Games can be art. Games can educate. Games can solve real-world problems. But, even at their most basic level – as sheer escapism –games can just plain make life better (or at least bearable). In today’s gamer story, amazing storyteller Susan Arendt tells us how one game got her through a pretty rough patch.
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So, I was unemployed and had been for a while. And, I had reached that stage of unemployment where you really begin to feel horrible about yourself. I was sending out dozens of résumés every week. I was applying to every job that I was remotely qualified for and nobody was calling. I wasn’t getting any interviews. And, I had reached that point where I was convinced I was just worthless, and there was clearly something wrong with me because otherwise somebody would have at least called, and I was never going to work again.
This is a very common state of mind for people who have been unemployed for a while. And, it was exacerbated by the fact that, hey, all my friends had jobs so they were all busy all day. And, I had nothing to do all day except sit in my house and fixate on how I didn’t have a job, and how nobody was calling me, and how I was clearly just terrible and was never going to work again. And so, I started playing Morrowind.
Now, I had never played another Elder Scrolls game before that. All my RPG experience had been with JRPGs, sprites, Super Nintendo – that kind of style of game. So, I had never played an RPG in this style before. And, it was the whole reason I bought my Xbox… was because everything I had seen about this game looked amazing to me and so different and so incredible. And, I started playing mostly as a way to cheer myself up, just “Okay, well, HEY, I’ve got time. May as well!” And it actually ended up becoming extremely therapeutic for me because I could go into this world and there was so much to learn about. There was this entire history to learn about. There was all this lore to learn. There was new geography to learn. New days of the week. There were gods. There was all of this stuff for me to just throw myself into and it really saved me from fixating on my situation all day. Because, instead of dealing with these things that I had no control over, suddenly I could go to Balmora, and I could practice my enchanting. And, yeah, okay, maybe I couldn’t get somebody to call me on the phone to interview me for an editing job, but, I could improve my enchanting. And, I could make a really awesome pair of enchanted pants, which I did, and they provided light, and I called them “pantalums,” and I still think that’s funny.
Just learning everything there was to learn about that world and being able to live somewhere other than the real world – which, for me, at that time, sucked – was incredibly helpful for me. I am pretty sure I could not have gotten through that time in my life if it hadn’t been for Morrowind – if it hadn’t been for this other place where I could go to get away from myself for eight hours a day, until my boyfriend got home from work. And I could just walk those streets and explore those caves and learn the silt strider network like I was learning the local public transit system and have all of those things to enrich my mind with. If it weren’t for that, I really don’t know how that time would have gone down. I don’t know how I would have gotten through those months and months of being powerless to change my own fate.
I really value the way that games can be that release valve for real life – whether that’s for a month, whether that’s for an hour – because real life is hard. And so, just having that momentary break from having to deal with looking for a job, dealing with the jerk at work, dealing with the fact that you spouse is sick, or the fact that your kid is teething, or any of the everyday things that we have to deal with and that can be just really hard and really stressful. A game being able to just take you away from that for a while – just completely removing it, just so you can relax – I think is amazing. And, it’s one of the reasons why I believe and continue to preach that games can make your life better and there is a game out there for everyone.
An editor for more than 20 years, Susan has written for a diverse array of gaming publications including 1up, Wired, and The Escapist. Currently serving as Managing Editor of Joystiq, she’s passionate about bringing positivity to the gaming space, as well as mentoring the next generation of game journalists. Follow Susan on twitter @susanarendt.
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