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Funny To A Point – Three Cheers For Escapism!

by Jeff Marchiafava on Nov 18, 2016 at 08:26 AM

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This week's column invites you to forget your cares by celebrating how games invite you to forget your cares. It's turtles all the way down from here.

Even if you weren't alive in the '90s, you're probably aware of the post-Doom scrutiny video games fell under, as parents and politicians alike blamed our digital hobby for everything that was wrong with those darned kids (then again, if you really weren't alive in the '90s, those darned kids probably are your parents). The truth is, video games have always been an easy scapegoat for the Jack Thompsons of the world; most of the people complaining about video games in the '80s and '90s didn't really even understand how computers worked – the interactive, animated games they ran might as well have been evil voodoo spirits invading their tiny living picture boxes.

Thankfully, society has more or less moved past the violent-video-games-are-evil-and-they're-making-our-kids-evil-too debate. We don't see the "Murderer Had Copy of GTA!" headlines anymore because everybody has a copy of GTA. The headline might as well read "Murderer Was Wearing Pants!" and reporters seem to get that now (well, most of them, anyway). However, there still is a potent stigma associated with video games: They're a big fat waste of time. Sure, the time you spend shooting polygonal aliens isn't going to make you the next Charles Manson, but you could be using that time to improve yourself – take some online courses, or volunteer at a soup kitchen!

Ah yes, Doom: The cause of all society's problems.

The thing is, those whiny blanket-wetters aren't exactly wrong. Yes, you could spend your gaming time doing something more productive. You could come home after a long day of work, hang up your coat, and then dive right into more work that you're not getting paid for but might lead to some form of personal enrichment. You also could stop sleeping, and devote that extra time to anonymously building houses for homeless people, like some kind of sneaky, nocturnal Jimmy Carter. But unless you're a robot, you sometimes need to stop working, kick back, and relax*, and video games are a great way to unwind.

But why sequester yourself off in some small, digital world? I mean, just think about all the REAL things you're missing out there in the REAL world! You could be out meeting actual people, playing real sports instead of virtual ones...

And again, the wieners aren't wrong. There's a lot to see and do out in the real world, and sometimes it really does behoove you to get your ass off the couch. But sometimes the entire point is to get away from the real world.

Some days the world is hard, and you come home angry and just want to shoot things. Video games offer a guilt-free buffet of cannon fodder to sate your inner warrior. You don't have to be playing Far Cry Primal to realize video games scratch some kind of inner-caveman itch, and unlike contact sports, no one needs a trip to the doctor after a match (though your television might).

Some days the world is boring, and you just want a little excitement. Video games provide all the zany mayhem of a Jerry Bruckheimer film, but cast you in the starring role – and you don't even have to tolerate a Megan Fox while you play out your fantasies (even if she does pop up in a pandering video game commercial every now and then).

And some days the world is scary, and you just want something that makes you feel happy and safe. Video games are there to serve you up a steaming hot bowl of comfort food. Overwatch's excessively cheery cast seems to be designed with the primary goal of putting a dopey grin on your face – not to mention every damn game Nintendo has ever made.

Because sometimes you just want to blow up as much stuff as possible. 

Video games are the ultimate form of escapism. They offer you the ability to be unapologetically stupid, without any repercussions. You're free to just run around and blow crap up (a joy I've written about before). You can drive way too fast without worrying you're putting yourself or others in danger. You can "romance" every strange alien you come across like an intergalactic hornball. Video games offer up an infinite number of distractions for every taste and any interest you might have. When played in moderation, those diversions aren't just awesome – they're necessary.

This dumb column you've (hopefully) been reading for the past couple of months is also meant to serve as a happy reprieve. Sure, my ultimate goal is to make you laugh (if you don't, I've created this handy link to email me your feedback). But even if you read through it completely stone-faced (like Jeff Cork does every damn time he proofreads one), if you walk away feeling a little happier than before you started, I consider it a resounding success. That's what video games do for me, and what I try to celebrate every (other) week. So, if you've been feeling down recently for whatever reason, allow me to close today's column with the ultimate pick-me-up. I present to you: Puppies Playing Video Games.

In hindsight, Microsoft really should've known better than to make the internal components of its controllers out of peanut butter. (image)

This little guy's battery life is even worse than the DualShock 4! (image)

Everybody needs a good co-op partner. (image)

What if all those dogs barking in the background during online matches aren't actually in the background? (image)

I'm just now realizing I've probably lost a multiplayer match to a dog at some point in my life. (image)

I'm now 100-percent convinced I have. (image)

Hey, get that f---ing cat outta here, that's not funny!

This smartypants is probably playing Flower. (image)

That feeling when you've already died and everything hinges on your co-op partner staying alive. (image)

Let's see how your desire to play more Overwatch meshes with the "let sleeping dogs lie" maxim. I can't blame him though – I've fallen asleep mid-gaming session on more than a few occasions. (image)

Is ending a column with a bunch of puppies playing video games incredibly cheap? Absolutely – but effective nonetheless!

*Then again, you could be one of those secret androids that doesn't know you're a robot, in which case you could work forever – though you're probably programmed to take breaks anyway so as to continue tricking yourself into thinking you're a human. (back to top)

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