Controllers to Connections: Familial Bonding Through Gaming

The other day, someone asked me, “What’s your favorite memory of gaming?” The difficulty of finding such an answer within myself was only due to the fact that there are so many happy moments in my history of playing video games that it’s hard to pick only one. From the first time I picked up Mass Effect to completing the (at-the-time) hardest raid in World of Warcraft with my guild, there have been many times which have defined my identity as a gamer. As I sat and pondered on it, though, one memory floated to the surface, one which I look upon the most fondly. So to that person who queried me, here is your answer: my favorite memory in gaming has to be leveling up a priest in World of Warcraft with my older brother as we listened to a bunch of metal albums.

At first glance, this doesn’t seem like it could be one’s best memory in gaming. I mean, what’s so significant about a regular day of playing games with your family? Well, it was that moment where I felt myself getting closer with my brother, after we spent much of our time fighting and bickering as kids. We bonded over the shared experience of grinding out levels, blasting Master of Puppets and Blackwater Park over speakers, and enjoying each other’s company. Nowadays, he and I are very close, playing games together quite often and helping each other through the experience of our lives, but that moment when we first started playing together was the turning point. It was the time where I felt my brother and I becoming more than family; we became friends.

Tirisfal Glades is the perfect setting to rock to some heavy metal.

Gaming, I have come to realize, has been a way for me to bond with my family members in ways I never before considered. My mother, though she had an Atari 2600 and Commodore 64 growing up, is not much of a gamer, although she has taken an interest in it because of my fascination. She influenced me greatly in my taste of music, film, and television, so I wanted to share the activity of gaming with her, too. Sitting down one evening, I took a controller in my hand, powered up Telltale’s Game of Thrones, and told her, “You’ll make all of the decisions, and I’ll do the actual game-playing.” It brought a smile to my face to see her getting into the game, investing in the characters like she does with the books and show, and seeing her choices pan out into (un)intended consequences. She doesn’t have to fake enthusiasm with games because now she understands where I’m coming from when I talk about modern games. She experienced one alongside me and always looks forward to when I can share another story with her.

When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.

Gaming is even something I have begun to pass down to my nephew and niece. Often times when they come to visit, they ask me to put a game on the television and I am more than happy to oblige. Whether showing my nephew the original Super Mario Bros. on the NES or indulging my niece with Kingdom Hearts, their eyes remain glued to the screen until we get called to come to the dinner table. Whether or not they become gamers like me is unimportant; what matters is that they’ve begun to take an interest in it, and it is an experience we can share.

People see video games as a solitary activity, something one does alone and to enjoy one’s own spare time. Increasingly, gaming has become something I do to connect with others. I can play online or with friends in the same room. I can show my family what endless possibilities there are in the gaming universe. I can relax and create long-lasting memories with the people I care most about, laughing and having fun over the shared experience of a game.

Written by Lee Feldman

Lee is a writer, game designer, and graduate student from Los Angeles, California. As a gamer, he is primarily inspired by fascinating worlds with deep stories, rich characters, and sharp gameplay, with a love of games both old and new. When he isn't collecting rare NES cartridges, he can be found obsessing over mixed martial arts.

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