Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about the effectiveness of gaming as a means of coping with a personal tragedy, mainly because it’s something that I’ve been actively participating in. It stands to reason, of course, that grief leads us towards familiar comforts and passions, but it intrigues me to see the form it takes – in this instance, the areas of gaming I threw myself into, as well as the ones I avoided.
Me and my fiancé Sophia were both avid gamers, although we enjoyed different genres – I’m more arcade-y, and she was more into sims and city building. Those arcade-style sports or platform games have certainly been getting attention – and often not even the best ones. That dusty copy of World Cup Italia ‘90 has certainly seen some more use, not to mention the unmistakable joys of Super League on the Mega Drive. Part of that is down to work, but there’s a nostalgia for childhood, too – to play something that I haven’t played in nearly 30 years, even if I know it’s not very good, as a way of reliving simpler times. I’ve played a few games like that recently, and for once, making a snarky yet informative ten-minute video hasn’t been the end goal.
And then there’s the sort of games that Sophia enjoyed. She’d happily egg me on through typical action titles on stream, but games like the original The Settlers were her passion – where building is a key goal, with a fair bit of rivalry and competition thrown in. Where in the end you sit atop a constructed utopia, and not a pile of dead grunts. Such games aren’t usually favourites – and yet I’ve thrown myself into them. I could think of reasons why – a sort of channelling or vicarious living, a means of constructing a tribute – but really, it’s a way of remembering the good times, if it’s anything at all. A fond aide-mémoire.
I haven’t really gone for those sorts of games that are more story-driven or based on personal experiences closer to my own situation. I consider them too raw – such games may yet prove tricky to deal with. That said, going to games like these is obviously valid, because everyone has different ways of coping with grief; all we can do is try to do the best we can with what we’ve got. With those thoughts in mind, I hope that sharing my experiences will help anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation. Certainly, putting them down also helps me through my own process. If there’s a hole, we fill it up and take those memories on our journey. We never forget, but we do carry on.