Waiting for Wonder

April 18, 2012
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SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA -It’s a Saturday afternoon and Patrick Doyle wakes up to the sound of an alarm clock. He raises his hand to press the snooze button, but decides against it after looking at the time. He brushes his teeth and walks sleepily toward the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. Patrick’s grogginess could be attributed to the fact that he stayed late at work the previous night, coming home in the hours of the early morning. Patrick, or Dr. Doyle as he is known to most, works at the UCSF Medical Center as a heart surgeon. Although he has this day off, Patrick keeps his cell phone close at his side; he’s been abruptly called to work for emergencies in the past. Now awakened by the coffee, he prepares a bowl of cereal and sits himself on the sofa. Lewis is not your everyday 34 year old man.
An ordinary man, home from a stressful week of work, may catch up with a few friends or get some exercise. Yet Patrick, for the majority of his Saturday evening, will be Arashkaar, a warrior with the body of a mortal and the soul of a dragon. He may also decide to be Sergeant Meyers, a soldier for the United Galactic Front. Or even Harry, a man desperate for survival in post-apocalyptic America. Patrick enters this world through a 65” electronic view screen mounted on the wall of his home, using a small handheld device with an array of colored buttons to control the movements of these alternate identities.
There are some who say that men of Patrick’s age should not be occupying themselves with video games, or that living vicariously through the lives of others is a childish pastime. Adults who play video games are immature and not grounded in reality. They must be out of work, or simply trying to forget their own misfortunes. Adults such as Patrick should be doing adult things, whatever that may be. Yet Patrick has a job; the countless people leaving his office with unobstructed arteries are a testament to that fact. Contrary to what the stereotypes of adult video gamers may suggest, Patrick also has a girlfriend; she’s just visiting her family in Seattle for the weekend. In fact, there is substantial evidence to suggest that most adult video gamers are not total losers and may lead somewhat respectable lives.
So why is there still such a stigma in society against adults playing video games? Perhaps it’s mostly due to stereotypes derived from movies and television shows, where the jobless adult still lives in his mother’s basement and plays videogames all day. But Patrick and the probable millions of employed adults playing video games break these stereotypes and raise the issue that our modern characterization of video gamers is blatantly incorrect. Are video gamers any different from avid film or book lovers? In either case, the individual enjoys being a part of something, temporarily sympathizing with the thoughts and struggles of the characters. Is there any easier way to become immersed in a situation than actually playing it and being that character? For a brief moment in time when playing video games, you are not James the accountant; you’re James the destined warrior. You are not Julia the dentist; you’re Julia the elf.
“I like to play this game when I’m bored”, says Patrick as he temporarily stops casting fire from the palms of his hands. “It’s something to do and I guess it takes my mind off things”. Suddenly, Patrick is back on his faithful horse Valerian, riding through the snowcapped mountains of Helven.
“I like how realistic this game this, like the weather and stuff”, Patrick adds. However, Patrick is not just an Elven warrior. Briefly getting up from the sofa, he configures the portal view-screen and its supporting devices. Sitting back down, he suddenly assumes the identity of an interplanetary soldier, caught in a struggle to defeat vast armies of malevolent machines. He accomplishes this transformation with little to no trouble or harm to himself, quickly ambushing a group of alien-looking creatures with an array of rocket weaponry.
Although this dual fantasy existence may appear strange to most people, Patrick has grown accustomed to it. “I started playing when I was like 7”, he says. While most people continue on with their monotonous lives and repeat the same routines day after day, Patrick has to bear the burden of both saving the galaxy from robots and defeating a race of dragons.
Patrick is not alone in this fantasy realm. In fact, Patrick can interact with the Elven warrior and space marine representations of people from all across the planet. “I think it’s cool that I could be like playing with people from Australia or China”, Patrick says. Men and women of completely differing cultures and lifestyles from around the world instantaneously become different people and unite around a common mission in these fantasy realms.
While in Elven warrior form, Patrick Doyle’s body is rendered almost completely inactive, he’s left only with control of the fingers. His eyes stare forward with an expression of total concentration, his fingers moving in rapid succession. His consciousness has been completely transported into another plane. Suddenly a telephone rings, and Patrick’s mind is abruptly transported back to Earth. With one press of a green lit button, the fantasy world is put on pause, both the warrior and villagers frozen in time. “Yes, I can come in, give me a few minutes to get there. Tell Schmitt to prepare the ICU”.
Patrick leaves the view screen on, the controller device strewn on the ground. He’s now playing as a different character, a character with years of medical schooling and experience. A character that may one day save your life or the life of someone you know. People like Patrick look at the world and see its harsh reality. Perhaps some people just enjoy a certain amount of imagination in their lives. They have accepted the fact that they’re not going to save the galaxy, or fulfill a destiny as they believed when children. Yet on some Saturday afternoons, when not caught in the rat race of life, they pick up that controller and try to. Adults who play video games are not failures; they’re just people looking for that sense of wonder their actual lives cannot offer.

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