Confession from someone who writes about video games: At the start of the pandemic, games were a savior. They allowed me to participate in something rather than passively watch and kept my stressed-out brain occupied.
Today? That no longer works.
It's not entirely the fault of video games.
Like most people I know in this late pandemic stage, my nonprofessional life feels overly stressful. I'm exhausted and burned out. I haven't slept more than three straight hours in months. In turn, I've come to dread the very idea of going to bed, and thus too often I'm somewhat tired, somewhat irritable.
A confluence of 2021 events has left me in a state of constantly feeling overwhelmed. I'm disconnected from family, my cat nearly died, an attempt to start a relationship devastated me when it went south, and while I want to play — to feel free and silly — the last thing I want to do is learn a piece of entertainment.
No systems, no hours collecting virtual gear to earn upgrades, no fantasy tales removed from real life. Modern blockbuster video games of late are tiring me out, relying on players possessing a deep language for the medium and still confusing length and complexity with artistry. Too many are built on the tedious concept of gathering supplies and magically turning them into weapons.
I haven't abandoned games — I've even tried to adopt the principles of play into my routine, which has helped. It's simply that my mind, scarred from nearly two years of pandemic-induced trauma and loneliness, can only handle so many rules when it comes to a new game. Sadly, my default emotion these days is frustration.
I still believe that play can be a refuge. I'm thinking of the joy I felt with the light role-playing that was asked of me at many of the recent Halloween-focused immersive theater events. But here we are invited, often by the extended hand of an actual person, to step into a physical world and become our own protagonists.
I certainly love to play, as evidenced by the fact that I still go to Disneyland weekly. And on the subject of video games I restarted "Super Mario Odyssey," the most brilliant game in the "Super Mario" series, and the one in which Mario and Peach deal with differing existential crisis. I've also enjoyed the thoughtful "Unpacking," a melancholic and relaxing game about organizing a life that is one of my favorites of the year.
And I've been spending the last few weeks with a game that I think at long last reignited my love for interactive entertainment: "Pikmin Bloom."