The Gift of Gaming: The world’s greatest coping mechanism

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[Dtoid community member TheDustinThomas shares the story of how video games helped him cope with the loss of his best friend. This made me ache a bit and wish I could see Isabelle again. Want to see your own stuff appear on the front page? Go write something! –Occams Electric Toothbrush]

I’ve never used videogames as a way to escape from the realities of life, I don’t find that to be a healthy way of dealing with things, at least it isn’t for me. I don’t like to push things under the rug and pretend like they didn’t happen, I instead choose to use videogames as a way to cope with loss, rather than to escape from it. I understand why some people would choose to do it this way, because I have friends and family that do, it’s just not my style. Videogames and writing are the things that have always helped me to make peace with situations, that’s why I wrote the blog about Muldoon the same day he passed away, I just needed to write about him and let everyone know how awesome he was.

I’ve never used videogames as a way to escape from the realities of life, I don’t find that to be a healthy way of dealing with things, at least it isn’t for me. I don’t like to push things under the rug and pretend like they didn’t happen, I instead choose to use videogames as a way to cope with loss, rather than to escape from it. I understand why some people would choose to do it this way, because I have friends and family that do, it’s just not my style. Videogames and writing are the things that have always helped me to make peace with situations, that’s why I wrote the blog about Muldoon the same day he passed away, I just needed to write about him and let everyone know how awesome he was.

He was indeed pretty awesome.

The first death I remember is my grandfather when I was four. I don’t really remember him much, but I was with he and my grandmother every day while my parents were at work until I started kindergarten. I remember being sad, and I remember playing Super Mario Bros. because it would cheer me up. Shortly thereafter, my family’s house blew up–not burned down, blew up–from a gas leak. The day after the fire, we went back to where the house used to be to try and salvage whatever we could. I remember picking our copy of Super Mario Bros. 3 from the wreckage. It was blackened from the smoke and soot, but you could still make out the smiling, raccooned Mario on the cover.

I didn’t expect it to work, but it didn’t matter, our NES wasn’t as lucky and didn’t make it out alive. A while later, in one of the greatest acts of kindness I’ve ever experienced, my mother’s coworkers pooled money together to buy my brother and I a new NES. As luck would have it, that copy of SMB3 still worked like it was brand new, which is why I’m convinced that NES cartridges will continue to flourish long after Skynet has become self-aware.

And when that happens, Fear Factory is the only band that will be spared.

Fast-forwarding a little bit, during a two year period beginning in late 2006, I lost my best friend to cystic fibrosis, my grandmother to natural causes, and my uncle to liver disease. Then the girl I was engaged to at the time and I split up. I was working a full-time job on the graveyard shift that I hated, I was working a part-time job that I enjoyed but couldn’t get a promotion from, I was going to school full-time, and I was in the wrestling ring every chance I could get. I had a lot on my plate and had very little free time. I was battling a great deal of depression and anger, I was struggling with an eating disorder, I was frustrated because I felt like I deserved to be better off with my wrestling career than I was, and for the first time in my life, despite always being a believer, I was questioning my faith in God. There was one week that was so bad that I slept from the moment I got home from work to the time I had to go back every day.

But at the end of the day, I had videogames to help me. My friend Chris and I explored every inch of Pandora. We dispatched thousands upon thousands of zombies in Cajun country. I soared through space with a Lombax and solved platforming puzzles with his metal sidekick. I ran alongside the ghost of Sparta as we trekked through Greece in search of Zeus.

Kratos knows my pain.

That’s around the time I started writing Cblogs on Destructoid after months of just being a casual observer and leaving the occasional comment. I knew I was a good writer, but would the Dtoid community think so? Well, there was only one way to find out, and I was amazed when the second blog I ever posted here on Destructoid made the front page. It felt awesome to see something that I had worked so very hard on make it to the front page, and trust me, I put a lot of work and research into that particular blog. It was cool seeing the comments rolling in, praising my writing. It only fueled me to write more and more. That was the first time I ever thought “Hey, maybe I could do this and get paid for it one day.” Over the years I’ve had my fair share of blogs make it to the front page, and every time I get that same rush and it only pushes me to want to keep writing and keep getting better.

Ever since that very dark time in my life, I’ve lost other family members, I’ve lost more friends, and I’ve been hurt, either by people or by life in general. Today, I’m in a much better state spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still use videogames and writing as some of my coping mechanisms. I put God first in every aspect of my life now, but sometimes, this guy needs to cope by riding an elephant and liberating outposts in Kyrat.

Seeing how happy destruction makes that elephant also makes me happy.

I don’t get through tough spots in my life by watching movies or television. Music helps sometimes, but it doesn’t take my mind off things. Videogames do, thanks in great part to the interactivity and having to constantly be on my toes. Eventually I get tired of watching the same movies or listening to the same songs, but I never grow tired of hitting buttons on a controller and watching Mario jump around and stomp goombas. Videogames are, to me, the gift that keeps on giving.

Thanks for reading

-Dustin

TheDustinThomas