Games as healing

MrBond's picture

Hello everybody,

Summer is entering its back half, and SGDQ 2017 has come and gone.  (By the way, we did a run at SGDQ 2017, a 2P Co-op Campaign Run of Assault Android Cactus - it was fantastic.)

I want to expand upon the things I said at the end of our run; the relevant bit starts at around 1:04:54 from the above video - in particular, referencing where "games are [not] a waste of time".

They're not.  It's easy to condemn them as frivolous and silly, time better spent being productive and bringing actual value to real society, rather than retreating into a fantasy.  Heck, even I myself fall into that trap sometimes - do I want to "waste" my time playing another round, or try to do something else that needs to be done?  I think a lot of what gets missed about games - either largely unknown, forgotten, or willfully left out - is the intangible aspects on what they can offer a person.

I've spent a great deal of time playing games (a not-insignificant portion simply just to play).  More recently, to step back, to let my mind reset itself from the strains and stresses of a day; or, to reflect and mend over a longer span of time, of major turmoil and upsetting events; or, to vent in a safe, controlled fashion, in terms that could not feasibly (or morally, or legally) be attained in the real world; or, to reach out, and share an experience with total strangers.

I won't mince words - the loss of my father mid-way through 2015 had, as one would expect, a profoundly negative impact on my life - and I tried to make it largely invisible to those around me.  I did not feel comfortable allowing myself to grieve openly, simply because I thought (mistakenly, of course) that doing so was a weakness.  I needed to be strong, and project that strength outward, because the world simply does not give a shit.  True as that is, though, it's important to understand, just because the world as a whole won't stop, doesn't mean that the many smaller worlds around you can't.

I forced my emotions down, publicly, because that was the thing to do.  I drank (heavily) because it lessened the pain, however briefly.  I'm not a religious person, so that offers no comfort (I'm glad some are, can, and do derive comfort from it).

What else could I do, then?  It seems so weird in the abstract, because totally random strangers should not care, either.  In fact, that's what I expected, and that was an expectation (I thought) I could rely upon.  So, instead of rejecting that, I embraced it - more games, more streaming, more openness - because, fuck it, what's the worst that could happen?  If I've already felt the despair and anguish of my father's passing, what would a rando's indifference possibly do to me?

I kept on playing and streaming, even doing it more frequently because I needed the distraction.  Rather than finding indifference, I found people that cared - people that laughed at my stupid jokes, that found entertainment in the banality of my "content", that were genuinely interested in what I was doing.  It helped, more than I could describe here, and probably more than one would care to read.

Back to SGDQ, though - I went back and forth, a couple times, about whether I truly wanted to say anything about this.  I didn't want to detract from the event, or dig for pity, or whatever.  Ultimately, it was a similar act of frank openness that encouraged me to put myself more "out there" and drive me to attend the event - so, again, "fuck it", maybe I could at least pay something forward.  The small speech part went okay, didn't sound exactly how I planned and maybe was trite and uninspired.

Afterward, a few people reached out to me privately, and we've shared stories about how gaming has helped us individually and in our communities.  I'm coming to understand that these connections are unfathomably important, that people of entirely disparate backgrounds, motivations, and desires, can still be there for complete strangers.  I think I made the right choice in speaking (very) briefly about it, and I'll always remember the reception it received.

Maybe, some day, someone else will find strength in what I've said; until that time, it still means something to me, and that is enough.

That's all for now.