With Thanksgiving this week, it feels like the perfect time to share some gratitude I have as a gamer this year. I’ll admit I have not played a lot of new games this year, for a couple of reasons: 1) I’ve been extremely busy this year, and 2) I have not been interested in many new games, for some reason. But returning to old favorites is actually a lovely reminder of why I got into gaming in the first place! And with my life being so busy, coming back to gaming to relax has helped me feel more like myself. With that in mind, here are a few reasons I am thankful to be a grown-up gamer.
1. A Way to Unwind
As I grow older, I find that I sometimes feel too tired to bother turning on a console, picking up a controller, and diving into a virtual challenge. On difficult days, I prefer more passive entertainment, like watching Netflix in my pajamas. And yet when I have the time, energy, and inclination, gaming is still one of my favorite ways to unwind.
Playing a video game is pure escapism for me, a way to jump into another world — and I love that it requires my full attention. When I’m watching a TV show, I might pick up my phone and distract myself with scrolling through Twitter. But when I’m gaming, I am completely focused on whatever I am doing in-game. My controller takes up both hands, and I have to concentrate on the battle or the navigation or the dialogue I’m experiencing the game world.
Sure, it may take more of my energy, but that’s also exactly why gaming can be such a wonderful way to unwind from the real world.
2. Living Stories
This year, I’ve been playing some of my favorite games from the past. With the release of the Mass Effect Legendary Edition in May, I went back and replayed what is still my all-time favorite game series, reliving the incredible story of Commander Shepard and her diverse crew as they attempt to save the galaxy from the Reapers. And this month, in honor of Skyrim‘s 10th anniversary, I dove back into Tamriel — this time as an Imperial who specializes in archery, one-handed conjuration spells, and destruction magic. There’s just something so special about coming back to these familiar worlds and stories, following old paths while also forging a few new ones. In my opinion, only video games allow you to experience stories in such a visceral way.
It makes me think of Netflix’s series The Witcher, which I love. Watching that show together has gotten my husband into Witcher lore, too. But even giving the show a 10/10 rating — and being a fan of the original books by Andrzej Sapkowski, too — I still prefer the video games to any other media for this IP. That’s because the games allow you to become Geralt of Rivia. You make decisions. You explore at your own pace. You don’t just watch the story, you experience it.
Through the magic of video games, I am grateful to have experienced so many amazing stories. And not only that, but every time I return to an old favorite, I can choose to relive it in the same way as before… or make different decisions, to live a new version of the story.
3. A Way to Connect
One of the few new games I’ve been playing this year is Hazelight’s It Takes Two, a co-op adventure about a married couple who, just before their divorce, are transformed into dolls and have to work together to return to their human bodies. Filled with humor, innovative puzzles, and cooperative platforming, It Takes Two is easily one of the most creative games I’ve ever experienced. And playing this game with my husband has been so much fun. It’s a reminder of how video games can bond us.
My husband and I have always played video games together. It started with Halo, my husband’s favorite series. Playing games that someone else loves is a great way to get to know them, and I love that we could actually play all the Halo games together, side by side on the couch. After that, we moved on to Destiny and Gears of War. We played Unravel, Mario Kart, Hidden Agenda, and Elder Scrolls Online. For a while, we were obsessed with Apex. And we’ve enjoyed watching each other play, too. I’ve spent hours with an IGN game guide open on my phone while my husband plays Dark Souls, walking him through what’s coming around the next corner and showing him videos of difficult boss fights so we can discuss his strategy. He’s watched me play Life is Strange, Mass Effect, and Skyrim; I made him stop reading his book last night so I could show him the Hearthfire house I just finished customizing. He plays Halo multiplayer every night after work, and I always sit next to him, either reading or scrolling through my phone or, sometimes, just watching and cheering him on.
Gaming has been a fun way to connect with friends and family, too. For example, when a couple of friends moved away a few years ago, my husband and I started connecting with them long-distance through the Jackbox party games on our PlayStations. And during the pandemic last year, we joined my mom, sister, and my sister’s husband on video chat while playing the online version of Dominion, our favorite family board game. As a gamer, not only am I grateful for the connection games provide, I’m also thankful for modern technology that allows us to connect through games even across great distances.
4. Gaming Community
Finally, I’m grateful for this gaming community. While I realize there can be moments, situations, and even people that are toxic to our community, I still feel thankful I have met so many good people through this blog and social media. Let’s be honest — there’s a special connection when two adult professionals are able to ask each other who they romanced in Dragon Age Origins. That’s just one little example of why I’ll always be grateful to be part of this gaming community.
What are you grateful for this year, as a gamer or otherwise?