When I was 11 or 12 years old, we didn’t own an Xbox, or any gaming console for that matter. I had a few age-appropriate games on our PC, however my mom was generally opposed to video games and video game “culture”. “Why would kids waste their time on that silliness?” she would ask. Followed by my cries of “It’s fun and Kaylie has one!!!” Mom was having none of the Kaylie retort and the silliness stayed at bay. When I was twelve, on a morning in October, she was gone. It took me two years to look up the meaning of “aneurysm”. I can hardly remember what I was like in those interceding years. I know I made my father’s life a living hell. I hated everyone; my dad, myself, my mom, teachers, friends, God, the checkout woman at Target. At Christmas, when I was thirteen, my dad bought me an Xbox. This was still about a year before the 360, but the original was fresh and amazing to an angry girl who had never had her own system.
With the console, she arrived. The girl I couldn’t be angry at because I wanted to be her more than almost anything else: Zoe Payne. My dad knew my growing love for snowboarding, and he correctly assumed that SSX3 would be a good distraction during the months after Winter had gone. Zoe was independent, cool, pretty, a rebel, and a great snowboarder who became better and better the more I played. When Zoe won gold, she confidently shook her head and smiled, as if the result was never in question. When that little jerk Mac, exclamation mark glowing upon his dwarflike head, tried to push her down she deftly sped away; sometimes a quick nudge of LT/RT would produce a shove of her own, sending the little punk spinning off the snow. Zoe was never afraid of the boys and she could beat every one of them. It’s not Zoe on the cover of SSX3, a fairly simple but fun snowboarding game that was probably just a side project for some EA Sports genius. But for me, she was and still is the only choice when playing.
It’s far too dramatic to say that Zoe saved me, but she did help me. She distracted me, letting me lose myself in someone other that me where there was too much pain and hurt. I pay tribute to her today here with my profile picture. Sometimes a video game is more than just a game.