Image of Animal Crossing, Journey, and Life is Strange True Colors.
Image via Nintendo / Thatgamecompany / Deck Nine

An Ode to the Video Games That Have Helped Us Become Who We Are

Video games are the best therapy.

Things will look a little different for the Prima Teama going forward; nothing is permanent except change, after all. To mark this new chapter in our journey, we’re coming together to share our thoughts and feelings on the video games that have been our light in the darkest of times and our guide to becoming who we are in life. Video games are, in our world, a safe haven to run to when you need a break from reality.

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Persona 4 – Patrick Souza, Staff Writer

Image of Nanako in Persona 4
Image via ATLUS

The Persona series as a whole has always found its way to me in the weirdest situations, but it all started with its fourth entry. Never thought that a game about solving cold-blooded murders could be so chill and so enticing at the same time. At a time when I was just a weird kid trying to adjust, experiencing a game with so many heartwarming characters being true to themselves while also pursuing a greater truth was just incredibly groundbreaking to me.

I would yap all day about this game to anyone willing to bear with me at the time, and I’m really sorry for all of those poor souls who had to endure it. The game cemented my love for the series (and murder mystery in general), as well as kickstarting my interest in narrative-heavy games. This also led me to enjoy writing more, which in consequence made me rethink what I wanted to do in the future.

There was a lot in the in-between, but in other words, this silly JRPG game was partially responsible for making me pursue my Journalism degree. And that led me to do what I do today. So yeah, I guess this game impacted me just a tiny bit.

Life is Strange: True Colors – Shawn Robinson, Contributing Writer

Screenshot of Life is Strange True Colors
Image via Decknine

While anyone who’s a fan of the series might laugh at the idea of this game being better than the original (myself included), no game I’ve ever played will do the same thing for me that Life is Strange: True Colors did. For all my life, I wondered why I would care so deeply about those around me compared to how much other people cared and why I’d always play off other people’s emotions so deeply.

That game, and its empath protagonist, made me realize exactly why that was and how I could better understand myself. While I’ve teared up at the conclusion of certain shows and games, nothing has made me weep or reflect on myself so heavily as that game. It’s also a great experience in general, even if I get why some don’t see it as holding a candle to the original.

Journey – Shaun Cichacki, Staff Writer

Screenshot from Journey
Image via Thatgamecompany

When I was 10 years old in 2002, I was involved in a traumatic accident that almost claimed my life. Technically it did — I was declared dead for almost an hour between two different times, something that haunts me to this day and fills me with a horrendous sense of guilt and sorrow. The process of accepting that I was here for whatever reason has haunted me since that time, but little did I know that a video game of all things would help me come to acceptance with my feelings. From the moment that I started Journey on my PlayStation 3, I was mesmerized — I had never seen a game so stylistically beautiful before.

From the cascading sand that billowed around me during the descent down the desert dunes to the expertly peppered orchestra that accentuated every moment of trial, tribulation, and triumph within the game, I was sure I was playing something that was bound to end on a happy note — and then I reached the ending. I won’t go into detail for those who haven’t played it, but the final 10 minutes of Journey may be one of the most impactful pieces of media I have ever personally witnessed and something that has changed me in the most beautifully positive way that I can think of. Ugly tears still stream down my face every time I play through this particular section of the game, even after 11 concurrent yearly playthroughs.

I can’t not talk about the music, which is a large part of what makes Journey one of the most impactful and important games ever created in my opinon. Apothesis, in my most sincere opinion, is one of the most powerful tracks ever composed for a video game and something that makes every emotion within me swell to the breaking point — even 12 years after my first playthrough. I don’t think there will ever be another piece of media that moves me as much as Journey did, something that even the creator Jenova Chen was made aware of after my initial playthrough. It’s something that I revisit every year on the date of my accident — not only as a reminder to myself as to why I am still here but just as a delightful, emotional, and raw trip through a world that opened up before me and showed me that everything would be okay.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dan Wenerowicz, Staff Writer

Screenshot from Skyrim
Image via Bethesda

Growing up, I was a kid who played nothing but the biggest FPS games like Call of Duty and Halo or Smash Bros and WWE. I was competitive and always wanted to play with friends. But when Skyrim came out, and I saw my cousin playing, it introduced me to a whole new world of single-player games that I didn’t know existed. Skyrim changed how I viewed gaming, and it sent me down a rabbit hole of trying all the major single-player games I had missed growing up.

Eventually, I would jump on all the major releases, and titles like The Witcher 3 quickly became my favorite of all time. These games made me want to pursue games as a career, and looking back, I can say Skyrim sent me on this adventure. To this day, I believe it has one of the best open worlds ever made, and it captured the wonder that makes some single-player games even better than a multiplayer experience. I still have my Skyrim cover from the Prima Games strategy guide I would use over the summer. Little did I know it was a hint at where I would end up.

Jackbox Party Packs – Jesse Vitelli, Former Associate Editor

Image of Jackbox Party Pack
Image via Jackbox Games

Y’all thought you could get rid of me that easily?

It might seem silly to put a bunch of party games on a list, but I seriously would not be here in this industry today without them. During the early moments of the pandemic, I found myself in a group chat with other games media folks who came together for a weekly Jackbox night back in 2020. Fast forward today and they are some of many greatest friends, spanning all sorts of different places in this industry. Through everything, they constantly encouraged me, fought for me, and inspired me. I wouldn’t have gotten my job at Prima in the first place if it wasn’t for them. I am here today because we all rallied around a game night to keep us in touch with society when isolation was at its peak.

I don’t work here anymore and haven’t for quite some time, but I don’t think I ever properly thanked that crew or Jackbox for giving me the best parts of a life I didn’t know I wanted. I have grown a lot since then, and plan to continue that growth. While Jackbox might not be a staple in our weekly hangouts anymore, it certainly remains the game that provided me with a place of warmth, comfort, and lifelong friendships I’ll keep with me forever.

Through the deep guttural laughs of Job Job to learning some of my friends can’t freaking draw in Drawful, it forged a sense of place for me when I was searching for it.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf – Meg Bethany Koepp, Managing Editor

Image of Isabelle in Animal Crossing New Leaf
Image via Nintendo

I won’t go into too much detail, but I’ve had a hard life. I had an unstable childhood, was bullied relentlessly until I was 21, and my teenage years were the hardest period I’ve ever lived through. Which means I’ve probably spent at least half of my life playing video games to escape from whatever was going on at any given time. My game of choice when I’m feeling down has always been Animal Crossing, my first of which was the original on the Nintendo GameCube as an eight-year-old escaping feelings of abandonment and loneliness. This carried into my adolescence, where I spent thousands of hours in Wild World, City Folk, and eventually, New Leaf on the Nintendo 3DS.

When Animal Crossing: New Leaf came out in 2013, I was in the darkest place I’d ever been. I had been in and out of the hospital and felt like I had nobody but my video game villagers to run to after a hard day of just trying to exist. New Leaf gave me a purpose: there was a brief period where the only reason I’d wake up in the morning was to greet Beau, my favorite deer villager, and to keep plugging away at my town layout. Maybe no one in real life cared, but Beau – and everyone else in my town – was always happy to see me, and for the first time in a very long time, I felt wanted.

My love for Animal Crossing has remained with me throughout my twenties, with Animal Crossing: New Horizons replacing New Leaf as my therapy game to jump into when I need a break from reality. My life is nothing like it was when I was growing up; I am married and live in an entirely different country with my husband and two dogs, I have a job that I love in an industry I’m incredibly passionate about, and I don’t wake up in the morning wishing that I didn’t anymore – I’m happy. But I often think back to New Leaf fondly and just how much it guided me through the darkness when it felt like I had nothing else. I genuinely do not know if I’d be here today without it.

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Meg Bethany Koepp
Meg was Managing Editor at Prima Games until April 2024.