An old friend of mine wrote a blog post recently entitled “The Importance of Escapism”, and in it he describes how gaming has helped him overcome the tragedy of his grandfather’s passing. He goes on to say that escaping to a virtual world is a form of therapy for the human psyche, much like movies, books, and TV shows. This to me is one half of the power of gaming, the other being memories.
Much as Youtube user TVandLust commented in his video “Context Matters: Evolution: The World of Sacred Device”, video games are relevant in our minds due to the environment in which they are played. And I don’t mean the physical location, more like the time in our lives and the events that surrounded them. For the gentleman above, the game Evolution is not in itself all that notable, but the fact that it helped him through a turbulent time in his teenage years makes it all the more special. I have a similar experience with several games of my own.
This game is one of my favorites. Not just because the amazing gameplay or the gripping story, but because of the time when I played it. During 2002 & part of 2003, I was a recent newlywed facing marital troubles. My then wife and I were constantly fighting, we were living in her hometown in central Georgia that I despised, away from all friends and family, and I never felt more alone. Couple this with the fact that we lost our first child about 6 months into her pregnancy, I was probably in the worst mental shape I had ever been. This perpetual depression that I suffered from (2000-2004), finally lifted once I started dating my current girlfriend. But there was one thing in my life that did offer some respite: video games. During this time, I played Final Fantasy X. I immersed myself in the world of Spira, and as much as Tidus annoyed me, I shared in his plight of being thrusted into a foreign land against his will. And throughout the game he feels powerless: unable to go home, to save Yuna, or to defeat Sin. And that was exactly how I felt during those times: powerless and miserable. So Final Fantasy X, despite it being a blueprint for the fuckery that was to come (Exhibit A and B), it was and still is one of the most cherished games in my collection. Another reason why I preordered the PS3 remake on Amazon the instant it was available.
Fast forward to the later half of 2003, I was separated, had moved back to Houston to live with my parents again, and still despising my existence. Video games to the rescue again. This time it was Final Fantasy XI. At the time, I was
stealing from working for Gamestop The Evil Empire, and all my coworkers and friends were playing this game to death. When we weren’t playing the game, we were at work talking about the game, or looking up strategies online and in the guide. Our coterie lived in Vana’Diel, we were the avatars we played as. For me, this carried well into the PS2 release of early 2004 up until that September when I started dating my girlfriend of now 8 years. While I could no longer devote the 60-70 hours/week to that game, it had served its purpose. The game was a bridge from the previous chapter of my life full of woes to the current one filled with happiness. Thus is why I still play the game (albeit much more casually) to this day.
My favorite movie quote is from The Punisher: “Good memories can save your life”. This has become my personal mantra, as I believe our memories are what make us what we are. If good and bad memories are pans of a scale, and all I had were the painful memories of my past outweighing the good, I honestly think I would’ve taken my own life by now. The good memories have saved my life, and gaming makes up a vast portion of them.