So, here it is: I am 25 years old. I work in a corporate job, providing high-level administration and communications support, plus occasional executive assistant and secretarial duties. I am engaged to be married, in the midst of planning my wedding and looking for somewhere to live. In my spare time I like writing, photography, hiking and entertaining friends. In other words, an independent, supposedly responsible adult.

I also play video games.

I started very young – my older brother had a Commodore 64, which I was too young to play, and then a Sega Master System II, which I had a go at and was terrible. Then, a Game Gear (remember those?). Then, I had a Gameboy. The big one was a PlayStation.

I still have all my PlayStation games, and have even bought more recently. They’re old enough to be retro gaming now! I played the Mortal Kombat series (though I was a little young), the Tomb Raider series, and my great favourite was the Resident Evil series, which instilled my abiding love of zombies. But, you know what? I can’t play the games at all, not even the terribly-aged original Resident Evil from 1996. Why? Because they still scare me. I panic, and die. I still watch my boyfriend playing them.

So, I play video games, but don’t really call myself a gamer. I’m still really bad at playing games. I can’t solve puzzles easily and my hand-eye isn’t great, either. I’m the worst kind of gamer – I use cheats and walkthroughs, though not as much as I used to. It’s funny how much the stereotype of a gamer persists – the guy in his parents’ basement surrounded by Mountain Dew and empty Doritos packets. It also persists in some gamers’ minds too – because I’m a girl, and play games somewhat occasionally or even socially, I don’t count. But I can guarantee you – that suited guy in your office? The girl at the coffee shop? That taxi driver? They play video games sometimes, too.

I’ve moved onto PC gaming, one of the many thousands on Steam. I used to play on my boyfriend’s computer – the Left 4 Dead series, the Portal series, Team Fortress 2, all the really popular ones. I love Left 4 Dead – it’s simple, gory, scary and great fun, with beautiful realistic touches. I always stop to read the graffiti. Now I have my own upgraded computer, so I can play Left 4 Dead whenever I want. I hope to get the other games in time.

Portal is such a fantastic series, with a lot of thought, humour, wit and courage. Whoever thought that a seemingly simple puzzle game could be so involving, engaging and funny? The levels are so clever and beautifully rendered, and the visuals in Portal 2? Absolutely spectacular. And it’s taught me a lot – as I said, logical puzzle solving isn’t my forte, so I sharpen those skills with Portal. It helps my reflexes too, and helps me to learn to think laterally. Who says video games aren’t educational?

And you know what? This is going to make me sound like a monster – but you come home from a long, hard, frustrating day at work. You have a bit of anger. You log on and blast away at some digital zombies. You feel better. What’s the damage?

(I’m not going to get into the debate on censorship or appropriateness for children, so here goes: the majority of gamers are adults. Kids know the difference between right and wrong, and fantasy and reality. Games are MA15+ rated for a reason. Kids will be carded if they try to buy them, and you will have to buy it for them. Game developers aren’t hanging around outside schools shoving copies of Grand Theft Auto into your kids’ hands. If you buy them a MA15+ rated game without knowing what’s in it and complain on Today Tonight, you’re a fucking moron. Bring on the R18+ rating. That is all.)

Some argue that gamers immerse themselves into a dangerous fantasy world when they play, because the audio/visual/interactive nature of games makes it easy to do so. You do that when you watch a film or TV, listen to music or radio, or read a book. I’ve had much more nightmares from books, films and TV shows than games. It’s all imagination – it’s just that in games you have to use your imagination a little less.

Video games have come a long way, especially now with almost photorealistic graphics, high speed internet and the ability to play with someone across the world (or even in the same city), whom you’ve never met. Left 4 Dead is a game that relies highly on teamwork and collaboration. You protect each other from zombies, heal each other up, rescue pinned team members from bigger monsters, cover team members retrieving essential items, and all four members of the team must shoot the Tank to bring it down. Portal 2 has a second half using two playable characters who must work together to solve the puzzles. No puzzle is solvable by one character. The Steam network allows you to play on major servers with anyone, or allows you to play privately with friends, which is what I do sometimes. I don’t have a microphone yet, but it’s a fun way to play and spend time with people, especially a good friend living in Brisbane whom I only see maybe once a year. Another close friend found her partner of 3 years whilst playing Team Fortress 2.

So, I don’t want to be looked down upon for playing video games. I’m not childish or anti-social. It’s not rotting my brain. Games don’t make me think it’s okay to shoot people or beat hookers to death and steal their money. You know why? Because I’m an adult who knows that it’s all make-believe. Games have helped me sharpen my observation skills, my reflexes, my problem-solving skills and helped me learn how to work collaboratively, in addition to all my other real-life experience.

Occasional gamers of the world, unite! Let me know what server you’re on.

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