If I tried, I could probably come up with over a hundred stories to express how important video games and PlayStation have been in my life, but I’d much rather tell you the story of how important they were in the life of J*, the man who saved my life.
See, from late 2010 to mid 2011, my girlfriend and I were going through a difficult ordeal that luckily very few have to: homelessness. During those months, while many of you were Platinuming Heavy Rain or Arkham Asylum, we were shivering in the park and living off the leftover, stale donuts and hotdogs a local gas station was going to throw away.
Back then, my PS3 collection was small enough to count on one hand: Uncharted (my first ever PS3 game), Red Dead Redemption, the God of War Collection, and God of War III. But those games, my PS3, and almost all my other possessions were being stored in a friend’s garage until we were less, you know, homeless. As the days went on, though, that seemed less and less likely to ever happen.
Then, one day, we were woken up to the sound of J talking to us. He said for three days in a row, he saw us living out there in the park and that no one should have to live like that. So he told us to come by his place, which was only a few blocks away, that he could help us. He offered us breakfast, showers, and assured us he wasn’t some crazy serial killer or something (which, at the time, only made me more skeptical).
Well, we had very little left to lose, so we took him up on his offer and showed up at his place a few minutes later. True to his word, he fed us and let us use his shower and later that day, he told us we could stay with him until we were back on our feet. It was the first good thing that happened to us in what seemed like forever.
I admit, I didn’t trust him at first (it takes me a long time to trust anyone at all, let alone someone like this who had nothing to gain by being so kind to us). But as time went on, it became clearer and clearer his kindness was genuine. There was no ulterior motive.
He even got me a job at the restaurant where he worked. Is it even possible to thank someone who’s done so much for me, I thought. Of course, I did thank him multiple times, but mere words didn’t do any kind of justice. After I got my first paycheck, I also started covering his rent, and continued to do so for the four or so months we lived with him. But even that didn’t seem enough.
Now, J is an older guy and wasn’t too familiar with modern technology. (I remember one day I was watching the trailer for Far Cry 3 and he thought it was a live-action video.) His greatest sources of joy were bottles of booze and Spanish music played off cassette tapes.
I can only imagine how alien or futuristic my slim PS3 must have looked to him after I got it back from the depths of my friend’s garage. “Why don’t you try it?” I asked him one day, offering him the controller in my hand. I’m sure all the controller's buttons must have looked intimidating at the least, but I assured him this particular game was simple and easy to play. So he hesitantly agreed to try it.
I have no doubt those of you who have played ThatGameCompany’s Flower will attest to its simplicity and pure fun (are there any of you out there who haven’t played it yet?). From the perspective of a flower petal being carried by the wind, the game hands you the freedom to soar through the air, exploring vast and diverse meadows (all while using no more than the sixaxis’ motion control and a single button press!).
J’s eyes widened with a sort of pure, childlike happiness I’ve yet to see anywhere else as his flower petal blew between the parting blades of the meadow’s grass and caused more and more flowers to bloom along the way.
“Finally,” he shouted, practically in tears, “Something better than music!”
And that’s when I felt like I had finally done what I thought would be impossible: thanked him for everything he had done for us.
And now I thank you, PlayStation and ThatGameCompany. Thank you for giving me a way to say “thank you” to the man who saved my life.
*(J is, of course, not his full name. It’s merely an alias I use out of respect for his privacy.)