Personal Experience: Video Game Escapism

Anthony takes a look back at how he used his gaming habits to cope with reality.

By Anthony Vigna. Posted 01/22/2014 09:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

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Do you remember having little to no obligations as a kid? When I was younger, the only responsibility I really had was attending school. Other than that, I basically had full rein to goof off and focus on my own well being. However, as I rapidly approach the age of 21, the amount of free time I have is quickly depleting. Currently, I’m working multiple jobs and juggling numerous college assignments at the same time.

Unfortunately, my increasing workload is only a fraction of my stress, since I’ve dealt with personal economic issues, had a bunch of petty social quarrels, and felt the pressure to consistently perform well in all of my work as of late. I’m not saying that my life is miserable, as I have a lot to be thankful for, but my own obligations and stress definitely rise with my age. Life seems to throw a new challenge at me every year, and one of the ways I cope with this is through playing video games.

Video games have always been there for me in my life. In many ways, each cartridge and system I own serve as artifacts that pinpoint specific time periods of my life. I still remember the joy my five-year-old self felt when I opened my N64 during Christmas for the first time. I’ll never forget the first time I played Super Mario 64, as I was blown away by the game’s advanced graphics at the time. I was struck with awe when I first laid eyes on Bob-omb Battlefield and saw how large the level was, and I still feel the same child-like wonder whenever I play it now and hear its nostalgia evoking music.

Games from my past have also pushed me to reminisce about people of importance to me. For example, Sonic 2 and 3 heavily remind me of my brother, since I would assist him cooperatively as Tails through each zone we played. Yet, since my brother moved out of my house, I barely get to see him anymore. So, playing these games now allows me to reflect on the good times I used to have with my brother when we both still lived together. To this day, Sonic 3 & Knuckles remains as my favorite game of all time, and I can say that I’ve beaten it well over 50 times. Nostalgia is a powerful thing!

The attributes of certain games also help me escape reality with ease, such as the leveling systems found within RPGs. Games like Fire Emblem, Xenoblade, Golden Sun, and EarthBound appeal to me because they create the illusion of becoming better and stronger. This is perfect for someone like me, who feels increasingly stagnant after three years of college without a so-called real job. By achieving as much as possible in an RPG, I am able to temporarily satisfy my desire to become successful in real life.

Other games, like the Ace Attorney series, feed my escapism completely with characters that have rich personalities within a world that is painted so vividly that it almost seems real. I know so much about these characters that they are almost like actual friends to me. I know that may seem a little weird, but this perfectly exhibits the level of attachment I have obtained for Ace Attorney as a video game series.

Of course, relying on this escapism does have its negative effects. There have been plenty of times where a game has engrossed me so much that I would completely lose track of the time. Hours and hours of my life would fly by without any kind of realization of what was happening, even to the point where I’d play a game for the entirety of a whole day. When the right type of game comes along at the right time, it will have this hazardous effect on me and ruin the semblance of normalcy in my life.

Yet, I wouldn’t consider my escapism a bad thing either. Everyone has a hobby that can help stave off a mental break. My mother enjoys reading books, my father loves listening to music and attending concerts, some of my friends enjoy participating in sports, and my girlfriend loves doing various arts and crafts. Each of these activities offer some kind of distraction from what is happening in a person’s life, and my hobby just happens to be video games.

Basically, what it all comes down to is finding a balance. I need breaks from real life, but I shouldn’t let these breaks consume my life. There are times when it is okay to push life away, and times when you need to confront your problems head-on. Video game escapism is a beautiful thing, but its one that needs to be utilized in moderation.

Do you have any similar experiences? If so, feel free to express yourself in the comments below!

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