Last week’s post, “A Break,” was a real tear jerker, thanks for the great response everyone! Devin didn’t even ask me to come up with a new title, or change anything, so I must have done something right.
And now, for something lighter. This weeks post: “Wizards of the Past”
What a title, huh? I must have had an encounter with a fantastical being, or watched the Harlem Globetrotters work their athletic magic on the old basketball court…something extraordinary, right?
Not really. I am a nerd. At heart. It’s something I’ve kept in the closet more successfully than being gay, and for a lot longer. I play video games. A lot. I just about always have a new game on my iPhone or iPad. I’ve built three computers over the years, and owned almost every Gameboy that’s ever been released, on top of the xbox 360, and I read video game blogs just about daily.
My favorite game genre? RPG’S. Role Playing Games, if you haven’t heard the term. Generally, they involve picking and designing a character–usually a warrior/brawler, a wizard/mage, or a ranged attacker like a ranger or rogue. You start the game with just about nothing, the clothes on your back, and a crude wooden stick to fight with. But all RPG games almost immediately push you off onto a grand adventure, with a clearly defined path between good (You) and evil (the guy wearing black armor and glowing eyes). You find new armor and weapons, and the more quests you succeed at the more experience you gain, until you Level Up.
Leveling up. Oh, the supreme joy and instant gratification of leveling up. You gain new skills, new weapons, and new enemies to fight and people to save. And there’s usually some cool animation like this:
I remember back when I was 18 an older gay man was talking to me and another gay friend of mine about RPG’s and how popular they were with gay men, and outsiders in general. An RPG allows you to assume another identity–to roleplay, literally–and leave your own identity behind. You can be the strongest warrior, the most evil wizard, the most cunning rogue–and you can do it for years and years across different games, systems, and fictitious universes. RPG’s are a way to hide from a life that doesn’t seem to fit, like a pair of forgotten jeans.
After I was diagnosed with leukemia, RPG’s became my lifeboat. I could get lost for hours in the plot, stories, characters, and the growing strength of my character, even as my own faltered and failed me. Video games have been a great comfort to me in my times of need, and now, finally, psychological studies are finding that video games add to your mental health as well, giving the user better visual acuity, hand-coordination, and multi-tasking abilities.
But they’ve also been there when I don’t need them. When I’m just hiding from my present reality. When I have a deadline to meet, or a problems with people in my life, or a workout to do at the gym. Video games are an escape, for when I need them, AND when I really shouldn’t be escaping.
SO! “Wizards of the Past” I wrote about a month ago when I was playing this game called “Divinity: Original Sin” and I was playing the most BADASS wizard this side of the Rockies. For way too many hours a day. More than I care to admit. Let’s just say if I spent as much time promoting myself and my art as I do playing video games I would be Lady Gaga by now.
But, as I cast another devastating fireball at a group of zombies, and felt that rush of pixelated power coursing through my veins, I remembered all the other wizards and sorceresses I had been over the years–from our old Tandy 386 through Windows 95, Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance, to the present–escaping, if only for a moment, from the glaring light of my present reality.
What’s your escape? We all have one. Sugar, drugs, gambling, sex, TV, exercise…let me know in the comments section, and your strategies for only escaping when it’s appropriate. Have a great week everyone!