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Subject: The Great Escape >> Do You Game Why I Game? rss

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Jay Little
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There are as many different reasons to get together to game as their are games and players to play them... but there are certainly some common threads -- socialization , creativity outlet, exercise for the brain and the nebulous notion of "fun" seem to top the list.

While these are all well and good, and indeed, I share many of these reasons to game in various intensities, when it comes right down to it, there is one overwhelming reason why I game: escapism.

I game to get away from the real world, get away from my life, and crawl into an alternate dimension where I feel I have far more control over my fate than otherwise. I know it sounds a bit dark and brooding.

Well, it is.

Don't get me wrong, I've got a great life. A wonderful, loving and understanding wife. A bright, energetic and healthy toddler. A roof over my head, clothes on my back and food to eat. When I view my life honestly, I realize that I have an embarrassment of riches. I am grateful for all the wonderful blessings in our life and how much we have to be thankful for.

Unfortunately, for some people, like me, that's just not enough. This stems from the fact that I'm a manic depressive with bipolar disorder. During the upswings, nothing could be finer and the world is bright, shiny and wonderful. During the downswings, no amount of cheer or good fortune can pull me out of the trenches. Except for gaming.

It's the escapist appeal of gaming that helps me deal with my depression more than anything else I've encountered. While it's true that ignoring problems won't make them go away, being able to free yourself of their burden for a while can certainly alter your perspective, or renew your determination and energy to attack them.

When the world has me down, games offer a means to leave the world for a while, and get a fresh start. Each game is a second chance. Each game is a "do over." Each game is a cathartic expulsion of all that is dreary, listless and depressing.

If I fail miserably in a game, it only lasts as long as the game -- a refreshing change of pace to the compounded problems day to day life can snowball into. On the other hand, if I do well during a game, it offers a much-needed boost of confidence. After all, if I can succeed in this fictitious, artificial setting, what's to say that can't carry over into my normal life?

And further, knowing there's a definite end point is surprisingly reassuring. Knowing that, win or lose, the game is moving ever onward toward its resolution helps instill a sense of planning, encourage efforts to succeed and help deal with the eventual setbacks. It's a microcosm of an idyllic lifestyle, where you can step back and view things from greater perspective, and better accept how this little slice of surreal life unfolds.

The social aspect of gaming is certainly important to me, but this tends to stem from its association to the detachment and escapism from the real world. I don't like bringing real world issues to the game table -- such as talks of religion, politics, terrorism, war... things that can bring out the differences in my friends in stark contrast. I far prefer keeping conversation light, casual, and when possible, game-oriented -- focusing more on our shared passions and interests. That helps embellish the surreal quality of the escapist retreat that gaming provides.

So I game to get away from a dreary, unfulfilling and sometimes painful life. Thankfully, when I return from the table, I can see just how truly fortunate I am to have so many friends and the countless blessings our family enjoys.

I'm sure I can't be the only one out there that games for the Great Escape... Anyone else care to share your stories?
 
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Jim Cote
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I too am an escapist. I love gaming and reading fiction for the same reasons. I discussed some of this in an old blog post. In essense, gaming is a no-risk challenge. Win or lose, you get to do something stimulating and potentially difficult with no risk of injury, getting fired, etc.

http://ekted.blogspot.com/2006/01/why-do-you-like-games.html
 
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Have faith
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ekted wrote:
I too am an escapist. I love gaming and reading fiction for the same reasons.

Ditto. Reality is overrated. Give me the world of ideas and games any day.
 
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Chester
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Its the chicks that really drew me in. Now I stay for the great food.

Actually, I think gaming appeals to me for the same reasons golf does. You have a very discrete goal.

In gaming, you make decisions that are tricky, but aimed at getting you to your goal...against the wits of other players who are doing their best to keep you down. I love the battle of wits. I get almost as much satisfaction from being the victim of a great scheme as being the perpetrator.

Gaming has the added fun of socialization.

But at the end of the game, no matter the outcome, you just reset and try again. I have to admit as time goes on I'm finding more satisfaction in other aspects. I love gaming with my 5 year old son. Lately its X-Bugs that he wants to play (thanks ynnen for introducing this one to me). I also enjoy the historical simulations more and more, lots of it two player wargaming. Finally, I am enjoying the lighter stuff with more luck...some of the time. If its well-themed and pretty, conducive to joking around, I'll probably like it. But my meat and potatoes remains the heavy multi-player Euro.
 
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Scott Russell
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Escapism is certainly a large part of why I read fiction. I am not sure that applies to my gaming, but it maybe part of the allure.

Competition is certainly part of it. I like winning and being thought a good gamer (possibly equating to being smart or clever). But losing in a close game is almost as satisfying.

Socialization is part of it. In general, gamers tend to be a cut above the average human in terms of intellect and they can take turns in discussions as well as in the games. Most Geeks are knowledgable about at least one topic and often that topic is of interest to me as well.

Definitely part of the attraction to me is structured interaction with others. Each game has a beginning, an end and rules on how to behave in between. Sure you can still commit a faux pas in conversation during the game or even not use an approved strategy (shudder), but in general, my choices are limited, my opponents' range of responses is limited, etc.

Besides without ftf and online gaming, what would I do with all that time and money? laugh
 
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Hammock Backpacker
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I was just beginning to organize an entry for my blog on just this topic.

The biggest realization for me was that I enjoy my hobby the most when I can play games with my kids. I enjoy the social and mental gyrations when I play with adults but I really feel like the sweet spot is when I'm with my kids.

Here's is an older blog entry touching on the point:

http://www.marquand.net/article.php?story=20060125064848562

 
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Rick Holzgrafe
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All of the above!

Like ynnen, I use gaming as an escape from the daily stresses. A good game is a couple of hours of delight that is totally unrelated to anything else I do in the "real" world.

I'm also someone who delights in any new puzzle -- using the word "puzzle" in a very wide sense. Every game is a different microcosm, with different opportunities, hazards, and balance points. Figuring out a new game is always engaging. I have my favorites that I enjoy playing again and again, but novelty is definitely a big draw.

And yes, gaming with the family is a great joy. I am blessed with a wife and two teenage sons, bright and capable gamers all. We'll game together at the drop of a hat, and I know I'm in for the fight of my life every time. We don't handicap the kids; they're too good already and it wouldn't be fair to us poor adults! We play cutthroat and may the best gamer win -- and how cool is it, if you can be more proud of someone else's well-played victory than you can of your own?

While I'm at it, ynnen, let me take the opportunity to thank you for your continuing enjoyable, informed, and enlightening commentary here at BGG!
 
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Bernard Donohue
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I game for many reasons, but the main one probably has to do with a form of escapism.

When I'm gaming, I'm generally completely engaged in the situation. I'm not thinking about the philanthropy forum I'm running next month or whether my girlfriend is going to tire of me or if I should just admit that I'm never going to fit into a 32"-waist ever again. . etc. . etc. .

I'm in the moment. My ever-churning mind quiets down and I can stop worrying about the rest of it.

 
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Mario Lanza
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Why I game:
Escapism (playing out and having a taste of a role different than my life),
The fun of thinking (for a geek: thinking = fun),
Short-term rewards (like capping the 10 temple in Tikal),
Long-term rewards (like a win or good finish to a game well played), and
Friends (gaming with my closest friends augments the fun tremendously).
 
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Louise Holden
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Anyone here not bipolar? Gaming is great for depression- having to think about one, bounded problem without any worry about the outcome, and to socialise without having to think about what to talk about. Generally though I game when up, or whatever passes for normal, and then I love being with friends, being competitive, "showing off", puzzle solving. I like gaming with any group of gamers but give me a house full of friends all leaning over boards on tables and floors everywhere and I'm in heaven.

 
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I have to agree with Chester. I game solely for the sweet, sweet booty.
 
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Jason Sadler
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My God complex is greatly soothed by running the lives of little cardboard minions that are directly under my auspices.
 
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Jesse Miller
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Nope, not Bi-Polar. Just regular old run of the mill depression. Gaming is certainly something to get lost in. Whether I'm playing a game, reading about one, or just shopping for something new, nothing eases my mind like gaming.

More than one person has opined that it may be unhealthy for me, but screw em.
 
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Sue Hemberger

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I play games so I don't have to play Barbies. Well, not anymore, but that's how it started. Home all day with a smart, inquisitive, relentless insomniac preschooler, I looked hard for mutually-entertaining things for us to do. Museums (we live in DC, where museums are free and abundant) and books were no-brainers, but that still left lots of hours in the day. So I investigated games, in the hope of finding ones that we would both enjoy. My daughter loved games and quickly became capable of playing increasingly sophisticated ones, so it turned out to be a really fruitful experiment. (She's 8 now and earlier this week she posted her first geeklist (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/13029) re what she likes to play these days).

Her Daddy is a smart, playful, competitive guy who works long and somewhat unpredictable hours, so games -- especially short, easy-to-learn, challenging games -- have been a great source of instant entertainment when he gets home and wants to quickly reconnect with us and leave work behind. We're people for whom limited leisure time has proven to be a reason to play more rather than fewer games.

Bottom line, gaming for me has been about finding a great common ground between kids and adults who find thinking fun and who want to play at odd hours, after dark, in inclement weather, etc. It's also turned out to be an easy/fun way to socialize with our own extended family and with other families.
 
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Philip Thomas
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I am also Bipolar. Seems to be under control at the moment with the right medication and so on...

Gaming is an escape, yes. I also run a PBEM RPG which is most definitely an escapemeeple. Although when I am delusional my delusions often feed off games... they would probably find something else to feed off if I didn't game...
 
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Marc B.
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Bipolar. occasional rapid cycler. insomniac. workaholic. super low self esteem. but besides that, life is good! Wonderful wife and daughters. best friends in the world. Playing games with the great people in my life somehow frees my mind from the normal continuous stream of stress/worry/frustration/anger/etc that seems to be bountiful the rest of the time. It's a bit like a reboot. If you're familiar with what a "memory leak" is in computer programming, well, I think I have a brain version. The only way to clear it is to reboot. Gaming is one of the things I've found that does that well. In fact, I have found that if I go for several days without any gaming (or other less effective means of reboot) I will often begin to rapid cycle. My wife has come to recognize this and is usually very good at pulling me out of it with family gaming and time with friends without me usually even noticing it until after.

Been a bit rough the last several months because my main gaming friend (second to my wife) moved out of state. He's come back and spent a weekend visiting. We're going there for spring break. He's now trying to talk me into going to BGG.con this year with him. Though I love to read about the fun folks had last year, I doubt I could force myself to attend. Did I mention I also suffer from SAD (Social Anxiety Disorder) yay! soblue

Anyway, if I'm not playing games, reading about games, shopping for games, or talking about games, I'm generally a wreck. So in short, yep. It's escapism... and I love it.

arrrh
 
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CHAPEL
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I play euro's and not wargames cause I have AADD. I just don't have the attention span to do anything that takes longer than 2 hours. Shoot, I didn't even read the start of this thread, cause there was just too many words!

Hey! What's that, ahhh, it's a butterfly. Gotta go!
 
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Philip Thomas
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Oh, when Ynnen says "I'm a manic depressive with bipolar disorder", this is a tautology: Manic Depression is Bipolar Disorder. One is an older term than the other, but they label the same disease. So I understand, anyway. (when I had my second episode I went to A&E and was interviewed by the local psychiatric nurse. I said I had Bipolar Disorder and she obviously had no clue what I was tallking about- I clarified by saying "Manic Depression" and she clicked straightaway).
 
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Marc B.
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MWChapel wrote:

I play euro's and not wargames cause I have AADD. I just don't have the attention span to do anything that takes longer than 2 hours.


There's one acronym I DON'T have! speaking of acronyms, hello fellow smurf. (even tho you're a heroscape basher..) devil

fsumarc
 
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Mark Crane
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Great writing. Do you write for your "real world" occupation?
 
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Mark Crane
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Oh, and I have ADD. I game because it gives me something to look forward to, and even with abstracts there's a feeling of imaginative immersion. Different gaming groups have different takes on socialization. Some play quietly and wander off when the game is over, and others get pretty drunk.
 
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Jay Little
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craniac wrote:
Great writing. Do you write for your "real world" occupation?


Thank you for the kind compliment. A good portion of what I do is writing -- though often it's closer to technical writing than editorializing or prose...

--

After thinking about this a bit, and having some off-line discussions with a few of my fellow Geeks about this topic, I came to another realization about my gaming behavior that is a result of my manic behaviors.

Some gaming behavior really, really gets on my nerves far more than it might away from that context. Things like intentionally slow play (malingering to see how someone reacts), metagame pact making before/away from the table, and more or less not taking game time "seriously enough."

That last bit is purely subjective (and my opinion on how serious it is varies daily) but when there is a wide gap between my particular expectations for that session and the perceived attentiveness/interaction of the players, I take it extremely hard -- and often make it personal. As I mention, I tend to view gaming as the only guaranteed escape I've got. So when that gets muddled, I get manic, and my behavior can swing from volatile and surly to reclusive and withdrawn at the drop of a hat.
 
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John Burt
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I game for a couple of reasons:
1) to socialise with my friends and meet new people
2) because it is different then what I do all day (I do IT)
3) to spend time with my wife that is not watching TV
 
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Houserule Jay
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Quote:
Don't get me wrong, I've got a great life. A wonderful, loving and understanding wife. A bright, energetic and healthy toddler. A roof over my head, clothes on my back and food to eat. When I view my life honestly, I realize that I have an embarrassment of riches. I am grateful for all the wonderful blessings in our life and how much we have to be thankful for.

Unfortunately, for some people, like me, that's just not enough. This stems from the fact that I'm a manic depressive with bipolar disorder. During the upswings, nothing could be finer and the world is bright, shiny and wonderful. During the downswings, no amount of cheer or good fortune can pull me out of the trenches. Except for gaming.


Chalk another up to the escape, at least that is my main reason I'm sure. I feel like you, people that love me, great wife, etc etc. yet I have been trying to escape since I was 12. Back then, I turned to much unhealthier ...cough gulp ....cough things. I have always loved gaming or competing in anything since I was a kid and now in the last 4 years I have re-discovered it all over again for escapism.

Of course I also game because: I love competing, the thrill of victory, sheer fun, socialism and even learning new things and maybe a few others.

However, even though I have a good life, I think deep down I hate the fact I have to devote so much time and energy to making someone elses company money. Getting up at 6am really f*#$ing bites and by the time I get home at 5 I am too bagged to even play something good and have to often settle for Lost Cities or the like, and this is your 'one hour' of enjoyment for the day just before bed after cooking, doing dishes etc. Then it seems I need the weekend just to unwind and rest, sheesh. No wonder I game! Email me if you ever find a pyramid scheme that actually works, I have tried just about all of them.

Thanks for sharing and letting us share, must go play Caylus now, or PR or anything...
 
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Jake Thornton
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Of course there's all sorts of other things too such as socialising, intellectual challenge, brightly-coloured meeples, yada-yada-ya... but I think the root is escapism for me too.

If I had to rate my decade so far it'd be managing a poor 3. Pretty much anything I play is an improvement on that rating.
 
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