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Thinking Out Loud

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Great Escape >> Why I Game...

There are as many different reasons to get together to game as their are games and players to play them... but there are certainly some common threads -- socialization , creativity outlet, exercise for the brain and the nebulous notion of "fun" seem to top the list.

While these are all well and good, and indeed, I share many of these reasons to game in various intensities, when it comes right down to it, there is one overwhelming reason why I game: escapism.

I game to get away from the real world, get away from my life, and crawl into an alternate dimension where I feel I have far more control over my fate than otherwise. I know it sounds a bit dark and brooding.

Well, it is.

Don't get me wrong, I've got a great life. A wonderful, loving and understanding wife. A bright, energetic and healthy toddler. A roof over my head, clothes on my back and food to eat. When I view my life honestly, I realize that I have an embarrassment of riches. I am grateful for all the wonderful blessings in our life and how much we have to be thankful for.

Unfortunately, for some people, like me, that's just not enough. This stems from the fact that I'm a manic depressive with bipolar disorder. During the upswings, nothing could be finer and the world is bright, shiny and wonderful. During the downswings, no amount of cheer or good fortune can pull me out of the trenches. Except for gaming.

It's the escapist appeal of gaming that helps me deal with my depression more than anything else I've encountered. While it's true that ignoring problems won't make them go away, being able to free yourself of their burden for a while can certainly alter your perspective, or renew your determination and energy to attack them.

When the world has me down, games offer me a means to leave the world for a while, and get a fresh start. Each game is a second chance. Each game is a "do over." Each game is a cathartic expulsion of all that is dreary, listless and depressing.

If I fail miserably in a game, it only lasts as long as the game -- a refreshing change of pace to the compounded problems day to day life can snowball into. On the other hand, if I do well during a game, it offers a much-needed boost of confidence. After all, if I can succeed in this fictitious, artificial setting, what's to say that can't carry over into my normal life?

And further, knowing there's a definite end point is surprisingly reassuring. Knowing that, win or lose, the game is moving ever onward toward its resolution helps instill a sense of planning, encourage efforts to succeed and help deal with the eventual setbacks. It's a microcosm of an idyllic lifestyle, where you can step back and view things from greater perspective, and better accept how this little slice of surreal life unfolds.

The social aspect of gaming is certainly important to me, but this tends to stem from its association to the detachment and escapism from the real world. I don't like bringing real world issues to the game table -- such as talks of religion, politics, terrorism, war... things that can bring out the differences in my friends in stark contrast. I far prefer keeping conversation light, casual, and when possible, game-oriented -- focusing more on our shared passions and interests. That helps embellish the surreal quality of the escapist retreat that gaming provides.

So I game to get away from a dreary, unfulfilling and sometimes painful life. Thankfully, when I return from the table, I can see just how truly fortunate I am to have so many friends and the countless blessings our family enjoys.

3 Comments:

  • Very nice post!

    By Blogger Mike Doyle, at 4:35 PM  

  • You have got to the heart of it.

    By Blogger Iain, at 1:24 AM  

  • Very interesting post. It reminded me of something I have not thought about for several decades.

    When I was in college, my second-semester Russian language professor asked me whether I would be interested in tutoring a first-semester student who was having some difficulty. After I began working with him, it was obvious to me that he was troubled by something -- which I now believe was a bi-polar condition. Sometimes, it was a challenge to work with him on a language issue, because of his shifting emotional states, but we soon discovered that we both enjoyed chess. There never seemed to be any problems when we were engaged in a chess game. I had never really made the connection before.

    By Blogger Gerald McD, at 8:03 PM  

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