A Personal Introduction to My Life
I grew up in a humble home. It was me, my parents, and my older brother and sister in a 2-bedroom apartment. We’re Vietnamese-American, and my parents haven’t been in the U.S. for very long before having my siblings and me; my father fled the Vietnam war by boat and my mom was able to come by plane a few years later. That being said, their English language skills couldn’t come down to more than a few fragments at a time.
My brother and sister knew both Vietnamese and English. I only knew a little Vietnamese because I mostly spoke to my brother and sister, and when I did, it was in English. My parents talked to me about the usual things:
Are you hungry?
Do you have everything you need?
Go to sleep.
They provided me with love and the basic resources for life, something that I will always be in their debt for. I love my parents and have no regrets about the way I was raised (I happen to think I was raised perfectly.)
Because of our language barriers, however, they couldn’t raise me in the same way that parents who don’t have this language barrier do for their kids. They couldn’t read books to me and didn’t go to any of my school events and open-houses (which I was pretty grateful for). And, because of the age difference between my brother and sister, I was never able to deeply communicate or connect with them either.
A Personal Introduction to My Life
Even before my oldest sibling was born, my parents had their hands on a Nintendo Entertainment System. They passed down their love of video games to their children by buying games for us and occasionally taking a run at the latest Mario platformer that they could get into. Below is a .gif of the generations of Super Mario I played with my family.
So, the home dynamic for an immigrant American like me looked something like this — my mom was stay-at-home who took care of the home and kids, my father worked long hours to support the family on his humble wage, and my brother and sister and me took turns playing video-games until they grew a little older and started hanging out with their friends.
After school, this left me to play with video-games by myself. After the turn of the new millennium (I was about 6–7), video-games started to get advanced and I was learning just enough in school to understand them.
Video Games Made Me Literate
One of the most influential video-games to me was Paper Mario — a 2D RPG where the player controls Mario in a story to save Princess Peach. Unlike other video-games, RPGs have dialogue, character development, and forces the player to read to understand and progress through the game.
I can’t remember a single book that I read growing up (except The Adventures of Captain Underpants… I couldn’t forget that even if I wanted to…), but I do remember the story and emotions brought by every role-playing game I ever took the time to finish.
And I played a lot. After playing Paper Mario, I delved into RPGs old and new. The creativity put into these storylines, and the literacy needed to follow them is incredible (especially for a kid). The emotions, however, and engaging with the media as it plays out helps strengthen (at least for me) my understanding of words and how the different ways they can be used.
Don't Video Games Make Kids More Violent?
Two things should be obvious. It depends on the kid, and it depends on the video-game. I have no doubt that games like Grand-theft Auto, Call of Duty, etc. may expose a child to violence and thus thoughts they never had before, but it’s up to the child to use their common sense and choose their actions (this is also an important reason why we have the ESRB that rates the appropriate ages for which certain video games can be played.)
However, if games like that are possible gateways to bad thoughts, what about other games?Not all games are violent. And not all games that have violence in it give-off negative messages.
For plot, RPGs are where it’s at and you’ll find that the vast majority use fighting or violence as a means of self-defense or fighting for one’s friends and family. The mindless killing games are a niche that serves to most as a way to kill time or portray tactical dominance against your opponents.
Being connected, or even being in the position of one of these heroes and being assigned a heroic task will instill that heroic value into anyone, as though he or she did accomplish that task. At least it feels that way for me.
Videogames Taught Me Empathy at a Young Age
Growing older, the games and issues in the game became more advanced. As a teenager growing up in the “Emo Rawr xD” era, I was “depressed” and dealt with all the pains of puberty.
This is an impressionable age, and sometimes your immediate family may not know how to respond, language-barrier or not. I was lucky to be raised by video-games because of the ethical values I took from playing through these character’s stories.
Take Lloyd Irving, the protagonist of Tales of Symphonia, for example. In his journey, he saves trafficked humans from being turned into creatures (“desians”, as they call it), repairs the longstanding racial hate among elves, half-elves, and humans, and regenerates the world’s life supply.
Playing a game like Tales of Symphonia exposed my brain to positive, reaffirming morals that the hero and his party portrayed. This was so much more captivating and effective than reading a boring and aged book picked out by the public school committee. Because I played in the role of this hero, I connected with the emotions that he and his team went through, and started thinking more about the greater good in the real world.
If I can say one thing, it’s that I am pretty sure the people playing like-minded RPGs aren’t the ones shooting up our schools (they would probably need to become a master swordsman or learn magic).
Thank You for Raising Me The Way You Did
I love my parents, I love my siblings, and I love video games. Although I wasn’t able to deeply connect with my parents and learn from their ideas struggles, and thoughts from a young age, this left me with an unbias to explore different worlds, progressive ideas, and learn new things that even the most language-connected families couldn’t teach.
I was raised to save the princess.
I was raised to fight for my friends.
I was raised to see all people equally.
I was raised by video-games.
Let us know if this article hit home for you at all, if you could relate, or if you have any thoughts or ideas on the videogame causes violence debacle!