Game Paused: Self-Discovery & Finding Refuge

Mario Kart

“Video games are unhealthy and a waste of time.”

“Go outside and get some air.”

Oh, how many times those words have escaped people’s lips. And how many more they have been directed at me. We have all heard them somewhere at some point in our gaming lives. It took me a while not feel hurt by those comments, especially when I didn’t exactly know any better and thought my parents were always right. It took me even longer to realize that they were not, in fact, right all the time. To those that say video games are bad for different reasons—I beg to differ.

Mario Kart is etched into my memory. It was one of the first games I played on my Nintendo GameCube. As a kid, I really enjoyed it. I didn’t know why, I just … did. Now I realize that it gave me refuge. I was able to drive around at fast speeds dropping banana peels and green shells, forgetting the bullying I suffered at school that day. Then, a specific game came along—a game that saved me.

In high school, I was confused. I couldn’t figure out who I was or what I wanted to be. I was trying to fit in a place where girls wore skirts and dresses while I wore pants and shorts. Add family problems to that and you have yourself a very stressed sophomore student. On a whim one day, I bought Dragon Age: Origins for my Xbox 360. I fell in love immediately. The respite it offered was very welcoming; I loved my character and the interactions she had with the other engaging characters, which were very comical yet had a sense of realism. They had feelings and emotions of their own. If I did something they disliked, they would not like me as much, just like people in real life.

Dragon Age: Origins

Then, a little redheaded bard came along and opened her mouth. Leliana, a mysterious woman living in the Chantry, made her way into my heart and of my character’s. It wasn’t love at first sight, however. Hearing stories about Andraste and the Maker, fighting darkspawn at her side, and listening to her sing (swoon!) were what made me fall in love with her. Her personality is what endeared me to her the most. Her loving and caring heart drew me in as she saw the world with a shade I didn’t think existed.

“There is beauty in this world. Have faith.”

And I did. I began having faith in myself and in others around me. Life had seemed so incommodious; a chore that had to be done. Leliana made me see that there was more to life than hatred and discrimination. She made me see the small, sweet moments in life that brought me joy.

Dragon Age: Origins also taught me how to deal with the bullying I had been suffering. It taught me that even the smallest person could achieve the greatest things. In the game, each night, a mob of undead attacked the people of Redcliffe Village. With no army to defend them, their numbers quickly dwindled. Still, they managed to fight the horde using whatever could pass as a weapon: shovels, broomsticks, the occasional sword or bow. Anything they could use to stop the incessant attackers. Finally, the Grey Warden arrived and helped them defeat the undead army once and for all.

I was the village being attacked each and every day, and the undead were the bullies that hurt me nonstop. Even though each scar and insult caused my hope to dwindle like when the villagers lost their people, I managed to stay firm just like them. The Grey Warden was the video game itself, helping fight off the horde of bullies until, somehow, I managed to beat them. I survived against all odds by standing up for myself. Not with swords and arrows, but by speaking to a counselor that helped me get through the scars I had gained both inside and out.

Now, there are some who may disagree with me. They might say that I am merely confusing reality with video games and that I should stop before I cannot recognize one from the other. However, it is not confusion. The attraction I felt towards women was evident long before I played video games and even longer before Dragon Age showed up. It was only a matter of showing me that I was not a mistake, that I wasn’t wrong for liking women and not men. I also know that there is no way a tainted dragon will “swoop down upon us” as it leads an army of monsters. There is a very clear line between reality and video games.

I am not the only one finding answers and refuge in video games. Many people have been affected in many ways by games; their lives have been changed for the better in some way or another. And while it is true that games have violence in them, there is a reason why the ESRB exists: to put appropriate games in the appropriate hands. So the next time someone tells you that you are wasting time watching pixels move around a screen, remember that you’re learning important lessons and escaping reality just for a little while. It is not a waste; it is a means to freedom, even if it only lasts an hour or two.


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