This question has been percolating about my brain a bit of late. At least since mid-July in fact. Because The Gaming Diaries covered it then and I’d already been trying to work out just why it was — if games were truly an escape, or a way to relax — that my time spent with them fell through the floor when it might otherwise seem such an escape was so desperately needed.
With Blaugust 2019 officially into ‘Getting to know you’ week, it seems like the perfect time to tackle it.
I think when I left my comment on The Gaming Diaries’ post on the matter, I was looking at it a little too black and white. I don’t think the fact that I have a tendency to pull away from games during times of turmoil really invalidates the reasons I hold for playing them otherwise. Rather, I think there is a limit beyond which games shouldn’t be used as the answer.
A realisation that would have seen me in much greater stead had I realised it earlier in life, no doubt.
But I’m getting ahead of myself a little here — I’ll come back to this. First; what do I believe are the reasons I play games?
To De-stress, Decompress and Relax
I’m not an extrovert. I just play one
on TV in day-to-day life. Work in particular.
It’s a necessary part of managing and being part of a functional team. But come time to go home, I’m very much ready for some recharge time. To let the issues of the day — whatever they happened to be — slough off into a corner somewhere to be forgotten for a while.
Of course there are family commitments as well so this isn’t always possible during the week. And I can manage that without going crazy pretty well.
But! My Sundays are sacred. No going out bar super special circumstances or emergencies. Not for any religious reasons — but rather for mental well being and ensuring I’ve properly recharged my social-energy batteries before Monday arrives.
Gaming is the main vehicle in which I achieve that recharge.
Seemingly in direct contradiction to the prior point — but my friends and I don’t get to visit each other in real life as frequently as we would otherwise like to these days.
We have children, partners, busy jobs and all that other carry on that comes with ‘adulting’.
Instant online connectivity and the ability to share a hobby without spending 40+ minutes travel in either direction is a huge boon.
Over the years I’ve certainly changed my online social habits. And at least in the context of MMOs, I’ve become more and more closed off from creating new meaningful relationships. I now think this is in large part because I approach most games as a ‘BYO friends’.
The blogging community is sort of game-adjacent for the purposes of this discussion, but one enables the other and I’m incredibly thankful for that.
Occasionally, to be Challenged
I understand the point of view, and while I’m not overly keen to admit this — generally I’m in the same boat. I’d much rather the game provide me with the perception of being challenged than actually taking me out back for a swift kick up the backside.
Although if a game doesn’t offer even the slightest amount of resistance, then this can be a turn-off too. I ultimately stopped playing Ni No Kuni II for this reason. I believe they’ve since patched in a harder difficulty to address this, but for me at least — the damage is done.
Like Rakuno acknowledged though — there are exceptions. A couple of them we even have in common, namely the Dark Souls series and Monster Hunter: World. Both games quite happy to give you a rapid and repeated what-for. But when the right mood strikes, taking on this challenge — and ultimately beating it — is really quite the rush.
Circling Back Around to the ‘Limits’ of Gaming, then?
Where to start… I guess first, while this actually isn’t the ‘confessions’ style post I was inspired to do by Quin’s Museum of Bad Behaviour post, it could well do a good job of pretending to be. That post is still coming though.
You see, one of my prior blogs was called ‘Modicum of Gaming’. It was so named because some years before that blog, there was a time when I applied very little control to the hours I spent whiling away in some MMO or another. University — and everything else — for a time was taking a backseat, to say the least.
In fact it might be better to say we didn’t even occupy the same vehicle much of the time.
The idea for that blog came about when I happened to capture a random but powerful thought. ‘I don’t want my kids to ever game like I did.’ The follow-up thought for the blog then being to ensure the better balance I’d found was maintained over the long term.
Because that earlier sort of uncontrolled behaviour? That is what using games as an escape can look like.
Now I know, I know- most of the time ‘escape’ is simply being used as a stand in for ‘relax’, or not meant in any fashion more intense than the way one can ‘escape’ with a good book. And that’s fine. I think my brain understands this colloquial difference.
But to this day — seemingly unconsciously until I went through the effort of unpacking it all — there is a certain threshold of seriousness after which I don’t believe games are the right answer, even just for relaxation or temporary escape. Better in these circumstances to face it more directly, have the necessary discussions and get past it that way.
Perhaps I can call this a sign of maturity — in fact, I shall.
Looka’me, supes mature! ;)