On gaming

My name is Nathan, I am a gaming addict. Whew! I thought that would be easier to admit.

Several times in my life, more as I grow older, people look at me funny or ask why, at my age, do I still play video games. The truths are both simple and complex.

Gaming for me started not as a video experience, but as an avid role player. I got my first fix with the good old “Dungeons and Dragons” when I was around ten. I was fueled to try it by the popular cartoon of the same name, which I soon found out bears zero resemblance to actually playing the game. I had played my uncle Mike’s Atari 2600, and was an accomplished Time Pilot and Tron player at the arcade, but this was different. I was part of a story. I helped shape and form what was happening. It was like a giant “choose your own adventure” book that I got to play with my friends. I quickly graduated to D.C. Heroes, and Marvel in middle school spurned on by my love for comics. Then I got my first Nintendo.

Nintendo games were okay. My favorites were “Nobonaga’s Ambition” and “Ghengis Khan”, both of which were historically based, turn based strategy games. Think “Risk” the board game infused with a little history. But something was missing: my input into the game world. Sega Genesis was next, with my only love being “Joe Montana Sports Talk Football” and “Sonic”.

I was soon in the military with little time for gaming, save for the occasional game of “Mortal Kombat” in the barracks. And by now role-playing seemed “unmanly” to my military friends, believe me because I tried. We did have weekly sessions of “Axis and Allies” to unwind, but after a few weeks, you knew what any given person’s strategy was since the options were limited.

It wasn’t until Playstation’s “Final Fantasy 7” that my addiction took a horrible turn. The game was so immersive, with thousands of things to do, and I did them all. I am positive that I spent hundreds of hours just breeding Chocobos. Xbox hooked me with Bioware’s “Knights of the Old Republic”. I am an avid, er, obsessive, Star Wars fanatic, so that was an easy sell. The “Mass Effect” series, “XCOM”, “Diablo”, and the grand daddy of all life sucking games, “Skyrim”, have all been serious time destroyers of mine.

So “why” continue when I know I have a problem?

A)They are fun. Losing yourself in a world that your decisions help create is mentally rewarding and amusing.

B)The ability to be that thing or person that you wish you could be is empowering. For someone who feels that they haven’t really accomplished what they thought they would, or could, the ability to at least be able to conquer a fantasy world has some empowering feelings to it.

I will never have superpowers or save the world. I will never save the galaxy from powerful A.I. beings. But if I can gain the courage to try more believable and feasible dreams through conquering fantasy, is it really that bad?


A “great” compliment

Thursday was a busy day. After waking up I went for a nice bike ride, took the wife to cross fit, drove home to change for work, had a crazy busy day at work, went home to shower, paid a few bills, then I went and picked up the little one from day care. I was almost home when I realized that I needed to get gas, a task I try to do before picking up the little bug since it means getting her out, then immediately back into her car seat. Ugh! Not the biggest pain, it’s just inconvenient.

So, as I pulled up to the gas station I noticed a college age man getting out of his car adjacent to the spot where I was parking. He was digging through his change and I heard him tell his girlfriend that the Arizona Iced teas were BOGO so he wanted to grab a few. I seized the opportunity that I saw. I approached the pump, close enough to speak to him, without leaving my car. The ensuing exchange went something like this:

“Hey man. You’re heading back inside right?”

“I’m sorry. What?”

“Back inside, you’re going back inside to get a drink right?”

“Yeah,” he stated looking half worried that I was about to hit him up for money or something. Then he noticed I was holding twenty five dollars. “I’m a little confused bro. What is it you want from me?”

“Well, I have my little girl in the car over here and was just trying to avoid getting her in and out of her car seat, but I need gas. So, I was hoping you could give the guy inside the twenty for my pump and take the five to buy yourself the drinks. That sound cool?”

“Oh. Yeah man. No problem.”

He checked my pump number, then went inside. It was not until then that the realization that he could just take my money to buy beer or whatever, then leave me high and dry, occurred to me. As I waited in semi-nervous anticipation of his exit from the gas station, I passed time by opening the back door so that Leia and I could make funny faces at each other. A moment later my fears were abated when the young sir walked out of the store.

“I put the whole $25 on your pump. Thanks for the offer, but we’re all good with just the two.”

Then he gave me a compliment that is difficult for me to take.

“You’re a great dad. More parents should be like you.” He then got into his Jetta and drove off.

A “great” dad. Hmmmm. That is something that is difficult for me to measure or accept. You see, I am a person who judges and compares myself to others, fairly or not, in almost every aspect of my life. To me, “great” dads are the Cliff Huxtables of the world. They have the ability to have that amazing job, with the amazing salary, have provided an amazing house for their family, and always have the right answer for every situation. In short, “great” dads are perfect.

Perfection as a standard is only one of my many issues taking this compliment.

I have two awesome daughters. One, Leia, is almost two. The other, Meredith, is 18. Both are healthy, intelligent, and loving children who have no problem making others smile and functioning on their respective levels. The difference on my part is that while Leia’s mother is my wife Jonelle, Meredith’s mother and I were never married.

She was born when I was two weeks shy of 21. Her mother and I barely knew each other as people when we found out she was pregnant. It was a tumultuous and unhealthy relationship, at best. This doesn’t affect how I feel, or have ever felt about Meredith, but it did affect how and when we were able to interact. Then, after I couldn’t take the stress of the relationship anymore, I moved from central Illinois to Cleveland. Since then, Meredith and I have never lived in the same city. She was 28 months old when I moved. I have never regretted the decision to escape that venomous relationship, but for years long stretches, our contact varied as I moved to Atlanta, then Orlando, and I drifted in and out of heavy drug use. She was the victim of my selfishness, immaturity and addiction. Sometimes I think she was better off. There were stretches when I was a complete mess of professional ambition and relationship limbo combined with an almost complete void of sobriety.

Fast forward to now and Meredith and I have built a great relationship. It has been difficult at times but I have always put forth whatever effort necessary to mend the rift that I helped to cause. She and I both deserve that much. Meredith comes to Florida to visit whenever funds and school schedules align and she loves her step mother and baby sister. I am proud of her and the person she is becoming and the challenges she has faced have never jaded or destroyed her. I don’t take any credit for her successes since all I have ever provided were money and love, never help with homework or early morning drives to school.

My relationships with my daughters are both strong and healthy, but my shortcomings earlier in life make it difficult for me to accept “great” as an accurate description of my parenting self. As long as my family are happy though, I am satisfied with job I’ve done.


Let’s get this started!

Well, hello! This may or may not be the first time that we’ve met, but it will probably be the first time that you have seen me open myself up like I plan to do here. Blogging is something new to me, although one of my goals here is to get back to doing some of the things that made me happy and passionate as a child and young adult before the “real” world changed my outlooks and expectations. Mainly, I hope to use this as a way to get back in touch with the writer inside of me. So I feel the need to acknowledge three people in particular for my leap into this foray: My wife, who has never been anything but supportive and encouraging of all of my ideas. My mother who has always pushed me to follow my dreams and has often questioned my inaction in doing so. And to my good friend and blog mentor Whitney. She is an awesome co-worker, love to one of my best friends, challenger of herself and friends to “fly”, and a very accomplished blogger. PLEASE check out her blog.

Ever since I can remember I enjoyed writing as a way of expressing myself and bringing joy to people around me.  I loved the attention as well. I remember being in the newspaper in the fourth grade for a poem I had written. Poetry always seemed to come easy to me as well as short stories. I am sure that you will get the chance to read my creative droplets here since that is one of the many points of me having this blog. I don’t expect everyone to like everything they read, or to be able to relate or agree with everything that I have to say.

Over the course of time that we spend together, you will see changes to this page. I am still figuring out all of this stuff and the majority of my computer knowledge involves video games and, since we are being honest with each other, porn. The latter will probably never be discussed here. Probably. If you have style or format issues with this page, please be patient for now. Not only am I learning new computer things, I am searching for my voice at the same time. It’s harder than some may think.

I will leave you all today with two poems. One that I wrote some time ago, and my friend Whitney posted written by a girl from Australia named Erin Hansen which has surely helped inspire this blog’s existence.

So thank you for tuning in and although I am quoting this out of context, you’ll understand in a moment: “I believe it’s time for me to fly”.


My grandfather made his toys with imagination.

My father’s toys were made by other Americans.

My toys were mass produced in a far off land.

My grandfather married young.

My father married later.

I’ve not married yet.

My grandfather fought for the common cause.

My father fought for his cause.

I don’t even have a cause.

Tell me, what will be left for my children?