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Can’t Escape the Escapism Part 1

posted on June 4th, 2007 by jarrad

There’s something about GTA. After playing it for hours, I found myself walking the streets of Manhattan and contemplating a car-jacking. Don’t tell Jack Thompson, but I know I’m not the only one. My pal and I spent hours taking turns giving the Liberty City Police the run-around. When we returned to the real world and spotted an expensive car, we only had to look at each other to know we were thinking the same thing.

GTA isn’t the only series with this effect on my mind. I’ve walked around malls with Tony Hawk whispering in my ear, “You could use that as a ramp and then grind the fountain. Look over there! I bet you could jump that.”

Sometimes the most mentally invasive games are nothing like the real world, just mere abstractions. You’re probably familiar with Tetrisitis, the lingering thoughts of fitting shapes together after a long Tetris session. Meteos afflicted me in a similar way. Once I was on stage in the middle of a scene, looking out over a crowd of people in different-colored shirts and images of sliding puzzle tiles arose. I shouldn’t have been thinking of a videogame at the time, but the thoughts arrived of their own accord.

This is different from how some people purposefully (and sometimes embarrassingly) assist a videogame’s entrance into the real world by dressing as Devil May Cry’s Dante on weekends or singing the Pokemon theme for the viewers of YouTube. Certain games have this effect more than others. And that’s what I’d like to explore next time, but until then, a little group therapy. Let’s share. Has a game changed how you look at the world? Was it only temporary?

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  1. christian said on June 4, 2007:

    I once climbed (successfully) a height on a college building that some didn’t believe I could, thanks to Prince of Persia helping me view the places I could climb. Note I was sober, and it was still a dumb idea.

  2. Chris O said on June 5, 2007:

    After long hours with The Ocarina of Time, I imagined (my very young self, at the time) while in church that the sermon would end much faster if I could just hit the priest in the head with a diku nut from my slingshot. Then I came to my senses. And GTA, forget it! I was afraid to drive my car after too much time on that game, worried I might wind up on the sidewalk knocking down pedestrians and only stopping occasionally when one of them exploded in a particularly large spray of green stacks of money. Funny thing though, for stacks of money, they were worth about twenty dollars as I recall. Then again, New York is one wacky place…sorry Freudian slip

  3. Stefan said on June 5, 2007:

    The closest I can come to that is spending an afternoon playing Shenmue and being really surprised to look outside and find that it wasn’t raining. That and this reminded me of the comic strip at http://www.xkcd.com/c161.html

  4. jay said on June 5, 2007:

    My most recent experience with this phenomenon mimic Stefan’s cartoon link – one day after many hours of Katamari Damacy I couldn’t help but considering how each object I examined would “roll up.”

  5. doug said on June 5, 2007:

    I’m pretty sure I’ve been Splinter Cell stealth-killed by a friend at least twice while at college.

    Also, when I was in middle school I got a Playstation with Final Fantasy VII. At the time the magic graphics were insane, and I used to think how cool it would be to zap this bully at school with arc lightning. Ironically, he played pro-wrestling videogames and eventually gave me a Stone Cold Stunner. That really sucked.

  6. Matt said on June 5, 2007:

    You don’t even want to know how bad I had it with my Lumines-itis. I was seeing squares for days. I even got a 12-square combo with the bathroom floor tiles:) Another game that got me thinking was Burnout. At intersections, I would visualize the pile-up that I would create if I went head-on into traffic. GTA was weird in that it taught me how easy it would be to actually car-jack someone. All you really need to do is pull the guy out and drive away. Which made it easier for me to contemplate doing it. Not that I had, mind you.

  7. Dave said on June 5, 2007:

    After the One-Two of DeusEx and Half-Life, College life took on some strange new aspects – I became very aware of the change in sound my footsteps made going from gravel to carpet to tile I’d maintain a coffee cup at just the right elevation within my ‘sight’ I’d watch the change in angle and size of buildings as I walked toward them, marvelling at the framerate as I strafed by worried students I always felt a tiny bit disappointed with our air vents which were painted white and about the size of an envelope – not even big enough for a headcrab!

    Also, I remember going to a hardware store for paint then wandering over to the tools just to see if they had any crowbars in the ‘right’ color – again reality set in as all I found were uniformly grey ‘bars.

  8. Matt said on June 7, 2007:

    One thing that I always wanted to actually be available in real life was a scan visor from Metroid Prime. You can scan food to see if it was bad, a car if it was a lemon, and a girl if she has a VD or something. That would be fucking awesome:)

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