When you were growing up, did you ever watch Sunday cartoons? With a large bowl of my favorite cereal (Caooooookkie Crip, thx) in hand, I'd spend Sunday mornings watching Looney Tunes, Scooby Doo, Johnny Bravo, the Power Puff Girls, Dexter's Labratory, Pinky and the Brain - it was bliss.
As an adult, I don't turn to cartoons anymore, but I do still have a Sunday escape that requires a large bowl of cereal: video games.
I'm your average RPG lover. I'm not super into team efforts or first person shooter games like Halo or Call of Duty. I like to settle into a character that I've painstakingly created, and strategically plot my way through 30+ hours game time.
Video games are like a massage for my brain - I simultaneously get to NOT think about my day to day things ("did I turn in that work order in time? Have we called someone to fix the garage door opener? Why is there poop outside the litter box?"), but I am still using my brain to figure stuff out in the game. I'm distracted but not overly challenged. I'm entertained, but not as idle as I would be just watching the tube.
I appreciate video games for the subtle and not so subtle lessons they've taught me, namely: it's OK to fail. In fact, it's NECESSARY to fail if you want to ultimately succeed. Video games rely a lot on the user's intuition and ability to learn from error. In one my favorite games, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, I recall not being able to get past a certain point in a particularly challenging section of the game. It was at one of those points where you're fighting your way through to the ultimate battle and you're having to combat all this low key fools before getting to the main boss. I kept dying and reloading, dying and reloading, until my frustration finally won and I paused the game and powered down to walk off my defeat.
"It's neccessary to fail if you want to ultimately succeed"
I felt that defeat as keenly as I've felt real failures: poor grade on a paper, a mistake made at work, a misunderstanding with a friend. The difference was that this failure was not real, it took place within a fictional realm with an avatar I was playing. The ability to fail within the safe space of the game allows gamers to learn how to rebound from mistakes quicker, hone problem solving abilities and critical thinking skills without fear of real life consequences. Video games taught me how to fail gracefully, learn from my mistakes, then get back after it because like in life, the only way out is through.
There are numerous studies on what video games can teach us, I'm not telling you anything new here. The canon of game-theory is ever growing, and the conversation is happening as much in academia as it is on blog posts on life skills. But it's more than just the platform of video gaming that I'm driving at, it's games and playing as an adult that's important.
I love all kinds of games, from Glee Karaoke to your standard Scrabble, it's just that RPG's specifically provide a space to play that other games don't. You can be someone else! You're role playing, after all. In life where I'm grounded, cautious, and make measured risks, in games like Fable, my avatar is reckless, impulsive, sometimes even cruel. The release of role playing comes from the play itself.
"The release of role playing comes from the play itself"
Have I lost some of you? Has this been talk from a distant planet for some? Let be bring it full circle: RPG's are everywhere, not just video games. An RPG by definition is a game in which participants assume the role of a character within a fictional world, typically fantasy or science fiction, but those are just parameters. Alternative versions can be seen all around you. Take for example those "who done it" Murder Mystery games in which someone dies and it's up to the group to identify the killer among them. Or, if you've ever played Charade, you're essentially taking on the role of a character within a very short fictional setting with the goal of getting others to recognize who you are.
My point is this: whether an RPG or regular ol' Monopoly, gaming is an excellent way to give yourself some self-care and downtime while having fun and staying sharp. So go play this Sunday, and game on.