Geeks Vs Loneliness: escapism and video games

Feeling low? It might help to boot up an old game...

By the time I’d celebrated my fifthteenth birthday, I’d lived in more houses than the number of candles I’d blown out on my cake. Fortunately the moves weren’t always to different areas and the circumstances weren’t as dramatic as the amount of postcodes; I wasn’t in the care system, I wasn’t in witness protection, I wasn’t on the run – I was a child of the military.

My father was in the RAF and I’d grown up around barbed wire fences and armed guards. Those fences and guards changed many times with the many postings my father received. Some postings were by choice, some were by command, but either way we moved a lot. Growing up though, as with any other military brat, this felt like the normal thing to do, because every other military brat I knew and met along the way were doing the same thing. No matter how much you get used to it though, moving is always a slog. It can be emotionally and physically draining, even if it’s a positive move. You have to say goodbye not only to those who have become close (where are you now, Tom from Year 4?) but also to the things that don’t have a heartbeat. Whether it’s the den in the woods you spent all summer making or the dog walking route you grew to love, there are many farewells.

It felt as if I was losing pieces of myself and finding new ones every time we packed up the boxes. These inconsistencies demanded a constant and that’s where video games came in it for me.

With everything I had to leave behind, there needed to be something I could always take. Well, the thing I took was my PlayStation, and with my PlayStation, my memory card. Memory Card. It’s a funny name in this context and has never sounded more accurate. Of course a memory card is a practical piece of hardware to save your game progress, but for me it was a way of taking that progress with me wherever I went so that when I felt inconsistent in my surroundings, I could always go to a familiar place and continue on a journey I didn’t have to leave behind.

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I could continue on the journey of Metal Gear Solid – battling Revolver Ocelot in Northampton and taking down the mech REX in Shrewsbury. I could continue on the journey of Crash Bandicoot – jumping through the Jungle Warp Room in Devon and landing in the Ice Warp Room in Cheltenham. I could continue on the journey of Resident Evil – exploring the abandoned mansion in Canterbury and soiling myself from the undead cannibals in Reading.

Now I had this world I could escape to. I still escape now and I think the vast majority of us players use it to escape, which I don’t think is a bad thing. We escape in to film, television and even in to each other, so why not in to video games. It’s only having grown up and looking back that I realise how much that escape helped me during those many moves and changes in my life. The first thing I’d always do when we’d arrive at a new home would be to set up my console, so that as the chaos and confusion of new schools, new friends and new everything ensued, I could switch on my PlayStation and escape. I’d slot in the memory card and be transported back to where I left off – back to a constant.

Video games can do many things to and for people, some which aren’t always good, but for me, they kept me grounded during times when I felt like I was floating. If you ever feel as if life is moving too quickly, or too chaotically, perhaps loading up an old save could help you too. It did for me.

Thanks, as always, for reading.