It’s been a rough year for a lot of people. Politics, women’s issues, LGBTQ issues, religious bigotry, the failing standard of truth in media, the death of net neutrality (shout out to our privacy primer), and so much more. Zainab just wrote about the holiday season, and for me it really heightens whatever tensions are already in the air. On a personal level, my friends, family, and I have been dealing with more explicit antisemitic comments and micro-agressions than ever before. In short, it’s been an exhausting year, dense with issues on all levels of society, and it has been exhausting.
So what’s a (insert what makes you a non-ideal Republican here) to do? I’ve been floundering a bit on the creative side of my life. My fiction output has been at a literal zero for the year, and I’ve been struggling to do anything. Even my media intake has been gradually becoming dumbed down as the year-end has approached. More action movies, less non-fiction, and just stupider TV shows. I went from media that makes you do work to media that does the work for you to media that doesn’t have any work to do. There have been exceptions; I haven’t been sitting in a pool of my own drool while Will Smith and Michael Bay movies play across my glossed-over eyes. But in general I’ve been slowing letting myself disengage more and more, becoming more sedentary, and eating more crap.
The year is drawing to a close as I write this, and just beginning as you read this. I wanted to put out a call for self-care. There was a point when everything I was doing was either engaged and draining, or numbing. I was losing my charge when dealing with people, and barely building up any sort of emotional reserve when on my own. And that ain’t self-care. Self-care isn’t about shutting down (that’s sleep), it’s about doing things that let you be more you when you get back out in the world. Unfortunately, I discovered this through trial and error rather than planning ahead for my own well-being.
For my wife, yoga is what saved her when she was going through a particularly bad time. For me, it turned out to be video games. It’s a bit strange as 1) games have a general reputation for not being particularly mentally engaging, and B) I never really thought of myself as a gamer. If anything I’d say that I’ve carved out a niche as a “hardcore casual” player, if that can exist. So what makes games work for me?
It’s not that I don’t like people, it’s that I don’t require all that much interaction with them. When asked about what sort of item one would take if stranded on a desert island, I would take umbrage with the pejorative “stranded”. After starting college and making friends I was so emotionally drained that I took a month off from people. I am a serious introvert and talking with people is always an effort. Often enjoyable, but always an effort.
I can play games late into the night without having to talk to people. Well, single player games, which is what I play. It’s nice having something I can retreat to and know that there won’t be any social niceties to navigate. So, in my case, I can truly relax.
It doesn’t have a set amount of time.
Unlike settling down for a movie or TV show, I can play a game for as long as I have the attention span for it, whether it’s for a marathon session or a 15 minute distraction. I can swipe through a few rounds of Reigns: Her Majesty or settle in to an entire episode of Life is Strange: Before the Storm.
I can set the attention level required.
I can pick up something with intense puzzles or a deep story-line if I’m up for it, or I can play Everything which will actually play itself if I zone out for too long. I like the amount of control that I have when I take some time to game, regardless of how well I’m playing.
It’s also been a boon that games this year have been insanely good. There are genres that I’m becoming invested in that have never piqued my interest before. Best Of lists for 2017 games have included everything from AAA titles to free visual novels. As a creative medium, video games are doing well right now. And maybe that makes me feel just a little less guilty about falling into them so deeply.
I have been kicking myself at the end of 2017 as I look back on the books I’ve read as well as the ones I still have on my To Be Read list. I haven’t done as well as I wanted with non-fiction because nearly every book I put aside to read has proved to be incredibly depressing in addition to important. My resolution for the new year, I suppose, is to have a bit more self-control with my reading input and creative output.
But I will still give myself permission to play. Gaming doesn’t fix things, and it doesn’t fix me, but it does gives me time. Gaming isn’t my antidepressant or my therapy, but it is my spa day, or my yoga. You’re probably going to see a bunch of game reviews and write-ups on the site in upcoming weeks. I hope they interest you, and I’ll be covering all sorts of recent games from fighters to abstract philosophical experiments. But also, when you see those pop up, consider them reminders to find your own self-care. Maybe one or two of the titles I mention will work for you the same way they did for me. If so, great, and drop a comment so we can geek out over them! But if they’re just entertainment for you, that’s okay as well. Find your own thing that doesn’t make you stop thinking about the world as a form of escapism, but momentarily takes you out so when you come back you can be more you than before.