Gaming as escapism

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Its been a bit of a whirlwind week for me; between work, my family coming down to visit, embassy meetings for visas, and getting my apartment to be at least presentable again I haven’t had a lot of “me time”.  I had actually started a different article/blog, but because of my busy schedule I wasn’t able to get it where I liked for a first-time post.  I will likely be revisiting it – after some much needed redaction – but that’s neither here nor there.

I started writing this piece as I wait in champion select for a game of League of Legends, Riot’s super popular MOBA, because “me time” involves a whole lot of gaming, coffee, and generally making less-than-perfect choices.  But hey – I’ve started writing here as another outlet, so that’s an improvement at least.  Now that you’ve let me ramble about my going-ons, an introduction is in order…

HI! I’m Alexa!  I’m 21, a gamer, a barista, a brooding existentialist, and a trans gal.  I spend most of my time working at a local coffee shop, gaming with friends, or cooking.  I love shopping for new clothes, food, and pushing the envelope on how much caffeine I can ingest before my body gets the shakes.  My style is somewhere in between hipster and island kid, I listen to pretty much anything that isn’t country – no offense country, but you’re not my cuppa – and I get random cravings for Afghan at 3am instead of sleeping.  I’m also quite the space case, which is why I’m now taking the time to get back on track with my topic for today:

GAMING AS ESCAPISM

Yes, the topic is the piece’s title, and no I don’t think its too redundant to put it there in big letters.

As gamers we’re asked why we’d rather “sit inside alone” than “be productive” or “go out with friends” (these are actual questions I’ve received).  For me at least, were it just about the games themselves, I actually wouldn’t.  Video games are fun and all, but I don’t find them, as a source of entertainment, to be a worthwhile use of my time.  I would much rather go to an Ingrid Michaelson concert, or hit up Dolcezza’s than stay inside and play games, but its not just about the games themselves.

I’ve made most of my closest friends either through or because of gaming.  Video games have this wonderful ability to bring people together from different walks of life.  On an average day, I’ll spend a few hours listening to rants on sweet tea in southern drawls before hopping on to league and hearing about someone’s mom’s platanos that I have to try before I die.  I’m still running around in boy mode for the time being so most of my gaming friends have absolutely no idea that I’m trans.  Those that I’ve told, however, have taken the news with overwhelming positivity; given that most of the people I play with come from conservative backgrounds, its been a pleasant surprise for me.  I think there’s something to say here about the strength of bonding with total strangers over art or competition, but I’ll keep it short for this piece.  I think that its incredibly important to understand that video games are an art form.  Both for getting a grasp on why people get so passionate about gaming, and why games are such strong vehicles for escapism.

There’s a good reason why there really was a group of “monuments men” in World War II (though not as glorified as the movie of the same name would make it) tasked with protecting the old world’s art in the midst of chaos.  Art helps us find things in ourselves that give us strength, the heart, the gumption to drive on, things we didn’t even know were there.  It’s something that we as human beings create, destroy, recycle, fight, and even die to protect; we’ve done so throughout all of history, and we will continue to do so until the last of us is gone.  In every country I’ve traveled to – I think my list is up to around 19 so far – people seem to build lasting friendships over art more than almost anything other than food, or a shared history.  There’s probably a lot of luck in that I’ve kept myself in the company of really good people, but I do think our shared interest in games, and gaming together, has been the bedrock these friendships are still standing on.  “So Alexa, what does this have to do with gaming as escapism?”  Well, everything really.

I’ve always loved listening to music and visiting art galleries (The National Gallery is one of my favorites) because those activities help me bring me down when I’m having a bad day, or worse, a panic attack.  While I realize that shuttling myself to the nearest art gallery mid-panic-attack-sans-incident is rather impractical, the point still stands; art in all it’s forms is my escape from the doldrums of everyday life.  It helps me in my daily fight with gender dysphoria, and keeps my head above water enough to believe that I can be who I need to be.  Useful though they are, these art forms are inherently lonely pursuits.  Yes, I can listen to music or visit a gallery with friends, but we’re each consuming the art on our own terms, and independently of each other.  Just as our experiences shape our worldview, so to do they impact our relationship to the art we’re exposed to.  I can, and in all likelihood will, look to the Bathers at Asnières by Georges Seurat (LINK DOES NOT WORK – NOTIFY AUTHOR) and glean an entirely different meaning than would my brother, my fiance, or my friends.  When we experience these kinds of passive art with other people, we are, as goes the Fall Out Boy jam, Alone Together.  Capital letters and all.  In my experience multiplayer games transcend that shortcoming, and provides me a social art form that can only be accessed by interaction with other people.

I may be an introvert, but I am not, as some would suggest, an antisocial nightmare that chooses to be alone.  I just find social interactions to be very draining.  I love gaming because its something that simultaneously revitalizes me and allows me to interact with other people.  I wholeheartedly believe that human beings need escapism.  Growing up, my father always reminded me that there seems to be an unwritten law of the conservation of problems.  Problems can neither be created nor destroyed, they can simply be changed into problems of a different order or kind.  Whether its struggling to pay for your next meal, or trying to finance your kids’ education everyone has problems.  For me, therein lies the emotional sticking power of art.  Art gives us respite no matter how brief, from the problems we face and enables us to go once more into the breach.

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