Video games have always been there. Sure, I’ve had the occasional affair with a book, and I’m never going to deny that I, too, have done the late-night call to Netflix or Hulu. But if something is going on in my life where I need to step away and absorb myself in another world, a book is just too easy to let my mind wander, and a show is just a mind numbing experience to get through a few hours without meaning anything. But video games have always, always been there.
I could (and in previous drafts, have) list out big life events and the many games that meant a lot to me, regardless of how “good” they were. Age of Mythology, Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Fuzion Frenzy, and Rock Band, to name a few. The beauty of a game is that it doesn’t matter how critically acclaimed it is, the nature of it demands interaction – and if you’re willing to buy in, that’s all you need to escape the world for a few hours.
I work retail, and have for about eight years now. And since this is my article, I can just say it: I’m damn good at my job. Generally speaking, I like talking to people, learning their likes, dislikes, and needs, and helping them discover something new. But some people have it out to ruin your day, and they don’t care what it may do to you; prank calls where young boys think it’s funny to tell you “I want to rape you”, or older gentlemen who call you a “hoarding fucking whore” when you don’t have a collectible they’re searching for, or a handicapped woman who tries to beat you with her cane because you told her she couldn’t park on the store’s tile-paved porch, among others. It’s days I meet these people that video games are there to take in my anger and pain and give me something I can work with.
Right now, I’m playing The Witcher III: Wild Hunt. I’ve been playing this game for about a year now, on and off, in between plays of Ratchet and Clank, Mortal Kombat X, Overwatch, and whatever else may pop up. The beauty of playing of Geralt of Rivia is that you can make your choices and change the outcome of the game, but overall, Geralt is going to be Geralt. He’s a harsh guy with strong opinions, so even if you choose the option not to speak, he makes his stance on the situation known. I’ve even gone with what I assumed to be gentler dialogue options, but he takes them and makes them somehow crueler than if I went the other route.
This means that in all the wide world, wherever I go, whatever I do, no matter what monsters I slay, treasures I find, or lives I ruin, it’s not on me. It’s on Geralt. And this displacement of responsibility is utterly refreshing, and allows me to sink into the game and feel safe in doing so.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was a recent venture that allowed the same sort of safety. I could kill literally hundreds of people, but because it was in this action-movie setting, it was ok. But more than that – because it’s easy to build a Hollywood kill-‘em-all kind of game – Naughty Dog made an incredibly wise decision to subtly shift the perspective of the latest Uncharted to focus not as much on Nathan Drake as it did on the relationships he has with others. This made him more real, made Sulley and Elaine, and even his brother, Sam – a character only just written into the Uncharted universe in this fourth installment – real, believable, and more importantly, intriguing. I dove all-in to this game like there was no other, regardless of whether I had a good day, or a bad day, I jumped in and didn’t get out until it finished, because I just had to know: What happens next?
But there are also “bad” games that have sucked me in. DMC: Devil May Cry developed by Ninja Theory only got “OK” reception on release. I adore this game. I flipped out when they made a definitive edition and traded in my Xbox 360 copy for a crappy price and bought it for Xbox One. I still play it sometimes. Sure, Dante doesn’t look right, he’s more of an ass, the game’s generally more “American” than the previous games – but I don’t care. The writing was a little shallow and derivative. So? It made me laugh. I enjoyed creating cool combos to kill as many demons as possible in new and exciting ways. The bosses were challenging without being broken. And fuck anyone who says this game has no replay value – I continue to play this game for the sheer fact that Bloody Palace Mode exists (100 waves of enemies increasing in difficulty with only one health bar and very few chances to regain health) and I’m sure I’d continue to play even after I finally hit the last wave.
The best part of this hobby I love so dearly is that it can take me anywhere and do anything, and most importantly get away from my life for a little while. I don’t want to always think about the assholes I run into, or consider how ass-deep in debt I am from gaining a degree that’s not doing much for me in this job market, or the general fear that at any moment an asteroid could crash down on us and we’ll all die from the sudden, destructive impact. In the moments I need to get away, video games are there, and they do it best.
What games do you escape to? Let me know in the comments!