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Why I Play Games: My Escapism

By Daniel Lipscombe

Editor’s Note: This article began as a short, heartfelt editorial on the positive effects of gaming when dealing with tough real-life issues.  Thanks to your help in answering Daniel’s questions via Twitter, it’s grown into something more.  It’s an exploration of the wonderful things videogames can do to us, all extrapolated from a simple question: why do you play games?

Do keep on Tweeting us with your answers, too.  We’re likely to use them in a future examination of the topic.  You can find us at www.twitter.com/ResolutionMag.

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During an interesting conversation with a good friend of mine, we stumbled upon the subject of why we play videogames and hold the hobby so dearly.

His thoughts suggested that he played games as they are an interactive art form with which he held more of a connection than movies or books. An interesting point on its own, but the conversation continued, and my own response was the one that held the topic for the longest time.

Videogames have been with me since I was a child, and they were always played to entertain – something to pass time until the next episode of Knightmare or the next time a friend came to visit and we attempted to finish Rolling Thunder 2 again. The content of this entertainment always flew  over my head, even through the PlayStation era and my teenage years. Only certain moments in gaming ever strummed the heart strings as I aged mentally and physically – Aeris dying at the hands of Sephiroth and, later, the general feeling and atmosphere of ICO.

In recent years I have grown to respect story, ambience and design, and it’s these pillars that hold up many of the games that we hold dear. After learning to respect these aspects of games, my answer to why I play them has changed. Now, it’s all about escapism; the ability to press start and venture into a different world, become someone else. Talking about this escapism led me to think more about why everyday gamers press ‘start’ each day.

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Everybody goes through some form of hardship in their life, and each person chooses a different way to escape these troubles. For myself and many others, it’s with a controller, or keyboard and mouse. Whether you’ve had a bad day at work or your partner has left you, you know that you have a home in Albion, the Capital Wasteland, Midgar or even on the battlefields in World War 2.

This escapism has never been more prominent to me than in the last two years. In February 2007, my three-year-old daughter passed away as the result of a car accident. My life fell apart, and I was on a knife edge, ready to jump into a chasm. But I escaped. Picking up a controller allowed me to step away from these problems. I absorbed every game that was released at the time, and each one took me away from my problems and challenged me, albeit in a material and competitive way, giving me something to strive for.

It’s my belief that videogames have the ability to transport you away from life in a more in-depth way than other forms of entertainment. Typically, you’ll be taking on the role of characters who have their own problems, but their problems nearly always have a solution – be it by finding an exit, shooting their way out, finding the princess or winning the tournament. There’s often a resolution at the end that leaves you with the contentment of achieving something, and in a world full of so many problems this can only be a positive thing. The game pad or mouse gives you a sense of control that’s so difficult to attain in life.

[Continues...]

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15 Comments

    Thanks for this Daniel – it’s quite refreshing to read an article that’s not so much an angry defence of games (as understandable a response as they are) but instead a sober, thoughtful explanation of some of the appeals.

    We’ve had quite a few articles on Reso recently which have really made me think a lot about how we’re going through a really transformative period in games, in a sense that the way society as a whole thinks of games as a medium is really changing; this is definitely one of those articles.

  • Really good article, shame I was offline when you were asking for reasons. The ultimate reason for me is social interaction. I remember playing winner stays on on Pro Evo and tekken back in my youth and that has moved right through to Xbox Live. The funny thing is 3 or 4 consoles and a lot of years later and Im still playing with some of the same frinds that I used to.

  • 2 words:
    WIN
    MOAR

  • A lovely article I have to say. I am one of these people that maybe spends a bit to much online then outside in the world because i can’t express myself very easily and yes your right in that its very good freedom. I actually think we should be allowed to escape more in this modern life, we don’t get many chances to now a days I feel…

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