Escapism Through Gaming

Written by on January 19, 2012 in [, , , , ]


“An avowal of poverty is no disgrace to any man; to make no effort to escape it is indeed disgraceful” ~ Thucydides quotes (Ancient Greek historians and author, 460-404bc)

“Man staggers through life yapped at by his reason, pulled and shoved by his appetites, whispered to by fears, beckoned by hopes. Small wonder that what he craves most is self-forgetting.” ~Eric Hoffer

I have had time recently to reflect on my life and the values I have developed with each passing year.  These musings often coincide as the new year begins and I thought I would share a some of my wandering thoughts.

As I grow older in years I find myself more guarded as to whom I share my love of gaming.   So often folks of my age bracket tend to consider my passion for gaming as immaturity at its most ridiculous.  Friends busy with family commitments and challenging jobs often seem to think that these activities negate the need for gaming.  To this end I must humbly submit that this is one of my chosen forms of escapism.  While others choose to spend their “free” time in the movie theater, or at a night club, or even a well planned nap, I will often be found playing a game on one of my gaming consoles or portable gaming device.   My gaming preference are varied but the common thread throughout is that they all allow me the opportunity to escape, if only briefly, from the burdens born from reality.  Most often this will happen in my efforts to decompress from work mode to play mode.  At their worst a game can offer mental distraction from that work order mess I left at the office.  At its best it allows me to slip on the veil of hero in a ruthless world.  This alternate world grants the blessing of allowing me to shine in a world of my own imagining.

This may seem to some as a stretch of the truth but I argue it is not.  In today’s world people have been forced to blend into their work-a-day life.  Companies often create work environments that enforce rules and shun excessive creativity.  People need to have an arena where they can shine.  For some this can be in a sports arena, the stage, the board room of a multi-million dollar company, or countless other venues built to showcase exceptional skill.  But where does one go if they don’t possess a god-like athletic build?  What arena awaits a clumsy asthmatic with arms as strong as wet noodles?  For me it is found in the wonderful world of gaming.  I have good reflexes, and a quick brain and a deep desire for good to triumph over evil.  All of these gifts are celebrated in the world of gaming.  In this universe I am the gorgeous hero that races to save the day in one way or the other.  I want to first state that ‘escapism’, by definition, should always be done in moderation.  Escapism is only escapism if it is only a portion of real life.  If playing games takes over all that one does than it is no longer truly an escape but has become that person’s reality.  Ok I am stepping off of the soap box now.  On the plus side of escapism through gaming, I believe games have the potential to cultivate creativity as almost no other medium can.  A player can escape into a world limited only to the creator’s technology and imagination.  In this world anyone can have superhuman strength and magical abilities.   These powers allow the player to reach beyond their typical physical limitations to focus on their true nature.  What or who would you be if there were no limits to your physical abilities?  Are you curious about the darker side of humanity but no desire to explore it in real life?  A quick tour in a game may be a safe alternative.  Curiosity exists and gaming can be a harmless way to explore alternate worlds without consequence.  For me, however, it is always the desire to be a hero.

I crave helping people and real life offers many opportunities to do so.  I donate to charities with my time and money whenever possible and love to pitch to help.  This gives me a certain satisfaction.  It is a powerful thing to see the good that an average citizen can do for their community and I hope I can continue to contribute for many years to come.  I have to admit, however, that swooping in to save a sorrowful village from certain death from an immense fire-breathing dragon takes heroism to a whole new level (pardon the pun).  In recent times the ability to help others has been minimal as most of us are dealing with difficult economic times.  This has made me crave the escape of gaming even more.  Take me to a world where I can truly make a difference.  Give me the physical abilities to excel and that will, in turn, give me the confidence to rush in and be the person who makes a difference.  Saving the day in the gaming world instills confidence in my abilities as a person.  On some level I feel I am a winner and that good feeling can carry over to give me confidence in my abilities in my daily life.  When faced with difficult decisions and impossible odds it helps to have confidence that I can make hard choices.

In gaming another lesson is that I might not get it right the first time but if I keep trying I will eventually break through to the next level. In real life we are all taught that practice makes perfect and this is proven once again in gaming.  The glorious microcosm of real life is accentuated in gaming.  If at first I don’t succeed I will try, try, and try again.  This philosophy, so sharply honed in gaming helps my approach real life.  I may not have the super-powers from my gaming world, or the endless save games, but I do allow myself to pursue new objectives with the understanding that I may not succeed the first time.  The point is that I will try and keep trying until I succeed.  Alternate worlds found in gaming provide the safety net that allows me to practice becoming the person I want to be.  This may be why my interests lie mostly in the adventure and action games where I play the hero.  This is also why I love playing female characters.  I prefer games that allow me to customize my character to look like me.  I want to imagine myself saving the day and this is made easier if I look like myself.  I want to escape into a world where I can be the hero I have always hoped I could be.  This does not mean I want to avoid what real life has to offer.  I just want to be prepared to recognize opportunities if they arise.  I feel that games provide the training wheels to real life.  I can use an entertaining medium to build confidence and self esteem in a way that I have not found in any other activity.  I believe that escaping into the world of gaming, in moderation, can provide a unique view into one’s true self.

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Author: Melisa Snyder View all posts by

2 Comments on "Escapism Through Gaming"

  1. Danielle Amaro January 19, 2012 at 9:09 am -

    Thanks for sharing! I am glad to know that I am not alone when I get the looks that I am wasting my life by playing games to “escape”. When life is stressful, to keep your life and your relationships healthy, one needs a means to release the stress. Some will read, craft, go for a jog, but I see nothing wrong with picking up a controller. Yes, I love to craft and read a good book, but I would much rather pick up a controller and take it out on the battlefield!