Games

How Borderlands 2 Helped Me Through Tough Times

It has been a week since Borderlands 3 was announced.  Can you believe it?  I can’t believe it’s finally happening.  Watching the reveal trailer I was overjoyed with excitement, but what quickly followed the joy and excitement was an entire wave of different emotions and memories that flooded over me.

Five (almost six) years ago I was diagnosed with testicular cancer.  I was 28.  Nobody wants to find out they have cancer.  I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.  Unfortunately, the doctor invited my wife and kids into the room with me to hear the terrible news.  The positive, inviting sound of her voice made it seem like we were going to like what she had to say.  We didn’t.  My wife and I didn’t take the news well.  Our son and daughter didn’t really know what was going on since they were young at the time (one and four).  I thought that was it.  The beginning of the end.  Game over, man.

You always think something like that could never happen to you, and then life throws you a curve ball.  In the weeks that followed my diagnosis, blood work would be done and various doctors would be visited with my wife and aunt support team by my side to figure out what needed to be done.  The first logical step would be surgery.  They would remove my right testicle (they make an incision in-between your pelvic area and your stomach) and afterwards perform some tests to see if the cancer had spread or if it was gone.  If all was well, there would be no need for chemotherapy, just yearly check-ups.  If it had spread, well we would deal with that if it needed to be dealt with.

After devouring a Double Big-Mac the night before the big day, I tried to sleep but couldn’t.  The next morning the day of the surgery had arrived.  At the hospital, I constantly kept making sure with the nurses that they knew it was my right testicle they were removing.  Even when they were giving me the anesthesia, I made sure with them that it was my right testicle they were removing.  After the surgery, I woke up groggy and disoriented, but not disoriented enough to check underneath the covers.  They had removed the “right” testicle (pun intended).  I just had to be sure.

I was released from the hospital that day and once I was back at home the drugs started to wear off.  I was in a lot of pain and that pain wouldn’t subside for about a week.  The painkillers helped, but any time I had to bend my stomach the pain was excruciating.  Unable to move properly and my mom and wife keeping an eye on the kids and everything else, I figured this was a perfect time as any to lay on the couch and catch up on some video games.  Out of my ever growing backlog, I decided to start a new character in Borderlands 2Borderlands 2 released back in 2012, which was in fact the day before my son was born.  I had pre-ordered it on Steam and I was ready to rock and roll come launch day.  That didn’t happen.  I put a couple of hours into it, but it ultimately fell to the wayside as parental duties took over.  Since I was now so far behind, there were now four expansion packs to try out, along with the main story.  I was also interested in seeing how the new character Krieg, an axe wielding psycho played.  I had played as Roland in the first Borderlands, so Krieg felt like he would be a nice change of pace this time.

This was all just so new and exciting to me.

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After purchasing what DLC was needed, I booted up a new game.  Immediately I was sucked into the wild, hilarious, violent, messed up world of Borderlands 2.  The great opening cinematic I remembered.. and that was pretty much it.  Handsome Jack became the villain I loved to hate.  Claptrap provided plenty of humor and was always doing his sick dance moves.  The twists and turns in the story elevated this entry far above the first.  Yep, it was a good choice to revisit this one.  My brother and his friend ended up picking it up on PC as well.  We would play every night.  Even my father in law picked it up and played with us for awhile.  Everybody was getting in on that sweet Borderlands action.

Once we had finished the main story, I dove into the expansions and ferociously ate them up.  I played them in order of release, my favorites being Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage and Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon KeepMr. Torgue has some of the funniest lines in the game.  His DLC is not heavy on story by any means, but it delivers plenty of action and comedy.  Just what the doctor ordered.

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Assault on Dragon Keep has you, the player, travelling through various fantastical areas within a board game called Bunkers and Badasses.  Much like an actual Dungeons and Dragons game, the world shifts and transforms right in front of your eyes.  It’s very cool, and there are nods to other great stuff like Dark Souls and Game of Thrones.  As with most of Borderlands, it has its share of funny moments.  While you’re playing through it though, there are little hints as to why Tiny Tina loves playing the game so much.  Upon reaching the end, Tina explains that she plays the board game because she is struggling with the death of her friend.  She uses the game to cope.

It was at that moment I realized I had something in common with the adorable little psychopath.

Borderlands 2 allowed me to escape to a world where I got to be a badass Vault Hunter.  Like most video games, it offered a form of escapism that I so desperately needed at the time.

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Luckily the surgery was all I needed.  I’m in remission now, but that time in my life was a whirlwind of emotions, not only for me but for my family as well.  Things turned out alright in the end, but I can’t imagine the stress and fear for the families dealing with a situation like mine that doesn’t go according to plan.  I’ve had friends and family who have dealt with and are currently dealing with cancer in their lives.  You don’t realize how many people it actually effects until you’ve been there yourself, and my heart goes out to those who are dealing with it right now.

Over the past weekend I reinstalled all the Borderlands games and felt some serious nostalgia.  I’m prepared for the third and its’ September release date cannot come soon enough.  Borderlands has become one of my favorite franchises and Borderlands 2 had an enormously positive impact on my life.  My family was and will always be supportive and I’ll always cherish what all the nurses and doctors at PRHC & Princess Margaret did for me, but Borderlands 2 holds a special place in my heart for a different reason.

Sometimes, just like Tiny Tina, you gotta escape the real world for a little while. – NVJ

Borderlands 3 will be available September 13th, 2019 for PS4, Xbox One & PC

You can pre-order here

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