Thursday, July 1, 2010

How God mode helped me cope with loss.


How Hell soothed my soul.

I was a scrawny eleven year old when the police showed up at my little dusty Macon home to take me, literally kicking and screaming, into foster care.  My mother had been arrested for DUI about a week before and my younger siblings were already in foster care at the time.  I was staying with some friends of my stepfather in the house my mother was renting before she was arrested.  The reason I was not with my stepfather was because he was also on the run from the law.  He “accidentally” burned down his girlfriend’s house while house-sitting for her.  He dropped me off with some friends claiming that it would only be for a day.  After a week passed, his friends ran out of patience and called the department of family and children services (DFCS).  This began a very frightening series of events.

    You see my mother suffered from drug abuse and alcoholism for at least my whole life and I imagine most of hers.  Because of her problems with various substances I was often left in charge and looked after my sister and brother.  Eventually my responsibilities would mushroom to the point that I was basically the adult of the house, taking care of groceries, bills, etc.  In my eleven year old mind I took care of things and most things were generally under my control.  Looking back on it it seems a little sad, but back then I was happy to control everything I could about my life.  I had no say in my mother’s substance abuse issues or taste in men.  So as a defense mechanism, I would control everything else in my life to substitute.  There was no hope to be had from waiting on my parents to fulfill their responsibilities and adults were generally not to be trusted.  If I wanted things to be good for me I had to exercise my will upon it.  You can imagine my terror at the idea of a bunch of adults who I don’t even know taking the reigns of my life away from me.

    It was my greatest fear, manifest.  So when the police showed up to take me to DFCS, I did what any young child does when confronted with their greatest fear, I ran.  I can still remember running through those woods uncaring of any personal harm the surrounding tree limbs and sticker bushes were inflicting on me.  They could offer me no greater pain than what I was running from.  I could see nothing other than the blur of green and brown as I sprinted through the woods with my eyes full of tears.  My hearing was gone, replaced with the rhythm of blood rushing through my body as every fiber of my being focused on one thought:  escape.  So I sprinted through the woods blind and deaf.  As quick as my eleven year old self may have been however, the officer was quicker and his long stride eventually overtook my young gait.

    I didn’t understand why  the ground was  falling from below my feet until it was too late.  The officer had just plucked me off the ground leaving me with no job but to cry out and kick until he got me to the squad car, a task I set myself to with all of my preadolescent vigor.  Once at the car though my strength abandoned me.  I was exhausted physically and emotionally.  I felt defeated and simply didn’t care anymore.  My fears were coming home to roost  and there wasn’t anything I could do by definition.  After a quiet ride to the DFCS office I was given to a case worker to be processed.

    Inside the DFCS building was a maze of cubicles.  I had never seen so many cubicles before so they gave the entire floor an alien aura.  We threaded our way through this bizarre beige maze until we finally came to her cubicle.  There we waited while she filled out paperwork.  By this time I was calming down enough to pay attention to what was going on around me, but before I had the chance to really explore things, we had to go to the doctor.

    The doctor had to poke my finger and give me a shot, two dubious propositions from my perspective.  I informed them that no such events would occur with great gusto before eventually being held down for my immunizations.  The offered me a sucker but no amount of candy would soothe the indignities I had suffered that day.  Before the doctor’s appointment I was staring to calm down, but losing control over even my own body was just too much for me to bear.  My last reserves of strength depleted, I returned to the office in tears secure in the knowledge that I would never have control over anything again.

    My caseworker asked if there was anything she could do so I asked her for some time alone.  I sat in her cubicle racking my brain for a way to regain control over some aspect of my life, getting more and more distressed as I failed to come up with a solution.  Eventually every thought circled back to never again having control and never again being happy.  I laid my head down determined to sleep forever.

I’m not sure how long I slept there it may have been a few minutes or a few hours but when I woke there was a man in the cubicle across the way.  When he realized I was awake he offered me a smile and went back to his computer.  Still a little sleepy I walked over to his cubicle.  He asked me how I was feeling and for some reason I told him the truth.  Many people had been asking me this same question throughout the day with little success.  They all got canned ok, and fine responses.  I am still unaware of my reasons for opening up to this person but something about him tugged at my unconscious mind as if to whisper, this is a kindred spirit.  I told him about my home life, about running away from the police, and about my feelings of being out of control of my life.  He listened patiently nodding while I spoke.  Then he abruptly stood up and said with a smile forming at the corner of his mouth, I have a surprise for you, its something I think you’ll like, just wait here a minute.  Then he disappeared around the corner.  He quickly returned and told me to come with him.  (After going over it with my caseworker) I followed him through the byzantine hallways until we reached an unoccupied cubicle.


He asked me if I liked videogames to which I replied I had been playing them since I was five.  His face lit up as his body sprang into action, hunching itself over the keyboard.  After a second or two of typing the monitor changed.  Gone were the boring gray and navy colors of windows and in their place was something that reminded me a lot of the cubicles we had just been walking through.  “It’s called Doom, and you can play it so long as you don’t tell anyone.  We’re not supposed to install things on these computers.” 

 I was immediately transfixed.  Here in the eye of the hurricane that was destroying my life was the granule of control that I had been so desperately searching for. The symbolism seemed to be created to describe my life. The cube shaped hell the was the closest analogy for my feelings about DFCS that I could have ever hoped to come across. The only difference was that in my beige cube shaped hell I had no control, here it was different. How ironic for my comfort to flow from the same portals that brought Hell’s demons.  I took over the controls and began playing the game.

I began by trying to speak with one of the marines in the maze.  He responded by shooting me in the face. “Oh so they aren’t on my side.”I thought, “ That makes sense what adult is ever on my side” Immediately I set about conquering this world where I had control. The maze in a maze.  I had to unlock its secrets.  I had to impose my fiery will upon my digital enemies.  Alas even in the virtual realm I was no match for my enemies. It was so frustrating. After dying a few times, the cubicle gamer told me to wait a sec and quickly typed something into the keyboard.  I watched in wonder as my character’s portrait transformed from a bloody and battered man into a fierce deity with a cocky smirk.  Suddenly, nothing the marines did could hurt me.  I laughed off fireballs from demons as if they were raindrops, and took long baths in acid pools.   Somehow in playing I forgot about the lack of control in my life.   I was no longer a vulnerable scared kid waiting to be sent to live with strangers. I was an invincible bad ass who had control over everything and so much power that it was leaking from my face.  I was no longer concerned that I probably couldn’t trust the people I was being sent to live with. I became enraptured in this square world that so closely mimicked the cubical maze my life had become. With each shot, my strength returned. Each enemy annihilated was one more thing that had gone my way, that I had control over.  I felt renewed by living the life of invincibility, even if it was in hell. Even if I knew it wasn’t real.

I would not return to this day in my memories for many years so It wouldn’t dawn on me until my teenage years how I was able to endure the  hardships of this day or that a random gamer with a forbidden piece of software  was single handedly responsible for saving my entire outlook on life. This realization would later spark a fire in my life driving me to give control to those who have none and invincibility to the most vulnerable of us all.


  1. Thank you for sharing. You brought tears in my eyes. I know how you felt, been through similar situations.
    I hope you are ok now.

  2. I am pleased to report that I turned out fine. I am about two semesters from graduating with a Game and Simulation Programming degree (really just computer science with honors) and I am currently on the Deans list. I have a wonderful wife who loves me (as I love her) and a beautiful boy who's curious about everything. I still shudder to think of how my life may have been different though, had that man chosen to follow his job's computer policies...

  3. Thats amazing. I too plan to go on into game design. You inspired me to work harder towards that goal.

  4. Good story man. Sounds like you're in a great place in life. You should think about trying to find that man someday. Thank him for what he did, even if he didn't know exactly what an impact he was having.

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