Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
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.


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


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 community fisters, 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 * to your whitelists.

Status updates from C-bloggers

CJ Andriessen avatarCJ Andriessen
Don't have a date for V-Day weekend? Why not fill that void in your life by making a Super Mario Maker Level for this month's Dtoid Designs Contest?
Sarah Jane farron avatarSarah Jane farron
So uh, my dream was interesting. Travel somewhere to get furniture, protests going on, police lock us behind a gate so we go round and blow up their car to escape. Now apocalypse time with city on fire and zombies and then I get a girlfriend.Quite varied!
ikiryou avatarikiryou
I watched the movie Flight with Denzel Washington last night. It got especially good once John Goodman appeared and it turned into a sort of fun, surrealistic drug comedy. But then the ending undid every bit of enjoyment it gave me up to that point.
ChrisHannard avatarChrisHannard
Putting together the Valentines Day edition of Gaming's Beautiful People and finding it surprisingly hard - ooer, missus etc - to find a male couple to put in the list. Any suggestions? All I can seem to find is the guards from Undertale.
JohnSmith123 avatarJohnSmith123
The story in Destiny seem kind of crummy. I feel like I'm missing something here. It doesn't really click. Taken King however seems pretty good though.
OrochiLeona avatarOrochiLeona
You know how after years and years of constant truckin' Truckers are known to get one permanently sunburned arm?
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
Quick note for Soul Sacrifice Delta: Sony designed it weirdly, and so while most of the updates should come in by downloading the newest update, other stuff you might not get unless you hit this on the main menu. Don't miss out!
Retrofraction avatarRetrofraction
Getting my Ninja on for a selfie in the Bathroom for the contest:
Donald J Trump avatarDonald J Trump
Found this image of myself on Ted Cruz's computer, disgraceful! Further proof he isn't natural born, no true American would have a disgusting image like this! (Censored by some idiot's ugly face)
Solar Pony Django avatarSolar Pony Django
That moment when your dog eats one of your figures but don't notice until it's to late. 10/10 Dog. Yah fuck.
Alphadeus avatarAlphadeus
Love, Lost, Live, Lost (2014) - Yesterday was me and my girlfriend's 16th year anniversary together, so I decided to share this song. It deals with being in love, losing that person, moving on, and learning to love again. It's 9 minutes long, too :P
gajknight avatargajknight
I have done my part. Thank you Niero. Question: Does blocking someone also remove their front-page articles too?
iam16bit avatariam16bit
I've been on this site for sometime and for some reason I've never done a quickpost until now.
TheKodu avatarTheKodu
So I'm hearing the UN called Japan in to discus "Banning the sale of video games or cartoons involving sexual violence against women " Which by Anita's standards = any Violence able to be done. Japan sent a 40 page long NO back to the UN in reply.
Amna Umen avatarAmna Umen
Why did I have to read that Austin Grossman was going to be one of the writers on a cancelled Half-Life 2 episode?
Parismio avatarParismio
Dammit its 3 and i cant stop reading cute gay romance mangas.
Nekrosys avatarNekrosys
Going to be honest; I love out-of-context anime screenshots. They're... kind of incredible.
Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
Retweet of the year goes to President of Worldwide Studios, Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc., Shuhei Yoshida.
Voodoome avatarVoodoome
Just got home from Deadpool and ... it's not good. I liked the jabs at Green Lantern and the previous movie Deadpool, but that was about it. The rest was just painfully forced dick jokes. Wife fell asleep.
Nathan D avatarNathan D
Larxinostic rule34
more quickposts



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 -