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Coping with Reality: How Gaming Got Me Through a Rough Time

How video games gave me an outlet for stress relief during my deployment in Afghanistan.

There I was, in the land of Skyrim, standing before The Graybeards to be tested to see if I truly was Dragonborn. The room was cold, stone, and dimly lit. Master Arngeir asked me to shout at him, to feel the power of my voice. I opened my mouth...

Then I heard the warning system go off, followed by the impact of what must have been a mortar. I found myself back in the reality of my dimly lit room in Afghanistan. Arngeir would have to wait until I came back from the bunker.

Gaming, for me, has always been a means to de-stress from the rigors of life.

Both as a soldier and as a civilian. But I don't think I appreciated it as much until I was deployed. I put a lot of hours on my PSP that year in Afghanistan, with moments of downtime spent playing Monster Hunter Freedom: Unite with my best friend or enjoying some Star Ocean while flying out to check on remote equipment.

Then there were the games of Civilization IV with other people connected to the network between living quarters, helping to break up the daily grind and make new friends. Or the fair bit of Minecraft and Skyrim, when I finally managed to get a copy a few weeks after release. Gaming was my way of disconnecting from my hostile environment and allowing me a chance to relax and return to a sense of normalcy.  

My plywood home away from home.

Games gave me a place where I could be someone else, somewhere else. I had the freedom to channel all of my thoughts and worries away because, for that moment in time, I wasn't in a war zone. Instead, I was in a cave hunting for diamonds and dodging spiders. Or maybe I was Caesar, leading my civilization to victory through diplomacy over violence.

Gaming gave me something that I needed; it gave me a way to cope with my reality. 

Published Aug. 18th 2016

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