Who am I? I'll list what I've played recently:
Fallout 3 (Second favourite RPG at the moment)
Dragon Age: Origins (My favourite of all these here)
Mass Effect 1 + 2
Sins of a Solar Empire
Saints Row 2
Grand Theft Auto IV
Titan Quest: Immortal Throne
So yeah, I'm pretty into RPGs. I quit WoW about a month/month and a half ago, and I've not looked back since. I'm 20 so that means I've been gaming around 16-18 years now, and I wouldn't give it up for anything. I remember playing Cannon Fodder, Zool, Worms... I even remember back when my dad bought his PlayStation. My tastes have been pretty varied over the years but for about 5-6 years I've mainly played RPGs mixed in with a few FPS games for variety.
I've owned a SNES (still have), N64 (still have), Gamecube, DS Lite, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Xbox 360... But I've always stuck with PC gaming. I'm considering getting a PS3 although I wouldn't be surprised if I never bought one.
For this musing, I'm going to slightly tweak the musing. Instead of using sex to mean intercourse, I'm going to use its other meaning; physical gender. Whilst it's not exactly what we're supposed to muse about, I feel it's an issue not many people would generally think about. To start, I'll explain what I mean with the title: "Can It Help You Cope?". I have, or should I say "I think I may have", some identity issues, which I'll go into more detail about later. I'm going to write about how I think video games have helped me possibly cope with this, but also how they make it worse. I apologize in advance if this seems a little forced/awkward, it's not something I tend to talk about openly.
For the last 3 or 4 years, I've generally only played as a female character in a game. In Left 4 Dead, I always use Zoey. In Fallout 3, I use a female character. In Oblivion, it's the same again. Mass Effect 1+2, Dragon Age: Origins, Lord of the Rings: Online, Saints Row 2, World of Warcraft, Drakensang - I don't need to go on. At first it was the "If I'm going to be staring at a backside for however many hours, I want it to be a female's rear" but over the years it's become more than that. I think it must have all started with World of Warcraft...
In World of Warcraft, I began to play female characters not long after I started. Within the next year, I didn't even consider rolling a male character; it was female or nothing. I was on a roleplay realm, so I was often roleplaying women and then... Something changed.
I did. There must have been a switch in my mind that flicked, and instead of just roleplaying the characters, I roleplayed the player. She had a name, physical description, but her personality was very similar to mine except a few changes. I started having "mood swings" in-game, I was flirty, I wasn't as restrained as I am; it was strange. I knew I was doing it, but I couldn't stop. It felt right and natural, and as soon as I'd hit "log in" I was gone - She replaced me. At this point of my life, WoW had taken over my life. I was skipping classes, I was staying up longer than I should have, I'd become addicted.
I realized, maybe this time last year, that what was happening shouldn't be - I tried to escape her and so I switched realm. I made a fresh start for myself, but I still played female characters. I never lied about who I was "IRL", but she was still there - seated right at the back of my mind. After maybe a month, I'd switched back to my old realm and embraced my alter-ego fully. She actually has a Skype and X-Fire account, believe it or not.
Needless to say I failed sixth form and I had no job from June until about September. In September, I'd gotten a job on a weekend and I really enjoyed it. It was a fairly mindless job so I tended to think about things and a regular topic was this strange side to me. I imagined what it would like to be her, and it was an amazing feeling. It was like she'd conquered my head and wanted to become fully realized. As the weeks passed, my thoughts about her came and went, my non-working days were spent in the world of Azeroth as this woman who didn't exist. When December came around, I began to feel her slip. My interest in the game faded, I'd revealed the truth to my server (and got a lot of stick for it from some people, although my friends were understanding) and she wasn't there too often.
At first it was a good thing - No more confusion, no more lying... I wasn't happy. This one shining light in my life had gone and over the weeks I began to become confused again; was it a phase? Where did she go? I still can't answer those questions. From time to time she rears her head in my mind - On the BioWare Social Network I almost let her come back, but I couldn't let her. It's not fair on other people, and she's a burden only I should carry.
So, to the question. Did video games help me cope? Yes, they did. World of Warcraft served as the perfect way for her to exist, but I lost all control. And that's when they stopped helping me cope. I created one of my Dragon Age characters similar to how she'd look, and for now that's all I need. Whether she's real or false, we had a damn good ride and I'm honestly sad she's rarely around.
If this makes no sense to anyone, I apologize. I rarely talk about it, let alone explain what happened, and I wouldn't be surprised if pieces of the puzzle are missing.