There’s actually a lot of good that comes from these games.
There is a certain genre of media that can most clearly be identified with the reason that its consumers enjoy it. Some forms of media can be more often associated with it than others, but just about every form of media has it in some way or another: escapism.
I’ve been thinking about escapism a lot lately. What better reason have we all to escape our current reality than our experiencing the horrors of what surrounds us all at this moment. Whether you’re living in a country which has taken firm control of Covid-19 or, you’re like me, and you live in a place under such constant disarray ahead of an election that could keep perhaps your country’s worst ever president in power during a pandemic, then you might be interested in taking an hour or so every couple of days to escape the news.
Okay, now that my rant is over, let’s get into it.
Escapism is often thought of as an indulgence. As though the thought of escaping one’s surroundings, even for just a moment, is a temptation that we all must resist. Quite the opposite, I think that escapism can be quite necessary. And just as people have been escaping their realities with plays, books, and stories throughout the centuries. Modern media has just furthered this.
TV shows, movies, and video games all offer a more immersive escapism. Without too much effort, the viewer is able to immerse themselves in the media that they’re experiencing. I think this is where the negative association with these forms of media comes from. Reading a book requires imagination; many think watching a TV show allows all of the information to just be absorbed into the mind. But contrary to popular belief, I think that for any intellectually challenging media, the mind remains at work; deciphering the plot, the theme, the message.
As videogames continue to rise as a respected form of entertainment and art, they must first, as happened with media ranging from television to painting, go through a phase of ridicule. Thankfully, I think this might be improving. What was once, and still can be, considered a waste of time, videogames offer perhaps the most vivid form of escapism, with even more opportunities to escape arising as technology improves. Given that videogames mostly require a player to control just a single character, the immersion is much greater than that of an observer watching a TV show. This is only furthered by the advent of technology like virtual reality which allows the user to immerse themselves fully in a world.
Escapism does not have to be an indulgence one only partakes in in solitude; there’s no need to peer over your shoulder as you shamefully load up Skyrim for the sixth time. Modern games offer some incredible stories with lessons that can be applied far beyond the realms of you controller. Grand Theft Auto 5 is a perfect example. An inherently escapist game because of its absurdity, the story itself is a brilliant commentary on the excess in the United States and beyond. The subtlety comes from the delivery of the game’s themes. The concept that its users, the gamers themselves, are indulging in the excess of the world of Los Santos as much as the characters in the story are doing so is evident in the message that the game conveys. Gamers only realize this when they are deep into lustfully enjoying the excess that Grand Theft Auto has to offer, realizing that they are a part of the lesson all along. This sort of nuanced storytelling would not be possible in any other form of art, and all the while the game is written off as an escape from reality.
It’s not as though these escapes should be considered anything else but escapes, but they should be acknowledged for the good that they can accomplish. Games and other media can provide a mental escape from the world while simultaneously delivering a rich message. Although, yes, they can result in the consumer enjoying their time in the game, rather than what’s physically around them in their lives, isn’t that what most media is looking to accomplish? Once a theme has been conveyed, isn’t the point of entertainment to entertain? And what could prove successful entertainment of an audience more than by labeling something as “escapism”?