Escapism in Role-Playing

OK, so I’m a die-hard Dragon Age fan. In fact, I’ve played Inquisition more times than I can count (mostly because I start hating how my character looks after a few hours, or I decide that a mage makes more sense than a rogue, because, realistically, why wouldn’t a mage be the one to end the war?) And that is how my mind works: it is not just a game. It is a second life, but unlike players of Second Life, I don’t wake up hating myself for literally living inside a video game. My very first experience with gaming is possibly the worst anyone can have – World of Warcraft. That’s three years of my life I’ll never get back. Not that it wasn’t awesome and entertaining on a massively-multiplayer scale; it’s just that I don’t remember much of that time. My form of escapism bordered on becoming bone fide hikikomori (don’t know what I’m talking about? Wikipedia’s got you covered).

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Eventually, having escaped my room to find that air is not meant to smell like that, I grew up, got a job, acted like a normal human, but still gamed every holiday. People say teachers have it easy because of the ‘half-days’ and ‘long holidays’. “Ha!” I say unto you. Those ‘half-days’ are there to teach the next generation something new. The other half of the day is there for you to mark the next generation’s homework. I will concede to the holiday allegation – but then again, if one has a problem with the amount of holidays teachers get, why not stop moaning and just become a teacher? I digress. Back to my extremely long, relaxing, leisurely holidays. Those 2-3 weeks are the only time I can allow myself to game, because I might like escapism just a tad too much (remember the WoW phase?) It is for this reason that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt took me well over a year to finish. If I had launched that game just once over a weekend, I would have lost my job, simply because I would have forgotten that I have one. Luckily though, I have a strong will and very, very, extremely long holidays.

Sometimes, though, if there is something big going on that I really cannot deal with, I cheat a little and play Dragon Age (NOT The Witcher – waaay too big) because I can just play within an area for a while and then quit. The reason I play RPGs is because I can escape my real life in such moments. Dragon Age will always be my go-to game because of the customization options for my character, but give Geralt his dues – he’s the most bad-ass made-up persona since people went crazy over the Chuck Norris myth. The truth is, sometimes one needs to live in another person’s shoes to realise that one’s situation could be worse. There is nothing quite like watching Snow slowly turn to a l’cie and beg Lightning to kill him after she’d kicked his ass that makes you realise that your life really isn’t that bad. Watching poor Alistair deal with his long-lost sister Goldanna’s rejection might just cure you of the rage you feel towards the sibling that’s hogging the TV remote. And just seeing the Crones of Crookback Bog can cure you of body dysmorphic disorder.

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I’m sure a little concealer will fix that right up…

So what is the point of my babbling? Only that we all escape life in some way or another. Some read – I had my nose in a book until the age of 13, then discovered RPGs and the world of gaming. I’m still not sure if that was good fortune or bad because my spelling is now dictated by that squiggly red line under misspelled words. There are other people who prefer the thrill of jumping off cliffs, bridges, or airplanes. No judgment. I just think their brains have been damaged from the oxygen deprivation up there – it’s the only explanation I can come up with for why they keep doing it. Point being, there are a myriad of ways that we deal with the stresses of life, but like the Hotel California, we can check out anytime we like (or only during holidays, in my case), but we can never leave. That escapism might help for a few hours – maybe even a few days – but the problem is still there. The way I see it, we have two choices: man up and face life, or don some medieval clothing and join a LARPing community so that you never have to face your troubles again.

-Dissociative Gamer (that name has never been apter than right now)

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