These days there’s different perspectives on gaming. The first, something bored housewives and silly kids do. It’s nothing serious. Think Candy Crush. The second, something fun, engaging and community based. Think Geek Culture. My love of gaming evolved from childhood to teendom. Through my teens I was anxious and depressed. Gaming provided a release for my pent up aggression. However, I stopped gaming so much. I had work – school – other obligations. It seemed silly to continue gaming when I was no longer depressed. After-all, gaming was for the weak and pathetic me that never left her room.
The past 6 months I’ve realized something. The more I work or socialize in public, the more dreary and downtrodden I feel. Every now and then I “fall off the wagon” and go back to gaming. I play for hours on end – grinding, as they say in the community. Yes, hours. Days. One week I played Fallout 4 for a total of 50 hours. That’s more than a regular work week. Aside from the killing and questing I spent some of that building an apocalyptic home. Let’s call it “nuclear Sims”.
This is my nuclear paradise. In this world I am free from a lot of the expectations of this one. Triggers, if there are any, can be turned off or turned down. I can set my visual lighting to what’s comfortable to me. Background sound is entirely optional. Clearly this is optimal for those that are triggered. We strive for control and beg for it in the day to day. Video games provide an escape from reality but they also give us meaningful control. I get a lot more than that out of video games. Once I finally told myself that it’s ok to play games (and not be doing something “important” instead) I started to see just how much they are giving back to me.
I enjoy video games. This is the most important perk. If you don’t enjoy gaming you’re not going to get a lot out of them. For me, gaming is a release. I can kill, hunt, and achieve to my heart’s content. I feel a sense of accomplishment in a controlled environment. This safety to explore your personality and your emotions is important. My fight/flight/freeze is often quenched by social norms and laws. I don’t want to harm people – but, I do want to get a release. Video games help me to get out my frustrations. They also organize me. I feel relaxed and at ease when I know there’s a way to go, something I should do, and a sense of direction. Sometimes the real world is scary and hard to navigate – games provide a framework for their completion.
I’m not saying games can’t lead to addiction. They most certainly can. However, when used as a tool for sensory responsivity they can be helpful in ensuring that we are getting the release and relaxation that we need. The world is a sensory-overloaded place and it’s important that we’re checking in with our bodies and minds. For me, games like World of Warcraft, Fallout, and the occasional Grand Theft Auto or Mortal Kombat, help me to feel in control.
For anybody wondering I currently have a PS2, PS3, PS4, and xBox 360.