The Xbox controller sits comfortably in my hands. I am snuggled into the corner of the couch where the armrest meets the backrest of our new-pre-owned couch, blue with small white dots that doesn’t smell like us quite yet, legs mostly tucked under me. I’ve got my glass of ice water and my girlfriend has brought home some Gobstopper candies in a bag on the coffee table.
The lights are on. It’s late at night.
I am a little purple dragon, and my fire breath has just bested Gnasty Gnorc. The anticipated battle is over quickly. I am proud. Overall, 89% of the game is complete. There are challenge levels I could return to for more treasure, but there’s something else I want to do.
“This one’s my favorite,” I say to my girlfriend, beside me on the couch in her colorful elephant patterned pajamas. My feet stick out from how I’m sitting, pressed against her hip.
“We never had this one,” she replies. She hugs her knees to her chest. “I’ve never even played the original version.”
“I’m going to 100% this one,” I tell her. I’m confident. I’m excited. I want to experience every bit of this game, again.
With a magical sound, bwing, the game opens.
THE ADVENTURE BEGINS…
proclaims the television screen. The letters sway and sparkle.
I’m the purple dragon again, sucked into adventure with fairies and fauns and green orbs that have stuck through my memory for a decade. And now they are beautiful.
The grass moves under and around me, the gems sparkle like new, and the sky is detailed with stars and streaks of color that could have never been there before. The characters have polished faces instead of exaggerated, caricature gestures with their block bodies.
I’m not a purple dragon. I’m a little girl who wears a cotton nightgown with lace around the hem and beaded socks on my feet. I have my favorite plush toys with me, I’m wrapped in blankets. Daylight filters through slatted blinds.
I’m smiling. My dad is with me, showing me how to use a Playstation controller and what will happen when I load a game. These are my favorite characters, I dream about playing with them in person. The music, lively with a bouncy beat, fills my blood. I hand my dad the controller during the hard parts.
I’m tearful. My girlfriend strokes my hair and coos over me. The colorful world swallows me within a few steps, envelopes me in the dialogue I didn’t know I still had memorized. It welcomes me back to a place so similar, wearing a new coat of paint.
I see myself then, and I see myself now. I’m different. I’m the same. There is a piece of my past that I hadn’t expected to find, here. I started out secure. I put down the game, outgrew it, and time made me insecure. Vulnerable. Broken. Healing. I pick up the game, and I see a full circle. I come back secure.
The outsides changed: my controller, my company, the graphics. It took time to grow. The insides are still the same: I am.