"I don't believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers. It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage. Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition people have to work at."
— Maya Angelou
I would not be the person I am today were it not for my older brother, Troy. In many respects, as a personal role model, he served as a blueprint for how I wanted to behave and approach making important decisions. Were it not for him, I doubt I would have the same interests, treat others with the level of kindness and respect I do now, or be able to cope with stressful situations and relationships. Whether he knows it or not, Troy was crucial to my development and eventual happiness as an adult. I'm sure many siblings can likely make the same claims, as this kind of emulation is hardly uncommon in most families, but I doubt many of them would have experienced the same relationship as ours.
Troy is almost twelve years older than I am. When I was in my formative years as a Power Rangers-obsessed, attention deficit six year old, he was graduating high school and going after a Bachelor's degree. Troy had major life goals where I had daily to-dos, he was giving and mature while I claimed other people's things by writing on them in crayon, his friends had refined tastes and mine ate paste while teachers had their backs turned. I idolized my big bro as a child, but a full generation between us created more than a handful of differences. The gap was so huge that I vividly remember my parents questioning aloud how close the two of us would be as adults. We were always brothers, but we really didn't become friends until the day he asked me to play Secret of Mana with him.
For the uninitiated, Secret of Mana was one of those rare 16-bit RPGs that allowed cooperative play. While the AI of your in-game allies was capable, providing you knew a competent gamer and had a second controller (or third controller with a Super Multitap), you could be better served to put your fate into the hands of another. That said, a bad partner in any facet of life can be a frustrating experience and family in particular can be great aggravator under pressure. In spite of my inexperience at the time with both video games and the enigma that was my older brother, something exciting happened as we played together for the first time: the two of us gelled. What had started as a lazy Sunday gaming session had quickly become a series of brotherly playthroughs dedicated to cooperative play, getting to know each other better, and making light-hearted cracks at our sister Shannon for being such a girly girl.
When we finished saving Mana's world of Rabites and Cannon Travel Agencies, the two of us moved on to less cooperative fair like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI. While my role in these games was usually sequestered to that of a backseat driver, Troy always made a point of calling me his "co-pilot" and looping me in wherever he could. In Chrono Trigger, to make sure I was actually paying attention to the narrative, he would ask me where in time we should be headed whenever something was about to go down. In Final Fantasy VI, he went so far as to name a character after me, the feral Veldt wildchild Gau, so I could still be counted on as a member of his party in spirit at least. I may not have been playing, but the experience was no less engaging. Not only was I getting a first-rate education on the crème de la crème of the 16-bit RPGs, but I also had the opportunity to spend more time with my brother than I'd previously thought possible. Those are the years of my life that I cherish most.
Of course, nothing lasts forever. Troy now has a family of his own in a different part of Canada and I'm lucky if I get to see him once or twice a year. Our relationship hasn't changed though. He's still my go-to guy whenever I have lady trouble, if I need someone to bounce story ideas off of or if there's a new game coming out that I'm hot in the pants over. Regardless of how much time may pass, our conversations feel comfortable and he's always incredibly supportive of everything I attempt. What was the most unlikely friendship of my life turned out to be one of the most important to me. Interestingly enough, I owe that friendship to 16-bit RPGs.