Three things singlehandedly (triple-handedly?) shaped the person I grew to be today: a technophile with sometimes extreme nerdist tendencies.
Day in the Life: Nerdery Grows Up
Through conversations with a new friend, I’ve rediscovered a past love affair that got me thinking about how the things we obsess over in childhood shape you into who you are today.
This song is especially important and special to me.
“Ai Oboete Imasuka” – “Do You Remember Love?”
From SDF Super Fortress Macross – Do You Remember Love, 1984
Composer: Kazuhiko Kato (1967 – 2009 R.I.P.)
Performed by: Mari Iijima (as Lin Minmei)
I blame my cousin Jon and my big brother L for feeding my twenty-year long obsession with Japanese Animé, a passion that has, unfortunately, slackened as of late, due to the growing stresses and responsibilities of that tired old thing we know as being a grown up.
My first taste of animé was with the series Robotech: The New Generation, with Commander Scott Bernard being the sole survivor of a terrible Invid attack on his space battalion, and landing in the strange wastes of Earth somewhere in South America. As a 7 year old, this style of animation was new, innovative and more artful than the American cartoons I’d been watching; and I immediately fell in love with Scott Bernard’s slicked back blue hair (the same electric blue I eventually dyed my own hair my freshman year of college), tight flight suit and sexy Cyclone battle armor. Next came the Macross Saga movies and a new love for the ever unflappable, slightly awkward and clumsy pilot Rick Hunter (Aka Hikaru Ichijyo in the Japanese version) who eventually becomes Admiral of the entire starship fleet (around Scott Bernard’s time).
How I loved the music, the silly characters and their foibles, misadventures, misunderstandings, love triangles and the battles…oh! the battles.
My seven-year old, knobby-kneed, skinny tomboy, often-bullied self imagined that one day, I’d be an amazing space fighter pilot, flying off to battle hyper mechanized, hostile aliens. As a teenager, I imagined myself as an underdog type, the oft-bullied late bloomer with an unconscious innate power to save the world, battling against alien forces in gigantic mecha much like Noriko Takaya in Gunbuster. I even wore a long sash in my hair for the better part of my thirteenth year, fashioning myself after her.
My interest in animé only burgeoned as time went on, my imagination and curiosity running unchecked when the TV set was turned off, or when we ran out of tapes because my cousin hadn’t dubbed us any more new movies or episodes. Oh, how today’s generation is spoiled with their torrents and readily available data streams. If they only knew the days of VHS recordings and the trouble that came with them! I devoured as much as I could. And when there was nothing else available to us, my brother and I threw our energies into video games.
I no longer consider myself a gamer, but for many years, I was.
Being absolute rubbish with hand-eye coordination and sports as I am in real life, that clutziness translates to videogames as well. I was never–and will never be–good at shoot-em-up games, sports games or racing games. Street Fighter, Rally games, Call of Duty? Forget it. I’m rubbish. Give me a good old fashion Role Playing Game (RPG), preferably of the Squaresoft (now Square Enix) variety, and I’ll jizz my pants and then tune you out for about four months straight. Once my brother and I splashed out our children’s sized life savings, a total of about $76 and some change, on the original Nintendo (NES) game system, it was over. Mario Bros transitioned into Zelda with its intricate puzzles and story lines and dungeons. But once we discovered Final Fantasy, my world realigned itself with a new universe. Drawn into the insane world map, the long storylines and interesting characters, I felt as if I had stepped into a fantasy book that I could control. The turn-based battle system allowed me to strategize characters’ strengths and weaknesses.
From game system to game system, my brother and I would switch off being in control, the other would be the navigator and team strategist, calling out spells for characters to use and which characters to be the warrior tank for massive HP damage to the boss. In real-time RPGs like Zelda III, he would be the brawn, and I would be the brain, remembering puzzles and especially convoluted dungeons and secret places where Pieces of Heart were hidden.
It was a thrill for me, to be able to puzzle things out, and systematically conquer what stood in my way–something that didn’t come easily to me, being the scrawny kid in class that the popular kids made fun of. When I was done with homework, I would throw myself into my alternate universe of videogames or animé and become someone else. Someone more potent. Someone more capable. Someone who could speak her mind and squash the opposition. It was powerful, losing myself to that world. Like a drug. For a kid.
My love for videogames only grew as gaming systems became more elegant and advanced. From NES to Super Nintendo (to this day, Final Fantasy III/6-Japan, is still one of my all-time favorite games–top 3) to the various Sega systems… and finally, to Playstation when I got to high school. Playstation changed my life. Final Fantasy 7 blew my mind. And of course, yet again, another gritty lead character stole my heart. I was in love with Cloud Strife from moment one. (I might still harbor a little fantasy that I might bump into a real Cloud Strife one day, and if that does happen, my husband N can’t fault me for what might happen. Jus’ sayin’.)
When I got to college and suffered crippling depression and anxiety disorders, Playstation and the Final Fantasy franchise saved me from complete and utter insanity and from plummeting even further into the void of emotional despondency. My life was a quagmire, and the one piece of solid ground I could find was my mission to win the game. I’m pretty sure I would have dropped out of college completely had it not been for gaming.
Sadly, these days, my PS2 is a glorified paperweight, gathering dust in my living room, and my love for the Final Fantasy series has skidded to a halt at Final Fantasy 12, and I can’t imagine splashing out the moolah for a PS3 or a pay to just betray my beloved gaming platform to buy an Xbox 360..but without the games, I’m pretty sure I’d be a wholly different person today, and I don’t care to imagine who she would be.
Before Pentiums and Intel Inside and Apples being the trendy thing…I started a love affair with computers.
In the early 90s, my father brought home a computer to do his CAD (he’s an architect) at home. Back then, there were no such things as DVDs, flash drives, flash memory, the Cloud. We had things called floppy disks, 5″ x 5″ plastic disks that held about 56KB of data that would save your precious data files. No one had ever heard of a .jpeg or an MP3. We had to log into Windows from a DOS prompt. (You Mac users might understand what the DOS Prompt is if you use Terminal.) Back then, Windows was Windows 3, not Windows 8, Windows 2k, Windows 98, Vista, whatever. There was a File Manager instead of Explorer (or whatever you PC users have now). There was no Microsoft Office Suite. We had Notepad and Corel Word Perfect.
I was maybe 7 or 8 at the time, and, as technology advanced, so my love for computers grew. I knew hot keys and how to navigate through Windows without the use of the mouse, in the late 1990s, before websites were plug and play, I knew how to write HTML and create websites (something I should have capitalized on if I had known the earning potential I had within my grasp). I remember the days before broadband wireless internet access, when modems were an 8 pound hulk of metal and beeped and blipped and took 15 minutes to send one email through an email service like Juno. This was before AOL, before chat groups, back in the days of BSB and IRC (I was an mIRC diva, too). I remember when the first MP3s came out. No body knew what they were, but I somehow found a way to play the 4 songs I had.
By the time college rolled around in 2000, my dad and I had built my first computer ourselves–a fact that I lorded over other girls in a new world populated by so. many. boys… a fact that set me apart from the run-of-the-mill girl who only was interested in clothes, makeup, shopping and sex. Me, I wanted to be different, and I knew that I actually was.
Technology, shiny, new and sexy, turned me on. Flowers? I wouldn’t bat an eyelash. Candies? I could give or take ’em. But when a boy bought me a video game, or a shiny new external hard drive, or a CD-RW writer (we’re talking the early 2000s here), I would feel things moving in my heart and loins.
So, let’s bring us back to present day.
How do these three things shape me?
Well, I’m a nerd, and I will always enjoy things with a nerdist slant to them. Scifi, kung fu, epic fantasy, comics… anything derived from these genres will probably enrapture me.
The joy of videogaming will never be something I will deprive my children of, in fact, I relish the day I get to pull my son out of school for a day of hooky, going to the movies and then going home and playing videogames all afternoon, into the wee hours of the night. If I have a daughter, I will disown her if she doesn’t like gaming.
I will always appreciate the magic of technology and electronics. Having a slew of new and amazing shinies will always be something we’ll have in our house. Cables and setting up entertainment systems? I probably could wing it. The transformative power of technology has changed our lives and allowed us to live a bit more environmentally friendly and compact. If you see me traveling, yes, I have a laptop, an iPad and an iPhone, but with all these things, I have my work, my hobbies, my entire library and tons of movies at my fingertips. Being a technophile and an Internet nerd allowed me to find my husband (I was editing HTML on my MySpace profile when we started writing each other) and allows us to bond with each other. In fact, I’m typing this on the brand new Macbook Air he bought me.
Animé… I think it’s made me more… Asian. I’m sure that’s a whole other essay in and of itself, but it has certainly put me in touch with one major aspect to my own culture and appreciate it much more. Had I not engrossed myself in Anime, I wouldn’t have branched out into the historical studies of Asian Americans and their experience in the US, which made me interested in politics and how they shape my own experience as an Asian in America. Plus, the more silly, quirky side of my personality might mirror some of the more strange anime characters I have known in my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Is there an obsession from childhood that shaped the person you are today? Please share!
Me ke aloha ~ With love, Xx
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