How Epic Games Was My Personal Post-Tragedy Therapist
Last September, I had a miscarriage. I was only six weeks along, so I hadn’t had my first prenatal appointment yet and hadn’t really had long to be excited. Still, when it happened, I was rather upset. I took off the rest of day from work, but I really wanted a distraction. Fortunately for me, Gears of War 3 released the day before, providing the most perfect distraction. It was violent, it was fun, and I got to shoot ugly monsters. The last sentiment was the most important for my catharsis.
I honestly don’t know what could have made me feel better on that day. I only had a couple of hours between coming home from the doctor and picking up my son from daycare, but after that brief time, I felt better. I didn’t feel as sad, and I no longer felt like I would burst into tears at the drop of a hat. (I might have had a different story if I played through Act III–Dom’s death–or Act IV–seeing the ash people–but I suppose fate didn’t want to be too cruel to me that day.) I don’t know what it was that made me feel better, to be honest. Maybe it was an excuse to act as brutal as I felt. There is something extremely cathartic about chainsawing a Theron Guard to pieces, no matter how you feel.
Whatever it was, it made me feel functional again and I could talk to friends about what happened without tearing up. Whenever I started to feel sad, I just jumped into Marcus’ shoes for a chapter or two and the sadness instantly melted away.
Last week, nearly a year later, I experienced another miscarriage. This one was far more devastating. I was ten weeks along, I had already seen the baby via ultrasound and heard the heartbeat, and we were just getting ready to tell friends the great news. When I went to the doctor to find out what was going on with my ill-foreboding symptoms, they confirmed the worst–baby had stopped developing at around six weeks and no longer had a heartbeat. Even worse, my body was having difficulty miscarrying, so I needed surgery to help.
Once again, I took off work for both mourning and recovery. All I wanted to do was lie in my bed and cry, but since I had been doing that all weekend when the symptoms first hit, I forced myself to play a game. I’m currently working on the strategy guide for Kingdom Hearts 3DS for my strategy guide review site, but I had no interest in playing such a happy, pastel, upbeat game. I thought about playing Gears of War 3 again, but something told me that the therapy magic was already gone. I went to my stack of shame, considered Halo: Reach (gotta get ready for Halo 4!), but Bulletstorm called out to me. Many of my friends loved the game for how over-the-top it was, and that sounded fitting for my mood.
If you’ve played the game, you know how over-the-top it is in both gameplay and dialogue. The game really encourages you to be creative in your kills, and you’re awared skillpoints for each creative skillshot you unlock and perform. To add to the insanity, the skillshots have quite humorous names. Then there’s the dialogue…I’m not sure I can accurately describe it and keep this article suitable for work, so if you get offended easily, just stop reading. I’ve never heard so many dick jokes in my life at once, and I used to play rugby. My husband is in the military, and I’m sharing with him dick jokes he’s never heard before (but he plans to use in the near future).
For the first time in three days, I cracked a real smile. I think it was in reaction to, “You nearly scared my dick off!” Later, when I heard Trishka yell, “I’m going to kill you in your dick!” it prompted real laughter. As I shared with my husband in the OR waiting room how insane it was, I realized this was the first time I’ve been able to talk without crying or getting angry. I felt the weight of my depression lifting, and I was able to go back to work the day after my procedure. Once again, whenever I felt the tears build up, a few minutes of Bulletstorm replaced them with giggles.
I know that Mr. Cage wants us all to grow up and move beyond violent shooters such as these, but in my situation, I really needed to play something not grown up. For some reason, it was the over-the-top violence that helped me overcome my own current tragic situation, and I’ll always be grateful for that.
That said, as therapeutic as Epic Games’ work has been for me, let’s not have a repeat when Gears of War: Judgment releases, mmkay? I’d like to not use their products for this type of therapy again.