Pregnant with our first child, I heard all the questions: “When are you going to stop working?” “What are you doing with the baby’s penis?” My personal favorite was the unsolicited touch on my pregnant belly from strangers withOUT asking. Yet, there was one question I never prepared for.
“When are you going to stop playing video games?”
Although, question isn’t exactly the right word. It was more of an expectation they’d throw into casual conversation. “Hey, now that you’re gonna be a mom, guess you have to stop gaming, huh?” or “Better get those video games in while you can. Get my drift?”
Wait, I have to sacrifice my body AND video games?
Video games were the one stable thing in my chaotic childhood. My family grew up in the military. This meant moving and switching schools every two years. Eventually making friends or finding community seemed pointless, knowing in two years I’d repeat the process all over again. Puberty was great.
The walls started building around me. Yet, no matter where I was living or what new moves were happening, I could always count on two things to stay the same.
The alphabet and video games.
My dad sat in front of the television after work. My mom rented Korean dramas on VHS for a dollar at the ajjima-owned store down the street. Sports people could sit and watch a game for hours. Yet, adventuring through a world, interacting with my environment, and amazing storytelling was a waste of my time?
People content with yapping away about their fantasy football league told me there’d be no time for video games. The more I ignored them, the louder the stories grew and the more of them I heard. Do new moms do nothing but sit and stare at their newborns sleeping all day? No TV? No books? No free time?
Why are those acceptable for a new mom, yet gaming is considered the ultimate sign of laziness?
The stories mixed with stigma, and the next thing I knew, sitting down to game made my skin crawl. My brain instantly downloaded a list of other things to do instead, more “productive” things, and started telling me all the reasons I wasn’t worthy of this time. I put less priority on a self-care hobby that brought me great joy, turning to things more “acceptable” until I found myself hiding in a bathroom with a bottle of wine scrolling my Instagram feed.
I “grew up,” and I was miserable.
I started blaming my husband for my own unhappiness. If he did more, I could sit and game.
Our marriage went south fast. We didn’t connect for months.
This wasn’t the story I wanted for my life. My parents’ relationship didn’t work out. She always did so much, and dad didn’t take on any emotional labor. Yet when dad tried watching movies with my mom, she’d name all the other things she needed to do still, like wash the kitchen floor at 8:00 at night.
By giving up something I love, something that gave me so much joy, I was stifling my own happiness and recreating this pattern, this story, that my parents passed on to me. I created this stress on my body by cutting off something I felt I “outgrew.”
My inability to see past the box I created caused the disruption in our marriage. I was on the road to creating a life I thought I wanted because society told me that’s what I was supposed to want.
Our date nights in Final Fantasy XIV were our connection. He sent minions and glamours through mogmail. I wasn’t even logging in. I cut communication off without realizing it. It’s how our relationship grew so quickly—our shared love for video games.
As Youngsun and Ezrah fell apart in-game, my relationship fell apart in real life. Gaming is a big part of my life. It’s how I connect with people. It’s how I work through those challenging emotional times. In denying my self-care, I neglected the former versions of me that needed support by revisiting worlds of comfort.
Now, when my brain starts making a list of all the other things I should be doing, I write them down in a journal, thank my brain for the reminder, and continue gaming with my partner. It’s a small gesture that allows my brain and heart to work together as I navigate this new journey of blending all my identities into one.