One of my favorite memories from my youth is of playing video games. I wasn’t especially great at it like one of those people who wanted to be at the top of every leaderboard. Still, I enjoyed spending hours trying to best the computer in the hopes that I could be as good at certain games as my brother. Five years my senior, my brother introduced me to a lot of classic games that I would watch him play many nights and weekends when he wasn’t at football, basketball or track practice, meeting up with friends or hanging out with one of his girlfriends. Metal Gear Solid, Sonic the Hedgehog, the original Grand Theft Auto, Crash Bandicoot, Mortal Kombat, NBA Live, he played just about everything and played it well. He played video games at home, and he even took his game system when we went on our very first family trip to Nigeria. Gaming was one of his favorite things to do.
In retrospect, because my brother was older, playing video games was how we got to spend time together. As he got older and eventually moved out, opportunities to play, as well as my own interest in gaming as a teenager waned (I was trying to find a boyfriend — and get through high school and extra-curricular activities). But those memories, that joy found in playing video games, meant and still means a lot after losing my brother in 2006. After graduating college in 2010 and living alone in NYC, I’d always thought about trying to get back into video games to feel connected to something. However, the cost of systems and their accompanying games, which also weren’t cheap, always felt like a great expense for someone with a minimal salary at 22.
What I wish I had then that is available now is an option that’s perfect for the novice player or simply, the not-that-great ones who just love trying to keep up with the computer. While you’d be hard pressed to find an XBox Series X right now, Microsoft also has an affordable alternative in the XBox Series S, and it’s nothing to scoff at. I was given the chance to review one recently, testing it not only for its play but also to see if it is indeed the stress reliever so many said game systems were early in the pandemic. I was eager to find out because immense stress has become a consistent part of my dad-to-day life, which has been the case for so many people within the last two years especially.
So to take the edge off the day, a few nights a week I started making time at the end of the night to play video games on the Series S. I obtained the XBox Game Pass membership, downloaded a few attractive options, which were made available easily and fast, and got to it. In no time, the joy that I used to feel, figuring out controller combinations to learn how to dunk on someone on old NBA Lives, I felt again while playing NBA Live 19. The fun I used to have with old Mortal Kombat games playing against my brother, I felt again playing, and struggling, by myself against the computer in Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid. And I exacted revenge against the nuisances of the day being a yakuza lieutenant while playing Yakuza Kiwami. The system, small enough to have it blend in next to my TV to keep my 18-month-old from destroying it, wound up bringing me a lot of joy (and luring in my husband, whom I begrudgingly let download and play eFootball 2022).
When we were all in lockdown last year, there were substantial increases in the sale of video games and systems as people looked to it for entertainment, and to connect virtually in ways that didn’t have to do with Zoom. In the weeks since I started playing again, I understand why so many were drawn to it. Stuck in one place, dealing with a grim reality, you can transport yourself anywhere and take your mind off of things on the field, in the ring, in a financial district in Tokyo — whatever settings you ended up in depending on your game. And with the S, that breather, that break, is accessible to more people. Half the price ($299) of its sold out big brother and a smaller (smallest XBox ever), sleeker console, the S performs well. It’s fast, the quality of the picture is amazing and you have access to a library filled with hundreds of games depending on your tastes through that aforementioned XBox Game Pass. Its an introduction to gaming without a massive system with a massive price, and also without the expectation to jump headfirst into this world if you’re looking to dip your toe in it first. There are games for every interest, including options if you are simply looking to practice self-care with your system.
I have appreciated the nostalgia of getting to partake in the pastime of gaming and getting to relive the cherished moments of my youth. It has, for a short time, not only transported me to other places and worlds, but also taken me back to playing with my brother on overheated systems, sitting back watching him in all his glory. I’ve also been grateful for the chance to find a reprieve from the daily stresses by getting to be someone else, somewhere else, if just for a few hours. It’s been entertaining, heartwarming, and most importantly, fun.