Games are a timeline of my life

Adrian Ovalle
Time is ticking inexorably – a cliché that has become more and more tangible since I passed 35. The face in the mirror has grooves that weren’t there before. At the same time, I experience an inner peace that I could only dream of as a teenager and twenties. When I think back to those times, games always come to mind in my memories.

It’s July 8, 1992 and I just woke up at an ungodly early time. Sleeping is no longer an option, because it is my eighth birthday. I jump out of bed and race down the stairs to see if I get what I’ve been begging for for ages. I come down and see that the entire television furniture is wrapped in gift-wrapping paper. My parents are still asleep, but I already peek under the packaging. And there it is: the Nintendo Entertainment System, plugged in, ready to offer me countless hours of fun. My very first game console.

It is early 1996 and the Netherlands is covered by a thick layer of snow. The ditch next to our house has frozen over and that gives me an idea – it is located on a busy skating route. I put a table next to the ice cream with a few jugs of hot tea and a tower of plastic cups. Soon it is buzzing with skaters taking a break for a warm cup of coffee and a slice of cake. At the end of the day I barely get the money counted with my half-frozen hands, but it’s over a hundred guilders and I know enough: I can finally buy Donkey Kong Country 2.

It’s 1998 and I sit with my friends in front of the television in my bedroom. We’ll play GoldenEye 007, as usual. They ask me why I was not at school today. I’m afraid to admit it, but it’s because we went swimming with a group of classmates yesterday. When I was playing in the water with one of the girls, she felt me ​​getting aroused and she had to laugh. I am ashamed. While I knock down a friend for the umpteenth time with the inhumanly strong hands of James Bond, my embarrassing situation in the pool is still widely discussed. Smacking or smack talk : It makes no difference during a game of GoldenEye.

It is the spring of 2000 and I feel lost. My mother is in bed all day because she is sick from the chemotherapy. I am really screwing up my education. I only sleep a few hours a night, can’t keep up with my attention at school and I skip school half the time. I don’t understand that life can be so merciless in all areas and I have no idea how I’m going to solve it. Can I solve it at all? Ollie after ollie and grind after grind follow each other and my high scores keep getting higher. I feel terrible, but so do Superman. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is my regular escape mechanism in uncertain days. Play long enough and your mind will go out and your muscle memory will take over – just what I need at the time.

It’s 2002 and I finally have a PlayStation 2 obtained. Yesterday I bought it, only today fate strikes: I have an incredible sore throat! The doctor diagnoses a throat abscess and I end up in hospital. I’m alone in the room and get an idea. I carefully shuffle the IV pole over to the television and look at the back of the unwieldy screen. A scart connection! I call my parents and ask if they will bring my brand new PS2 during visiting hours. And so I have a whole week to play Jak & Daxter, Devil May Cry and the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo. I’ve never had so much fun in a hospital bed.

It’s 2015 and I’m at home with a burnout. Even though I have the best job in the world at, I am completely up and do not enjoy anything anymore. When spring breaks and the pills start to take effect, the dark clouds slowly disappear. They’re still there, but they already look less threatening. I go to the store and buy The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, even though I don’t know about that franchise. I start the game and find that for the first time in months I don’t get physically nauseous while playing a game – I can actually enjoy it again. I then spend hundreds of hours in Velen and Novigrad enjoying every facet of this beautiful, vibrant open world. I am starting to see life positively again – luckily also outside the game.

It is March 20, 2020 , exactly one year ago. A pandemic is breaking out and everyone is advised to stay at home as much as possible. I’m buying an Animal Crossing game for the first time, hoping it will give me some distraction. It does. In the months that follow, I find solace on a tropical island full of cozy inhabitants, cozy houses and the most varied and beautiful pieces of furniture. The months fly by – time is relative and means nothing when your social life disappears like snow in the sun – but the many days in New Horizons are well spent. Animal Crossing will keep the walls from coming towards me.

It’s March 20, 2021 and my Xbox Series X is already warming up, although that is not to be heard. I’m going through Halo: The Master Chief Collection and each part brings back memories of when I played the original. At the same time I create new memories. The distraction I’m looking for on my Xbox because the lockdown hits again, or because my parents are struggling with their health. But just as much about countless beautiful moments that come my way every day. Until my very last Game Over screen, I will associate games with everything I experience.

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