I Am Alive (Emotionally) Because of the Game Grumps
A tribute to the Game Grumps' fifth anniversary with a personal story or three.
I have been following the Game Grumps since just after their inception back in the day. My sister came up to me one day and was like, and this is not a direct quote, "These guys are cool. They're very funny. You should watch them." I did, religiously, every day for the last five years. Well, I tried to at least. Some days were harder than others. We all have times that are trying, that test our will to get up in the morning, and over the past two years, I've had a few.
In Westchester, and in many other counties around the country, heroin is an epidemic that is consuming our communities. In Westchester, from my own personal experience, it is very easy to come by within the county and even easier to find if you go outside of it into the boroughs of Manhattan. The authorities, whether they're in politics or the police forces, have tried their best to stem the tide of heroin entering our communities but with the advent of newer forms of communication and the ease of nearly everyone of age having a vehicle, this has proven harder than hoped.
I grew up with a friend who I had known since we were both younger than seven. He grew up down the street from me so we used to hang out, since he was also friends with my sister, at each of our houses playing Mario Kart or Super Smash Brothers or Conker's Bad Fur Day. Whatever we were playing we were happy, because we had each other. We fell out of touch when I graduated middle school, mostly because I was never someone who would party and he definitely was in our secondary level education. After college though, when I was looking for local friends to reconnect with, he was there with open arms. We traversed around White Plains and played Battlefield 4 at his apartment until the sun came up, had a coffee, ate some diner breakfast, and kept going. I loved him like a brother, and I hope he knew that.
My friend died of a heroin overdose on Thursday, January 15, 2015.
I had another friend, who I had made through another friend. She was amazing. Lively, strikingly funny, optimistic despite certain situations in her life, and someone I could depend upon to be there whenever I needed her. We were as thick as thieves, bonded through mutual love and hate for so many things. I literally spent every day at her house for about three years hanging out with her, driving in the car to go places, just genuinely being friends. Our friends would tell us that eventually, we would get over our near familial bond and, inevitably, have a wonderful wedding where there were kegs and electronic dance music DJs. She was my rock and I hope I was at least a pebble in her eyes.
My friend died of a heroin overdose on March 19, 2016.
I have bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed in 2011 after a particularly major manic episode. I have had three other episodes since then, thankfully all of which where I never hurt myself or anyone else. I have spent time in four hospitals receiving inpatient treatment. Mental illness has been one of the hardest trials in my life to deal with. It's always there, and it always has to be managed. Thankfully when I take my medication it is indeed managed but like a looming storm cloud, having an umbrella only keeps you from getting wet. There is still a thunderstorm and that can be a very scary proposition to deal with.
Now you're probably wondering why all the gloom in a story about the Game Grumps. Well, during their Windwaker playthrough, Daniel Avidan takes an episode to speak publicly about his past troubles dealing with depression. It has been lauded by the fan community by many as the moment that Danny officially solidified his rightful place as taking over for Jon 'Jontron' Jafari. It really touched me, particularly because depression, and mental illness in general, is something that people don't really talk about in the media. Albeit Danny was talking to the Game Grumps fandom and not on CNN, but it took a lot of courage to try and lend a voice to an issue that a lot of people in his audience had or are going through.
That's fitting because when I got out of the hospitals, or when my friends died, the Game Grumps show was something I could count on. Something I could anticipate seeing when I got up in the morning. Something I knew was there every day that I could enjoy. Something that would make me happy, make me smile, when so much in my life was making me feel like curling up under my covers again and not appreciating every single breath I could be taking that day moving through the world. They gave me hope that even though I was in the worst situations of my life that there was still something to laugh at, to take happiness in. I reveled in the fifteen minutes I could watch the Game Grumps every day after what I had been through because I could just have fun.
Yes, they are a YouTube let's play channel, but to so many people they are so much more.
That was why I was so happy to finally meet them. In 2016 they held a show at Levity Live in Nyack, New York. I was going with one of my fraternity brothers and we had a table right at the front of the stage. I was so excited. Sadly, though, as anyone who has taken the Tappan Zee Bridge at any time of the day besides 11 AM–2 PM knows, I was late because of traffic. I managed to get there in time for the end of the opening act, and saw the Grumps come out on stage. It was an amazing show and I loved every minute of it.
I got up during the show to ask the people at the front if there was going to be a meet and greet session afterward because I paid for the VIP ticket and I was late crossing the Tappan Zee. The guy said something peculiar to me, which I didn't quite grasp the gravity of, "I'll go ask Vernon to see what we can do. What table are you at?" Now I just took that to mean that he would ask Vernon Shaw, the producer of Game Grumps, to see if there would be such a meet and greet after the show.
Boy, was I in for a surprise.
At the end of the show, when the Grumps had bowed but everyone was still in their seats, Vernon came up on stage and whispered in Arin's ear. My heart started pounding. Arin Hanson, a man I had enjoyed the short animations on Newgrounds of in High School, said something like "Hey! Someone has something to say and we missed them earlier!" My eyes widened. My breath became short. Arin and Danny came off the stage and walked up to me. They asked me my name, Danny told me I was a tall mother f--- (I'm 6'5", 250 lbs), told the audience I had missed the meet and greet, and asked me if there was anything I wanted to say.
I don't think Arin knew what he was getting himself into when he put the microphone up to my face, but I talked for about two minutes about everything I have written above. That my friends died. That I have my mental health issues. That they were one of the only things that got me through those dark times. I wrapped it up by saying that everyone there loved them so much and that we were all here because of that love.
I meant it. The Game Grumps saved my mental life.
I took a blurry picture with Arin and they went on their way.
And the fans, they were so nice. So many people came up to me afterward expressing so much love and support it was amazing. I cannot thank them enough for that.
That day changed my life forever in being comfortable about talking about my friends' death. For the longest time, I had been keeping it bottled inside, only telling those who I was truly the closest with about my struggle. That wasn't the first time they did that. A year earlier I had met Danny at Magfest 2016. I watched him perform in front of a crowd of 3000+ in the performance area with Ninja Sex Party, his band, and Tupperware Remix Party, a different band they collaborate with. It was an amazing show and I waited for him with several dozens of others. Danny has promised while on stage at the end of the performance a chance for all the fans to meet him in the hallway. I waited my turn and got to talk to him. The pain of losing my first friend was still ripe in my heart, so when I got a chance to talk to him, I told him in front of the crowd how much he meant to me. I was going to walk away but he grabbed me and someone took a picture with me and him that I still cherish to this day. It was the beginning of what would become a long healing process for me, to begin talking about my emotions of losing my friend, and I have Danny (and later Arin) to thank for that.
So five years later and the Game Grumps are bigger than ever. They're selling out performance halls all across the country. They're bringing in bigger and bigger guests to the show. They're making amazing music. They're putting out a game soon. They just remodeled their studios and office. They have a legion of adoring fans. Coming from someone who got so much out of the work they're put in, they deserve everything they're getting and so much more. Happy fifth anniversary, Game Grumps. You're an amazing group of people.