Gaming Is My (Other) Drug

PS4 Controllers

Doing a bit of late-night blogging this evening. I’m about to talk about gaming a lot, so brace yourselves. I’ve been gaming since January 2012 and in those three – almost four – years I’ve become a big fan of RPGs like Skyrim, Mass Effect and Dragon Age. Last year I ventured into FPS after buying Borderlands on a whim – because I’d heard Mikey Neumann’s Storytime at PAX 2014 – and I continue to expand my gaming catalogue Borderlands, Bioshock Infinite, The Last of Us, Deus Ex: Human Revolution; I love them all. Even if TLoU emotionally gutted me like a fish, and I’m stuck on the final boss fight with the airships in Infinite.

My whole gaming history is a bit of a jumble – I may be repeating myself, if so, skim for a bit – I didn’t grow up lusting after an Atari or playing Zelda. I have vague memories of watching my brother play Zelda and Mario, he’s six year older than me and thus was in the perfect age bracket when I was 6-8 for all things Nintendo. I still have fond memories of playing Duck Hunt because Mom let me play the “little sister with the disability” card, and I would shoot while sitting about two inches from the television.

Ah, the perks of childhood. 😀

giphy-1

[Hums “Memories”]

After that I remember getting a Game Gear in the early 90s with Tetris, Sonic the Hedgehog and (I believe) Aladdin, but once that died I stopped gaming for a long time. The original Playstation came out in the mid nineties and I remember my sister using it (mostly) for movies and music. I wasn’t yet the technological demigod I am now, and I stayed away. I also lived through the mass rise of all things X-Box towards the end of high-school and my twenties, and frankly, everyone I knew on the “X-Bone” were dicks. It wasn’t an environment I was keen to jump into and I didn’t give a shit about Halo or online gaming. Still don’t, truth be told.

But then … I started reading Penny Arcade and somehow or other, I heard about this game called Skyrim. I knew as soon as I started the trailer that this was a game I wanted to play. Badly. It was everything I wanted in WoW. Great art and music, intriguing stories and absolutely no social interaction with strangers required. I’d been playing WoW for a while and tried my hand at EVE, but ultimately MMOs simply aren’t my cup of tea. I have no desire to game with strangers which, especially strangers with shitty attitudes and an even shittier approach to new blood. I play games to have fun, not get shit-talked by some rando.

So I quit WoW and found something that made me much happier. Console gaming. For the record, in case you’re curious, I don’t do PC gaming. For one, I have a Mac and I like it. For two, I absolutely cannot stand using AWSD or arrows to move, so that’s just not gonna happen. Ultimately I don’t give a shit about PC vs. Mac, or X-Box vs PS vs Whatever. Find the tech that makes you happy and then don’t be a dick about it. End of lecture.

But I’ve fangirled about video games for nearly 600 words to say: I finally figured out one of the main reasons why I treasure games. Let’s be frank: I’m disabled, it’s a part of my life. And while I’ll punch you if you call me an “inspiration”, there’s some shit in life that I probably won’t be able to do. Climb a mountain, fight a dragon, drive a Ferrari through scenic Scotland at incredibly illegal speeds, romance an emotionally broken warrior with a wicked beard. I mean … look at that gorgeous beast! (Yes, I crush on fictional men. I’d also marry Joel from TLoU in a heartbeat.)

blackwall

[Blackwall: Came for the Beard. Stayed for the Accent and Tragic Backstory.]

Yet more than that, gaming chills out my brain. As an introvert I live in my brain at least 80% of them time. I constantly have a narrator running through my thoughts, sometimes it’s just mundane daily stuff, but all too often it’s negativity, anxiety and criticism. Mind you, it’s toned down a lot since I started on Lexapro, but that internal negativity is still something I have to deal with. It’s just there, it gets in the way of writing, friendships, personal hygiene. It affects my life on every level.

Gaming, along with reading and writing, shuts that voice down. Though writing can often take longer to push it into a box, and reading requires focus that I sometimes don’t have. But gaming is instant relief, especially something like Drive Club, which pulls me out of my head and puts me squarely inside my body almost instantly. As someone who is distinctly not athletic, I often don’t feel connected to my body, unless I’m running or – you know – in pain.

But I noticed when I was playing Drive Club earlier tonight, that The Voice was almost nonexistent. I was too focused on not crashing, staying on course and generally concentrating on what was in front of me, to worry about The Voice or to even give it room to speak. My brain was wholly and completely zoned in on the task in front of me. And it felt awesome.

That is why I love gaming; it’s a way for me to enjoy a great story (in the case of games like TLoU and Infinite) or a fun adventure, while completely clearing out the detritus in my brain. It’s a mental and emotional palette cleanser like few others I have found. When I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed, gaming helps me relax and flush the negativity out of my brain. Plus there’s pretty scenery, tortured men and lots of things that go boom.