In 2021, the game has become a way to make sense of life

If 2020 was the year we bonded through the game – Stuck at home, we strengthened friendships and relationships through our Animal Crossing islands or Among Us skirmishes – 2021 is the year that gaming has come to be seen as a way of life.

Games have given us the opportunity not only to communicate, but also to shape how we approach our experiences. After two years of collective stress, loss and heartbreak, not to mention a political climate that is still divisive, I have come to the conclusion that the game is critical to simply getting through the day.

Everywhere we look, there are or can be games everywhere.

What is a couch but a vessel for building a fortress? And what is the metaverse but the recognition that our lives are becoming more online and entertainment more collaborative than ever?

If there is a defining environment for our still uncertain pandemic age, it is gaming. Not only because the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are still hard to find, or because the tech universe has made metaverse concept – gaming escape to digital reality – mainstream. A deeper understanding of the game can lead to new experiences, and 2021 has a lot to offer both on and off screen.

The musical game The Artful Escape was an identity quest. “Unpacking” asked us to look at the objects that surround us. Psychonauts 2 conveyed complex mental health messages through outlandish animated canvases.Genesis Noir made us think about what we want in a relationship.

In the so-called real world Pikmin Bloom has transformed the landscape outside our doors into a magical flower wonderland. and the Omega Mart Meow Wolf installation in Las Vegas. turned a grocery store into an interstellar trip to other dimensions.

People enter an installation in Las Vegas

Meow Wolf’s Omega Mart, a parody of consumer culture that combines art and technology, opened in February at Area 15 in Las Vegas.

(Christopher Reynolds/Los Angeles Times)

Even the famous psychotherapist Esther Perel preached the power of the game through a conversation-based card game. The game is increasingly becoming a way to look at the world around us. For the game you need to ask what if instead of why.

“Your mind is limitless” Perel said in an interview earlier this year.. “When we talk about the game, we have to talk about performance. We are also talking about imagination. We also talk about risk. We can talk about real things that go beyond software. A whole worldview can be described by understanding the meaning of the game.

Esther Perel collects pieces in her board game

Relationship expert and psychotherapist Esther Perel at her Manhattan home with her 2021 board game, Where Do We Begin.

(Jesse Dittmar / For The Times)

When we interact with a work of art, magic happens, and not just because we lean in and take an active part. Although games are talked about as immersive art that allows us to live in a different role, I have long found this description to be simplistic and not quite Correctly when describing the strength of the game. We are more like puppeteers, creating characters or playing different versions of ourselves.

For we are never aware that we are playing. As we wander through the intergalactic Meow Wolf installations and uncover outlandish tales of the power of the individual in a mad capitalist world, we still know we are in Las Vegas. When Playing Star Wars Characters at Disneyland’s Galaxy’s Edge, we still know we’re in a theme park.

But this space between us and the text creates a new malleable perspective. When we are not passive spectators, our own instincts and habits come under closer scrutiny. Suddenly, the emphasis is on how we normally act – our habitual impulses become a matter of consideration when we play. When we play with others, it creates instant comfort; Think of it as silly, opening up a safe space for emotional intimacy.

And after 22 months of near-constant upheaval and more loneliness than most of us would like, what better experience than an experience that encourages conversations either with ourselves or with those we are close to?

This is what I craved in the games I played.

The character runs in the game "Psychonauts 2"

Psychonauts 2 is a trippy exploration of the mind with humor.

(Double Fine Gifts / Microsoft Studios)

I found “Nimble Escape” touching because of its emotional issues rather than the rhythmic ones, which were mostly simple. A musical game about how to create a new identity, break out of your shell and learn not to let our desires depend on the expectations of others. As we wander across glowing white bridges between planets, encounter talking cats, and pounce on neon-lit soft rocks, Artful Escape invites us to “play as if your dreams were memories.”

Only animation allows you to create such colorful, metaphorical worlds, and Psychonauts 2 was the best animated film I played this year. A literal journey into the minds of others, the game presents the incredible twists and turns of the real world. places where casinos, campgrounds, concerts and other places go wild, multifaceted levels where trees become skyscrapers and betting games turn universes upside down. And yet it’s a serious mental health game, touching on themes like addiction, depressive fears, and insecurities. with a never ending zest for life.

As we ricochet into consciousness, we turn off bad habits to create new ways to solve problems. The game understands that the changes are not due to reprogramming our brains, but simply due to alternative responses to our thoughts. We are not told about it; it’s what we actually help people do in the game.

“It always seemed to me that certain thought patterns were muscles,” says founder and founder of Double Fine Presents. Psychonauts creator Tim Schafer. “They get stronger if you keep doing them. There are habits you can learn. Not all. When some people suffer from depression, they have no control over their happiness, but other people can shape their own realities and take control of these things. It’s a really big topic.”

The character controls the aircraft in the game "Sable"

Sable is a soothing coming-of-age story.

(Rough fury)

Psychonauts 2 and other games I loved tried to infiltrate life as well, such as the search for a calling in Sable and the burning poems about domestic violence in Last Call. I even found that Pikmin Bloom – a game most often written off as too easy – was a work that required us to rethink how we see the world around us, since every step we take can leave a digital flower in our path.

The game is not a challenge; play is simply a change in our daily experience.

This is not a new concept; it’s been around a lot longer than it has been since games went digital. However, our modern age has simply presented games as something frivolous. Part of the blame for this is the video game industry, which has been focusing on youth or shooting rather than serious topics for too long, but that period is over; today we understand that the game is a means not only of financial power, but also of emotional weight.

“I’m really fascinated by the feeling that you’re not just a monolithic person,” Schafer says of his motivations for creating Psychonauts 2. “Sometimes it feels like another part of you has a hand on the steering wheel in another part of your life. We are a collection. Any person is a collection of souls, and they cooperate to make this personality that we put forth.”

The game is a way to put these different souls behind the wheel. This can happen in the digital realm or in our own homes. Try looking, for example, at your furniture from your pet’s eye level. Maybe draw what they see. What mountain and cave landscapes that live among us do we take for granted?

In our stressful times, it’s always easier said than done to see the world with wonder, but it’s good to remember where we can go when we’re in a playful state. Yes, games like “Psychonauts 2” and “The Artful Escape” are fun, but more importantly, they are tools, provocations, to look at ourselves and our universe in a different way.