Gaming for the Weary Soul
It’s been a long day. You just finished your daily tasks and you’re beat. Maybe you’re physically exhausted or mentally drained and all you want is to simply unwind. For some people that may include grabbing a beer and watching some television, some may read a book, some may cook their favourite meal or turn on their favourite album and vibe. If you know me or have ever read my content, I think you can probably guess how I would handle this scenario.
Brutal Reality Digest is one year old, and I wanted to celebrate in some way. So, instead of rambling about my favourite games or posting some reference-laden rant about a character most readers have never heard of while jabbing myself consistently in vain attempts of comedy, I decided to speak about this all-encompassing hobby I genuinely love. I want to explain the merits playing a game can have on the weary soul. This wonderful hobby is far more than the mere beeps and boops of Space Invaders that the boomers saw rise to prominence decades prior, it accomplishes so much more than give your nephew a stupid Fortnite dance to do, and it is certainly more than portly plumbers collecting portabellas and saving princesses from giant turtles. Gaming is the most unique and varied form of art out there, and I truly wish it gained more respect from people for the genuine good it provides for those who partake.
To me, the question of whether or not gaming is actually an art form is beyond absurd. I could write a whole bible comparing games thematically to classic novels or cinematic treasures. Whether talking about Persona’s beautiful representation of the pressures of youth in modern society, the fact that The World Ends with You is more thematically cohesive than any other work from any media, or the Xeno series’ brilliant commentary on religious concepts and idolatry. I could discuss the countless soundtracks of various genres that could put some of the greatest composers and musicians to shame. I could even showcase titles like Okami that serve as interactive beauty portrayed in a picturesque package. Video games are obviously art when you look at it through any of those lenses.
But beyond those more obvious observations, the mere aspect of interactivity and the possibilities it creates elevates this form of art to something others cannot reach. If boxing can be considered an art, or it can be considered creative to see Bobby Fischer go to work in a game of chess, then it has to be considered artful in some capacity to see someone creatively solve a puzzle in Catherine or to watch how a fighting game tournament unfolds. The interactivity creates a level of connection between the player and the game that works from other media simply cannot match, which breeds infinite possibilities for the experiences people can have with video games.
Some games even go above and beyond to push their themes and messages through their gameplay. The Last of Us heightens the impact of the atrocities on display by making the player commit them in a brutal way. Spec Ops: The Line uses the guise of being a somewhat generic shooter to deliver a brilliant message and pull the rug out from under the player. Nier Automata’s final act is beyond impactful, so I shan’t spoil it, but it really reinforces the idea that one cannot achieve their goals alone. The thematic relevance of the unique combat of the original DS release of The World Ends with You is a major reason why I believe it to be the most thematically cohesive work of art ever created. I could list countless examples of games using the medium to further ideas and craft unique moments for those who partake. The gaming thrives on this, and these moments lead to incredible discourse from passionate fans.
I frequent the fandoms of Sonic, Smash Bros, Persona, Zelda, Animal Crossing, and so many others often deemed the most toxic within the medium. Sure, not every person who plays games is a decent person, but every community I have frequented is bursting with passionate and considerate people who just want to share their love for the titles and help introduce new people to titles. One of my best friends got me to try Persona 5 and that became a near obsession for me, I have convinced tons of friends to try Xenoblade Chronicles and Kingdom Hearts, and one random comment convinced me to try Resonance of Fate which I believe to be one of the hidden gems of the industry. Hell, our founding father here at BRD Josh is the one who convinced me to finally try Chrono Trigger, which is probably the single game I would call the objectively greatest video game of all time if I had to pick.
This stupid hobby is filled with people from various walks of life that all find reasons to enjoy a game every now and then. I can’t count the reasons I love various games. Seeing a character you relate to on-screen can be cathartic and encouraging. Being able to relive childhood dreams in a sports title since you left the game disgracefully can be a nice way to ensure you never lose that aspect of your life. Connecting with a friend as you go head-to-head in a dumb competitive title is beyond fun and has done nothing but strengthen my friendships. Sure, there are tons of people who let this hobby overtake their life and control them, but that is a separate issue and one not exclusive to this specific hobby. Tons of us use it to enrich our lives, through art and through fun.
I’m self-aware to realize that many of my columns are likely some of the least read pieces in our zines. I say that not as some feign attempt at sympathy but as an observation. I discuss sometimes obscure works in a medium that itself is somewhat obscure to many of our readers and is therefore uninteresting. I wanted to write this and speak slightly more personally about why this hobby means so much to me without resorting to some generic claim that “it’s just fun.” I honestly believe that gaming can heal an aching soul just as much as writing, reading, watching a good film, or engaging with music. So, just consider giving it a chance you haven’t. I promise, there is a game out there for you.
Thank you to everyone that has read my content or enjoyed any of the content from anyone on this excellent team. I am proud of the work I do for this zine, and I am proud that this zine has been around for a whole year, so here’s to the next one!