Gaming has been an accepted and well-understood pastime for many years. Esports is a multi-billion dollar industry, many households have two or more devices that are used to play games, and the success of television series like The Last of Us has shown that gaming is gaining wide acceptance as an art form that has influenced in other ways. media
However, this is not the gaming industry that I have always known and loved. I’m a kid from the 1980s, and while I couldn’t claim to be a first-generation gamer, I’d say I’m probably the last generation to live in a world that viewed gamers as a subculture of outcasts and social outcasts. During my time in high school, gaming was gaining more social acceptance. Console gaming had spearheaded that, but PC gamers like me were still perceived as “nerds” who were often the subject of some ridicule. It rarely turned into bullying, as even the “cool, jocky kids” enjoyed GoldenEye 64 or Resident Evil from time to time. But gaming, and PC gaming in particular, was still seen as a bit of an antisocial niche hobby.
For me, this broader lack of acceptance of gaming was compounded by the fact that my parents lacked technological knowledge. My mother had come from a former Soviet bloc country where exposure to Western technology was almost unheard of. Both work and play were synonymous with sweat and dirt. My father was born in 1943 and grew up in post-war Scotland. He and his three siblings, mother and father, had shared a two-bedroom flat in a poor part of Aberdeen. His father had died in 1953, leaving my father’s mother struggling with four children and little money. A rugby scholarship and the personal connections of my seemingly very charismatic grandfather helped my father find a way out of his impoverished upbringing, ultimately leading to his graduation from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. My father was educated and, in the Scottish tradition, very progressive-minded. Yet he still clung to that veneration of the “elbow fat” approach to life, a perspective that has very little room for the sedentary, cerebral pastime of being a gamer.
Neither of my parents was particularly enamored with my passion for gaming. From their perspective, they viewed games as simply a button-mashing affair where the goal was to achieve a high score, and they had little interest in validating their perceptions of this. They were rarely hostile to the hobby, and I certainly enjoyed one of the benefits of having an Eastern European mom indulge her little one’s passions with a PC game for a birthday or Christmas. Of course, this was balanced by the other side of the coin: the fury of an Eastern European mother when you played too many games. But for the most part, my parents were accepting, if not fully understanding, of my passion for gaming.
I am grateful to say that my relationship with my father was always very strong: he was, unlike many of his generation, deeply affectionate and warm. When he was a kid, he would take me every weekend to museums, bush walks, and all kinds of local events. The teenage years were challenging at times (unsurprisingly), but as I emerged into young adulthood our relationship blossomed and I spent many hours in deep conversations with him as we shared our passion for storytelling, jokes, philosophy. and nostalgic stories. . We frequently engage in lengthy debates; well past the point where others would leave in exasperation, my father and I would carry on as if we were ancient Greek philosophers, arguing verbally in marble forums.
A favorite time of the year for these talks was Christmas. Once lunch was over and we’d both consumed quite a bit of beer, wine, and/or whiskey, we’d launch into a speech that would no doubt make my mother’s eyes roll. A frequent line of conversation began with my father sharing his critical analysis of a certain classic movie or novel. Sometimes I’d veer off into a discussion about a game I’d played, sharing with him witty dialogue from a LucasArts adventure like Sam & Max Hit the Road, or a deeply introspective narrative like Planescape: Torment.
The thing is, my dad just didn’t understand games. He couldn’t conceptualize the fact that they had evolved far beyond the coin-operated Galaga or Pac-Man of the ’70s and ’80s, and had revolutionized the storytelling experience. As much as I tried to communicate the incredible power of games as a unique interactive medium, my father simply couldn’t understand, since he was so far removed from the remotest exposure to the medium.
Dad knew I loved games and respected that I saw something in them, but he just didn’t get it. He had long since accepted that it was simply a reality of that generation gap, and he appreciated that Dad heard me extol the virtues of gaming as a worthwhile art form, even if I knew he didn’t fully appreciate my arguments. Although he might not have agreed with my statements, he had always shown the deepest respect for my convictions.
And so it was, until December 2020. Dad was 70 years old, but his vibrant life had taken its toll on him; this Christmas more than any other, I could see the years weighing on him. As we had done so many years before, we shared an incredible Christmas lunch accompanied by wine and eventually whiskey. Everyone else eventually went to bed, but my dad and I continued to chat well into the night.
At the time, I had been listening to Mike Duncan’s Revolutions podcast. It’s an amazing podcast, and over ten seasons, it takes an in-depth look at famous revolutions in history: the English Civil War, the American Revolution, the Haitian Revolution, the French Revolution, even the Russian Revolution. A conversation with my dad ultimately led to the subject of this podcast, and I shared the insights that Mike Duncan’s inimitable style had conveyed so effectively.
We chatted for a while about history, the Age of Enlightenment, and (at my father’s urging, of course) the important role progressive Scots had played in this era. Suddenly, out of nowhere, my dad asked me a question:
“How did you get so interested in history like this?”
I thought about it for a second, why? was I am so interested in this period of history? The answer popped into my head: Creative Assembly’s Empire: Total War. Of all the games in the Total War franchise, Empire had captured my imagination like no other, inspiring a deep fascination in the transformative centuries of the 1700s and 1800s.
Of course, as a lifelong gamer, I took the opportunity to explain it to my father. I told him how the Total War series and other series like the great strategy games Age of Empires and Paradox had planted the seeds of curiosity that had led me to seek more knowledge and understand the history of the world in which we live.
For the first time in my life, I saw a spark of sudden understanding in my father’s eyes. Although the rather liberal distribution of whiskey clouds his exact words, I can paraphrase how he responded: “Interesting. I never realized games could do that”. We were then propelled into a discussion about the nature of games and how valuable and unique they were as a means of entertainment. The games inspired curiosity, and curiosity is the most critical motivating factor that drives someone to learn. Finally, my dad understood the value that I saw in the games; I could see the realization in his eyes.
I have no doubt that a psychologist could have a field day with this: here I was, after so many decades, finally gaining my father’s tacit approval and respect for a hobby I loved but had never understood. But that does not matter. This was a special moment with my father on a special day, and after decades, he had finally come to understand more about me.
A few months later, I received a phone call from Dad and he informed me in his typical matter-of-fact tone that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a condition that had probably been developing for several months, even while we were together. they sat together that last Christmas. A few months later, at the end of May 2021, he finally passed away.
Games have always been incredibly special to me. I have never experienced anything as emotionally powerful as Planescape: Torment or Red Dead Redemption 2. The artistic genius of INSIDE and Fez has inspired me endlessly. I have been transported to vibrant worlds by Baldur’s Gate, Disco Elysium, and Half-Life.
In the end, after so many years, my father had finally come to understand something new about me. For a long time, games had seemed like just a distraction from doing my homework or going out and kicking around a ball. But a simple link between a history podcast and Total War undid that bias and led to a deeper understanding that deepened our bond in its final days. Nothing can heal the hole that loss left, but nothing could be more special than connecting through personal passion with someone you love.
At SUPERJUMP, I am honored to be surrounded by writers who share that passion for this unique medium. I firmly believe that games have a power that no other medium can reproduce: the choices are yours, the consequences are yours, and the right game can leave a lasting impact that will define you as a person. Share your gaming experiences and encourage those around you to take the plunge if they haven’t already. The right game can change everything.