The Only Child

For most of my life I grew up an only-child, free of siblings to annoy (or get annoyed by). When I took to gaming at the tender age of 7, I never had to share anything with anyone. That's not to say I didn't know how to share, but that I didn't need to most of the time. My GameBoy Color was mine and mine only, and I relished my gaming solitude. I didn't have an online subscription, and when I got my GameCube, I was content to play against the AI in Super Smash Brothers: Melee or blast aliens alone as Samus in Metroid Prime. Eventually, some friends of mine and I made a ritual out of Super Smash Brothers sessions every Friday night, and I remember being absolutely frustrated with one particular friend abusing Samus' energy-ball attack, which he'd fire at a bout between other players happening across the map and nail one of us every time. Even though I had my friends to game with, I still was very reluctant to share my gaming hobby with anyone else, including my friends, when it wasn't a Friday night.

A Sibling Arrives

Then, my father remarried and I suddenly had a younger half-brother. More shocking to me was the fact that I'd have to actually share my GameCube, GameBoy Color, and my recently-purchased Xbox. I remember the first night this new sibling spent at my house. I had a bunk-bed, and he'd sleep on top while I'd slumber down below. I waited until he was asleep, crept out of my covers, and turn on the Xbox for a late-night session of Star Wars: Battlefront. I must have woken him up, because my new brother came out and asked if he could play too. I didn't know what to say at first, so I just stared at him. Eventually I said "Sure," and handed him a controller. We ended up playing until dawn, much to the exasperation of our parents when they woke up and saw their kids still awake playing videogames. Even though they didn't like the fact we hadn't slept a wink, they were glad that my brother and I had bonded well enough to play videogames together all night. As the years went on, we'd game together all the time.

Still, there was a part of both of us that wanted solitary gaming time, so we'd have a competition: whomever could wake up in the morning and sneak out without letting the other sibling know, would get to have some alone time with the gaming console. I would usually win, since when my brother tried to climb down the bunk bed, me being the lighter sleeper I am, would always wake up. And, since I was on the bottom bunk, I wouldn't have to awkwardly climb down the bed like he would.

Our videogame shenanigans would continue until my parents became fed up with our videogames, which were getting gorier and gorier as we grew up. What started out as a harmless Super Smash Bros: Melee mosh-pit brawl turned to something more horrid when we played Gun and started scalping enemies. The last straw was broken when I played Destroy All Humans, and used the anal probe to wreak havoc on the human race and harvest their DNA. My father had a particularly harsh reaction to the game. He took it out of the console, walked outside, and as I watched, he took a sledgehammer out of nowhere and smashed it to pieces. Now, considering that I could have been grounded or worse, I remember being pretty livid at him. I didn't care that he'd smashed the game with a sledgehammer; heck, I kind of enjoyed that part. It was that I'd saved up for the game and to a kid, $60 is pretty darn expensive after several months' worth of mowing lawns and getting mail for people in the neighborhood. Sometimes I still tease my dad about owing me that $60. He's never as amused.

Gaming Famine

After that theatrical climax, my parents sold all gaming systems and affiliated games, and for a year or so, I was game-less. At this point in time, the Xbox 360 was on the horizon, and what that meant was Halo 3. Which I had to have. Halo 2 was my favorite game on the Xbox, and it remains the best in the series to me. Remember how I said I had a father and step-mother? You know, the theatrical game-destroyers? Well, I somehow managed to convince my other parents (mother and step-father) that I would like a shiny new Xbox 360. To assuage fears that my grades would slip, I agreed to game only on weekends.

And with that, the time of solitary gaming returned. I The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was my first game on the system. As my grades improved, I earned the ability to buy games with my parent's money in return for working hard on my education and chores around the house. Think of it as a pat on the head. For those who think that I sounded like a spoiled brat then, you'd be correct. But I was a spoiled brat who got an A in Calculus and a 3.9 GPA. And that's all my parents really cared about. I was soon college-bound.

My brother was not so fortunate. While I was enjoying Halo 3 on my 360, he would continue to play videogames at the mall or on his laptop at home when no one was around to chastise him otherwise. I would talk to him about videogames all the time, and we both realized that even though we were miles apart (my parents live on practically opposite sides of the my home state), we could still share a common bond forged by our Halo 2 campaign runs and Battlefront shenanigans. That's the perk of having a sibling: you can bond with them via videogames, and they can become a source of endless co-op sessions or matchmaking buddies. I love my lil' brother to death, and it all started from that one night together playing Star Wars: Battlefront.

Roommate Perks and Problems

The first two years of college, I lived in a dorm. My first roommate and I couldn't have been more different. I pegged him as an irresponsible, loud, and obnoxious frat-boy while he undoubtedly thought me an anti-social, elitist and boring nerd. I suppose we were both right about the other person. There was one thing that annoyed me to no end, though: I agreed to my parents' request that I leave my Xbox at home, not bring it to school. My roommate brought his, though, and while I was trying to do homework, he'd be drunkenly yelling at the screen. I wasn't annoyed that much at how loud and distracting he was when I tried to study in my room; I easily assuaged the problem by moving to the library. What annoyed me more was that I couldn't game either. When he was away and I had nothing to do, he'd let me play some of his games. Which wasn't often or for an extended amount of time when I could. At the end of the year, I said good riddance to him and moved to a different dorm for my next year.

I brought my Xbox this time around, and so did my new roomie: a punk-rocker with a hankering for guitar and loooong playtimes in Skyrim. We both didn't like to bring attention to ourselves, and we both reveled in our similarly-introverted personalities. We'd spend multiple nights during weekends, and sometimes during the weeks, exploring our lands of Skyrim, killing Frost Trolls and dragons alike. I'd be scouring a Dwarven dungeon while he'd be running from two dragons, a troop of bandits, and a hagraven. Oh the fond memories. What games he tired of, I'd play; and vice-versa. We'd spend an hour or two every couple of nights just talking about and playing games together. Slowly but surely, I learned to enjoy sharing my gaming experiences, and on many occasions, my games as well. Actually liking to share my games may sound strange, but remember, I had been an only child most of my life with a part of my family, so that tendency to protect my games from "intrusive elements" was practically hardwired into my DNA.

This year, I moved into a house with four other girls (*rawr*, I'm quite the ladies' man) and my previous roommate. Surprisingly, all of my roommates enjoy gaming in one way or another. My old roommate and I still greatly enjoy our alone-time with our Xbox 360s, slaying dragons in Solitude or, in his case, dying thousands of times while trying to get past a single portion of Dark Souls. My other roommates, the girls, brought a Wii into the household. This was something new for me: I hadn't paid much attention to any other console but Microsoft's since the GameCube became "OMG, that's like, soooo last-generation." Even stranger, they brought the concept of social gaming to reality. If we can't go to the gym (which is often, given our busy lives), we start up Just Dance 4 and go at it for a while. Not only has this improved my dance moves when I go to parties (I still look like I'm having a seizure, but that's an improvement, trust me), it's also made me more sociable.

My new roommates proved to me that there were perks to having them around. Yes, there are more obvious perks right from the outset, like having small gaming sessions together or mooching off of their gaming backlogs to play games you have wanted to try out for the longest time. There are more subtle perks to living with other people. I'm more social as a result, and I've become a kind of gaming "matchmaker," to people that know me. If they're thinking about a new system, I can tell them what I know. If they're thinking about a new game, I can give them an informed and hopefully well-rounded opinion. Even more subtle, and probably the biggest perk of all, is that having roommates has made me realize that we're all gamers, not just people like me, who come on here to blog about games, play games at home, and think about gaming when they aren't actually gaming. A person who plays Angry Birds while in the dentist-office waiting room is a gamer. Girls who play Just Dance 4 instead of going to the gym are gamers. Boys who play Skyrim together for hours on end on a weekend are gamers. *que "Kumbaya" and a campfire*

I started out as an elitist, anti-social, self-obsessed boy who read GameInformer Magazine religiously and would be on talking about the newest game every day. I now have a step-brother, friends, and roommates who are gamers of various shades and degrees, and while I no longer subscribe to GameInformer or frequent the industry news websites nearly as much, I feel like I know more about gaming than I ever did before.

I'm still self-obsessed, obviously, because, I mean, come on, what is life without consistency, right? Haha...haha...haaaaaa...

My point is, if you're thinking about having roommates or are making new friends, consider gaming as a legitimate bonding possibility. It worked for me, so maybe it will for you.

Happy Gaming!