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Life & Gaming: The Profound Intersection of one Person's Experience

I remember sitting there, at three in the morning. The tears in my eyes, the utter horror at my own thoughts and emotions, tearing me apart from the inside.
I love him, I remember thinking. I'm in love with him.
It doesn't quite sound like the kind of thing someone would normally be upset by. Love's great, right? Finding someone who completes you? It's the kind of stupid-retarded stuff that sells a dozen crappy movies a year, fattening the wallets of actors. Then people shell out millions of dollars a year to read about the real-life romantic conquests- Or failures- of the same actors.
And don't even get me started on Valentine's Day.
But I digress.

See, I come from a generation a little bit different from what my parents grew up in.
My Mom grew up with a crush on Donny Osmond and a dozen other celebrities. My Grandmother had a thing for Elvis.
Me? I grew up with a crush on Squall, and a bit of a thing for Dante. Demonic heritage, guns, swords, and leather pants. How could I go wrong?
A few ways, perhaps. Starting with the fact that, no matter how much time I may spend listening to Squall's innermost thoughts, or being wooed by Dante's smooth laughter and the way his cocky attitude seeps through into everything he says...
They're just not real.
Welcome to the digital age.

It's a fact that a lot of people probably overlook. Go to DeviantART and type in the keywords "Harry Potter", and you tell me how many Snape-obsessed fangirls you run across. He's not real. How about Kingdom Hearts? I'm an artist. On occasion, I get lucky, and end up getting commissions, pouring just a little bit of extra fuel into the tank of my gas hog. Fangirls do funny things, sometimes. Rolled up in the corner, awaiting the final touches from a kneaded eraser before it's subjected to my glorious set of Prismacolor pencils, is a life-size drawing of Sora.
A life-size drawing of Sora. From Kingdom Hearts. People pay good money for this? I couldn't believe it, when the offer came in. With the amount of money I was looking at, being young and in college and broke and having made the stupid mistake of getting a Mustang as my only means of transport, I didn't ask questions. Well, maybe one question- "How tall is Sora, anyway?"
He's apparently 5'2", by the way. Not counting his hair. You can imagine the kind of look I gave the girl, when she told me this, without batting an eye.

The impact video games had on me was something I never thought about. In high school, I wrote papers on them, at times. I wrote papers about the influence of violence in video games- All of my research found it to be harmless. I wrote papers about the booming video game industry, and the kind of effect it would have on future generations. I never really stopped to think of how it would impact my own life. I was born late in the 80's. The first Legend of Zelda game was released the same year I was born, in '87. My Mom had an Atari when she was a kid, and spent too much time at the arcade, back when arcades were a common thing. Needless to say, there was an NES in the house. I have a vague memory of being somewhere around five years old. I sat down next to my Dad, and watched him play Tetris. He paused for a meal in the evening, then we went back to watching. And he played, and he played, and he played. The next thing I knew, it was one o'clock in the morning. Ashamed by his moment of Friday night weakness, my father turned off the game, and sent me and my older brother to bed. This was a normal activity, for us. Video games were a huge part of our lives.

In recent days, I find myself thankful that the "gamer girl" category is a rapidly growing demographic. When I was 14, it was the most awkward thing in the world- To be sitting around after a church youth activity, grimacing at the way the girls would sit and chatter about their adorable shoes, or the most precious outfit they saw at the mall. I'd shake my head, glance at my Sonic the Hedgehog watch, and then slide over to where the boys were clustered around the air hockey table, quickly immersing myself in the conversation about our favorite fatalities from the Mortal Combat series.
Ironically, I was 14 when I met him.

It was a gamer's match made in heaven... And it only took me six years to realize it. I'd seen him about, sliding in and out of the game-oriented chat room that I was a regular at. I thought he was cool, I admired him. But we never really talked. Or typed, I suppose would be more fitting. Our first conversation spawned from the dropping of a name. Immediately, I responded. "Jedah! I love Dark Stalkers!" I exclaimed, with all kinds of smiley-faces following. I was on a huge Dark Stalkers kick, as a matter of fact. Dark Stalkers 3 had been eating me alive for weeks on end, driving me to skip meals and short myself on sleep. Combo after combo, I hacked away at the game, as everyone I could learn to play. Even now, though, Lilith is my favorite.
I remember him being surprised. "You know who Jedah is?" was the reply on the screen. And so it was, that the friendship began.
We spent hours discussing Pokémon, something neither one of us is ashamed to admit that we're still hooked on. We eagerly awaited the release of Ruby and Sapphire, though I never did get around to attaining either one of them. I developed a crush. He drifted away, and went on to buy a copy of Emerald, which was later stolen.
I still need Sapphire.

And then, all of a sudden, I was out of high school. Over time, my parents had become frustrated with what they had started. We were privileged- Owning a working NES, a Genesis, a 32X, several PlayStations, PS2s and N64s, a Dreamcast, an XBox, GameCube, and the short-lived and under-rated Sega Saturn. Not to mention countless GameBoys, GameBoy Pockets, GameBoy Colors, several colors of GameBoy Advance, an Atari Lynx, and even a Virtual Boy.
My parents struggled to shake me from my fascination with video games, deciding that I was "too old" to have such a fascination. So I moved out. I got a job. I got a car. I got a "life" and would have been happy to trade it, for a copy of Contra. At times, I still thought about my old crush. Then I'd pop one of my Devil May Cry games in, and swoon over Dante, instead of wondering what ever happened to someone I'd come to know only as "Griever."

I grew up. I fell into the rut called life, and did what every other "adult" did. I complained about the job I hated, I felt like I was going nowhere. I gave up on my ideals and my dreams, putting away my printed pictures of Squall, but not his necklace. It was hard, but I gave up on ever having that Dante action figure I wanted.
I met a boy who I guessed was all right. I made grown-up decisions and put my video games away. I got engaged. He joined the Air Force. I moved back home.

And so there I was. Living at home. Playing my games again. Feeling lost and lonely, when my fiancé was drifting away, becoming more and more manipulative and hurtful. I turned to my games again for some kind of comfort. I'd play until late at night. And I'd get online to find guides and FAQs, when I'd finally break down and admit that I was stuck.
And out of the blue, there he was again.
I'd stay up til the small hours of the morning, talking to him. He was in Japan. He was a Marine. But he was still Griever. And I still had a crush on him.
He showed me outrageous pictures, in the months that we talked. The things he saw in Japan were hilarious. He called me a few times, just because we were both bored and I happened to be away from my computer.
And then he gave me a picture of himself, over MSN.
I remember staring at the tattoo on his bicep, barely visible, beneath his sleeve. Oh my God, I remember thinking. And I remember wrapping my hand around my Sleeping Lionheart necklace.
"Tattoo?" I said. He replied with a cheerful "Yeah," and offered to send me a better picture of it.
I didn't need to see it. I was wearing it, around my neck.
That night, I took off my engagement ring.

That was what seems like ages ago.
Nowadays, Griever and I talk every day. He's still in Japan, I'm in school. We have dates playing Ragnarok Online, we spend hours talking about games. Our wedding is scheduled for August 9th. Any day now, our wedding cake topper should be getting here- Matching Squall and Rinoa action figures.
A Viva Pińata toy sits guarding my wedding bouquet, and our wedding rings are tucked safely inside the top drawer of my dresser, waiting for the big day. His is in a black box; Mine is grey. Both of them have simple words emblazoned on the top:
Final Fantasy VIII
Silver ring
Sleeping Lionheart, 2003.

I'm still a gamer girl. And to me, that means... Well...
True love is having "© Square-Enix" etched inside our wedding rings.