Gaming: A Journey of Self-Discovery, Healing, and ResiliencePosted: 24 Jun 2023
Life has a funny way of throwing unexpected challenges our way, shaping our paths in ways we never could have anticipated. Growing up in a Christian context in Lebanon, where being gay was frowned upon, I found myself navigating a world that rejected my true identity.
From a young age, I believed the lie that my sexuality was a sickness. It was a heavy burden to carry, and the weight of it only intensified as time went on.
When I was eight years old, my parents noticed that I was different. In an attempt to “fix” me, they enrolled me in sports teams. Little did they know that their well-intentioned plan would expose me to years of daily bullying. School was no better, as I was bullied there as well. The people I hoped would become friends became relentless tormentors. I felt like a complete outcast, and I thought that this was normal, that this was my place in the world. The isolation I felt from my family only deepened my despair, as I feared that revealing my true self would lead to their rejection. At that time, I had no idea that there were others like me. I believed that I was alone in my sexuality and my struggles. Amidst this sea of confusion, one thing brought me solace—video games. The Sims 3 and Minecraft became my virtual sanctuaries, where I could escape the harsh realities of my daily life. In Minecraft, I found a sense of connection and acceptance on multiplayer servers that eluded me in the real world. In The Sims, I created an alternate version of myself, conforming to the norms imposed upon me, if only to experience fleeting moments of acceptance. I can see today that escaping might not have been the most ideal coping mechanism, but it was the only one that presented itself to me, and I wouldn’t be here writing this story today if it wasn’t for it.
As I grew older, I managed to overcome the bullying and accept my true self. I became very active in the queer liberation movement in Beirut, and I made new friends that became my chosen family and my support group. However, the weight of societal expectations coupled with the turmoil of events like the Lebanese revolution and the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to drown me in despair. And then came the Beirut Explosion, a cataclysmic event that shattered the city I called home and ravaged the safe havens of the queer community that had provided me solace in my teenage years. It was the tipping point, plunging me into an emotional shutdown. But, once again, gaming came to my rescue. In the depths of my grief, I discovered a game called Gris—a poignant tale of a woman’s journey through grief and resilience.
Playing through Gris became an intimate audiovisual experience, allowing me to channel my own emotions into a tangible form. The game guided me through a spectrum of feelings, providing a space where I could confront my pain and find catharsis in the process. Unlike before, gaming was no longer about escapism. It became a tool for introspection, taking me on an emotional rollercoaster that mirrored my own journey of healing and self-discovery. Gris made me feel understood, serving as a powerful reminder that I was not alone in my grief. It helped me find the strength to face my pain head-on and emerge with renewed resilience with which I was able to continue my studies in France, where I feel liberated, but isolated in the uniqueness of my experience relative to others.
These experiences shaped my unwavering passion for gaming. Video games hold the power to transform lives, to provide solace, and to foster understanding and acceptance. They have saved my life, and I want to pay that forward. Today, by setting foot in the video games industry as an intern at Ubisoft, I stand on the threshold of a new chapter in my life—a chapter where I strive to create games that empower, enlighten, and embrace inclusivity. As I embark on this path, I carry with me the lessons learned from my own struggles. I understand the significance of representation and the need for diverse narratives. I am determined to create spaces where individuals can see themselves reflected and celebrated, where their stories can be told and heard. Gaming has the remarkable ability to transcend boundaries and connect people from diverse backgrounds and experiences. It has the power to cultivate empathy, to facilitate healing, and to ignite personal growth. My journey serves as a testament to the profound impact gaming can have on our lives, and I am committed to leveraging this medium to effect positive change.
Written by Peter Razzouk