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Escape from reality
Or, why games are awesome. Human beings have hated living in the real world since the first hairless ape daydreamed of fire and wheels, through to the great plays of ancient Egypt, Greece and the first letterings from Mesopotamia. This part of our consciousness will never leave us, and as technology becomes ever more awesome in its capabilities, we are sure to see an ever-increasing capacity for escape from reality. In the mean time, however, a large proportion of us upright primates have video games. Whether those games come from portable devices, consoles, or desktops, the core tenant and mantra stays the same; escapism. So what is it exactly that makes games such an amazing way for Homo sapiens to leave the boring monotony of our daily lives and enter a world marvellously better than our own?
No matter how rich you are, or how important, intelligent, athletic, or even lucky, all human beings are flawed and limited to the collective capabilities of those who surround us. This is not say that things are impossible, nothing is, but our time is limited. Now a lot of people who hate video games make their forerunner in the debate the fact that gaming is a ‘waste of time’ (these are the very same people who spend countless hours a week watching America’s Next Top Model, and other garbage on the T.V). This is, of course, an over-generalisation, and to be blunt, a massive pile of steaming bull muck. Games over us the chance to experience, in sometimes a very realistic way, feats of wonder that we are simply unable to currently achieve. For example, in games I have flown through space watching stars collapse, civilisations fall and vast alien hordes calling the doom of humanity, I’ve fought a dragon on a snow-capped mountain, became the hero and saviour of a world, and got the fair maiden, I’ve uncovered tangled webs of deceit, espionage and corrupt governments, and I’ve even, quite literally, watched crops grow. These things are, mostly (for I am a spy), completely out of my reach as one person in 7 billion. That is why gaming is awesome.
The vast majority of games offer an immense amount of creative possibilities. The direction that you, the player, takes is primarily up to you. Decision making, with actual important results, help to encourage a sense of worth greater than what we experience in our own lives. That is not to say that your life is not important, not by any means, but how many times in reality do you get to decide how to save the universe from extinction, or whether to be an evil overlord or a loving ruler? Games offer unlimited possibility that we can forge into our own visions. Take Skyrim, for example, every gamers playthrough of that game will be different. You will have taken your own, individual experiences from that, and carved out a rich and detailed history for your character through the deeds that you conduct. That is why gaming is awesome.
I don’t just mean those accompanied by a beautiful ‘ding’ noise on the Xbox 360, I mean that games make you feel like you’ve achieved something. Sometimes in reality, things can go bad very quickly, and these events are out of our control to manipulate. Games offer a chance for escaping into a world where you are in control. Not always, but a lot of the time, it is you who is conquering enemy lands, casting down evil tyrants and saving the innocent (or indeed the other way around), and this gives a sense of achievement. You feel that you’ve accomplished something, not exactly worthwhile, but something at least.
I suppose what I’m trying to say here is that, games are awesome for a plethora of reasons, take your pick. But ultimately, in my opinion, if I had to pinpoint just one factor that makes games as popular as they are, it is the chance to escape reality. Through this we become completely different people with power, control and success – and sometimes, this is just what we need to make us feel good.