Fanworks, Health, IRL

Shut Up and Take My Money! A Tale of a Poor Gamer

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“Shut Up and Take My Money! A Tale of a Poor Gamer”

Written By: @KivaBay

Art: @KivaBay, @MrMentalism

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It is terribly difficult to be a gamer when you are homeless, but somehow, in a city like Portland, I managed. I was too ashamed to go back to the Barcade, because what if they saw my backpack with the sleeping bag attached to it and realized how bad it was?

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What if they noticed how dirty I was? How tired I looked? What if they noticed how preciously I counted out my quarters?

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No, I stopped going to Ground Kontrol, but my little laptop had Jade Empire on it. The laptop served as good camouflage, allowing me to check my email in a coffee shop for two hours rather than sit there while the baristas gave me the stink-eye.

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Sometimes, I even felt like a gamer, if someone didn’t notice the sleeping bag tucked beneath the table. I wanted to feel like a gamer. I would read reviews for games I would never be able to play on systems I would never be able to afford, let alone store. I didn’t even have a roof over my head.

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I would still read reviews, and watch the Jimquisition and nod my head in gruff agreement while he talked about actual ethical concerns in journalism, like marketing executives trying to shove fee-to-pay features into AAA titles that already cost $60. $60.

The pawn shop wouldn’t even give me more than thirty for my laptop, which was why I’d opted to keep it. That was a lot of money in my world. $60. That was days away from the Blanchet House’s soup kitchen.

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Of course I realize it was escapism from the harsh reality of my world, but is that really so bad, escaping that for a little while? When people realized I was homeless and had a laptop, they would sneer at me. $60 they would then turn around and pay for a game with a fee-structure attached to it. And I was a horrible person for keeping my laptop.

I couldn’t game very well on my laptop, not the games that make someone a “real gamer.” There was no new AAA titles that were going to run on it, even at their most laughable graphic settings.

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When I heard Jim talk about Elizabeth from Bioshock Infinite and Ellie from Last of Us, I desperately wanted to know their stories but could not in any way play their games. There was something I could do, though. I could watch their stories, in Let’s Plays and game-movies. Last of Us had only just been announced, but I ate through Elizabeth’s story with a raw need to not be in the world that surrounded me anymore. 

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The dark line of thought that some people were just fated to fail filled me with a cold dread that made me forget I was sitting in a public park that was a wi-fi hotspot on a damp bench under cover to protect the screen from the rain.

But I apparently did not become a real gamer until I was housed, employed, and able to consume these products with money. Watching Let’s Plays and game movies does not make me a real gamer, only playing those games does. Apparently.

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I can carefully dissect the plot of Far Cry 3 for you, and discuss all the parts of it that I like and all the parts of it that I hate. And there are both of those.

I have never played Far Cry 3.

When I was homeless, I watched the movie, the story of surviving through hardship (much at the expense of native people, the critical part of my mind noted) on YouTube. And I loved it even while I didn’t love it because criticizing it gave me something to do other than wonder how long it would be until nine in the morning when the student union would open and I could go inside and out of the cold.

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I listened to Final Fantasy music on my headphones to sleep during the day while my laptop charged, and then consumed nothing but review videos, and LP videos, and podcasts … but could not be considered a part of the fandom because of monetary barriers.

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This is strange to me.

There has been much discussion about how women can be real gamers because there are women who enjoy these $60 games and spend as much money on gaming as the most hardcore male fans do.

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I submit that at the time when I could spend no money on gaming, I was as much a gamer as even the richest fans.

Fandom isn’t the money you spend on a thing.

It’s the love you have for it, and the comfort it brings you.

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21 thoughts on “Shut Up and Take My Money! A Tale of a Poor Gamer”

  1. I have to say this definitely made me think. I see a lot of posts where the quantification of female gamers is demonstrated by the statistics collected by corporate companies; e.g., 47% women bought games this year, 53% men bought games this year(which is in itself excluding nonbinary people). But I don’t see anyone collecting data on how many women/minorities watch let’s plays or own pirated copies. There’s an ethical/financial quagmire on the latter, certainly.

    I believe the reason $ = fandom so much is because as much as people love creating art, they also have to be compensated for their effort and resources. There’s also the time and effort spent by consumers who make the money to BUY said products/art. So they’re considered with more value in general. I won’t get into the problems underlying our current financial system because I’m not educated enough, I feel, but yeah.

    I don’t mean to say you’re any less of a fan. Even more so, in fact, your dedication goes above and beyond many gamers I know. It’s just that a lot of the time we’re considered consumers rather than appreciative patrons. Uh, you probably know all this already, I don’t mean to be didactic. I just was articulating something to myself.

    I hope you’re in a safe place right now with your needs being met. Thank you for your story.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. My god, this spoke right to my heart. I was homeless many years ago, more due to mental health issues rather than poverty, back before laptops but there were a few internet cafes. I went from PC gaming 10 hours a day to cashing in cans so I could afford to spend an hour talking to people about games in Chat rooms, without ever having played them. I had not thought about that time in my life for a very long time so thank you for the reminder to be grateful for what I have today.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you everyone for your concern. I am housed, was homeless for about a month and a half that time, it was my second time on the streets. Currently I make my living as an artist with a patreon, if you are interested in supporting me you can find all relevant information at kivabay.com.

    Your support and kindness overwhelm me. I am breathless. Thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I’m so glad you are in a better situation, Kiva. Thank you for sharing your story!

    I grew up playing Nintendo in the 80’s and 90’s. When I was a kid, just before I started 6th grade, my mom and I fell on difficult times and were in between homes for a bit. We didn’t have much, but I somehow managed to keep up with my game console and the few gaming cartridges I had. For me, there’s something cathartic about video games. I work through life problems as I play.

    I think that shapes the way I game as an adult today.

    I tend to hold on to old game consoles for a long time. After the new gen consoles come out, it may take me years to actually upgrade. I just get attached to my old babies. For a long time I sensed that if I didn’t have the latest greatest new console or play the popular titles then I was not a gamer. A narrow perspective since there are tons of ways to get your video gaming on.

    ~~~ wavy flashback lines ~~~
    I remember Super Mario Bros. costing $35, back in the day when it was released. Now-a-days I can’t help but cringe a little when I see a $60 game.
    ~~~

    But I’m patient. I wait and catch a sale. Now they know my secrets!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi, I am not a woman, but I was homeless for some time and I must say this was a tear jerker for me. Really spoke to me. I am glad she is no longer homeless and never understood the division with male/female gamers. Amazing read, and I will be sharing this.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. This was beautiful, I thank you for sharing i and I’m glad you’re ok now.

    When I was a kid, I was also homeless for a little bit while, due to my mother’s drug addiction. Either that or I spent a lot of time in other family members that always made sure we knew we were a burden.

    When I first got a NES, it also became an escapism, a whole other world in which I wasn’t a shy, poor ugly kid, but a hero, a boxer, a sorcerer or a sport star.

    The Game industry, not all of it, but certainly a big part of it has become a bloated greedy monster that goes after every penny it can scrape from their consumer, and I sometimes wish they crash and plunge like it happened with Atari in the 80’s. I rapidly discard such thoughts because there’s a lot of families that depends on the industry but they do need something to reel them in,

    You described perfectly what it feels to be a Gamer, I thank you again for sharing this and I hope and wish your life keeps getting better.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “When people realized I was homeless and had a laptop, they would sneer at me.”

    This is nuts! Access to the internet and a word processor is an incredibly useful tool for someone looking for a job or a place to stay. It’s like people want the homeless to conform to their idea of a helpless dependent on the state, when the truth is tools like a laptop, flipphone or car can be the key to crawling out of poverty. There’s also a wide gap between absolute poverty and simply being unable to make rent that goes unacknowledged in cities with a high cost of living.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve never been completely homeless, but I’ve been almost homeless many times and have had to live 75% of the time out of my car due to family issues before. I can say that I feel this so much! Sitting in a parking lot, trying to play the last few games you didn’t sell on a portable DVD player or using free wifi to look at new game releases you can’t buy… it really hurts. There’ve been several times where losing my job meant selling entire system collections, only to cry over them and do your best to re-assemble them when you’ve got a little money again…

    And the whole time you’re wondering where you fit in with “gaming” as a community. You pretend you haven’t sold things, casually act like you know all about stuff you can’t experience, and generally beg for inclusion. All the while, people around you just think you’re irresponsible and lazy. I have a great job in Japan now, and I can buy all the crazy retro games you’ve never heard of… and yet a part of me still thinks in that mindset. That fear never quite leaves you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Reblogged this on Wingsstef's Blog and commented:
    Great Article here. In regard to the people berating this woman for keeping her laptop, would the $30 have helped? No not really.

    Instead it helped her feel like her. This blog is a few months old so maybe you have read it before, but it made me smile. Read on. 🙂

    Like

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