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“Carlos Nurturing Empowerment Through Fantasy”

I’m Carlos Rodela, a sketch comedian, video producer and one of the co-hosts of the So Videogames Podcast. During my childhood I grew up with a looming divorce and regular intervals of yelling around the apartment. My brother and I often retreated into our bedroom to play games. This escape into another world helped us envision a new place to exist, a new land to explore, and somewhere we could feel empowered.

At that time, me aged 10 and my brother aged 4, couldn’t change the environment, but we could distract ourselves with the fantastical video game worlds we entered through the glowing screen. It sounds like such a simple thing, but spending that time with my younger brother exploring the huge worlds of Zelda or Zork was more than a coping mechanism, it was empowerment.

Not only that we could be the hero, but that we could discover another world full of whimsy and weirdness where the end of the story could be as unexpected as the beginning.

As time passed and we grew older, the games industry grew up too. Video games were now a big business, and the graphics, audio, and scope were as captivating as any blockbuster film. But unlike films, these were places that enabled me to explore them and choose when or if I would see the ending.

Spaces created by games like Ultima, that were full of life, artificial intelligence, and were so grand in scope you never wanted to leave. Worlds created by games like Bonk, that were just as odd and bizarre as they were impressive. Spaces filled with stories about the possibilities of what could be, rather than the humdrum life outside the bedroom.

After leaving home and heading to college I found new games that continued to affect me. Skyrim was special in that it invited me to not only explore its massive open world but to also shape it. This became a theme I would come back to again and again, most recently with Cyberpunk 2077 and Elden Ring - games that let me take hold of power and decide how to wield it.

All those hours spent in far-off imaginary lands, I know it can seem like I’m escaping a difficult reality. The truth is that this was actually my way to cope with and find the courage to return to the world and shape it. When life presented hardships and disempowerment I found the strength to hold on to who I might become in the games I played.

To this day those experiences continue to conjure hope, courage, and optimism that stays with me long after I’ve finished playing the game. In a world where everything can seem predetermined, finding a way out can be everything.
 

Outcome
Empowered to take charge of situations with hope for positive outcomes.


This outcome arises from the following 6 milestones over the span of 37 years, from 10 - 47 years-old:

DetailsPathway Details

Name: Carlos Rodela
Stage of Life: 10 - 47 years-old
Genres: Action, Adventure, Fighting, Narrative, Open World, Role-Play, Shooting and Simulation
Platforms: Nintendo Entertainment System, PC and Super Nintendo Entertainment System
 

 

Bedroom Retreat

Age: 10-years-old / 01/01/1984 / 38 years ago

Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System

Carlos played Zelda with his younger brother and enjoyed encountering the games together. They would play after dinner, retreating into their bedroom filled with video games and toys. "The simple graphics back then were par for the course, and we let our imagination fill in the gaps. The Legend of Zelda felt so open and mysterious. Walls that could be destroyed by bombs to reveal hidden passages. Old men in caves handing out swords. It was a delicious and addictive escape."

Carlos found the benefit of safe spaces for his (and his brother's) disposition.

The Power of the Peculiar

Age: 14-years-old / 01/01/1988 / 34 years ago

Platform: PC

When Carlos was 14 he saved up for The Turbografx-16. Bonk's Adventure was the epitome of whimsy and strangeness. "I also loved the idea of playing as a character who used his head as a weapon and transformed enemies into friends."

Carlos embraced the experience of peculiar and odd games as a way to deepen his experience of escaping to a place with different rules.

Activities: Carlos found that the following related activities worked alongside playing Bonk's Adventure:


Working For Play Funds
CLUBS AND CLASSES

Carlos worked part-time at the grocery store and saved up money to buy his Turbografx-16.

Empowering Worlds

Age: 16-years-old / 01/01/1990 / 32 years ago

Platform: PC

Carlos turned to PC gaming where he fell in love with Ultima VII. It was another step into a real open world. Not only were there day-night cycles, but the characters also follow through their lives in time with the sun. “It made me feel like I was being transported out of my bedroom, and into Britannia. Life could be terrible in the real world, but I could go grab my sword and meet up with my companions and save their world at least.”

Carlos found the flexibility of Ultima VII created space for his imaginative heroic identity to thrive.

The Mirror of Virtual Life

Age: 19-years-old / 01/01/1993 / 29 years ago

Platform: Super Nintendo Entertainment System

Playing Earthbound brought together the idea of escape and the modern day. It mirrored much of his own life. “The character had a mom who would make their favourite meal when they came home to visit, and a dad you’d call on the phone to ask for money.” He embraced this strange amalgam and found comfort in augmenting his everyday existence with the adventure of the game.

The parents in Earthbound and the home set-up led to Carlos reflecting on how he saw his own family relationships.

Anything Is Possible

Age: 37-years-old / 01/01/2011 / 11 years ago

Platform: PC

Skyrim was the perfect empowerment game for Carlos. Playing in first-person and in such a huge world made it feel like anything could happen and it often did. “I was fully in the driver’s seat, and could take charge of the story.”

Carlos found that completing Skyrim in different ways gave him enthusiasm for positive outcomes and the related effort in the real world.

Empowered To Connect

Age: 47-years-old / 01/01/2021 / 23 months ago

Platform: PC

Cyberpunk returned Carlos to that high water mark of Skyrim’s empowerment. But it also did something unexpected: created an unexpectedly deep connection with a virtual character. “The setting was entirely alien, but I shared some moments with a character that stayed with me well after I finished the game..”

Carlos found that the impact of small relational connections in Cyberpunk gave him hope for finding positive outcomes in the real world.

Pathway Outcome

The culmination of the milestones in the pathway lead to Carlos empowered to take charge of situations with hope for positive outcomes. We have described it as a linear journey, but of course, there is always a fair amount of back and forth between the games they played.

Along with the main outcome Carlos also changed in the following ways:

  • Disposition: Carlos found the benefit of safe spaces for his (and his brother's) disposition.
  • Experience: Carlos embraced the experience of peculiar and odd games as a way to deepen his experience of escaping to a place with different rules.
  • Identity: Carlos found the flexibility of Ultima VII created space for his imaginative heroic identity to thrive.
  • Knowledge: The parents in Earthbound and the home set-up led to Carlos reflecting on how he saw his own family relationships.
  • Relationships: Carlos found that the impact of small relational connections in Cyberpunk gave him hope for finding positive outcomes in the real world.
  • Society: Carlos found that completing Skyrim in different ways gave him enthusiasm for positive outcomes and the related effort in the real world.

Taming Gaming Book Written by parents for parents, the database complements the in-depth discussion about video game addiction, violence, spending and online safety in the Taming Gaming book. We are an editorially independent, free resource without adverts that is supported by partnerships.

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