Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Escapes and Subjectivity

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 7, 2016

When I was younger (and sleeping a lot more than I probably needed to), I suffered from insomnia. A lot. Nowadays, I usually only have that problem when my sleep schedule has been seriously messed up … with travel, more often than not… or when I’m sick.

When I finally give up on trying to sleep for a while, I seek out some kind of entertainment. I don’t know what it is, but when I seek escape from sleeplessness at 4AM, whatever it is that provides that refuge wins extra points in my esteem. I mean, serious points. Maybe it’s because my brain is in some limbo between wakefulness and sleep – not fully awake but refusing to settle down. More likely, it’s because I’m just so grateful for something to provide me with an escape from the frustration of being unable to sleep.

Even years later, I remember that book, game, or movie with a special fondness that has nothing to do with the quality of the title itself, and everything to do with it satisfying a mild desperation. But it is impossible for me to completely disassociate myself with that subjective reaction.

When you need an escape, suddenly an ‘escapist’ work becomes the best thing in the world.

u7introI sometimes wonder if my love of Ultima VII: The Black Gate, and its status as my favorite RPG of all time, isn’t at least partly because I was in a lot of pain when I completed the last 8 hours of the game. During that time, the game made me forget the pain. It was relief.

Which is kind of weird – in many cases, you think that an experience like this would remind you of your emotional state you were in when you experienced it. And that’s true too. I know there are some movies that I think of very fondly and probably hold a higher opinion of because of the company I was with. So I guess it goes both ways.

In reviews, there’s a call for objectivity, as the reviewer is supposed to be making a buying recommendation. But maybe what we need more of is these subjective discussions.

I mean, I can discuss all the features of Ultima VII and why it’s a great game all day long. I’m down with that. But maybe it’s more important that for 8 hours with a injured knee – bad enough that still gave me periodic problems for TWO YEARS after that – I was able to forget about my pain and lose myself in Britannia? I think that’s a hearty recommendation right there.

Filed Under: Geek Life - Comments: 3 Comments to Read

  • Mark said,

    I can certainly agree with you on your U7 choice, but for me, it wasn’t the injury/relief dynamic that made them so memorable and enjoyable. There is something about the world building of UU, U7 and U6 (and U5 i guess, for those of us who experienced that when it was cutting edge), that made them so immersive when they were released. Something about the interactivity, graphics, and writing was so perfectly balanced – lightning in a bottle. These games, moreso than so many others (to me at least), really sucked you in and absorbed you for hours at a time. U6 and U7 were basically the first games my parents let me play as long as i wanted (age thing), so i played them until 3, 4, 5 AM. It wasn’t an injury or insomnia, it was just unfettered freedom and interactivity.

  • Maklak said,

    Ultima Online ate over a year of my life and was a form of escapism. I’ve only seen other Ultimas on Spoony Experiment.

    As for sleep, I’ve noticed that when I force myself to stay awake, there are phases. There is a crisis at about the time I normally go to sleep, but an hour later I’m not sleepy, then I’m sleepy again, then not. Eventually I get into a zombie-like state where I don’t really care untill I collapse. I’ve also tried setting my cycle to night and even rewinding my clock forward (getting to sleep later and later until I return to normal cycle). In general I find that being awake during day and sleeping at night works best for me and disrupting sleep is a bad idea with resulting in days of drowsiness, although I can take a night of 2-4 hours of sleep without too much trouble. I also don’t sleep nearly enough nowadays and am sleepy at work as a result.

  • Xian said,

    I had the same experience with Ultima III. I played it while recovering from a painful surgery and for a while I was able to forget about the pain while exploring Sosaria. I wasn’t even playing to win, just exploring every nook and cranny. On the Atari version that I played, it kept a tally of the moves, and by the time I had completed it, I had made over half a million.