One Saturday morning, my sister Karen had the strangest request.
“Can you teach me how to play video games?” She asked with a sweet smile.
I stared at her. It took a while for me to understand what she was saying.
“What?” I was dumbfounded.
“Teach me video games!” Karen gestured towards her iPad.
I still didn’t understand.
Play video games?
That just didn’t make sense! It’s like a ballerina wanting to learn how to be a boxer! Karen was always the best in her class. She was an honor student and the recipient of multiple academic awards. Karen never wasted her time playing video games, and instead using all her free time to read or do productive activities.
She knew almost everything! Well, that is, except for video games.
“Why do you want to learn how to play video games?” I asked.
“Because of Tommy.” She started to explain, ”He is a boy in our class. He’s very sick and is in the hospital right now. The teacher says he has leukemia.”
“He’s going through chemotherapy, and he is having a tough time due to the side effects.” Karen continued, ”He can’t do anything. He is losing hair, losing weight, feeling weak, and is constantly nauseated. On top of the misery, he is very bored since he can’t interact with anybody due to the no guest policy.”
“Oh, that sucks.”
I couldn’t imagine what it must’ve been like for Tommy.
“Our class wants to cheer him up, and we came up with a brilliant plan.” Karen giggled as if she was about to unveil a mastermind plan.
“Oh, I see,” I nodded, finally catching on, “You guys are going to play online games with him right?”
“Yes.” She nodded her head, “Since we are not allowed to visit him in the hospital, we’ve decided to take turns playing with Tommy every day from home. My friends and I signed up to play with him this Saturday.”
“Whoa, that’s really cool! What a wonderful idea!”.
Karen’s smile broadened, obviously proud of her class.
“Which game are you going to play?” I asked.
“His favorite game is called…Fun Kights? Wait, no...Fun...Oh, Forkmice!” Karen immediately winced at the name, “No no no. That is NOT it. Fox night?” She looked up at me with a hopeful expression.
I blinked, completely lost for a second. But then I realized, “You mean Fortnite?”
“Yes! Fortnite! How did you know?”
“Um...It’s only the most popular game in the world!” I exclaimed, “Everyone knows it.”
“Awesome! I take it you know how to play?”
“Know how to play?! Does a fish know how to swim? With master skills!” I said, giving her a thumbs up.
“Great!” Karen picked up her phone, “I’m going to call my friends over so you can teach us how to play!”
The next day, Karen came back to the living room all prepared. She brought her iPad, laptop, and borrowed my Xbox 360. She also came with a tall but quiet Hispanic girl named Isabel and a physically small paired with the most dominant attitude Korean, named Olivia.
“Girls!” Olivia corrected.
“Okay girls, so I heard you people are playing Fortnite with Tommy next Saturday right?”
The girls nodded.
“Let me tell you a little bit about Fortnite.” I began with the basics.
Fortnite’s the hottest game around and getting hotter.
It’s a battle royale game genre, kind of like the Hunger Games. Your goal would be to be the last person standing on the Fortnite map out of 100 players. You land somewhere on the Fortnite map, then pick up items in houses, barns, towers, or any building. These items include different types of guns to assist you in defeating someone, bandages and potions to heal and protect you, and gadgets for quick and easy transportation. But the most interesting part of the game is building structures. By hacking down trees and basically anything on the map, your character will accumulate materials for building walls, ramps, and others to help defend yourself or to get you somewhere.
There were different modes in Fortnite too. One can choose to go solo where everyone's for themselves and there is only one winner. Another mode was duos where teams of twos would go out and fight and the last pair standing wins. The mode that the girls would play was Squad, where 25 teams of fours are sent out to fight. The team of four would be Karen, Isabel, Olivia, and Tommy.
“Now let’s get you girls set up.” I helped them set up Fortnite on their devices and made it so that they joined each other’s parties. Then, I went and started explaining the overview of the game and the different types of items.
Soon after we started playing, Isabel screamed.
“Oh my gosh! Ah! Jacob, Jacob! Over here! There’s someone here! AHHH!” Isabel jumped up and down with her iPad in her hand.
I ran towards her and yelled, “Shoot him! Shoot him! Remember, aim for the head!”
To my left, Karen started screaming too, “Ahh! No! Over here! Jacob! Someone’s shooting at me! I’m getting hit! No!”
I looked closely at both of their devices and groaned, “You’re both shooting at each other.”
Throughout the whole game, there were many funny incidents like these. The three girls made the most impossible mistakes ever. I knew it was going to be a long afternoon when Karen accidentally jumped off a cliff and died.
Frankly, I was not a good student.
The only thing I excelled at was video games.
But as a high schooler, this talent isn’t exactly useful. All my friends and classmates were much more successful than me. Some were math geniuses, some became piano experts, while others were accomplished athletes. That’s also why I still haven’t found a community service job for my volunteer hours while everyone else did. I know I’m a little lazy when trying to find a volunteer job, but there just wasn’t anything I was passionate about.
The only thing I’m passionate about is video games.
But what good does video games do in life?
Every day the girls came over and learned the arts of video games. It was ironic because this would’ve sounded like a playdate to anyone normal, but it wasn’t to everyone here. The girls thought it was painful and confusing while I thought it was frustrating.
But watching them, I was in awe of how determined the girls were. They were willing to learn something they sucked at, going through hours of hardcore video game training, just so that they could entertain and support their classmate.
Soon, the day came. It was Saturday, and the girls were getting ready to play with Tommy.
I held the iPad in which the girls were FaceTime-ing Tommy. We sat in a circle, waiting for Tommy to reply to our call. Soon, a face popped up on the iPad.
“Hello!” Tommy’s face appeared.
I’ll admit, I stared at him a little at first. His appearance was a little shocking. Karen had shown me a picture of how he looked like in the yearbook, but the person looking at me right then and there was nothing like the picture. I wondered if I would’ve recognized Tommy if I hadn’t known it was him. The most obvious difference was the lack of hair; where there should’ve been eyebrows was a faint line barely visible and in place of the curly and fashionable brown hair was just bare skin.
Compared to the picture, he looked a lot skinnier and definitely paler. The cheeks seemed to be carved off as it hollows inward and the lines around his eyes seemed to deepen, as if he had barely any energy left. Tommy sat on the white bed with his legs crossed, wearing a saggy, oversized, and light blue gown. Around him were some medical equipment and a small couch under the window.
The girls broke into a big smile when they saw Tommy.
“Hey there Tommy!” Karen said, “How are you doing?”
“I’m still alive.” Tommy smiled, “How are you guys?”
“Girls!” Olivia said.
The girls chatted with him for a while, catching him up on what’s going on at school.
“Enough with the chit chat.” Karen said after a while, “ready to play some Fortnite?”
Tommy raised his eyebrows, “you girls know how to play Fortnite?”
“Oh, we’ve been practicing all week,” Isabel replied.
Karen added, “Stay behind us, we’ll protect you.”
I watched as the game unfolded.
Tommy was pretty good, but I was surprised at how good the girls were too. My body surged with pride as they moved throughout the game confidently.
Finally, they got ambushed at one point.
“Over there! Your left!” Isabel exclaimed.
I watched as Karen tried to get a good shot while Tommy protected Isabel. The other girl, Olivia, spun around, but it was too late.
“Aww,” Isabel said as they all died. They were 5th place.
“It was actually fun though!” Olivia said.
“Again again!” my sister demanded, “I need my revenge!”
Tommy stared at us with disbelief, then said, “I can’t believe how good you girls are! You are even better than some of the boys in our class!”
The girls giggled and high fived each other.
I spectated as they played a few more rounds of Fortnite. The afternoon sun poured its colors of yellow and orange through the window of our living room, and shades of pink returned to Tommy’s face as they all screamed and laughed away.
Soon, the doctor came in and told Tommy time was up.
“That was so much fun,” Tommy’s eyes glowed as he waved goodbye, “Thanks a lot for playing with me, guys.”
“Girls,” Olivia corrected him.
“Thanks so much, girls. This really means a lot to me. I can tell you devoted a lot of time and effort to come and entertain me, and I really appreciate it.”
“You’re welcome,” Olivia replied.
“I hope you get better Tommy!” Karen said.
“Let’s play again next week!” Isabel chimed in.
Tommy nodded, then hastily turned away from us blinking rapidly. He turned back trying to pull off a smile, but his eyes were red.
“Thanks again. You reminded me that I am not alone in this world.”
Tommy looked at us and promised.
”I will be back to school soon.”
I couldn’t stop thinking about that afternoon.
Tommy’s laughter, Karen’s giggles, Olivia’s screaming, and Isabel’s funny mistakes.
For the first time in a long time, I felt useful. Along with my sister and her friends, I had impacted Tommy’s life in a very small way, helping him forget his troubles in a beautiful afternoon.
I felt joy and realized that it was from helping Tommy. Before, I always thought I couldn’t help others due to my lack of talents. But this afternoon helped me finally understand that it is never impossible to help someone.
One doesn’t need any special skills when giving a helping hand, just a willing heart.
All at once, something clicked. I felt if someone had just turned on the light that I never knew existed.
Smiling, I stared at the ceiling of my room.
I knew what my volunteer job would be.
“He’s in here.” A nurse opened the door and waved me in.
I smiled at the nurse, then turned my attention on the patient. The boy sat on his bed with a saggy gown over him. He wore a nervous expression as his shaved head shined.
“Hi! My name’s Jacob. What’s yours?”
Michael was a six-year-old boy.
He was diagnosed with a type of brain tumor, called neuroblastoma, and was currently undergoing chemotherapy and radiation.
I had chosen a volunteer program at a pediatric hospital that was in search of volunteers who are willing to entertain chemo patients. Some pediatric hospitals have these kinds of volunteer programs in order to help further improve the patients fine motor skills, to lessen the hours of separation with humans, and to simply entertain them.
I couldn’t think of a better place to make myself useful.
Michael stared at me, his face was frail yet his eyes sparkled.
“Ok Michael, ready to play some games?”
Michael tilts his head, “What are we going to play?”
“Any game you like.”
“Any game I like?” Michael’s eyes lit up, “are you good at Mario Kart?”
I gave Michael a thumbs up and smiled.
“With master skills!”