“The following is a contributor post by the Blood-Stained Metal Mage.”
No matter my age or the events of the surrounding years, Christmas will always remind me of two things: video games, and my brother, Matthew.
Our upbringing wasn’t the best. The years grew cluttered with different forms of abuse and neglect, but beneath this heavy blanket of toxicity nestled a precious bond between Matthew and I that centered around video games.
I’m the baby of the family, with a large age difference between myself and my older siblings. Matthew is 12 years older, and he took it upon himself to share his love of gaming with me as I grew up. He’d work part-time at grocery stores to gather money for video game purchases, from the newest consoles to games he and I would discuss during late-night reading sessions, when we’d pine over upcoming releases featured in game magazines. The Super Nintendo was a favourite of ours, in particular.
Christmas was always a time where he’d sneak games into my stocking or beneath the tree, and for one, blissful day we could forget the state of our family and surround ourselves with warmth.
There’s one memory in particular that stands out for me.
It was 1994, and I was nine. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and seeing my once-empty stocking swollen with gifts. Matthew’s room was opposite mine, and I sneakily pressed into the stocking, battling with intense curiosity and the knowledge of disappointment that would cloud my brother’s features if he was stripped of my reaction to the gift. Before I made my way back to bed, Matthew’s door opened and he poked his head out.
‘Oi, what are you doing?’
I looked at him guiltily, unable to hide the threat of my crimes.
‘You can open one, okay? But don’t tell mum!’ he continued, walking carefully on his toes across the carpet. ‘Here, try this one.’
He handed me a rectangular gift, and I knew it was a Super Nintendo game – made even more apparent by him switching my tiny television set on. Fumbling with the wrapping paper in the dim light, I finally unearthed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters as he sat there, smiling expectantly. I squealed, before quickly placing a hand over my mouth to smother the high-volume excitement.
‘Let’s play!’ he said, jumping on to my floor. ‘But quietly, and if we hear footsteps, we’ll need to pretend we’re not awake.’
This is the image that stands out for me, all these years later: cross-legged on that itchy carpet, gazing up at the screen with Christmas excitement. The darker memories fade with time or are forgotten completely, but the ones surrounding video games seem to intensify with time.
When it came to Christmas and video games in general, we’d shift away from the choking negativity that stalked our family and remember the importance of happiness and escapism. Video games always brought us together and provided us with a sense of hope; that maybe, just maybe, we’d be okay.
It became a staple of our relationship. Though unspoken, we acknowledged that Christmas would forever be synonymous with video games. I’d use my savings to buy him some as a gift, and in turn, he’d place hours of wrapped enjoyment beneath the tree, awaiting exposure.
I’m 33 now, and he’s 45. I still see him on my friends list, playing the newest game releases. We don’t talk much these days, because our respective lives and difficulties are time-consuming. He’s married and has children, while I’ve lived in Sydney and Melbourne, focusing on my studies, work, health and writing. Life happens, but there’s still that intensely passionate undercurrent of video game adoration tying us together. Whenever our days manage to align in Brisbane, we find ourselves discussing video games. His children, because of our combined efforts, are now heavily into them, too – continuing the tradition, especially around Christmas, when it’s their turn to feel that same level of exhilaration when they unveil a new game.
Most recently, for Christmas last year, he visited and discussed what I desired as a gift. I tried to reject his offer, given my own lack of funds and overwhelming guilt at knowing I would be unable to return the favour.
‘So, video game?’ he asked, ignoring my words.
Begrudgingly, I gave in, and received Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online. On Christmas Day, I saw him online, playing the games he’d received from his wife while I played my own gift. Though separated by age, time and the responsibilities of adulthood, we’re still connected by the wonderful world of video games.
And every single year I continue to play games on Christmas Day, smiling because I see he is, too.
Lunatic Pandora is the Blood-Stained Metal Mage here at TWRM, writer of the soon-to-be-released poetry book Dancer in the Dark, video game, horror and metal fanatic, and can be found in people’s basements, where she places curses on the neighbourhood children. Follow her on Twitter @gimmethefife!
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