Since I was about five or six video games have been one of my biggest passions. Many people talk about how playing excessively can be detrimental to a child's social and intellectual breadth, but for me it was anything but. At school I was always one of the most social, and always tried to be a kind, compassionate friend. For a long time, I got good grades and handed my assignments in on time. I got along well with my teachers and only had a few bullies growing up. While I loved the school atmosphere, I also loved rushing home to play the latest action-adventure or JRPG. I could spend hours absorbed in a story and immersed in the painted picture. However, unlike many kids I knew, video games weren't just a pastime, they were one of my many escapes from reality.
Papo & Yo made me realize how much good can come from hardships, and how video games are just as capable of emanating such personal emotions.
Despite my positive school life, it was very different from my personal life. In no way would I consider myself to have had a regrettable upbringing, but I had my fair share of problems to deal with. Having grown up with an abusive, alcoholic father and a protective, sheltering mother I know the feeling of living with a dysfunctional family all too well. My father was rarely ever home, and half the time we didn't know where he was. We'd go days, sometimes weeks, without seeing him, but when we did it usually wasn't a happy welcome. Oftentimes, I would lock myself up in my room only to hear my parents fight for hours, while other times I would be in the middle of it all defending my mother. As a young girl, I never totally understood, and I had to mature very quickly in order to fully realize things.
It wasn't until I was in my early pre-teens that I began realizing why my big sister was never home. She was pretty active in high school, joining student council and various sports. I think that was her way of dealing with all the hurt, it was her escape. I, on the other hand, spent most of my time at home. My mother wouldn't let me hang out with friends so I was usually doing schoolwork, playing video games, daydreaming or painting. It was still a strange time in my life because I had more questions than answers, never really knowing what to think of my family or myself. I didn't know what "normal" was or if that even existed, all I had was my imagination to keep me going.
I also had my mother to look up to. She was always a strong, quiet, compassionate, independent woman, but I could visibly see her be worn down by my father as time progressed. She bottled up most of her anger and resentment, and never quite found a healthy way to vent those emotions. Because of this she generally had a pretty short fuse, and anytime my sister or myself got on her bad side there would be plenty of hurt feelings. For a long time I resented my mother for the pain she caused us, but I later realized it was a cry for help. She was only strict and protective because she loved us and wanted to shield us away from our father even when that wasn't always possible. To this day I've never met anyone with as much tenacity.
I'm not sure if my father ever truly admitted to his mistakes. Even today, he slips in and out of alcoholism hiding it as best he can. No matter how many DUIs and car crashes he's experienced, no matter how many AA meetings he's attended, no matter how many jobs he's lost and no matter how many relationships he's affected, he still can't break his addiction. I never considered my father to be a parent figure, but I have at least forgiven him for all the powerless anger and resentment he caused my family and me. Growing up I always hoped that our words and encouragement would make a difference, when in truth he had to do it for himself. I love my father, but I don't think he's ever truly grown up -- he doesn't know how to.
Those memories will always be with me, but I never imagined I would express those feelings with the gaming community. Video games were one of many passions that I escaped to growing up, and provided me a sense of hope no matter how vague. However, it wasn't until recently that I realized the extent at which video games would affect my life. It wasn't until I played Papo & Yo.
Papo & Yo is a PSN game that takes its simple gameplay and invigorates it with a deeply personal story that reflects upon Creative Director, Vander Caballero's upbringing with his protective mother and abusive, alcoholic father in South America. When I first heard about this game it instantly caught my attention, sparking an understanding I was still too reluctant to approach. For one reason or another I decided to take the jump and write a review for the game, hoping I would be able to connect with it in one way or another. That turned out to be the best decision I've made in years, igniting a part of me that lay dormant, never totally accepting of my past. Papo & Yo made me realize how much good can come from hardships, and how video games are just as capable of emanating such personal emotions.
Since I was young I've always had this urge to write about my experiences, both as a way for me to recover and to relate with others. My guilt, embarrassment, fear and lack of confidence always stopped me from feeling totally comfortable (there's nothing scarier than having your parents find out you've been talking about your personal life at school). Even when talking with friends about these things I could never convey my feelings the way I wanted to, and with no one to relate to I oftentimes felt incredibly alone in the sea of people.
My review of Papo & Yo only briefly expressed my similar upbringing, but made a world of a difference. Minority Media, the development company behind Papo & Yo, offered me plenty of encouragement and support, continuously reminding me that I was never alone in this fight for normalcy. I admire Minority so much for uniting people in such a beautiful way. The game is by no means perfect, but I'd like to think it offered anyone facing the same problems a sense of comfort and empowerment.
I knew I needed to confront my past head on and write about it openly without hesitation, without fear. That's when this reflection came along. It's not only a way for me to achieve the sense of closure I've been searching for, but it should also serve as a source of strength for others dealing with it as well. It's still hard to keep back the tears just thinking about it, but I wouldn't be the person I am today without those memories. No matter how hopeless life can sometimes seem, never lose faith in yourself -- you are never alone.