Where did you get your gaming education?

If you’re a developer, you may have cut your teeth in graphic design or web development before moving onto games. Maybe you went to a school like Full Sail or DigiPen and earned an actual degree in game development. If you’re a gamer but haven’t yet managed to turn your hobby into your career, you probably read and digest an array of forums, gaming news outlets and perhaps even a print-quality online magazine or two to stay informed about the latest developments in the industry. But whether you’re a creator or a consumer, we all have the same primary source of knowledge about videogames: We play a metric ton of them.

My own gaming education started in a friend’s basement with the NES, then moved closer to home when my mom finally broke down and got a Sega Genesis. A couple years later, I traded up to an SNES, then sold it in favor of the family PC. My next console was a Sega Dreamcast that I purchased solely to play Soul Calibur, until I finally got an Xbox 360 last year. Needless to say, there were some pretty big gaps in my videogame vocabulary.

I would have remained semi-ignorant to the ways of hardcore gaming if it weren’t for my friend Adam. We met in college, when I should have been focused on Chaucer and Wordsworth but was more inclined toward Halo and Guitar Hero instead. Adam was one of those rare obsessive gamers that had 140-DVD binders filled with games covering ever platform I had (largely) missed. Furthermore, he had more peripherals than most people had games: the PS2 EyeToy, the Dreamcast maracas, a pair of DDR dance pads, taiko drums, etc. He even had Steel Battalion, complete with the 40-button, dual-joystick controller.

But despite his living room full of gaming paraphernalia, it wasn’t his collection that made him such a profound influence on my own gaming habits – it was his attitude. Adam was the rare gamer with a broad outlook on his hobby. Sure, he owned hundreds of games across a half dozen platforms. But more importantly, he went back and played them, sharing with me what was unique and innovative about all the games that I had missed. I still remember staring slack-jawed as Ikaruga lit up the screen and gleefully tearing through Alien Hominid as Adam explained the significance of an independently developed game seeing a console release. I finished my academic career with an English degree, but in retrospect, what I learned about videogames from Adam has been just as useful in my day-to-day life.

This week, The Escapist examines how people study games, and how games themselves have the power to educate. But as you read and discuss, don’t forget that there’s no substitute for a little hands-on learning.

Class dismissed,

Jordan Deam

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