Gaming Made Me: How I Learned to Stop Fearing and Love Decisions

As a child, I was deemed a born diplomat. The easiest anecdote to relate was when my parents would ask whom I loved more, and I would respond both, giving a compliment to each. As is often the case with a certain people, I found my teen years full of throwing everything away and then doing the opposite of what would please everyone. After graduating college? That all became muddled, and only recently have I found myself more confident in my ability to make decisions for myself.

Part of this was due to economic stability, but another was learning who I was outside of the environment provided by school. This is the type of environment where I was always on; I was always playing a role. To varying degrees, I still do this, but I am much more aware of it all and much more in control of that image based on whom I may be around at any given time.

Which is why I found games to be an essential playground for that discovery. Playing games where I could make choices, no matter how superfluous they were to actually changing the plot, made me realize things about myself. It was a chance to be on stage again, essentially. This also meant arguing with myself and considering the decision I had made.

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It occurred to me over this past weekend, as I played Walking Dead: Season Two, that I was making decisions with a very firm idea in mind. Part of the impetus was that I only had a limited amount of time to make a decision (not really, since I play in windowed mode, I can click outside the window and stall, but I have been purposely avoiding this tactic). Therefore, I found my Clementine tired of everyone’s immature bullshit. Here I was, a small girl, leading a group because they were too incapable of functioning. Granted, this is largely because everyone has varying degrees of mental health issues, considering the environment in which they find themselves.

Then again, balancing between Clementine and my own projection of her reactions, I just figured as a leader, I had to start making some harsh decisions considering the survival of the group. Sure, this led to some questioning of my motives and tactics as regards other characters in the game, but that’s what makes this more interesting to me than just killing demons over and over again in Diablo 3 (though there is a certain joy in that as well).

This was further reiterated in my recent replay of the Dragon Age series. In Origins I found myself playing a politically machinating noblewoman who married Alistair for the chance to place herself and her line back in good standing, more than actual love of him. Whereas in Dragon Age II, I found myself playing a character who was trying to constantly be the big sister to everyone. This led to good mix of responses that were incredibly brunt, diplomatic, and snarky in good measure. Breaking away from the paragon/renegade system meant I felt more free not to game the system, so to speak.

Which is relatively new to me: not gaming the system. I can spend hours theorycrafting over various card games, RPGs, etc. Yet there is a certain thrill at abandoning this when it comes to storytelling, and that is the chance to become what I believe an actual human being would be in these situations.

So, games have more recently given me a more measured reaction to situations. I feel more confident in my ability to analyse a situation and be okay if I don’t make the 100% perfect decision anymore. Not having to game the system has moved me away from the same analysis paralysis I would often face in real life, worried about how others would perceive my actions. It’s a common lesson to learn, but in my case, games helped me grasp on to that concept once again after a tumultuous past few years.

About Denis Farr

Writer interested in intersectionality, games, comics, nerdy stuff in general, theater, and how it all mixes. Graduate of Wabash College, with studies in Theater, English, German, and Gender Studies.
This entry was posted in BioWare, Design, Dragon Age: Origins, Impressions, Mass Effect and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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