For many decades, humans have fallen in love with the notion of escaping the reality and living a fantasy life.
Regardless of whether we read about a make-believe world like with Alice in Wonderland and Ready Player One, or see it on-screen with films such as The Matrix and Ghost in the Shell, the idea of leaving the life we know in favor of one more special and fanciful is something we evidently can’t get enough of, it seems. However, the only “bad” aspect of books and movies, is that once they end, so too does your adventure into that fantasy life. You are reading about those characters, but you can’t control their actions or have any input into their decisions. Video gaming on the other hand? Now, that’s where things get interesting.
Video game genres like RPGs (role-playing games) and MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) have allowed players to directly control the protagonist and as a result, be the character they want to be.
Desire to be a good-natured, kind, and lovable person who everyone adores? You can. Wish to be a bad boy, rude, and a downright unlikable person who doesn’t care what anyone thinks of them? You can do that too.
It should come as no surprise that titles like Skyrim, Mass Effect, Fable, Eve, and Fallout have become so incredibly popular. They have all taken RPG games to a completely new level of customization and characterization. You choose how you look and what kind of personality fits you. Plus, you can adapt and level-up your character throughout the game.
But what’s most interesting is exactly why many of us love these types of games. What benefits do they give?
Being entertained and relishing escapism
It seems very simple to bring up. But why would you play these games initially if it weren’t for the entertainment factor? There has to be a strong emotional connection to these types of games. In this case, you will likely pour in hours and hours of your free time.
Skyrim and Fallout, for example, are immensely fun because they allow us to see lands and people that just aren’t possible in the real world. Oh, and did we forget to mention the epic quests and dangerous tasks you’ll have to perform? Where else could you slay fire-breathing dragons armed merely with a sword and shield? Or shoot lightning out of your hands to save a group of villagers from a band of orcs?
You get to be the hero in this fantasy life and bask in eternal glory. And that’s something that can have a huge positive effect on people.
Learning problem-solving skills
Just like puzzle games can help you develop, so too can role-playing games. There has been a lot of talk regarding how RPG games can boost what’s known as critical thinking. Many of these games present difficult challenges and puzzles in order to progress to the next level. Zelda games are notorious for having problematic tasks that leave gamers frustrated at first but gratified once the challenge is over.
There are also some significant benefits for learning improvisational skills. Many of these games have more than one way to complete a mission. This means you are often forced to think on your feet and quickly find the easiest path to the end.
There is another side to problem-solving which can, at times, involve not actually playing games at all. Although titles like Minecraft and Ark stray from the RPG path somewhat (better labeled as sandbox/survival games), they still have a fantasy role-playing element.
Moreover, many players actually take things a step further by hosting their own server for the game. This means they get to pick the necessary hardware, choose the gameplay rules, which players are allowed in and conversely, which players must leave if they don’t fit the server’s ethos. As the master of a server, it’s essentially your role to control the online world. And it doesn’t get more fantasy life than that.
Being responsible for your actions
It’s very common for RPG games, particularly Fable, Mass Effect, Skyrim, Fallout and much more to incorporate a certain level of choice when it comes to developing your character, and not just in terms of look.
When talking to other NPCs (non-playable characters) or making decisions during your adventure, what you say to these people and which missions you take can have a huge impact on the overall game.
If you don’t help someone out, you might never gain an item they could have given you as a reward. If you say the wrong thing to a person (usually from a set of three possible fixed answers), then you could miss out on crucial information. This forces you to think carefully about your choices and be content with the outcome.
Overall, it is quite clear why people choose to live a fantasy life online. You have so many incredible adventures at your fingertips. As always, a healthy balance of real-world and fantasy-world is recommended. But if you have the opportunity to live as a dragon-slayer in a medieval village for a few hours a night, then why not?