a couple of months before, where my dad had purchased a brand new to him NES. He bought multiple games for it, but the one that stood out to me the most was "The Legend of Zelda."  I remember studying the gold box while he played, tracing my fingers over the silver seal. I was enamored by the 8-bit graphics and the music. The music! I watched my dad adventure through Hyrule as Link, on a mission to rescue Princess Zelda. So brave!
So you see, it was just like my brave and noble father to see a young child with nothing; a child with no home and nothing to call his own on live television asking for a Nintendo for Christmas - to immediately and happily give his new system away, games and all. I remember my dad calling in to the show, and saying "I would love to give this little boy my Nintendo for Christmas." The child's face lit up on air. At a mere 4 years old, this moment would be forever imbedded into my memory. That is truly what introduced me to and how I fell in love with all things gaming.
I grew up the eldest daughter in a house with four other people. My mom, dad and my two sisters. My poor dad, even the dog was a girl. He got a kick out of raising his girls like ruffians. My mom was appalled. We wrestled, played catch, laughed at and overly produced bodily functions, caught crawfish, snakes and frogs, watched too many scary movies and played video games. Dad would let us stay up late far too often (even letting us get away with watching Beavis and Butthead until mom caught him) and he was definitely the easy one to break when you were in trouble. All you had to do was look him in the eye and crack a smile before he would reluctantly do the same. 
He would load me and my sisters into his 1991 Chevy Suburban dubbed "The Cheesy Feet Mobile" (because it smelled like cheesy feet, duh.) We would get to Video Magic or Blockbuster and he would let us choose the same 4 movies we always rented and best of all, he let us pick out games for our Sega Genesis and N64. We loved the Disney games on both Sega Genesis and Sega Game Gear. Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Mickey's World of Illusion. We obsessed over all things Sonic the Hedgehog: the morning cartoon, the games and soundtracks, (although when Knuckles came along, we just pretended Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles didn't happen.) Mortal Kombat, Ecco the Dolphin, Ballz, Primal Rage, Ren and Stimpy: Stimpy's Invention and Taz-Mania were among our favorites. 
We continued the affair into the mid to late 90s with the great Super Mario Bros. movie obsession of 1994, a multitude of computer games - MYST, Road Rash, Chip's Challenge and DOOM. 
N64 brought us GoldenEye: 007, Donkey Kong 64, Pokémon Stadium and Pokémon Snap, Turok and Resident Evil 2. But our favorite still always came back to The Legend of Zelda series. We would stay up until 3am watching my dad play Ocarina of Time, and later in the year 2000 - Majora's Mask. We couldn't wait for weekends to come so we could see where the game would take us next. My freshman year of high school, 1999 consisted of us collecting every single Pokémon from Burger King. I'm talking traveling out of town to organized in-store trade nights on a Tuesday!
Near the end of my Junior year in 2001, I moved out of my parents house and on to books, concerts, independent films, cigarettes and late night black coffee. I was a try-hard die-hard J.D. Salinger and Dave Eggers obsessed emo kid. My favorite movies were Pulp Fiction and Donnie Darko. Alkaline Trio and Blink 182 stickers adorned my car and attending every show my boyfriend's band played was my life. I was too cool for video games post high school and definitely too cool to stay at home with my family when I didn't have to. Parties and friends consumed my weekends that were previously filled with late nights on the couch under blankets, watching my dad battle Ganondorf while my youngest sister slept on the floor. I left behind a world I often escaped to, and I didn't realize how much I missed it. 
Until 2006 when the Nintendo Wii came out, and soon after - the Nintendo DS Lite. This was the gentle push back into what I once loved so much and I felt like I was where I belonged. I brought Wii party games into my party lifestyle. Warioware Smooth Moves and Miller High Life. Mario Party 8 and shots of Southern Comfort.
I remember I was taking a bath one night in my old shotgun style apartment. You could hear every sound through the vents from the bathroom at the front of the place all the way to the back - 3 rooms away. I kept hearing drumming, and then trumpets blaring. "What in the heck is that noise?!" I thought as I stepped out of the bath. 
I ventured to the back of the apartment and found my then boyfriend on the computer, navigating a character through woods accepting and turning in quests on the back of a Swift Wind Rider, whatever that was. World of Warcraft?
"Here," he said, "try it out!" He showed me the basic how-to's and I made my own character after I got the hang of it.
I played all night long. It was like video game crack. A whole different level of obsession began. I came home from work and logged on every night. I daydreamed of Tirisfal Glades and Orgrimmar. A Tetris Effect of sorts. Playing a Forsaken frost mage in a vast world, fighting monsters, running dungeons and turning in quests. This was what I had been looking for. I was introduced to a whole new world - RPGs. At this time I also got into Magic the Gathering and then the World of Warcraft TCG when it came out, long before it was Hearthstone.
In mid-2006 I cleverly changed all of my online aliases to 'Jentendo' or 'SuperJentendo'. My DS Lite and Animal Crossing: Wild World came with me everywhere. I shamelessly went through a couple of DS Lites after getting frustrated and throwing them when my Pokémon wouldn't listen to me. Children of Mana, Phoenix Wright and Final Fantasy 3 for DS were my lifelines. I soon after moved from my apartment and didn't have a computer. I wouldn't play WoW again for another 2 and a half years. 
In 2008 I reconnected with and moved in with some friends after a breakup. I bought a used Xbox 360 and the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Goodbye social life. I was so transfixed with everything about this game. The world, the gameplay, the storyline. I obtained every achievement. I bought all the DL content. I fell asleep to the soundtrack. (To this day, the Oblivion soundtrack composed by Jeremy Soule is my most played album on my iTunes account. I listen to it while I play OTHER games!) Oblivion was my boyfriend. Sacred 2 was my guy on the side. That year, I tattooed a tiny black Triforce on my shoulder as a small reminder; this is where it all began. The next April I skipped a house party to wait in a line for the midnight release of the Nintendo DSi. I had my priorities straight!
Cue 2010. I'm enjoying being single, my roommates are moving on and I get my own place. If there's anything to know about me, it's that being alone is my forte. I relish in it. Living alone was easy. I got Internet back and reinstalled WoW a few months before Cataclysm, the 3rd expansion. 
I played for a year straight with a group of guy friends. They eventually got bored and fell out; our previously active guild empty except for me. A couple of short term boyfriends came and went, and they could take or leave my obsession. None of my friends had the same interests but I was just fine by myself when we weren't out all night, my hands always on a mouse or controller and my nose always in a DS. 
In March of 2011 I got together with my now husband; who happens to be the polar opposite of anything that involves or relates to video games. He does however embrace (tolerate?) and encourage my love for these things. He even got me a 3DS and The Ocarina of Time for Christmas last year! 
All of this, a timeline of how it all started and where I am now...a simple question. What influenced me? 
My dad 100%. Some of my happiest and warmest memories as a young child into a teenager all have a common denominator, being together. Whether it be playing games or chasing stuffed Pokémon all over southern Illinois and Missouri Burger Kings - long before Pokémon Go! came out. I will never forget those nights spent as a family. I happened to let it get away from me for a little bit, but it was never truly gone. My world has definitely never been just black and white. I have a multitude of places I can and have escaped to and unknowingly; many times getting lost in a game has pulled me out of some dark places and carried me through until all was well. Thank you dad for your dedication to all things dorky. I am forever grateful. 

Published by Jennifer Potts