Life is more than capable of reminding us that change is imminent by way of a sledgehammer to the face.  The past few weeks have been personally difficulty for a variety of reasons but I want to share a specific moment here, we all blog for various reasons and more so than usual this blog is for myself as a reminder of the power in gaming.

The internet is a strange beast.  We, or I, forget that others only know us through usernames and avatars.  When we are not blogging we are still living our lives but the internet only knows us based on our world wide web postings.  For example, I posted an "introduction" blog and I remember recounting my gaming years but that posting was months ago, specifically July 2012, which is more than long enough for the internet to swallow that post whole without follow up blogs. 

A game that I have never played but the iconic player reminds us all that yes, women can shot rockets from their arms.  Samus Aran v. Mega Man?

For clarity's sake, I am a woman gamer.  Yes, I often mention my girlfriend because she is a big part of my life therefore I am also a gay gamer.  Also, I have not been shy explaining how gaming impacts me as a deaf gamer.  I mention these facts only to explain who I am in order for the remainder of this blog to make sense. 

I have followed the various gaming news articles regarding sexual harassment in the gaming industry.  Due to my deafness, I have largely avoided multiplayer or even online co-op gaming due to a technical issue of the Xbox 360 splitting in-game sound and live chat sound leaving me thus far unable to stream both sounds through my assistive devices.  Personally, I have not been involved in sexual harassment within gaming and I followed the ongoing news coverage but left the topics alone to others. 

A couple of weeks ago, in real life, I experienced sexual harassment.  I was not in physical danger but my personal boundaries were physically crossed.  This occurred on my way to work during a weekday morning when an older man who is a known neighbor of 3 years offered me a ride to my transfer bus stop as I ran past his house late for my usual morning commute.  During the ride, we chatted about the neighborhood, street parking, and yard work.  As I leaned down to pick up my work bag, I turned to say thank you and his face was unexpectedly in front of mine trying to kiss me.  Quickly, I turned my head, he solidly kissed my cheek, and I bolted out of the car.  Throughout the workday my sense of safety was gone, instead I was anxious and paranoid. 

I spoke to coworkers for support and after work coworker drove me home where I told my girlfriend.  She insisted that he be confronted and she walked to his door demanding that the behavior is not repeated in the future.  Of course, he stated that he was just being friendly.  Perhaps, to some this does not sound like sexual harassment but I have spoken to the appropriate people, understand this situation for what it was, and appropriate action has assured that not only will this not occur again but the situation will not escalate.  I have been in sexual harassment situations previously and the assurance of the behavior not repeating is a difficult step to take.

Lara takes a moment to rest and huddle, giving in to her fear, but she always keeps moving on. 

All this being said, the next morning, I awoke at 4:00 AM as per my schedule.  I let the dog outside, made the coffee, and sat down playing my new release purchase, the Tomb Raider reboot.  I do not remember exactly what portion of the game that I played that morning, only that I reveled surviving in an island gone mad as Lara Croft.  She fell, repeatedly, from my clumsy controlling of her footwork amongst cliff ledges, she huddled cold and shivering at her hub world's camp fires, her voice quivered when yelling at her tormentors and she became visibly as well as audibly shaking with fright when planning her next move that required venturing back into enemy territory.  Each time she stood back up and fought on.  Not unafraid but not willing to give up either.   

Not until I put on my jacket and my messenger bag did the full panic hit me that I now needed to walk past this neighbor's house in order to reach the bus stop and again on my trip home.  Standing outside on my sidewalk in the morning air, I was aghast at an overwhelming fear that made me seriously consider walking nearly a mile out of my way in order to avoid a situation that scared me.  Where I previously walked up and down my street without worry, I now counted the times required to pass his house.  I felt ashamed and embarrassed at my fear.  I realized that I had just gamed as Lara Croft who as a female protagonist felt fear but kept her resolve to press forward.

I walked to the bus stop, albeit I now walked on the other side of the street, humiliated that I let this situation change my routine but with inspiration from Lara to at least walk past his house.  Her layered tank tops tore during her ordeal (I need to buy more tank tops from Old Navy soon), she carried a heavy amount of gear without her cargo pants sagging (this is a video game after all but my shoulder bruises from my work bag), and her pony tail swung (I cannot abide my hair in my face) while she waivered but never gave up. 

As a gamer, I have played as a variety of protagonists and enjoyed their stories, daydreaming on my school bus then on public transportation how to solve a puzzle or progress past a boss.  Simply through the games available the vast majority of those experiences were as male protagonists and I relished my time with those games.  I discovered characteristics in characters that I related to and empathized with. 

My original video game game heroes, not counting my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle handheld portable game. 

I have journeyed across fantasy lands as a plucky young lad throughout console generations from Nigel in the Sega Genesis' Landstalker and Aladdin in a rare well-made licensed game as well as Shinobi in Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master.  In the Playstation eras as Dart in The Legend Of Dragoon, and Serge in Chronro Cross eventually with entire parties available as playable characters.  I was Sora from Kingdom Hearts, Gabriel in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, and Geralt in The Witcher 2.  I have decimated hordes of enemies switching amongst gun types as Jack in BioShock, Delta in BioShock 2, Marcus in Gears Of War, and I trudged after "Follow" religiously throughout the Call of Duty series.  I slunk behind enemies as Corvo in Dishonored, as Batman in Arkham Asylum, and as a bevy of assassins in Assassin's Creed.       

But in this moment, the power of playing as a scripted female character that I instantly related to inspired me to face a personal situation as best I could.  Similar to how we stand outside staring at the true width and depth in-between even close buildings makes Assassin's Creed style parkouring not humanely possible, I stood outside having spent an early morning demolishing my enemies and suddenly I was nearly unable to walk down my street due to the terror of a single person.  The true strength required to defeat a moment of fear is more than the press of a button but we all know that video games are more than pressing buttons.  Gaming is an interactive story that lets us embody our heroes, and anti-heroes.   

Prior to this incident I have experienced a neighborhood man long ago posing girl children on his stairs for photos literally in exchange for candy, a tutor who insisted on cuddling, and another student at my university that I knew for years who last I heard was caught as a underage sexual predator.  Speaking with friends and family about this incident I heard stories of a garbage man, a doctor, a leader of a house of worship, and an attack by a group of young men.  Certainly, not all men, or humans for that matter, are sexual predators.  For every descriptor of predators named above I know many more garbage men, neighbors, and tutors who know and practice appropriate boundaries and relationships.    

Gaming inspires us all differently.  Nothing can go wrong with inspiration for magical looking sweet treats.  

As a gamer, I turn to gaming at times for a "pick me up."  Any one game cannot provide a protagonist that is immediately relatable to every single gamer, even in the "make a character" universes.  However, a diverse scripted protagonist landscape gives more gamers the opportunity to access the inspiration that comes from turning on a game and immediately thinking, "That could be me." 

Heavier topics have come and stayed within gaming as the medium continues to evolve and I thank all of you who read through this writing. 

When has a game been there in your moment of need?

What gaming character are you most inspired by?

What was the first game that stayed with you long after you stopped playing?