Video games have the amazing ability to transform yourself into anyone you want to become. Upon pressing Play, you instantly become a virtual avatar, capable of heroic powers, notable feats, and stoic dispositions.
But can a fantasized avatar embed the player with its fantastic persona—one that carries over into the real world?
Yes it can. And it has.
My real name is Lauren Blanset, but to the 190 million registered users of Artix Entertainment games, I am hailed as “Beleen.” Beleen is a perky, positive, and pink-loving NPC in Artix’s flagship MMO AdventureQuest Worlds, always depicted with a beaming smile and kind-hearted demeanor.
As Senior Writer and Community Manager (who is also nominated in the Dragon Slayer Awards—hooray for shameless self promotion!), Beleen is the liaison between gamers and game developers, in addition to inspiring players with encouraging words and motivational speeches. The world (wide web) needs more positive role models, and I am honored to be one of them—as my adoring fan base would attest. @BeleenAE Hiya Twitterers! *waves* I’m on Game Skinny! =D
So it’s hard to fathom that a glowing gamer girl is the end result of a dismal tragedy.
(It’s about to get serious, folks.)
Seven years ago, my father was murdered. I gripped my dad’s hand as he tried to hang on to life, and as I uttered my final “I love you Daddy” cry, he managed to squeeze my hand back just before passing away.
Not only was my dad my best friend, but he was also the glue that held my family together. Following his death, my mother and sisters were torn apart by anger, depression, and grief—all of which incessantly resurfaced with the 6 year stint of court arraignments, hearings, trials, and civil suits.
And just when my family thought we could finally put this horrid thing behind us… it reared its ugly head again. Last week, my father’s killer reappeared in court, asking the judge to expunge his criminal record of all charges and required restitution. Of course, no one in their right mind would ever excuse such horrific acts, and as such, the court denied the assailant’s every motion.
So how does a girl stay happy and positive when she watches her father die, witnesses her whole family fall apart, and carries the continuous grief of never sharing another moment with her best friend again?
My solution: start life anew as a video game character.
I began my adventures at Artix Entertainment in 2009, and just like every MMO game out there, I needed to create an avatar. Because my father’s death 2 years prior was still crippling my life, I snatched the opportunity to create someone who I desperately wanted—and needed—to become.
First, I needed a name. And not just any name—THE name that millions of gamers would identify with. The name “Beleen” is derived of Middle English and Urban Dictionary origins; the verb “be” as “to be, become,” and the noun “leen” as “a fabulous, unique girl whose personality is one of a kind and represents beauty in all aspects.”
Now that I had a great (user)name to uphold, I had no choice but to create an equally great character: the ideal me. Everything that I detested about my situation, my life, and myself was flipped 180 degrees: my real life misery was converted into Beleen’s positivity; my forlorn face now illuminated Beleen’s contagious smile; and the gloom which shrouded the real me became the shining beacon of hope that Beleen instilled upon the players.
Because I applied the Beleen façade daily, it actually started to change my real life existence. I became a happier person because Beleen was always happy. The Beleen NPC was beautiful and had a great body, so I began exercising daily and significantly changed my eating habits. I used Beleen’s teachings and happiness to enhance my own personal endeavors, and because of that, I literally transformed my mental attitude and physical appearance.
Beleen started as a dream and became my reality. She gave me the 1-UP I needed to continue this game of life.
Even though I have become Beleen, the pain of losing my dad will never go away. No one can walk me down the aisle on my most magical day. My children will never know their grandfather. And I’ll never enjoy that Saturday morning fried-egg feast that only a father knows how to cook up.
Life is full of ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies. But it’s never a game over—because there’s always an option to hit Restart. You just have to find that button and have the courage to press Play again.