I lost someone undeniably important to me in November of 2011. I was only 16 years old at the time. At this age, in my junior year of high school, my main idea of fun was a balance of socializing with friends, and gaming. Rather, it would’ve been, had my family not experienced such a life altering loss. After what happened, I found myself having less energy for the highs and lows of friendships and girlfriends. Figuring out what to do next was my primary concern. Being there for my younger sister, who was 11 years old, was even more important.
Figuring out where to focus my energy was a struggle most of the time. I knew I couldn’t end my education, so in that regard, I had to move on quickly. There was no time to stop during the most pivotal year of high school. I knew that SAT scores and a high GPA were the deciding factors in higher education. Keeping that in mind, I focused on school and saved some time to goof off with newfound friends. I wouldn’t give up my memories with friends for anything. Looking back, I can appreciate how important it was to have that distraction. My friends were wild, even crazy at times, but that’s what I loved about them. I was the “mother hen” of the friend group. When someone decided it would be a good idea to do something questionable, I’d be the one saying, “Come on guys, maybe we should just stay home and chill.” That’s how I got the nickname “No fun Nick.”
When I wasn’t keeping my friends from going over the deep end, I reserved my time at night to escape into a digital world. Stress went away if only for a couple hours, but that was the beauty of my gaming experiences. I would curl up on the leather couch, grab a blanket, and slide in my copy of Uncharted. Shooting
virtual bad guys was rewarding when I wanted some quick stress relief. What made it even better was having my dad on the couch next to me, watching my every move. Knowing he was there, enjoying a cinematic experience, made me try even harder. But every once in a while, a special game would pop up, making me set aside the AK-47s for a more delicate narrative.
The first game I ever played that made me look at games differently was called Journey. It was a story with no dialogue, no obvious missions, and no traditional combat. The game dropped me into a dry desert world as a humanoid character with a flowing robe. The only distinguishable thing in the distance was a tall-standing mountain. It looked almost out of place, so I decided to start my trek in that direction. What followed was a platforming and puzzling adventure that artfully detailed the ebb and flow of our own life’s journey. I’m glad My dad was with me every step of the way in my Journey gameplay. He still talks to this day about how amazing the ending was for him. I need not say any more about the finale.
After Journey, I felt a deep appreciation for video games as an art form. It helped me realize how games had become a new platform for storytelling. From then on, I sought that same experience from a video game. One where you had to stop and reflect when the credits rolled.
In my seven years that have passed since Journey, I rarely found a game that I shared a personal connection with. One that stood out to me was a game called Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Again, a beautiful game with an abnormal play-style that brought the narrative to an emotional close in the final act. But there’s a different game on my mind.
Today, I went back to a game that I started at the beginning of the year. This game was called Rime. It was engaging enough, with a visually pleasing art style and tight controls. I stopped this game on a couple of occasions for different reasons. Sometimes I would get to a tricky puzzle that made me put the game down and pick up something that required less brain capacity. (In other words, I would play Fortnite, to which I regret for the most part.) My drive to play that enraging third-person shooter game finally dwindled, and I found myself going through my library of incomplete games. Rime was in there.
I booted it up again, determined that I would figure out the game-halting puzzle that made me stop in the first place. Much to my dumb-founded surprise, the puzzle was simpler than it looked. So I pressed forward, continuing the story and finishing the game within one more hour. I was not prepared for what I’d feel in the final act. The feeling I only got from a game a couple of times before.
To understand what I felt, I need to paint a picture of how the game presented itself. You start off as a young boy washed up on a quiet beach. He has no recollection of what happened to him. The only things that drive him further inland is a chirpy little orange fox that tries to get his attention, and a mysterious robed man. The man is the major question mark of the adventure. He had a tendency of appearing on high ledges, just out of reach, only to disappear when you got close enough.
The way the game tied loose ends when I finished my journey was ever-satisfying. I found myself just staring at the end credits, absorbing the peaceful music and reading all the loving notes from the game developers to their families.
I don’t want to give away any of Rime’s surprises so I’ll just say this. I found myself having an emotional connection to this game because it touched upon the theme of loss. After the credits finished, and the developers thanked you for playing their game, I looked back at the chapter select menu. That’s when the message really hit home. All the five chapters of the game had appropriately given titles.
Five words that simply sum-up the different stages of grief after losing a loved one. I can say that I experienced phases of each of these. Some were more extreme than others, and for other people it might not happen in this order. For that matter, I myself might not be completely out of the woods yet on my journey toward acceptance.
I want to leave you with this.
For anyone who just experienced a loss of your own, know that it’s going to be as hard as you make it. Your journey mirrors hundreds of thousands, if not millions of other people experiencing similar trauma. That said, your special someone is and always will be yours. He or she means something to you that can’t be described with words. So what I can suggest, from personal experience, is to not hold those feelings in. Friends come in handy for this step.
Friends can listen and empathize with you in ways family might not be able to. Friends can lift your spirits in the worst of times. Friends can distract you from reality in the best of ways. Don’t shut out your friends. It’s easy pick up a video game controller, and there is a time for that, but sometimes the harder choice of calling up a friend is what would be best for your soul.
I thank the developers and partners of Tequila Works for making such a fantastic video game. Rime is very special. Thank you.