Trading the virtual world for the real one - By: Stefan Markovich
The tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.
For as long as I could remember video games were a part of my life. I believe that the Nintendo SNES was the first console I had. That system was released in the United States in 1991. I was only 2 years old!
During the first 16 years of my life I was moving from city to city, never settling in one area for more than a couple years. Making friends every time we moved wasn’t difficult but it wasn’t ideal either. Video games played a couple roles for me. It was a way for me to occupy my time, and escape the reality of having to do homework assignments, but it was also something to do with the new friends I had made. Video games still weren’t so popular in every home so it was another way to play and bond with other kids.
When I first started playing games, I was captivated by the virtual worlds that I was playing in. Banjo Kazooie on the Nintendo 64 was my favorite, the characters and the worlds inside that game had me awestruck. At first I was in admiration for the fantasy worlds in video games. That drew me in, but soon after I became quite competitive at playing them. I wanted to achieve all I could inside of the games and beat all my friends that dare challenge me. I would spend hours on end mastering one part of a game just to advance further. My focus and determination was at its peak. Eventually I would lose that focus and determination once I deemed the investment in time for the outlay wasn’t beneficial. I had become a casual gamer, only playing a certain genre of games to play with friends.
Video games tied me together to friends of old, and was something to do with my new friends once I found a home in Arizona. I spent many weekends playing games with my friends locally and online. After my friends and I graduated from college and a few of them moved away, video games were a means of staying in touch. Through all the instability during my first decade and a half of life, video games were my escape, but with every hour I spent in these virtual worlds, I isolated myself from the actual one I live in.
I never had an appreciation for the outdoors until recently. My sister would visit from the east coast about twice a year. She frequently requested that I go on a hike with her. I only knew of one place to hike and I would dread it. On multiple occasions, about a third of the way up the mountain I would be able to convince her that we had gone far enough. As the years went by I would meet more and more people that enjoyed going on hikes. I didn’t quite understand how this could be. We live in Arizona, it is hot, it is rocky, the views are alright in Scottsdale but nothing that would truly take your breathe away. What was I missing?
In summer of 2016 I took a trip to Seattle with my then girlfriend. She was one of those many people I kept meeting that liked the outdoors. She had planned that one of our days would be spent hiking Bridal Veil Falls and Lake Serene. On the inside I was screaming “Nooooooooo!” upon hearing about these plans but on the exterior I was (hopefully) showcasing positive body language. The day of the hike we rented a car, and bought some gear for the cold weather in the mountains. We did the hike, all 9 miles roundtrip. This was the first real hike I had done outside of Scottsdale, Arizona. I got it, I understood the draw, it was done. Our knees and ankles were sore, noses were runny, our fingers were swollen and we were absolutely exhausted, but together we accomplished it. My mind was always stuck on the destination, but that was never the draw.
The adventure is all about the journey and the small moments you catch along the way. The thunderous noise of the water as it crashes down from hundreds of feet above and how the mist makes you wipe your eyes every few steps you take closer to the waterfall. The crispness of the air, it feels like you are taking in 10 breathes from one inhale, your body comes to a calming state. The look in your partner's eyes as they gaze at the surrounding nature in amazement and you know that they see the same in your eyes. You can’t explain these feelings.
My whole life up to that point I had been amused and astonish by the creations made on discs and cartridges. It was like magic to flick a switch and be in a different world. After that day in Seattle I realized I had been wrong to reject this world. Sitting at the top of Mt. Index at Lake Serene I felt embarrassed. I was so naive about the outdoors. Our world is just as much a marvel as any video game world I had explored, the challenges of exploration were greater and all of my senses were buzzing. There really was no comparison. I found my new escape.
I sold all my video games in fall of 2016.