Doing some research before this post, I found that escapism is a subject that really splits people. I am not commenting if that it is good/bad, I am simply exploring the games that allow me to escape within them. I find, as a creative writer and student, that escaping for a brief moment allows me to gain clarity on situations or writing projects. When I find that I have writers block or something is puzzling me, I use games that don’t rely on me doing much, to take my mind off it for a moment. Often I return with a different approach, which then I normally can complete the task causing me annoyance.
Escapism has long been linked with video games, allowing a person a way in which they can forget reality for a moment and focus on something different. But it is not just linked to video games, many other hobbies can act as a way to escape: Film, music and literature being a few creative outlets. For me, it boils down to music, literature and video games. Film has always been a source of enjoyment, but not something I found I can escape in.
Video games have a unique way in allowing you to explore a world as if you were actually there, with a book you have to imagine the world and with a film you are limited to the world the scene shows. A video games allows you to explore at your own pace. Just you and the world in the way you want to explore it. Whilst, yes you are bound to a set of rules: How can your character move? Are you allowed to enter this area? Can you travel all the way to that mountain? Can I kill this person? And so on and so forth. But if these rules are accepted, then you can fall into a world that you can control, allowing yourself to melt into the world that you are now a part off.
With this in mind, I’ve been doing a little ‘Soul Searching’ as it were, but with video games. Which worlds allow me to melt into their realities the easiest? and which do I enjoy the most? This could link with a previous post I made, in which I spoke about games I use to unwind, except instead of looking to de-stress, I’m looking at games that allow me to loose myself and time around me.
Potentially, one of the most popular games to date and for many reasons. Minecraft has a unique way of engaging both the creative and the survivalist in a person. Instead of just surviving it asks the question, how are you going to thrive?
What gets me most lost in Minecraft is the ability to play on hard difficulty and die a few times before I get a foothold, once I’ve built an area that is safe and a farm that will sustain me for a while. I then allow myself to consider, what if… just what if… that mountain in the distance… had a giant mushroom house on the top of it? (Que the “But the house will not have mushroom jokes”). The ability to go from survival to over the top survival is what makes Minecraft so enjoyable to me.
The ability to share these moments with friends is another key benefit of playing Minecraft to escape, sharing a story is both fun and beneficial. You will normally always have a friend who is focused on farming, or a friend who just loves to farm mobs, even some people that enjoy building, when combining all these together, you build a virtual community. This is how it plays out for the first few hours in my Minecraft servers, we help each other, kill bosses and get diamonds together, then it happens… someone will start the inevitable war. I never said these games had to be peaceful did I? Now take a look at the lighthouse your best friend has built, it would look much better if it was on fire wouldn’t it? And that mushroom house you’ve built is now full of TNT.
We never get attached to our servers for this reason, chaos will surely reign, but it keeps my group occupied for days and we find much enjoyment in that.
The Hunter: Call of the Wild
Now if you told me a few months ago that I would be addicted to a hunting simulator, I would call you crazy. I have never been hunting in my life and am not a supporter of it. But there is something enjoyable about being in the wilderness, tracking an animal and being able to bring it down from 300 metres away with a heart shot. For me, coming from a predominantly FPS dominated background in gaming, testing my skills in this nature is… oddly satisfying.
I suppose the escapism within the hunter: Call of the Wild, is based in reality, this game is what it says on the tin, a simulator. It does that job well, simulating wind direction that will carry your scent to alert animals, a noise factor that again will spook animals and a visual element, in which you can be seen from a distance, taking all theses into consideration there appears to be a lot to think about. There are a lot of things to consider mechanically when hunting. It is strange however, that all the mechanics merge into one, you never stop to think about what you are doing, you just do it naturally whilst on the hunt. Now I am not saying that this game is perfect, i imagine that hunting in real life is more complicated, but I don’t care, its not something that I would personally be able or want to do. This game allows me to escape into the wilderness.
Even though, those who know me, know that I hate camping… so much… Hunter allows me to expxlore a world I wouldn’t originally feel comfortable in. That’s another benefit of gaming, situations that you may not enjoy/can be a part of in real life, you can certainly do with a controller in hand.
Stardew Valley does something special when it comes to an escape. It actually plays to that fantasy, your character, stuck in a dead end office job, moves to the country to run his grandfathers old farm. An escape from the mundane to a life that you control fully is something, moving from a world in which you are just a number, just another person crunching the numbers for a corporation that does not care about them. This game, plays into that fantasy.
JoJa Mart is placed within the game to remind its players that even though the game is set up for you to prosper, there is always the mundane/ real life looming. The old life that you had threatens your new one with its existence and like many my first reaction was to go against it, a decision that I never regretted. There is a clear binary set up within the game, not many games do this, JoJa Mart could represent the real world for many. bringing the industrial/corporate values to a peaceful town, set in its ways. Is it your job to oppose these? or do you side with the Corporation and ruin a natural town, the one that took you in with open hands?
Stardew Valley, is such an important game for this, it knows what it is doing. Giving you a piece of land that you can call your own and do with as you please. The fun part about video games is that they transcend personal restrictions, it does not matter in real life if you do not understand how farming works/ physically can farm, you can do it within the game. But it does not hold your hand, many people will agree with that. You are taught to water your plants, where to buy and sell things, you are left to figure out the rest. There is also a huge world to explore, with many different magical places, events to attend and different caves to explore, leaving you with much to do in such a heartfelt game.
Escaping into a different world is a hobby that I truly enjoy, in itself it allows me to disconnect from the real world for a moment, that then in turn allows me to focus on the real world.
Do any of you have set worlds you love to escape into? If not for the story, for the world itself? There are plenty that I could have mentioned like the Skyrim and Fallout worlds, but I find that I do not go back to them as much as I used to.
Thanks for reading,