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That time Halo saved my life – By Gareth Williams

I didn’t really leave my bedroom that often. I’d been living in a house share, and the people were wonderful, but working for a credit card company was hard. I didn’t agree with trying to sell products to people who couldn’t afford them. But I did, and it weighed heavily on me.

Instead of washing my clothes, I’d just go into town and buy new ones. You could see the floor in places, but those spaces were few and far between. I bought clothes I couldn’t afford, which caused money issues, and ultimately made things worse.

In hindsight, I can see that as a trait now; I buy things when I’m depressed, because I think it’ll make me feel better, even though I know it’ll only be for a short time. I buy things anyway.

One of the things I bought in early 2002 was an original Xbox. I hadn’t planned to buy one, as I’d stopped gaming in the mid-90s.  I’d just walked past the window of Game near the Broadmarsh centre in Nottingham. I saw the logo in the window, and I’d seen a huge silver ‘X’ in one of my Dad’s PC Magazines. I got invited to a lock-in to try a few games and playing Halo Lan multiplayer was an epiphany for me. This was awesome, and I needed it in my life. I couldn’t afford it, but I put down £600 on an Xbox, Halo and Dead or Alive and an extra controller.

Before this, I’d had no dreams of working in the games industry – I didn’t even know the Konami code. I was a noob in the truest sense of the word.

I dived into gaming for the second time in my life and I was hooked. So much so, that I started a website to tell people about what I did on Xbox Live Beta. I told them about being in the top 120 in the world on Moto GP (without glitching). I told them about the friends I’d made whose names weren’t Dave, Sian or Chris, but Crispy Noodles, Mr Herrer and Looney N Darwen.

These people and these experiences were my clubs and pubs. Why go to a pub and spend money I didn’t have on booze when I could take corners at lightning speed or plunge a sword through the heart of an enemy? figuratively, of course. These new worlds were vibrant and made so by the characters and friends that inhabited them. My life had gone from this mundane experience that massively contributed to suffering from depression, to this open doorway into worlds that delighted and astounded me.  And all because I walked past a window and bought something to make myself happy.

In the 17 years since, I’ve worked hard to build a life around games, and I’m very lucky to have done so. There have been hard times along the way, and I’ve bought things to make myself happy, even recently. But I have a wonderfully supportive family around me, I have the gaming community, the industry as a whole, and I count my blessings every day. There are others that haven’t had it as easy as I have or been as lucky as I have; but my belief is that games can be a force for good. I mean, Halo changed my life once, and across the world there’s someone ready to have their lives changed too.

I hope it happens more often than we think.