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How Adventure Games Saved My Life

A Postcard from the Edge

Let me be brutally honest. My life sucks. I spend 40+ hours a week trapped deep within the dark bowels of the corporate machine trying vainly, in between numerous coffee breaks and fits of screaming, to placate superiors who are so firmly entrenched within the insanity of our so-called “corporate culture” that they honestly seem to believe that the woeful inefficiencies and logical inconsistencies that plague our lives are perfectly acceptable.

But I digress…unable to sleep, I lay in bed one night pondering such matters and following this particular train of thought to its logical conclusion wherein I begin to introspect and inevitably contemplate the meaninglessness of my existence. As I sat up and reached into my nightstand drawer for my gun, I noticed the latest copy of one of my computer game magazines lay open on my desk and I thought to myself, "A computer game would provide a welcome diversion right about now." Putting the gun back into the drawer, I went downstairs to my office and sat down in front of the computer seeking a much-needed respite from the toils of my reality.

But what to play? While most would argue (and not without merit) that mowing down a slew of hapless victims with an Uzi or RPG and dancing joyously among fountains of spewing blood and entrails would be the perfect remedy for my current funk, I came to the conclusion that perhaps a different direction was in order. As I pored over my game collection, it was not thoughts of what to destroy or incinerate that dominated my thoughts, but of where I wanted to visit instead…the dark streets of New Orleans, the rails of Europe, the sandy shores of Monkey Island, or perhaps a quick trip to the Land of the Dead.

Now don’t misunderstand me; I enjoy wanton destruction and carnage as much as the next person, but ultimately over time I’ve found these activities to be less fulfilling than I had initially anticipated, because for all of these romps of death and destruction I’ve been through, they ultimately cannot provide the one thing that I crave most of all…an escape from reality.

What I long for, and what most pure action games fail to provide me (with a few notable exceptions), is suspension of disbelief. When I sit down at my computer, I want to leave my office, I want to leave the confines of my existence, I want to escape the trappings of this reality and go to a place that I would only otherwise read or dream about and make decisions that have profound effects on my fate and the fate of others and ultimately save the universe (whatever the actual object of the game is, I always consider the outcome to be inexorably tied to the fate of the universe).

Five minutes after I’ve finished an action game, I won’t remember anything about whatever generic sewer, cave, space station or warehouse I’ve been creeping through, anything about the people I blew up, or anything about the nameless, faceless character I’ve been portraying. But I will remember my trip to the misty castles of Germany, the colorful characters I met in Rubacava, and the profound sense of accomplishment at having finally figured out what to do with that damned horse feather. And when my journey is complete, I will harbor fond memories of the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met.

And on such a night as this one, when I replay one of these games, it will be like visiting an old friend and reminiscing of the times we had together. I can leave behind the confines of my existence for a few hours and let my imagination run completely unfettered. And so it came to pass that, after having visited one of these friends for a time, I sat back in my chair and smiled, forgetting the worries of only a few hours ago. Then I went upstairs, turned the oven off, climbed into bed and slept a deservedly sound sleep (until the alarm went off at which point I was too tired to contemplate my existence but still thought about reaching for the gun all the same). Here’s hoping that I have enough games to get me through to the weekend (or at least until happy hour on Friday).


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