Memoirs of a Real Gamer: Stress Meets Escapism
This is a very personal piece I’ve been wanting to write about for a while but never really knew how to structure into a coherent article. So I’m going to just write out my thoughts and feelings and see where it takes me. This is not an argumentative article– I’m not discussing pros or cons. This is merely me opening up and getting my thoughts written to help me get some stuff off my chest.
Let’s face it, life is complicated. Sometimes, even for the most optimistic person, life can get overwhelming. For this, we resort to escapism. Escapism is defined as the avoidance of reality by absorption of entertainment or in an imaginative situation or activity.
Have you ever been in a situation when you just wanted to get away from everything?
Some resort to their hobbies, be it fitness, drawing, or just drowning out your thoughts with music. I, however, resort to video games. I’ve been playing video games all my life and it has played a major part--otherwise I wouldn’t be writing for this site if I wasn’t so passionate about not only games, but the industry as a whole.
Like the Pavlovian theory of conditioning, video games were my reward when I was well-behaved, like when I got good grades or when I graduated. I was conditioned around video games like a dog drools at the sound of a bell. I’ve always related with games. When life got stressful or when I was bullied, I would just tune people out, thinking “I can’t wait to get home and play.”
Video games have also gotten me through the toughest times in my life, whether I knew it or not.
I remember playing Marvel vs Capcom on PlayStation as a kid. My brother rented it for me to play since I would spend all my tokens at the arcade on this game. I was up late, about to get ready to head to bed. I can even remember what shirt I was wearing and who I was playing as, this is how significant this moment was to me.
Suddenly, I hear my mom crying in the living room. I walk out to find out that my grandfather had passed away. I was only 7 at the time, so I don’t think I understood the concept of death at that age. I didn’t know how to approach my mom either, I just knew she was upset. My dad and my brother were there, and I had walked away. I went back to my room to keep playing. It may seem cold, looking from an outsider’s perspective, but realize I didn’t know how to handle the situation and for that I turned to video games.
Fast forward about 9 years and I’m in a similar predicament. I’m just watching a movie when I jolt up to the sound of my mom’s cries once again. This time it was my close uncle. I would spend summers in New York with him and my cousins. Better able to handle the situation, I was there for my mom and when I went back to my room I shut off the movie and played video games for a few hours. It’s always my go-to when I’m upset, and it helps.
By the time I was 19, life had thrown me some curve balls.
I was working a physically demanding job which added bills, rent, and a girlfriend to the equation. When balancing my work and social life left me no time to play, I was left feeling more stressed. The only time I had to play was late at night, but then this caused me to lose sleep and produced more internal problems; I felt disconnected from the world and people in general.
Looking into the current state of my life, I am at the crossroads of some serious life decisions in front of me. My parents are possibly splitting up and moving, I’m paying half the mortgage on a house I don’t know I want to live in, and I’m working two jobs at the moment: one being physically demanding at times, and the other mentally demanding. I’m also dealing with a break up after 3 years, and trying to find the time to write. The one that gets to me the most is trying to be social when at times I would want nothing more than to be alone.
Lately I’ve been getting into Persona 4 Golden, which is a JRPG that revolves around building social links and balancing time spent training, working, playing sports, hanging out with friends, and maintaining a relationship with a girlfriend. You only have so much time in a day and, at times, it feels like you can’t always have it all. As you’d imagine, the game is very relatable to this juncture in my life.
With my Vita that I got for Christmas and a PS4 I got no more than a month ago, I find myself overwhelmed–PlayStation Plus keeps offering free games, and my backlog is probably nearing 50+ entries. I’ve reached a point where even games are beginning to feel stressful. I sometimes feel I’ve lost interest in them. Other times I find a day when I have four hours to be productive and get things done, but rather use it to play. In those four hours, all my worries go away–until I realize I should probably have done something on my to-do list.
I often wonder if I rely too much on video games, or if my time management skills aren’t as good as they used to be.
While some people throw themselves into their work or other hobbies, I'm concerned that maybe video games have gotten me this far as more of a sedative to my real world problems. It could be possible that things have reached such a breaking point that maybe video games can’t help me, and I just have to learn to deal with my problems. But every so often, a game comes by that shakes that thought.
Last year I came across a game by the name of Doki Doki Universe, a game no one really played but I highly recommend because it brought a tear to my eye. The game is simple and has a child like wonder to it: it asks you psych questions using funny kid-drawn cartoons, and at the end of all these mini three-question exams, it would tell you what kind of person you are.
It had pinpointed a lot of attributes about me I would never have imagined a game to capture. From my right brain creativity, to movies I like and all these other tiny things in between. This came at a time, as I mentioned before, when I felt disconnected from everyone, yet here is this video game that is prying into my brain and gets me. It was an odd reassurance that video games can still make me feel something.
It wasn’t that long ago that I decided to pursue what I hope to one day be a professional career in video game journalism.
Before then, I had wanted to make games before coming to the realization that I have zero skill in programing or drawing. When I came to my parents senior year of high school with this, they almost didn’t want to believe it. My brother came to me and said, “That’s cool, but what are you gonna do for real?” I’ve felt I’ve never really had the support of my family with this. Granted, I’m happy I didn’t pursue game design and found myself writing instead, but even now it still seems to be looked down on by my family. I only have myself to look at for where I want to go with my future, and that scares me in a time of uncertainty.
I just wanted to reiterate this; it was never meant to be a an opinionated piece; this was just my inner thoughts and feelings about where I am in my life and how video games have been there for me before and continue to help me get by. I’m still stressed out about a lot of things going on though; this is probably the most emotionally confusing time in my life. All the while I’m still thankful for the small moments I find to play. More importantly, I’ve found a new release in writing--not only about video games, but just my personal thoughts in general. I take solace in the fact that I can still find things to help me try to get through these trying times.Originally Published Mar. 17th 2014