Escaping to Remember and Forget

Game bloggers are expected to write only about games. Happy articles. Happy articles are the sort that are always glad about games, and always have some awesome experience to share, or tell of some incredible event we’re all looking forward to. If the work doesn’t fall under this rule then it’s automatically the serious sort. Games are un-serious and all writing about them should be the same. Don’t bring anything else into it, or it will pollute the experience. It’s only an escape if we leave out all those things we’re escaping from. These serious articles are the ones that nitpick at popular problems or anything that deals with culture and politics. That last one isn’t really considered serious so much as totally inappropriate for gaming. XP Chronicles has a much sharper focus on gamer politics, a slight departure from T.R. Red Skies which focused much more on in-game experiences. I write now more about out of game experiences that affect the gaming community. Why the change?

My country and community has always asked me to be apolitical, to buy my coffee, enjoy my sofa, and have some popcorn with my video games. It asks me to not pay attention, to not be distracted from the fantasy, to not get involved. Society asks me to consume, consume, consume, to not count my dollars, not to miss a sale, to not worry about ethics. My community asks me to be numb and to ignore the messages in my games, because there are no messages.

Would that I could. There are politics in gaming. There is culture. There are people. We are living. When I’m swept away into my favorite fantasies, I can’t forget that there’s a world I return to soon after, that fellow avatars in-game are feelings, thoughts, and desires — not pixels. I can’t ignore the relationship of my fantasies to my reality.

Should we laugh more than we weep? About the same? 60/40? How many happy articles makes up for a serious one?

The Privilege of Games

As much as I as discuss sexism, racism and general bigotry, there’s one obvious thing that towers above and behind those, serving as the backdrop to them. It’s the fact that gamers are part of a very privileged group. Men and women, brown or white. Having the luxury of turning on a video game and escaping into virtual words is a privilege many people don’t have. The very act means I choose to escape the everyday. There are millions of people who cannot escape their reality.

It feels strange to think of gamers as this relatively wealthy group, which we are, all things considered. That’s doubly true for PC gamers. Our equipment is expensive to buy and requires upkeep (security software, peripherals, etc) as well as an internet connection — even as many of us are poor and impoverished. That “always online” lifestyle, regardless of income, means we have income and are part of a privileged group who can buy a respite from the real world and escape into the virtual.

To have the option to take a break from the emotionally exhausting work of activism, is a privilege for me. I grew up in the lowest class I could as a white male and have still managed to maintain a privileged position in this community. My life story was written in poverty. That fact is always hanging over me so I never forget that I can be homeless once more. That experience sits with me at my keyboard every time I write. This is why I write so much about the political. It’s my life.

I know of dozens of gamers who write about politics and culture, some of them all the time, some of them only occasionally. I also know just as many who actively avoid it because for them, this is a space to escape political realities. For many (a number we might all be uncomfortable with should it be revealed), this escape into games is what keeps them alive– their realities are unbearable. Gaming is survival for them. It’s important to have a safe escape, a safe place, and games give that to many of us.

Been There

Imagine you couldn’t turn on your computer ever again, couldn’t connect with fellow gamers, writers — and your circumstances were dire at home (abuse, poverty, homelessness). You could be easily forgotten in your dark place, no one caring, no one ever mentioning the fact that you’re not there. How lonely would that place be? How terrifying? How hopeless?

As futile as it may seem, I don’t think I could stop writing about the political. For me, it’s a responsibility, a promise to never forget my darkest days, when I knew no one noticed I was missing or there — passersby having their latte, in their cars, in their warm coats and full bellies — I was invisible. I was eleven. I’m political for my 11-year old self. There are more of me out there, different colors, different situations, all hoping no one has forgotten them. Writing for me is remembering.

When I’m not writing, I’m doing. In my old hometown, I established a safe routes network for the homeless, where they can pick up things they need no matter where they are. At home, I work with my wife to spread awareness and provide support to people in need. Since the birth of our last child, we’ve been able to do less of that than we’d hoped, but in the meantime we both write. Writing is powerful.

I had no purpose in writing this — it’s more of a diary entry than I ever do, but I wanted to today. I rarely write about the reasons I write, but perhaps it would be good to remember to do that as well.

4 thoughts on “Escaping to Remember and Forget

  1. Very personal and touching post, Doone. Something that stands out to me as I read though this. I don’t like using the term “escape” in relation to games, as there isn’t really any way to escape one’s realities via any type of hobby. At the end of the day, you’re still right back in the real world, for good or bad. That’s not to say that hobbies aren’t important, but I see them more as a distraction than an escape, and distractions are good. If I recall correctly, Tolkien wrote a bit about the importance of fantasy and imagination even for adults. However, I see a danger in putting too much passion into our hobbies, because (as you indicate above) any number of things could happen to remove that distraction from our lives and we would be left once again having to face harsh realities without the benefit of the distraction, perhaps in an even worse situation due to the loss of something that we used to anchor our lives or even define who we are.

    For me, it all comes back to balance. I’ve written some lighter game posts along with some (hopefully) headier and deeper stuff. I enjoy either style, from both a writing and reading perspective. My reason for writing is to have a creative outlet. It’s the one form of art that comes halfway naturally to me, so I take advantage of that.

    • You’re right, we’re never fully escaped from any real world circumstance. We are where we are located and to that end, we’re never escaping. But games transport us to places in our minds and that’s far more powerful than taking a rocket to another planet. I don’t know much about the psychology of escapism, but I have felt it’s power. I think escapism can be an appropriate descriptor of what gamers do. It’s not always of the “gotta get outta here” sort. It’s just a mental break in its simplest (Candy Crush Saga) and a total trip in it’s most complex (VR or MMOs).

  2. I appreciate your posts, no matter what they’re about. I remember growing up poor as well. Never quite homeless, but there were birthdays and Christmases with no gifts, and having a steak was a luxury. I think that the term escape is appropriate mainly because we do use our hobbies to take our minds off of things that are less appealing — reality in this case.

    I’d be interested in seeing your wife’s writing, does she have a blog?

    • I remember thinking as a kid that only poor people would eat liver. You have to be hungry to enjoy it! 😀

      My wife doesn’t own a blog, but that might be changing. She does, however, write, usually organization research (she’s a sociologist). She also helps me edit my own essays sometimes especially the more complex ones that require more than one brain to put together.

      And thanks for reading, Izzy 🙂

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