One of the reasons I enjoy spending time playing video games is to enter, to reference Mr. William Wonka, a “world of pure imagination”. Admittedly, the imagination is supplemented by the stories, graphics, and mechanics that came from someone else’s head, but still, it’s a fun way of playing pretend. And, in a lot of ways, like those who go awful of Mr. Wonka, a little too much greed in one place or another just ends up with me finding my characters deposited into the equivalent of a chocolate river.
Of course, there’s also the escapism angle, which should certainly not be discounted. After all, a game I’m greatly enjoying right now, when I have the spare moments to play, is Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Not because I love the naval battles (although they are far better than what the series previously showed us). And certainly not because I have a nihilistic streak that would love to be part of a global organization of highly trained assassin’s, who can do parkour seemingly at will. No, I’ve been enjoying AC4:BF because of the environments. After all, I currently live in a portion of the country that recently was colder than the surface of Mars. In my neck of the world, if you see colors after October is over, it probably means that someone has started decorating for Christmas already. So, to be able to dive into a world that is lush, tropical, and sunny is just a treat. Not as much of a treat as going on an actual vacation, but, let’s be honest. I did that last year, and the darned thing almost killed me.
That desire to escape is probably also why I’ve had more fun playing around in Skyrim after the spring thaw, and why the world of Pandora has always been enjoyable (I certainly don’t live in a desert climate where there’s danger lurking around every corner, and where guns can shoot freaking fireballs). Escapism is an important aspect of gaming, at least for me. It’s one of the reasons that, aside from wanting to see the various death animations, I never really got into the Sims games. Listen, I can freak out plenty well over trying to cook a pizza in my day-to-day life. I don’t need to watch a video game family watch their house burn to the ground because they failed to make cereal.
Maybe I need a level of escapism in my day-to-day life, or maybe I just enjoy exploring the worlds created by others. After all, I’m also a fairly voracious reader, and, with regards to free time, if I’m not spending my time in a video game, I’m probably nose down in a book. Good, bad, or otherwise, those moments spent exploring someone else’s motivations and journey can help me to reanalyze my own path, and maybe, just maybe, find a different way to go about things.
Unless, of course, their path requires super powers of some sort. I’m just not that willing to stand near radiation to find out if I can get laser eyes, or just crippling illness.