Fighting Games are Gay
Rowan Carmichael discusses how fighting games helped him stave off thoughts of suicide - thoughts precipitated by his coming out process.
Japan, 2006. The year the wii, ps3, and the DS Lite came out. As far as gaming goes, a wonderful year all round. I’d been given the opportunity a gamer could only dream of: I was going on an exchange from Australia to Japan. The small city of Toyama. For 10 months. I had lots of spending money, interest and motivation to learn the language and all was set for a fantastic year.
But then I realized I was gay. That was okay; my brother was gay too, my parents accepted that. I made a great friend who was supportive to me through my coming out process.
And then there were the people who totally didn’t cope. I started to like a certain guy, came out to him, and everything seemed okay. But when I confessed that I liked him, that DESTROYED ME.
I’m dramatizing yes, but that combined with being over seas, recently coming out and having a terrible time with the language meant that I had little really going for me at the time. All the stress piled on at once and I seriously started to want to kill myself. Every day from then on I would dream about killing myself, and how the blood would flow out of my wrists and the pain with it. It’s quite an overreaction in hindsight. It wasn’t helped by the fact I couldn’t understand my classes, so I would just sit and pretend to study Japanese while I dwelled on all these issues.
6 hours a day of wanting to kill yourself is tough! So, how did I get through it, and to some extent get over it?
The power of arcade culture and self-improvement! In the arcade, being gay simply didn’t matter; it wasn’t a place of sex or relationships, so it didn’t matter that I was wanting to be romantically involved with guys as opposed to girls. All that mattered there were good matches and getting better.
So I did.
And that saved me from my desire to die. While I was improving myself in the arcade, either with Guilty Gear or at home with Smash (and my local train station had a gc with smash set up in front of it to attract customers to the game shop there). My time out of school was mostly dedicated to improving myself.
This may sound sad, spending so much time fixated on games. But at the time I was so depressed it was hard to hang around people. So what did this fixation do for me? It occupied my mind. During those days I started considering how to improve my ky or Bridget in GG, how to improve my use of Link’s Boomerang usage and so on. It stopped me thinking about death all the time. It saved me from going insane.
To this day, fighters are my escape. No matter how bad the world gets I can devote my full attention to my fighting game. And I will survive.
Although having said all that, once you have spent a long time desiring your own death, it never goes away. The impact has lasted. There are nights I opt to use pre-cut food as opposed to using a good knife simply because I might imagine using it on myself.
But these fighting games taught me something else, something really important about my homosexuality:
It doesn’t matter.
In most of my life, being gay won’t affect anything unless I let it. I can bring bring gay into any part of my life as much or as little as I want. I can still be a unique Bridget user, straight or gay.
My life continued, I came home to Australia, my parents accepted me, and my old friends still loved me. In fact, I run fighting game tournaments now where I live. Now, when people tell me that I’m using “gay” tactics, I can reply happily reply, “I’m gay.”
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