Let’s get this out of the way: I’m a gamer.
And I get that may be perceived as childish or lazy but I don’t see it that way. I view video games as an escape.
You see, when I get that controller in my hands, I’m free. I can be whoever I want to be and do whatever I want to do. I can experience a different world; I can understand and feel a character’s struggles, I can see hope, I can grow and I can learn how to live another life. In most cases, games are just a unique form of fiction.
I just completed my first play through of The Last Of Us, a game that follows a man, Joel, and a teenage girl, Ellie, as they move across a post-apocalyptic America. Throughout their journey they struggle with a grim world full of infected (zombies you could say) and bandits — who will kill just about anything. As you move through this world you’re faced with the realization that a young girl is forced to live in this hopeless world that is full of death and violence. Quantifying this is immensely difficult.
The story is driven mainly by the psychology of the characters. Joel had a daughter (who was quite similar to Ellie) that passed away during the initial outbreak of the infection (20 years before the time the main story takes place). As he moves through this world, he’s constantly dealing with survivor’s guilt. Everyone in Joel’s life has left him in one way or another. He’s alone, lost. But in Ellie he see’s another chance.
In the beginning of the story Ellie is a chore, a means to an end. But, as the two bond, she becomes irreplaceable. They grow together and, within this haunted world, they show that humanity can still shine through without organized society. What affected me most was how I genuinely felt guilty after committing such gruesome acts in order to survive. I saw Ellie behind me, watching the battle and the guilt came through as I exposed her to this part of the world.
This story was like no other and I can easily say that it has stuck with me for some time following my completion of the game. Throughout the campaign, I began to feel myself become emotionally involved with these characters. I saw what they saw but, most of all, I felt what they felt. Their pixelated world was an escape from reality; I lived and breathed their story. I grew with them and fell with them. I laughed with them and cried with them. It was a powerful experience.
This is what video games can do to you. These stories give gamers the chance to feel something they’ve never felt before. They give gamers the chance to immerse themselves in another universe.
Some people will say that gaming is childish, that gamers need to grow up. I’ve heard this all too often. But a video game is essentially the same thing as a movie, a TV show, or a book. It’s fiction. And it’s an excellent way of telling a story.
What this all boils down to is the ridiculousness of the notion of “growing up.” Sure, it’s important to gain maturity and responsibility as we age but that doesn’t mean we have to give up what makes us happy. You should grow with that passion and allow it to become an even more important aspect of your life.
Most of our life is spent in a state of boredom. For example, look at how mindlessly we scroll through our cell phones or how the average nine to five workweek has transformed us into zombies. We’re always eager to break through this and not be so complacent. But the answer is right in front of us. We need to find what makes us happy and feel proud to promote that. Because that’s where that state of boredom slips away and we become lost in the moment.
Sure, call me a child but I’ll continuously search for that moment because, for me, there’s nothing else like it.