Some game to remember, some game to forget

Today’s post is dedicated to anyone anywhere who has trouble or pain or miserable things going on in their real lives, and who finds an occasional welcome escape via gaming.

Escapism gets a raw deal in the media. We have so many examples of people who took things too far, maybe even got addicted, and abandoned RL responsibilities. But there are worse ways to deal with life’s problems than to lay down your burden for an hour or so and go kill some orcs (or write a blog post about it :) ). There are no problems that benefit from being fretted over 24/7.

In my case, my father (and arbitrary’s) has recently died after a long illness. It wasn’t unexpected, he was surrounded at the end by people who loved him (including me), and I’ll miss him greatly. I have a lot of things to organise and a lot of feelings to work through – but I know for a certainty that taking a little time during the day when I’m not busy to write or play is helping me, not messing with my head.

Have you found that gaming helped you through difficult or stressful times in your life? And to anyone who hasn’t (which I hope is most), you may have been helping people through difficult times without ever realising it, just by being there.

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22 thoughts on “Some game to remember, some game to forget

  1. When I was stressed about finding work games helped quite a bit. But I also find that it is a great escape from daily life. I may come home with a headache not wanting to think anymore and playing a game for an hour can make my head feel lighter. Even though I like to theorycraft and think a lot while playing it is to me a different kind of thought unlike the one impossed to me by work/school.

  2. My heartfelt condolences to you, Arbitrary and your family.

    I used gaming as a respite from the world when my mother eventually succumbed to cancer four years ago. She was young, loved literature, and I miss her terribly. Despite what experts and debaters and naysayers may think, gaming helped me a great deal and was one of the distractions that enabled me to cope without resorting to more destructive measures at the time.

    I think most of us understand that gaming alone is not the solution, but when used in moderation it is most certainly a valid and valuable part of the armour with which we gird ourselves against the assault of grief, until we have reached a level where we feel we can defend against it on our own.

    Sincerely,

    Melmoth

  3. Sorry to hear about your father’s passing. :(

    When I’m under serious stress, I don’t escape into gaming. I deal with what’s bothering me so that I can relieve the stress. If I can’t deal with what’s bothering me, I’ll think through it and push it aside, then I’ll go back to life as usual which may involve playing games.

  4. My condolences, Spinks.

    I usually read books and sometimes buy books specifically to have a distraction in such times. Computer games can also be a good distraction, but always in offline/invisible mode, if I play them at all. Games have the advantage that you play them actively and do not consume them passively, like a movie, or slowly with time to take a break, like books.

    In fact I once played World of Warcraft to get over an aching tooth. This was during TBC.

  5. I spent a whole year doing nothing much but sitting at home and living off my savings because I was feeling somewhat depressed and didn’t know what to do with my life. I played WoW a lot during that time to avoid thinking about my problems and people were making it out to be the *source* of my issues instead.

    Then I actually met a guy through WoW who’s my boyfriend now and who finally managed to yank me out of my lethargy. Now I’m a functional member of society again and still play a lot of WoW. You’ll never know where escapism might lead you. :)

  6. It certainly can be a big help, an area where you can escape for a while at get your life mana back, preparing yourself to deal with what’s bothering you. It can also become a trap where you hide, unable to face the pain and the problems… There are two sides of it. But I’m certain you’re wise enough to take it in moderation.

    Thoughts and hugs from someonw who also saw her father dying from a long and painful illness some years ago. Been there. Done that. Losing your parents is one of the things that make your hair turn grey.

    • Oh, I totally agree. Escapism in any form is something that you have to be pretty disciplined about — it’s too easy to use books or music or TV or games to avoid doing or thinking about things you need to do.

      But there is something liberating about logging into a character and laying aside your ‘normal’ persona for awhile. I think gamers are so wary of negative portrayals that we try not to discuss the lure of escapism, even though we all feel it.

      And it can be negative, there’s no doubt about it. But there is more to it than that.

      One thing I found amusing is that I was oddly soothed by doing some daily that involved releasing tortured argent crusade souls. It’s kind of silly, but I wonder if counselling in future might be able to make use of this kind of gaming in some way …

      • Everyone needs some “alone time” here and there. Gaming can provide that by letting you mentally switch gears. Often, our subconscious keeps working on things we want to solve, and leaving it alone can prove extremely helpful.

        Condolences on your loss. :(

  7. My most sincere sympathy to you and your sister. I have been fortune to not yet have had to lose a parent, and I can only imagine what it must be like for you.

    Additionally, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for all of the time and effort that you put into this blog. It is truly an act of kindness to share your time and your talent with the random strangers who pass by this site.

    In any case, I just wanted you to know that you and your family are in my prayers during this difficult time.

  8. Very sorry to hear about your loss, Spinks (and Arbitrary). Was wondering what was going on. I’m glad you had the chance to be with him at the end.

    I often turn to games for escape, or to blow off steam. Just the other night I was dealing with one annoyance after another and my temper was fraying and Angela said “Why don’t you go shoot something?” LOL. Taken out of context that could sound really bad, but I turned on a game console and just lost myself in blowing up virtual buildings for half an hour and felt much better.

    I have a friend who tried to take her own life, and the recovery from that event was really daunting for her. WoW helped her out *a lot* because she could interact with people on her terms, and in doing so made a lot of friends, and eventually got back to a place where she is stable. And yeah, she still plays. Amazingly, her therapist saw WoW for what it was and encouraged her to play. I think she was pretty lucky there.

    So yeah, games, IMO, are a great source of escape and even therapy, and a LOT healthier than drugs or alcohol, which is what a lot of people use to ‘escape.’

  9. First my condolences.

    There was a time in my life where I was depressed, and maybe turned to the game too much. Now though I put everything in a more healthy perspective. You have to be careful, it’s ok to escape for a bit, but you can never run away from real life, because it will still be there when you unplug.

  10. Sincere condolences. Losing a parent (in general, a beloved person) is always hard. I feel with you.

    I game to remember. I make a great point of the game(s) I’m playing not to be an alternate reality to escape into, but a legitimate part of the one and whole reality that is my life. I am a gamer (and it took a while to realize, that this is a statement one should be allowed to make). Thus, venturing into a game world is like taking a walk in the park, or a sports fan following his favourite team. Part of life. I don’t retune my brain and shut out the rest when I sit down to play.

    That being said, yeah. Sometimes, after a crappy/hard day, just firing up the game and saying “okay, now we leave all that behind and just focus on having some fun and relaxing in-game” is a good and also legitimate thing to do. Just like taking a walk in the park, or watching a football match.

  11. Thanks all for the good wishes. I had to think before I hit post on this one. After all, this is a gaming blog and I’m not trying to make people feel uncomfortable.

    On the other hand, I think sharing (appropriate :) ) personal experiences is one of the things that makes blogs so compelling, and it gave me an excuse to bring up an interesting topic that we often tend to avoid.

  12. I game for escapism and catharsis, yes. I think that when a game becomes too real in that too many issues come up in-game that make it feel like a job or that I *have* to work toward something, it loses that effect and becomes a stressor equivalent to what I am trying to escape in the first place.

    That’s why I quit WoW this time. It was taking up way too much time and becoming way too much of a second job in my life to be worth the minimal fun I was having in-game.

    I hope I can find a very casual MMO that lets me play without worry of stress soon. I hope Champions Online does that. With planning a wedding for Halloween this year, I need all the catharsis I can get. ;)

  13. My condolences to you and your family, Spinks. I experienced the same thing this spring, and it’s not easy. I spent about three weeks away from the computer during my father’s final days, and dealing with the immediate aftermath of his death — planning a funeral, starting the estate process with my brother and my sister — it was an emotionally and phsyically draining time. Getting back to WoW when I returned home after that time was a relief, as it provided a great escape when I needed it.

    By the way, I agree with you completely about the releasing Crusader souls. There were a number of surprisingly ‘ugly’ quests/acts in Wrath (mutilating bodies, torture, feeding Scourge goo to prisoners) — blowing Hodir’s horn, ‘praying’ for Tuskarr and releasing Crusaders’ spirits are oddly touching.

  14. Condolences here as well, its always hard to lose someone even when expected.

    I have no real examples to contribute, but just wanted to wish you and arbitrary well.

  15. I’m so sorry for your loss – I’m thinking of you.

    Escapism does, indeed, get a raw deal in the media. But then “escapist nonsense that makes us forget ourselves” has been the charge directed at various new forms of entertainments down the centuries. First of all there was the theatre that turned men into women and women into prostitutes, then the novel which made women hysterical, then the television that made us into square-eyed zombies … and now computer games which make us irresponsible and violent. It’s weird, actually, to think of the legitimacy conferred on cinema and television just in my life-time. My grandparents still don’t approve of it in the slighest, but nobody would look askance at anyone for turning on the TV after a long day at work.

    Sorry this is a tangent, but I think it’s interesting to look at computer games as part of this trajectory of disapproval, acceptance and validation. Soon they’ll be an art form and the next big thing will be our social scapegoat.

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