This is a simple question with no simple answers.
My first memory of gaming is falling asleep in bed as I watched my grandma beat Tetris on the NES. The flashing lights as the intersecting shapes locked into each other and disintegrated were my white noise, and I can picture my grandma’s back, an immigrant from the Philippines, hunched in concentration as the titular Tetris theme played on a loop. Twenty years later, on the day I learned my grandma died, I pulled myself together from the initial shock and dug out the same NES, the same cartridge of Tetris, and played the same levels she had played. I wanted to desperately bring her back to me. I recently, finally, placed first in Tetris 99, and I knew my grandma was smiling down on me.
I remember playing all the Nintendo classics with my older sister, challenging each other to get better and better. She is five years older than me, and we drifted apart as we grew up. My sister fell into a different world of hobbies and interests. Still, just this past year, we gleefully passed an SNES Classic controller back and forth to each other as we took turns helping her middle child beat some particularly difficult levels in Super Mario World. We found ourselves back in the apartment we grew up in, back to the days when we were best friends.
There are so many times when I tear open a gift, ecstatic at the new world it will transport me to. There are stacks of board games at my parents’ house that are eclipsed by my collection. There are so many memories of mine that are interwoven in the act of playing a game. Whether playing with others or playing by myself, games make me feel connected.
I game because I enjoy the challenge and the ensuing feelings of accomplishment. I game because I enjoy spending time with others in a way that forces us to view the world a little differently. But I primarily game because of how it lets me use my imagination and the memories that become embedded into who I am as a person.
When I was younger, I played to win. To beat the computer. Win against my friends in Mario Kart. Wipe the floor with my Pokémon team. Reach the next level to achieve bragging rights. But that’s not who I am as a person now. I used to exclusively play single-player RPGs and Adventure games, and though I still play those types of games, I now see the joy in a collaborative gaming experience where stories have the chance to become legends. I look forward to meeting up with friends, cracking open a board game, and losing ourselves in the immersion. I love teaching others new games and seeing them become just as addicted as I am. The connectivity of gaming, the community of gaming, is what continues to pull me in. And what could be better than to be able to do that with those I feel closest too?
Oral storytelling is the root of gaming, notably Tabletop Gaming. Look how much has grown from that initial foothold. The mythic, totemic nature of gaming calls to me because it allows me to insert who I am, all of me, into a narrative of epic proportions. I game because it allows me to feel connected to others, but selfishly, I game for me.
As a mixed heritage Person of Color, a gay man, it’s easy to feel disconnected from what the norm and majority see as the defunct. I am not going into a diatribe about the existential feeling of being lost that can be pervasive in truly insidious way. Instead, I want you to know that I cannot express the sheer happiness and delight I felt when I played Mass Effect 2 (I played them out of order; oops). For the first time, I was able to create an Asian avatar, but a mixed-race Commander Shepard, who was also able to romance same-sex characters. It was an experience that was a long time coming. It was one of the first times I truly felt a part of a game.
Shared experiences bond me with strangers. I remember attending Gaymercon for the first time and feeling unabashedly in tune with everyone around me. I have attended other conventions since then, but nowhere since then have I ever felt more seen and included. I have realized that I thrive off of being able to be unabashedly me in everything I do, including gaming.
I game because it allows me to be seen, to be connected, and to be empowered, and it just so happens that TTRPGs intersect in a way where all three of those allowances come into play.
To put it simply, that is why I game.