I have fallen into a sort of ritualistic slump; impending baby. When my wife was pregnant the first time, it was all hot dogs and sadness, hot dogs and sadness. The fifty odd pounds I lost last summer have slowly found their way back from the dimension they apparently vacationed in, and are wrapping themselves snugly around their old home - my goddamned mid-section. And as I sit here finishing off some kind of chocolate covered cookie I didn't even bother to look at the brand of before I tore open the package like a crazed animal while simultaneously trying to buckle my belt and shouting "GODDAMIT WORK" at my crotch like a lunatic, I realized I've fallen back into my hold habits; I'm officially a gamer again.
Me and my wife went through some personal turmoil last year that caused us both to sort of re-evaluate our lives, and for awhile, we didn't have any fun. I would sit on the couch quietly reading from a mountain of books. Ever read Sethian Gnosticism and the Platonic Tradition
? No? I have. My wife took one look at it and started falling asleep. I was steeped in words, and a lot of it kind of started to get to me. I became distant from my friends, family, and even my wife for a time as I drifted off into my pile of books, going on my own fabricated "spiritual journey" of sorts which, really, only served to make me more cynical and withdrawn from the world around me.
This wouldn't be so bad in some respects. I learned a lot of interesting things. I found something of a direction in life, even though it is new, evolving, and admittedly rusty and in need of a lot of care and maintenance. I started to care less about people, and then more; it was a real rubber band journey where I am still not sure where I honestly stand. I know I'm really sick of the negativity and pessimism that used to surround me, both from myself, and others. And I'm definitely sick of seeing it on display in public. But without some kind of grounding, without a "break", a place to go, that wasn't back into the books, I lost some sense of who I was. I became synthetic, and machine-like. But what I needed was right in front of me the whole time; good old games.
There are a lot of health benefits to having some kind of mental escape, a place where we can dive into. But I definitely wasn't alone in the problems we faced in our marriage together. My wife had gone through something extremely traumatic; she had simply brought me along for the ride, and I happened to have less resolve than she did. I ended up on medication, and she was spared that much. But she changed as a person, too. We both grew up. And it wasn't long before I realized she too was in an emotional rut. And with our physical relationship taking a hit on top of everything else, with months of sleeping in separate rooms just because the lifestyle we had to adopt made it strange to be asleep next to one another, I found a way for us to connect again, almost completely by accident.
I found Animal Crossing.
I had played the Wii version before, but had completely skipped the DS and N64 iterations. The game really didn't have much appeal at that time. I was preoccupied with the GTA
games of the era, Smash Bros
, and any other twitch based action game that could satisfy my complete lack of any attention span. Gaming most of my life has been this way; a constant stream of new content and games to play, but never the attention to play them all the way through.
When I finally got on medication, after years of it being recommended to me by doctors, I found that change. I was able to sit through mountainous books. I sat and read Encyclopedias, all day sometimes. I had never been so focused in my life. So when I finally picked up games again, I was able to dedicate serious attention and time to the ones I enjoyed.
For awhile, I would just play on my breaks at my new job. Due to some pretty shitty experiences at the one I had before (and some which would seriously make me consider playing the victim card of that idiotic word "MISANDRY" due to some serious discrimination from my then employers at the time who were weeding out the staff like dandelions and attacking them emotionally in the process, a problem which actually led to me seeing an entire paycheck as penance before I finally saw myself out) I decided to lay low. It isn't really hard, working the night shift; most the people around me either don't speak English, or are actual schizophrenics who carry on conversations with me regardless of whether I actually respond or not, so I was able to hide in the shadows with my 3DS, playing whenever I could. And It quickly became a good friend of mine again.
Socializing was another issue entirely. I sort of began to associate my experiences with people at work with the anxiety I was suffering from, and occasionally I get panic attacks during my shifts, which are total bullshit to deal with. I cannot physically drive myself to talk to people. It's bizarre, because when I am with friends or family, I hardly shut the fuck up; hell, you people know me here. Some of you anyways, and have read my long winded rants. Think it's any different in real life? But for whatever reason, work has a real negative vibe, and I am probably misconstrued to be some kind of sociopathic murderer because of it.
Whatever the case, the 3DS was getting a lot of use. So when Animal Crossing
came out a couple of weeks back, I decided to bite the bullet and get the downloadable version. It was going to be a quick diversion, something I'd do occasionally in between bouts of Fire Emblem
I don't need to explain the middle part of this to anyone who has played Animal Crossing
and realized how life consuming it was. Essentially, I turn it on two or three times a day; but more interestingly, my wife decided to pick it up, and now it has become some weird link between us.
It started when our mutual friend connected with me online. Her and I would run around playing the mini games, and my wife thought it sounded like a lot of fun. So she started a character in my town Birdfeed, and slowly but surely had the 3DS to herself every night. She started hooking up online once a day with our mutual friend, and then one day, for a little surprise, I planted a bunch of flowers outside of her house.
It was kind of strange but the second she saw me, she got up and kissed me. It was the first time she had shown any real physical affection in months. Such a silly gesture; planting flowers for her, in our stupid little Animal Crossing
town. But effective for one reason; we were both using it as our mutual escape.
In Animal Crossing
, the biggest problem is that the bird or whatever in the post office is a total, mean spirited bitch. But the rest of the citizens are great. Sure, Pinky stands behind me while I'm fishing at three in the morning and stares at the back of my head in a terrifying manner. Roscoe thinks he's sooo fucking cool with all that black and white shit in his stupid little goddamn house. Leonardo makes me feel inadequate with his happy go lucky disposition and desire to work out while I sit like a fat lump and count the cheetos I found in my armpits. But the point is, I can turn on Animal Crossing even when my city is facing disastrous rising flood waters that are putting thousands out of house and home, and find it sunny, bright, and without a drop of rain in the world. it's idyllic, it's nice, and it's a great trip away from HORRIBLE ROTTEN REALITY.
Anyways, the other cool thing about playing Animal Crossing
with my wife is that we kind of balance each other out. I'm the kind of gamer who will often get bored with a game and just slowly stop picking it up altogether. Being the mayor by default means that, in order for the town to progress, I have to make a lot of the major decisions. I am planning on imposing a tax on my wife, who makes a lot more money than I do, in order to get some major projects done. But the responsibility to actually enact them rests squarely on my shoulders; if I abandon the game, the town will falter. My wife keeps the villagers happy since I am anti-social and don't talk to them enough, and she is compelled to keep playing because despite the time she puts into the game, she will not be able to see everything in one fell swoop because the responsibility is mine to enact change.
In other words, we operate like most towns do; the mayor is a lazy inconsiderate dope, and the hardworking citizen is working her ass off to never be rewarded. But she can buy all the new hairstyles and clothes she wants while dumping off her trash outside of my house; no recycling fees, and I get to live in my idyllic junkyard with shanty walls. It couldn't be more perfect than that.
It taught me though that, even though my wife is not a gamer, she was able to find an experience in gaming that ended up being therapeutic for her. For as us a couple, we went through some very difficult times, and since we both grew up very independent and have only ever relied on one another and no one else, it was difficult to separate that experience from our daily lives and cope with it individually while still remaining strong together. So apart from the daily grind of work, problems, or finances, we now talk about what happened in Birdfeed that day. And we our both developing a growing friendship with someone else as a result, who we now get together with once a week along with another friend for some board game time.
Games can be a great escape for anyone, regardless of their experience. You just need to find the right ones. And for me, I needed to find them again period. And I feel like I am back to normal in a way I never quite was; all the books in the world couldn't give me the refuge I really needed to get my thoughts in order and start focusing on my life again.
We were getting back to reality by escaping from it. Because when you can't afford a real vacation, 40 bucks on the DS and 1000 bells will get you all the trips to a tropical island that you'll need.
I hear the bananas there are pretty ripe this time of year, too.