Gaming can be a powerful tool in its ability to transport the player’s awareness away from the real world. The escapism offered by gaming is not new, of course, as people have been finding escape from daily life in books and music all throughout civilized history. And as with any potent tool, the escapism found in gaming has the right use and the wrong use. Gaming can be an aid for recovery, and it can be a facilitator for neglect of all kinds. Much has been written about the negative aspects of gaming’s popularity across the globe. The stories of babies being forgotten about in South Korea as both parents obsess over some MMO, or of gamers themselves playing until they literally keel over and die, these have been discussed before and demonized plenty by mainstream news outlets. But I would like to keep things a bit more positive this week, and discuss a few personal examples of how the escapism in gaming has been a beneficial force.
About six months ago I was laid up for a substantial amount of time recovering from a surgical procedure. Ordinarily the recovery process would have been enough to contend with, but one or two interesting misadventures in my recovery resulted in a couple unplanned trips to hospitals and an entire extra operation. The recovery from those events were taxing physically and mentally. Continually worrying about something going wrong turned out to be a great way to exacerbate the pain I was in at the time, even with reasonably strong pain killers. The only time I found myself able to truly relax, since I was hardly able to sleep, was while playing videogames.
The first instance in this medical saga was when I purchased the newly released Grand Theft Auto V for my PS3. In dire need of some distraction, I overnighted the package for something like twenty dollars. The hours I spent driving around, focusing on doing the missions and finding secrets were like any other time I had spent playing games. It was so easy to slip in and away from any pain or worry that I recall remarking when I was done, “oh yeah, I forgot what was going on with me.” Then there were times when the pain was so pervasive and my ability to do anything about it so minimal that these gaming sessions worked less as a pure escape and more as busy work to focus on instead of staring at a wall feeling like shit. For a time I was mostly immobile in my big recliner in front of my TV. I remember being very grateful for wireless controllers at the time.
A few months later I was recovering from another planned procedure, the last of a planned two, which resulted in an unplanned third operation after a rather terrifying incident where I (no other way to put it) sprang a leak in my neck. It was not so dramatic for long, but about two hours after that event I was back on the operating table, then back in a hospital bed waiting to come home. Recovery from this lined up nicely with another game that had recently been released, Dark Souls 2. And while I have had less than nice things to say about this game after I had completed it, I am still very pleased with my time playing this game. Thankfully less restricted than I was before, I was able to play most of this game cooperatively with a friend, another big Souls fan, and talk over Skype. The experience was a bit too familiar by this point, but no less effective in getting me to relax and allow my body to recover.
The experiences I had with games during these and other times of hardship have been invaluable to me. Of course reading or watching TV were options, but both are less demanding of the participant. It is, at most, dependent on me to pay attention to those things to appreciate them. With a game I must be actively progressing, searching, reading, listening. At times that added degree of participation was more than I felt up to, so a passive movie watching experience was ideal, but most of my time was spent gaming.
So it was a short one this week, recovering readers, but this week was a crazy busy one for me. On top of that, the gaming flood is coming in full force now with a ton of great titles on my watch list. The night after I post this article I should have my hands on the Wii U Smash (check our fine review by Ethos), and then there is still Captain Toad, Dragon Age, maybe Far Cry 4, who knows. But do let me know what you think in the comments! Have you ever had similar experiences recovering with games? (I know one of our great readers has) Know anyone else that has? Give me your biofeedback! (that always sounded like a term for vomit to me)