New Frontier

By: Ziggy Salvation

(3 min read)

A very deep part of me is rooted in a reality that not a lot of people are familiar with, the realm of gaming. In today’s world, it’s more and more common to see people younger and younger getting into this recreationally. In my teens, the term “Gamer” was reserved for a very specific demographic. We were the original keyboard champions, going from internet cafes paying hourly to playing competitively against others. We played to flex our skills and dominate our opponents to climb our way to the hopeful top of that weekend’s tournament—claiming whatever prize we were fighting for. Rarely was it a cash prize. It was usually a component of some sort. We were hoping to complete a list of parts to construct our own monster of a machine to run the games we so tirelessly played. The other platform was tracking down LAN parties hosted by people and holding a private tournament, usually for the prize along the same lines. However, the big chase was the clout you gained within the community in hopes of being invited back or to the next level or skill. 

Circa 2004 was the first year I took it seriously and entered the arena via invitation through a buddy I will refer to as Artreas. There was a small LAN cafe in Bonita Springs, Florida. When you walk in, you’re instantly in awe and in the presence of 20 top-tier gaming computers, a giant flatscreen TV surrounded by the latest consoles, a few big, leather couches, and a surround sound system that rivaled IMAX theatres. All the fluorescent lights were replaced with black light bulbs matching the faint glow of the 20 monitors against the back wall. It truly was a beauty. It was hourly play where you log into the systems by your user name, and before long, that was how you were recognized by other players.

The crazy thing about this place is you would never guess the professionals that came through the doors. These tournaments connected everyone together for the same common goal, to be the best! Here I was, 18-year-old Ziggy, naive as hell to the world as we know it, climbing ladder rankings and playing amongst doctors, attorneys, judges, police officers, grocery managers, and everything in between. Yet, collectively we were nothing more than pixels trying to destroy the other guys’ clump of pixels for bragging rights until the next tournament.

Before long, Artreas and I had become pretty well known in the gaming community, playing tournaments and networking with people from Bonita Springs, Naples, Fort Myers, and Cape Coral, Florida. Networking is what happens in the gaming world. Once you are “in and accepted” into this guarded little community, people open up and express how they got into gaming. Whether it be bullying, social anxiety, loneliness, or whatever, we are all under the same banner—gamers.

There has been a shift from the once eclectic gaming niche to one that has become more normalized. Thanks to the world of online video uploads, these experiences are now a global phenomenon where people of all races, colors, and creeds come together and experience gameplay together. Imagine being an armor-clad orc defending your village against a giant wolf, and your friend from Sweden is there alongside you in real-time. Gaming truly brings everyone together in a real way.

Over time, you build relationships with these people you meet in the game. I have friends from across the globe that I’ve met in online games that I call friends! I genuinely know some of my gamer friends better than people I’ve known in the real world for decades.

I think part of the dynamic is the fact that you can put all of your shit out there, and people can either take it or leave it. There is always a safety net. If comfort is compromised, you can simply hit the block button, and the person is no longer logged in and becomes void. Void? It would be cool to use this in real life.

There is no “real” identity shared, and this dynamic is huge in bringing people together in the gaming culture. There’s almost a sense of total freedom in releasing some of your biggest points of anxiety, stress, or insecurities. I think that’s part of the reason its popularity is growing so rapidly. For me, it is my personal therapy method. After a long stressful day, the wife is in bed, the kids are down, and everyone is content and happy, I close the door to my office and boot up my computer, pull on my headset and dive deeply into the world I love so much. 

Ziggy Salvation

All Things Wellness, LLC


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