hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

It's more complicated than just escapism

2:00 PM on 08.22.2009 // Sean Carey

[Editor's note: We're not just a (rad) news site -- we also publish opinions/editorials from our community & employees like this one, though be aware it may not jive the opinions of Destructoid as a whole, or how our moms raised us.  Want to post your own article in response? Publish it right now on our community blogs.]

Much like the games we play, most humans' days are filled with routine -- a repetition of memorized patterns designed to produce a desired outcome. We are creatures of habit. We thrive under predictable circumstances with reliable results. If we were to list out the activities that we complete over the course of a week, a month, or even a year, most of us would find that our daily lives are about as complicated as the Konami code.

Wake up. Brush Teeth. Shower. Get dressed. Go to work. Punch in. Meeting. Report. Email. Report. Email. Lunch. Meeting. Report. Email. Report. Email. Punch out. Go home.

OR

Wake up. Brush teeth. Shower. Get dressed. Go to school. Class. Class. Class. Lunch. Class. Class. Class. Go home. Homework.

OR

Wake up. Scratch crotch. Put on least dirty shirt from pile next to futon. Leave parent's basement. Steal cereal from pantry. Return to basement. Surf for porn. Troll internet. Play game. Watch hentai. Troll internet. Troll internet. Surf for porn. Cover self-loathing with cynicism in forum posts. 


What will probably flash before our eyes on our deathbeds.

Our lives, if we are honest with ourselves, are as prescribed as a rail shooter. But videogames are no different. Every game, when you break it down into its sub-atomic components, is merely the repetition of patterns and problem-solving exercises with visual cues or narrative progression as a reward. With games, the scope of possibility is even smaller. Not in terms of setting or character or plot, but due to the fact that the experience is crafted for us, rather than by us.

My thoughts have recently been drifting back to a question I thought was already explored in its fullness. Why do we as gamers, who pride ourselves on creative thought and joyful expression, come home from a self-imposed playlist of tasks on repeat only to engage in an activity which demands even more pattern memorization, routine, and repetition?

I used to be satisfied with my answer to that question. Most of the research, surveys, and discussion on the topic boil our motives down to one or more of three main reasons for indulging in our favorite digital daydreams:

1. Entertainment
2. Escapism
3. Social Interaction

Intellectually, those three categories seem to cover all the bases. Up until recently, if you were to ask me why I played games, I would have robotically rattled off those three reasons. If I was feeling saucy, I would have embellished with perhaps a dash of "improving hand-eye coordination" and/or a teaspoon of "problem-solving exercises keeps the mind limber." While those reasons satisfy the logical mind when I share them, there's always this little bothersome feeling that I haven't quite captured all of my true motivations for playing.


Why do we play videogames? SCIENCE!

Entertainment (read as: fun), while an excellent reason to play games, can be achieved through a multitude of options. We have movies, music, books, television, art, theatre, dance, and many other well established means for amusing ourselves (read as: sex). There's nothing unique that videogames provide in that category.

Social interaction is another reason with great merit, but again, there are even more options for us to engage in social interaction then there are in entertainment. The rebuttal that immediately pops up in my mind is that videogames provide a safe haven for those who wish to engage in social interaction without the pressure and anxiety of face-to-face interaction. But that doesn't really hold water. The Internet has been providing that in chat rooms and forums for years now. Again, there's nothing specific to games that make them the logical conclusion for fulfilling this need.

So, that leaves us with escapism.

"But walkyourpath, doesn't your argument for entertainment apply in the escapism category as well? Aren't all those other forms of entertainment you listed just as capable of providing a release from our everyday lives as videogames?"

Yes, and no.

In life, you can do all the right things and still not succeed. The routines that we adhere to so slavishly don't always equate to the outcomes we assume will follow.

You can do your job better than anyone else, and the cousin of the boss can swoop in and get the promotion you worked your ass off for. You can be charming, witty, cool, good-looking, well-to-do, and say all the right things -- you still might not get the guy or gal your heart yearns for.

It is true that if you persevere and constantly strive to improve yourself that the odds are in your favor, but life provides no guarantees.


"I want him in the games until he dies playing."

This is where videogames alone are qualified to provide us with an escape. Yes, most books and movies, etc, are geared to provide us with the happy ending we want to see. But we don't get to participate in that process. In videogames, we are assured that performing the right actions will provide us with the desired result.

If we memorize the right patterns and execute the controls with the appropriate timing, then Mega Man will always defeat Dr. Wily. If we execute our attacks and defense with the proper strategy and our reflexes don't fail us, then Bang Shishigami will always drop Iron Tager. If we spend hours grinding goblins and kobolds and orcs, our abilities will always grow until we are able to defeat any enemy. XP is measurable, reliable, and comforting. It makes us feel good knowing that our efforts will provide a predictable result.

I spent an embarrassing number of hours in my adolescence attempting to move objects with the sheer force of my mind and spirit. As far as you all know, I never succeeded. But if I pop in Psi-Ops or The Force Unleashed, just executing the right patterns and button combinations allow me to accomplish that feat. Every time.

This is why we play games. It reaffirms our belief in the laws of cause and effect. It is security. It is control. More than any other medium, it is the one true escape -- actively participating in life's progression as we feel it should be, and not how it often is.


Sean Carey,
 Follow Blog + disclosure

This blog submitted to our editor via our Community Blogs, and then it made it to the home page! You can follow community members and vote up their blogs - support each other so we can promote a more diverse and deep content mix on our home page.



 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our moderators, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

Mike Wallace avatarMike Wallace
Could you stop calling Metal Gear Solid V Kojima's "swan song?" He's not retired, for crying out loud.
extatix avatarextatix
Seems rather excessive for a 3ds game. (3ds xl for scale) [img]http://i.imgur.com/DwOtP0s.jpg?1[/img]
Cosmonstropolis avatarCosmonstropolis
Tried the stealth approach for awhile, time to switch things up. *plants C4 everywhere* I'll probably toss one on the poor schmuck that delivers my copy of MGS V. For taking so long.
WryGuy avatarWryGuy
Just a quick update for folks. Phil/Mike Martin is off the streets and safe for the next month. Thanks to everyone who helped out. You can keep up to on the forums: http://www.outerheavenforums.com/showthread.php?41974-The-Save-a-Phil-Foundation
Script avatarScript
Watching Twin Peaks for the first time. Just yooou... aaaand IIII...
Perro avatarPerro
So the 3DS Dragon Quest VII remake is coming to mobile in Japan, so there's a chance that version will get ported over here. Not ideal but if we get it at all I'll be happy!
The Travisionist avatarThe Travisionist
I'm just waiting for "Mad Max: U Mad, Bro?"
gajknight avatargajknight
Put down the deposit for my new car, will probably be able to pick it up on the weekend. Insurance is pretty good too, sub £1000 which is excellent. Kinda. My mum tried to reverse in 5th gear. She drives an automatic. What a noob. :P
Bardley avatarBardley
We are Diamond Dogs.
IDrawOnTape avatarIDrawOnTape
I get to work to stock and STAR WARS TOYS STAR WARS TOYS STREET DATE SEPT 4 OMG STAR WARS TOYS STAR WARS TOYS STREET DATE SEPT 4 STAR WARS TOYS STAR WARS TOYS STAR WARS TOYS STAR WARS TOYS STAR WARS TOYS STAR WARS TOYS STAR WARS TOYS WHY ISN'T IT SEPT 4?
Cosmonstropolis avatarCosmonstropolis
Still waiting by the mailbox. Tranq'd a jogger and stuffed them into a locker just for fun. I keep throwing rocks to get the attention of the neighbors and then hiding in tall grass. They look noticeably upset. Probably because I kept them up all night.
ChillyBilly avatarChillyBilly
Metal Gear or Mad Max? The choice is obvious. [IMG]http://i22.photobucket.com/albums/b321/Felth/obvious%20choice.jpg~original[/IMG]
Jiraya avatarJiraya
Quickpostmortem My wife´s dog died yesterday . Rest in peace Diamond Dog . [img]http://i.imgur.com/uVT3HlF.jpg[/img] Here's to you, Malu Rest forever here in our hearts The last and final moment is yours That agony is your triumph
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
Xbone journey continues! I thought I would like Dead Rising 3 well enough as a huge fan of 1/2, but I must say I find it's emphasis on hard drama laughable and the game fundamentally disingenuine. Guess I'm moving on to Forza Horizon 2.
TheDefenestrator avatarTheDefenestrator
I dig the feature in Until Dawn where, if you have the Playstation camera, it will record you briefly during jump scares for you to watch later. It's a really neat use of an underused peripheral. Too bad I'm dead inside and never react to them.
Shinta avatarShinta
[img]http://i.imgur.com/oZ7CQJa.jpg[/img]
nanashi avatarnanashi
Fallout Shelter: Impossible to Learn, Easy to Master.
Mike Wallace avatarMike Wallace
Not saying this is the case, but Kojima has gone on record as being a huge Mad Max: Fury Road fan. Konami decided to release MGSV on the same day as Mad Max TVG. They're trying piss on Kojima's lawn, man.
ooktar avatarooktar
Downloading Phantom Pain. ETA, 16 hours. Just in time for lunch tomorrow.
Mr Knives avatarMr Knives
OH WOW. Talk about a complete about face. After slogging through the horrid beginning and slow ass swap sequence this game picked up exponentially. So far, I'm enjoying the hell out of it now. All if forgiven. Thank you based Kojima.
more quickposts


Contest!


Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -