I’ve made no secret of my current dismay with affairs in the real world. I initially turned to games as solace. In games, I could be the hero of a battlefield, a daring assassin, or run in endless fields. Video games can be a place for escape, but they can also help us find the courage to face difficult things in our own lives. Lately, games have genuinely inspired me to be a better person.
While I often prefer games that have ambiguity baked into their stories, I also find value in broad stories of heroes and villains. Overwatch has become a mainstay of my nightly routine. The matches have clear goals and encourage teamwork. But it was the release of Sombra that reignited my love of the game. The world of Overwatch is a world of heroes. It is bright and colourful. When bad guys show up, the good guys always arrive to save the day.
One of my favourite things about Overwatch is the fact that heroes can come from anywhere. A killer robot can find redemption, a sassy Mexican hacker can upend corporations, an Egyptian mother and daughter can dominate the fight, and a Brazilian DJ can drop the beat. Heroes are everywhere. Overwatch genuinely believes in that thesis. It believes so much that you can’t help believing as well.
It’s encouraged me to action. I’m seeking out local charity and organisations to find out how I can help make the world better. This positive sentiment has carried across games for a long time now.
I’ve been exploring old games lately and delved into my collection of demo discs from Dreamcast Magazine. The volume nine disc has a rather extensive demo for Skies of Arcadia, a cult classic RPG about sky pirates fighting an evil empire.
One feature in the demo is “Laws of the Air Pirates” and it outlines various creeds for being a dashing rogue. “Forever [challenge] the impossible!” “Don’t let evil go unpunished!” These might sound like empty platitudes, but they inspired me in my youth and they still inspire me now. I’m filled with the need to work hard and do more for others.
Escapism can be a problem if you never return to the real world, if you bury your head in fantasies and never look outside your window. But when approached honestly, media can help us aspire to greatness.
I encourage you to reconnect with your heroes and to find strength in your icons. Turn your inspiration into action. Reach out, help your community, and speak up for those who cannot. Every day is a chance to be someone’s hero. Games give us heroes to look up to, both in our fantasies and in the real world. And the world could always use more heroes.