Let’s be completely honest here – most of you who read this have been having a stress-filled year, if not a stress-filled life. You turn to games to help deal with that, because of something it offers that you otherwise don’t get to have. I’m going to talk about that, today.
Games, at their core, are a form of escapism. We turn to them as a release valve, a way to bleed off the stress that afflicts us in day-to-day life. We get the chance to be someone else, something else, with control over life that’s generally lacking in the regular course of things. A lot of us are of a generation that’s seeing exactly how much we’ve been screwed over, and how much we’re getting blamed for the fallout of choices made before we were even born. We turn to games to help us deal with it.
You might be a Walmart clerk, a bank teller, a fast food cook, or the like in daily life, or you might be a similarly stressed programmer, secretary, or waiter at some fine dining place. It doesn’t matter – life is hard, bills are big, and we go to the chance to have an impact on a world, even if it isn’t the one we live in. We go for the chance to be a clever rogue teaching the overly rich a lesson, a brave warrior fighting to defend the weak, an operative working for a conspiracy that’s trying to save humanity from itself.
This is important, because it gives us a chance to have catharsis that we may never see in life. We can be heroic rebels fighting against an imperial power, without having to worry about actually getting shot at, having to make do on what supplies can be gleaned, or having to live in hiding or on the run. We can play games that give us opportunities to vicariously have what we crave from life, or to let us vent our frustration on the things in our way in a fairly harmless fashion. Beating the stuffing out of nameless, numbered mooks can be incredibly satisfying when you need to release frustration, after all.
Games also do something important in the world outside the game – we build up camaraderie and friendship with the people we play with, making friends who occasionally verge on being family. That’s no small thing, in a world where all too often we’re going to have to rely on the people we know just to deal with what the world throws at us. Those friendships, at the very least, can keep us from becoming isolated – and at best, they can help us keep functioning in the face of adversity and ill fortune.
And last, they can let us build up the confidence we need in ourselves to get through what we face in life. Learning to adopt the self-confident persona of a character can help people in need of that little bit of a boost – drawing on that little bit of “other” identity that we have for the game to deal with challenges in life away from the table.
So do keep gaming, folks. We’re a storytelling species; the stories we tell matter and help shape us. Bring your best to the table and let those stories keep you warm out there.