By Kayla Reed
I was raised in a home filled with video games. The first console I ever had was a Super Nintendo, and I would play “Tetris” and “Doctor Mario” all day. I was never told that video games were only for boys, that video games were too violent, and I was never discouraged to stop doing what I loved. I loved how video games were difficult and exciting, and I loved that my parents loved them too. Since the day I picked up my first controller, video games have been a part of my life, and they have changed it for the better.
I never found that being a girl that loves video games is difficult. Sometimes I get mocked or insulted by others who would rather pick on me for being of a girl, but it has never affected my love for gaming. I play to have fun. Over the years, the fun has turned into something much more important to me. It all started when I decided to download “Apex Legends.”
At first, I was skeptical to even play the game. “Apex Legends” had taken the spot of “Titanfall 3” that was supposed to come out that year. I was devastated that I wouldn’t be playing another Titanfall game, and instead, I was playing a spin-off battle royale from the Titanfall series. Battle Royales are a “king of the hill” style of game or also known as a “last man standing” game. It is fast-paced and difficult, but that was what originally drew me to it.
Thankfully, I wasn’t playing alone. A friend of mine, Julia, was also into video games. She and I met as coworkers and bonded over our love of video gaming and Xbox. I eventually got her to download “Apex Legends” and she grew to like the game as well. The two of us would play after every shift. Sometimes we would win and other times we would lose spectacularly. What really would have helped would have been another friend that could play with us.
It was as if it was meant to be, and I believe that it was. One day when Julia was playing alone, she had mistakenly turned her microphone on. She started to complain about her previous teammates that she had the game before when a voice piped up over the gaming chat. “Are you talking about me?” The voice said.
“I am so sorry. I didn’t know my mic was on.”
His name was Caleb. Thankfully, he was a nice person, and he didn’t mind the mistake. From then on, it was the three of us as a full team. Instead of just playing for a little while after work, we would play for hours and hours. It was never dull. I didn’t know it at the time, but Caleb would become a very good real-life friend of ours.
After a few weeks of the three of us playing together, Caleb invited some of his friends from his hometown to play as well. On Xbox, there is a feature called “Xbox Live Party.” It is a channel in which people can join and talk together while playing games. It’s like a big phone call. In this Xbox party, Caleb introduced us to Nate, Trevor, Logan, and Russell. It was around this time when Julia introduced her husband, Josiah, to the group as well. Our friend group had grown from two to eight in just a few week’s time.
I began to realize that what had started as just a bit of fun was more than just games. I now had seven friends that I knew by name and could talk to whenever I needed. It was more than I ever thought that video games could give me. The best part was, the biggest gift had yet to come.
At first, I thought Russell was just fun to be around. I noticed that he and I were starting to get closer among the rest of the group. We played more together on a team than the rest, we would stay up longer than our friends, and we even started to text outside of video games. I originally was determined to not develop a crush on Russell, but it was impossible not to. He and I could talk for hours and hours about anything while we played together. We even had a handful of nights in which we stayed up until three in the morning. Once we stayed up until 5 a.m. We thought we were being sneaky, but the rest of the group knew that we liked each other.
I fell for him harder than I had for anyone else, and I still had never met him in person. The only problem in this whole situation was that Russell and the rest of the gang lived over 450 miles away from Julia and me. They lived in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and we lived in Zeeland, Michigan. It wasn’t very long until we decided that the eight of us would meet down in Chicago, the halfway point between us. Everyone was hyped that we were going to finally meet. That is until most of the group realized that they couldn’t make it. Only Russell, Julia and I had the ability to go. After deliberating, the group decided that the trip was canceled, and all of us were bummed that the trip to Chicago wouldn’t happen. I thought that was the end of that at least until the weather warmed up a little, but Russell decided that because he had the time off, he was going to meet me anyway. Julia and Russell secretly worked out a plan. Russell would drive all 472 miles to her house and stay with her and her husband so that he could still meet us. I knew at that point that he was special. Most people don’t drive 472 miles to meet someone they haven’t met in person just on a whim. He thought he liked me, and he wanted to know for sure.
I was so nervous when I found out that my crush was in my hometown the next day that I made it all the way to my class in Grand Rapids an hour earlier than it started. I didn’t need to worry though. The two of us hit it off immediately. I don’t remember a lot of our first meeting, and I have a feeling that it was because I was starstruck and a bit too nervous to think straight. As my classes ended for the day, Julia met me in the hallway of the RJF Hall in GRCC. Russell was downstairs eating some Subway. As I walked in, I was met with the sight of a scrawny, doe-eyed guy. To be honest, I thought he looked a little funny, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. This was the guy I had a crush on. We talked for a while, he cracked some jokes, we ate some food, and finally, the three of us made our way back to Julia’s house for video games. I could tell by this point that I was smitten.
Before Russell left for home, he asked me out on a date. I was worried about having a long-distance relationship, but everything worked out in the end. He and I have been dating for over a year now. We still live 472 miles apart, but neither of us mind taking weekend trips to see each other. When we can’t see each other in person, video games are still the best way to spend time together. We even still play “Apex Legends,” the game that started it all. If I had never played that game, I never would have met Russell or the rest of the friends that I have now met in person.