By Mario Brito Collado
My name is Mario, and I was born in a small city in the Dominican Republic called Bonao, a city that is best known as “Villa de las Hortensias.” The hortensia is the local flower of the city and can only grow in this part of the country. The memories that stand out the most are from when I was ten years old. My neighborhood was quiet with mostly elderly neighbors, but they had children who were my friends. They were all very helpful and humble. My childhood was different from my friends’ because my parents always emphasized finding a balance between indoor and outdoor activities. In other words, I spent a lot of time playing video games at home, but I also went outside to play baseball with my friends in the backyard or on the street.
This balance allowed me to experience incredible freedom as a child. I could spend weekends playing video games at home or visit my neighbors’ houses. It was during this time that I discovered my passion for games. My first console was a Nintendo 64, where I played Mario Party 3, one of the most iconic video games for the console. This Nintendo 64 game amazed me with its variety: I was able to play many types of minigames with my three brothers at the same time.
As a teenager, I always knew I wanted to pursue a career in Digital Media. Following my dreams, I started my first YouTube channel at fourteen years old. I recorded gameplay videos where I shared secrets and details of my favorites with my subscribers. Unfortunately, I lost my account many years ago. But this actually helped me gain experience in many apps and programs that would be essential for my future college major. So I had to leave the channel behind due to lack of time because of school. But I never forgot the skills I acquired.
As the years went by, I was nearing the end of high school when my mom came into my bedroom with news that we were moving to the United States in a few months. She explained that the reason why we were leaving was for our future. I knew that the main reason was just for us, for giving her children a better life. At that time, I was eighteen years old, and this news completely changed my perspective. I had always imagined my future in my home country, and now I had would move to a country where I would have more opportunities to pursue my dream. Initially, it was exciting. But as the departure date approached, I realized that the reality was scarier than I had anticipated. I was not just moving to another country; I was moving to a country I had never been to before – where people spoke a language I had never spoken or written.
Additionally, I would have to leave everything behind, including my family, friends, and girlfriend. With my girlfriend, I was able to share many types of experiences, because she liked video games as well. But they weren’t the same types as the ones that I used to play. As a result, I discovered new games that I did not know that I would enjoy playing, such as Roblox and The Walking Dead from Telltale. This made my relationship with her even stronger and closer. But it made my last day in the Dominican Republic one of the most painful days in my life, because I did not know when I would be back to see her. But at least we enjoyed every single day that I was there.
Trying a new experience in a big, new city is always challenging, but the problem is that not everyone can overcome the anxiety that accompanies such experiences. As a result, many people instantly reject the idea of moving elsewhere, especially if the native language is completely different from the language spoken in the destination country. This was the situation for many of my friends who had the opportunity to move to the United States. However, in my case, there was determination to do everything on my own to achieve my dream of becoming a professional Graphic Designer.
The first days of school in the United States arrived. As the months passed, despite never having studied English before, I did my best on the exams to achieve good results. Hopefully, studying hard would make my journey through school easier. Luckily, my experience with video games helped me understand the basics of the language. I was surprised because, without realizing it, I had taught myself English through games and had at least a starting point for learning the language and speaking it more fluently. I never expected that I would be able to pave my own path and successfully complete high school in this new country with a language I had never spoken before – much of it due to gameplay which I had enjoyed with my brothers of my girlfriend.
In my short time in high school, I was able to accomplish many dreams. One of the most important ones was when my History Class teacher, Zachary Hartzman, took some students from my class to Comic-Con, and we were able to support him in a panel about including video games in education. This was a dream come true because I never thought that I would be able to attend an event like this, where I could share my love for video games with more people.
A couple of months later, Mr. Zachary decided to invite Harold Goldberg to my school. We heard he is an important video game critic and the founder of New York Video Games Critic Circle. We were told he would share his experiences in the video game industry with us. The way that Mr. Goldberg talked about some reviews that he did of legendary video games really impressed me. I saw that he really enjoyed his job, which made me ask him many questions to allay my doubts of perhaps joining the industry. Thanks to the talk that he had with us, I learned even more about this amazing world. This made me realize that I would really like to do something related to my hobby. Maybe I could someday do graphic design for a video game company.
As a result of all those experiences, I am now twenty years old, currently attending a summer program at Manhattan College to prepare myself for the reality that college holds for me. Thanks to my high school achievements, I have the opportunity to study and pursue the major I desire, Digital Art Media, without having to spend too much money, thanks to scholarships. Thanks to all the sacrifices I have made, I am now excited to see what the future holds for me because I know that my journey has only just begun. I hope to continue enjoying not just playing video games. But I also want to write about them via the Critics Circle website. I want to encourage others to join this community that grows bigger every year. I believe there is a game for everyone – and I hope there is a games job for everyone who works hard, too.
A recent graduate of the Bronx’s Ellis Prep high school, Mario Brito is one of NYVGCC’s newest writing interns. He will be attending Manhattan College full time.