When I went sneaking around my Dad’s stuff when he confiscated my Gameboy Color, I did not think I’d find a photo that would scar me. Like any ADHD kid in pre-puberty would be, I was addicted to video games. I had Pokemon Blue, Link’s Awakening, and Tetris. Tetris infiltrated my mind and replaced thoughts like ‘I should probably go to the restroom now’ with sessions of block-matching my brain made up. Link’s Awakening was a world I’d never experienced and made me feel like I wasn’t in on some large cosmic joke so I didn’t play it as much. Too much like real life. But like hell if I wasn’t gonna find, battle, and catch the ever living fuck out of every single one of those pokemon.
His office. He’d probably put it in his office. He wouldn’t expect me to expect it to be there. Here’s one thing video games don’t teach you (yet): how to find things hidden by a homicide detective. Why would someone put a handheld console in a file cabinet? That doesn’t make any sense. It must be in there, then. I don’t know if homicide departments still use slides for their photos. But they definitely did in the 90s. I pulled one out and held it to the dusty light. It was a woman lying on a bed in a pool of her own blood. She must have been in her late 40s. Speckled around her torso were stab wounds. My Dad would tell me later that there were fourteen of them. I found the Gameboy Color but I don’t remember where. I think it was somewhere in the kitchen.
I was already pretty disconnected with the world around me at that age. My subconscious was constantly asking existential questions about everything and that governed how I would react to it. What is school even for? Why do I need to learn how to be responsible? What did this woman used to laugh at? You can probably imagine any friends I had at school were of the odd-ball variety. The difference between them and I, though, was that their grades were fantastic. I didn’t understand the point of literally anything. I didn’t deny that there was one. But I wasn’t going to do anything about it until I found out.
In the meantime, video games made sense to me. Here was a world somebody put together and presented to you with clear cut rules and rewards. Put it in your hands. This button does this. That button does that. Even better, everything around you doesn’t matter for a while. Only this. It makes perfect sense that video games as an artistic medium attracted so many social misfits.
My Dad and I hardly had any conflicts. There was always one, though, and that was him taking away consoles that took up way too much of my time. I didn’t learn my lesson with the Gameboy Color. It’s possible finding that picture might have even furthered my desire to dig into a world that wasn’t the real one. Later in life, I’d find myself sneaking around looking for a Sega Genesis. A Sega Saturn. An N64. A Playstation. After my parents had gone to sleep, I’d find them, stay up too late playing them, and before my Dad would wake up (which I’d learned the hard way), I’d put them back.
My Mom decided my brother and I would be home-schooled starting with my freshman year of high school. But I would still attend a public high school for one period: orchestra. My parents loved that I played the cello. I liked it. But I preferred to write. I had a deadjournal (long live deadjournal) that I filled with things that I was delighted to delete later on in life. But if it helps paint a picture of the sort of content that was in those posts, my only heroes at the time were Chuck Palahniuk and Marilyn Manson. So there’s that.
By the time I’d graduated high school, I was sick of Miami, FL and was sure it was to blame for all of my woes. I was 19 years-old and working at a Hot Topic (obviously) when a friend of mine who just began attending University of Florida suggested I move to Gainesville, FL. So I did. No, not for school. Gainesville, FL was a bohemian abyss of self-discovery and hedonism. Partying, drugs, and sex were practically growing out of it’s soil. I rebelled against my past self and jumped into social situations without abandon. Myself and five other friends, including the one who coaxed me to relocate, moved into a duplex together. We named both sides Sodom and Gomorrah, respectively, and threw parties so legendary that people still talk about them. Except for Wine Night. Rule #7 of Sodom and Gomorrah is We don’t talk about Wine Night.
I’d left my Playstation back at home in Miami. It wasn’t working anymore and I wanted to live a different life entirely. But I couldn’t eradicate that part of my life completely; I’d brought with me a small plastic box filled with my games. Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Xenogears just to name a few were among them. All with the original black label too. So whoever attended one of our many parties and stole the box probably has an extra few hundred dollars more than me. In retrospect, I’m heartbroken about it. But at the time I was so drunk and apathetic to anything that wasn’t some decadent form of self-destruction that I don’t think I even noticed. I spent most of my money on booze and cigarettes and received constant pressure from my roommates about my consistency with paying rent late or sometimes at all.
For the next five years, I continued the same habits of self-destruction that any college-aged individual would partake in. It’s just that I wasn’t going to college. I was waking up in some parts of campus every now and then. But attending classes? Nope. I was pretty sure a college degree wasn’t going to get me anywhere. But the truth was that reality still didn’t make sense to me. The structure of academia didn’t make sense to me. I worked dead end jobs for anywhere between four to eight months at a time, superiors seeing that I didn’t understand those worlds either. I’d crashed on the couches of dear friends of mine I’d still take bullets for.
Whatever thermometer was assigned to symbolize my life during that time absolutely combusted at some point. I’m not sure exactly when that was, but I suddenly cared very little for hunting down house parties to find someone to learn about. I no longer wanted to get hammered and watch the sun melt upward while reciting poetry in the voice of a monster with friends and giggling about it. Perhaps I’d let myself become so vulnerable that I didn’t prepare myself for the inevitable scars that come with that kind of lifestyle. But like a getting a bill in the mail informing me I needed to sort my mess of a life out, I felt like I needed to sort my mess of a life out.
A friend of mine decided she wanted to start an alt-porn website that treated it’s models well. She met with me one day to talk about it and said she wanted me to be in charge of hiring models and photographers. If my self-destructive life did one thing, it surrounded me with artists and people who were beautiful no matter what Vogue said. She had already hired a photographer whom I would later propose to, but that’s a story for a different time. I needed somewhere else to be. I’d been hard on myself in Florida and needed somewhere to be hard on me. I followed them to Boston, MA.
The alt-porn website idea underwent a shift of focus to helping small businesses with their backend work (naturally), shifted back to alt-porn, and then expectedly petered out. Since then, I’ve made up for a lot of lost time. But I could fill up hundreds of different pages with that. The important thing is that it hadn’t occurred to me until recently that my love for writing or video games could be a practical thing to be passionate about. When I was growing up and playing video games, I vividly remember feeling like an outcast because of it. I remember people telling me it was a waste of time, that it wouldn’t get me anywhere. I remember thinking ‘I know for a fact video games are going to become something huge. Why can’t that be now?’ It’s been quite a thing to watch the hobby I love become more and more instilled into our culture. I can’t wait to see what happens next.