Hiding in Hundreds of Worlds

Using video games to bail out of my reality


When I was 10 years old, my parents announced they were getting a divorce. That was a slap in the face. Being as young as I was, I wasn’t particularly observant, so I was oblivious to the deterioration of my parents’ relationship. Next thing I knew, my dad had moved out and it was just me, my brother, and my mom.

The household changed. It wasn’t exactly all sunshine and rainbows before the separation, but it didn’t feel like a mausoleum either. My home turned into a place where people barely spoke to each other, and everyone retreated to their corners. Palpable misery would be the best way to describe it. My house was where happiness went to kill itself.

My mom was only half-there most of the time in regard to being mentally present. I suppose that comes with the territory of being an angry divorcee. There was this perpetual mist of tension in the air heavy enough to do reps with. My brother and I pretty much walked on eggshells for years; we generally felt it was in our best interest to not irritate our mom. I used to do my homework in the living room thanks to inadequate desk space, and I remember always trying to finish before she got home. I dreaded hearing that lock on our front door.

Now, I want to be clear here, my mom was not abusive or neglectful. Considering the things that happened between my parents back then, she had every right to be as angry as she was. The details of their split are not mine to share, but I will say that I can’t imagine the anguish she went through. I’m not bashing my mom — I’m just describing how things were at the time.

Needless to say, an environment like that is not conducive to the development of a healthy mind. It was around this time I became acquainted with depression. My whole family did, actually. None of us were too keen on seeking professional help, thanks to a horrible experience with a so-called therapist earlier that year, so depression settled right in. We’ve been best buds ever since.

I’m an introvert and more of a private person, always have been. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t have a wealth of people I could turn to when I was feeling down. My dad was largely out of the picture, and there wasn’t much talking between me, my brother, and my mom. My proclivity for privacy prevented me from going to my friends, of which I had very few anyway. So, I ran away. Not physically, mind you. Mentally. I ran straight into video games.

By that point I had already been playing games for six years, but they took on an alternate meaning for me beside serving as entertainment. Video games were my escape. Playing games became the only thing I did in my free time. The only way I could get that voice in my head to shut the hell up was by plunging myself into a game.

It may sound a tad cliché, but the only time the world didn’t seem like a festering cesspool was when I had a controller in my hands. Any worries I had would melt away as soon as I hit that power button on my console. Everything felt okay when I was lost in a video game.

You know how people live paycheck-to-paycheck, waiting for the next one to show up? That’s what my life was like. I was vulnerable without games. Without them, my mind would launch a full-on offensive against me. I needed my games. I needed whatever was next. I didn’t have any other hobbies, and nothing else sounded remotely interesting to me.

So, that was the cycle. I would get a game, dive head-first into it, finish it, and anxiously await the next one. The only things that filled the void between them were necessities. Eating, sleeping, school, and using the bathroom. Every once in a blue moon I would go out, but it was usually to go to a restaurant. That counts as eating.

It went on like this for years. Games worked wonders to distract me from my problems. It was great and all, but my problems didn’t go anywhere. Children don’t think about that sort of thing though; in fact, they wouldn’t even realize there’s an underlying concern. I sure as hell didn’t. I carried these habits all the way into adulthood.

Being an adult, I now have the intelligence to acknowledge that there’s a problem. What I also have is mental health akin to a rotting carcass that keeps me in a continuous sense of hopelessness coupled with unhealthy coping methods. To this day, I continue the trend of running away to my video game library and pretending things are all right instead of facing my issues head-on. Could there be worse ways of coping? Yes, but that doesn’t make what I do okay.

I need to make this perfectly clear: I am not denouncing video games in any sense of the word. I love games; I love them the way a film director loves movies. Video games are not the cause of all my problems. There were many factors that meshed together perfectly to massacre my brain. I cannot stress this enough; games are not to blame.

So, what am I trying to say with all this, exactly? I’m honestly not certain. Maybe I’m just sharing my experience with anyone who’s curious or has gone through a similar situation. Maybe I’m unwittingly preaching moderation; saying that it’s good to have things in your life that can relieve you and keep things under control, but also warning people about the dangers of letting the distraction become the solution. Hell, maybe I’m saying this just to say it. I don’t know. My mind is far from being worked out. All I’ll say is this: video games are my safe haven. Take from this what you will, I’ve said my piece. I’m going to go play something.