The Xbox, a father’s ghost car and John Wikstrom

Two years ago, a young teenager – whose identity remains anonymous – left a comment on a YouTube video entitled “Can video games be a spiritual experience?”. Using the moniker 00WARTHERAPY00, he told how playing an Xbox video game came to represent a spiritual experience that brought him closer to his father, who passed away when he was only 6 years old.

These are his exact words in that comment:
“Well, when i was 4, my dad bought a trusty XBox. you know, the first, ruggedy, blocky one from 2001. we had tons and tons and tons of fun playing all kinds of games together – until he died, when i was just 6.
i couldnt touch that console for 10 years.
but once i did, i noticed something.
we used to play a racing game, Rally Sports Challenge. actually pretty awesome for the time it came.
and once i started meddling around… i found a GHOST.
literaly.
you know, when a time race happens, that the fastest lap so far gets recorded as a ghost driver? yep, you guessed it – his ghost still rolls around the track today.
and so i played and played, and played, untill i was almost able to beat the ghost. until one day i got ahead of it, i surpassed it, and…~
i stopped right in front of the finish line, just to ensure i wouldnt delete it.
Bliss.”

 

The story on its own is enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. But everything became that little bit more poignant two years later, when John Wikstrom – a 25 year old graduate of Florida State University’s College and an aspiring director – stumbled across the comment. Wikstrom had worked as a treatment designer for other ad directors before but had never made one of his own. He was so touched by the story that he decided to make a short film that he could add to his portfolio, without making contact with Microsoft.

Here you can see the video, entitled Player Two:

Wikstrom was assisted by Idan Menin as Director of Photography and actor Zac Pullam. They filmed it in Angelino Heights, a neighborhood of Los Angeles.

The video, released in April this year, quickly went viral. To date, it has had more than 1,350,000 views, 1,500 comments and 31,000 likes. The reactions came in thick and fast. First, t00WARTHERAPY00 contacted Wikstrom to thank him for creating the video. Then, ‘someone high up’ from Microsoft wrote to him personally to praise his work. Adweek magazine contacted Aaron Greenberg, an Xbox marketing director, who said about the video:

“This is really inspiring. Connecting players through gaming is one of the best rewards of creating video games, and stories like this are always touching and inspire us to do our best work. We applaud this fan’s courage in sharing his story and the filmmaker’s artistry in bringing it to life so vividly.”

00WARTHERAPY00 revealed shortly after posting his original comment that his Xbox had broken, writing:

“Sadly, today I raced my father for the last time. The console, after over a decade, finally succumbed of old age.”

Interestingly, his passion for video games and his experience of playing with his father encouraged him to apply for and be accepted to study video game art and graphic design at university.

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