There’s no cut-and-dry answer as to why people play video games. As I sit here and write this, I’ve got a movie playing in the background. I’m not paying attention to it much. However, it’s drowning out the sounds of my AC unit buzzing and the rest of the thoughts in my head that allow me to write this.

For me, the reason I play video games goes back many years. I was always intrigued by technology, and for whatever reason, I could never genuinely lose myself in a book. Was it my visual learning style spilling its way into every facet of my life? Was it the undiagnosed clinical depression and anxiety talking over everything else going on around me? Sometimes, when I look back at my younger self, there’s a lot of half-answers that have guided me in the direction of picking up a controller and at times, losing myself in gaming.

Peeling back the skin

I hope you’ll excuse the long-winded introduction. But, what I wanted to emphasize most is that there are many reasons why people choose gaming over other entertainment mediums. It could be reduced to the simple fact that there are very few platforms that allow you to be more than just a viewer, an audience member without a say in how the story will progress.

198x Kid Alone

I would argue, that this is one reason in which people are drawn to experience a level of escapism and maybe even detachment from the life circumstances. 198x provides a glimpse into a story that is all too familiar.

It was 1980 something…

When I look back at my childhood, I realize I had a lot of self-hate. I hated being made fun of, my clothes, and the sheer fact that I was overweight. I despised being the overweight kid in class, especially when it came time to read the book “Gregory, the Terrible Eater“. Man, talk about being in the right place at the wrong time. The book was about a goat that ate garbage. Being that we shared the same name, you can guess where the jokes go from here.

198x 1

But, outside of class, I was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, flipping, and karate-kicking the Foot Clan. I was a gunslinger spewing an ungodly amount of bullets to take down Simon Greedwell in Sunset Riders. This was all before my tastes matured and I could understand much deeper experiences, like Myst and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

Outside of the vitriol of school and the isolation that came along with it, I was finding a place where I could be anyone but myself for a few hours at a time.


I found myself reflecting on my own childhood numerous times when playing 198x. In the game, the main character, Kid, tells of escape found with every quarter injected into an arcade cabinet. Each experience was an opportunity to step away from the perils of adolescence and neglect as adulthood reared its sometimes ugly head.

198x Arcade Cabinets

Although my life experiences were much different than that in 198x, it still agitated a stale part in my brain, a part that I thought I had burned, buried, and sent away to never be heard from again. As I continued to play and recognize the genre of each game, I started to recall some of my early experiences playing those similar styles of games.

And just like that, I was back in 198x again.

Misconceptions are okay

I didn’t know very much heading into 198x. All I knew was that it had some sort of story and featured various genres of games. I didn’t know it would be the mechanism to cause a slew of emotions to come surging back to the surface. And just like that, the game closed the current chapter, leaving me to once again, re-encapsulate a flurry of feelings.

Although this might seem like a bitter or undesired experience, it’s very much the opposite. Playing 198x allowed me to realize just how far I’ve come in my life. It reminded me that every person has experiences that they might be willing to shelve for the time being until something makes them think of those things again.

198x Kid In Red Hoodie

It also made me think about how everyone experiences video games different. There’s a reason people pick up a controller, mouse, or keyboard to spawn as a spartan, detective, mage, or paladin.

It made me realize, in a single hour playthrough, that everyone has a reason for choosing to play video games. This just reminded me as to why I won’t ever part with remembering who I am or the video games that shaped my adolescence.

To be continued….

Greg Bargas
A console gamer gone rogue. Collector of retro games, lover of hardware. Part of the Class vs. Crass gaming podcast. Rocket League, anyone?

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