Reality

Silence filled my eardrums as a shockwave rippled down my spine. I picked myself up from the ground, my head spinning. I glanced upwards at the Japanese plane that had just bombed our encampment. All around me the buildings were demolished, blown to pieces. I checked on my comrades. A few of them lay on the ground dead and several seconds later they were gone, vanished in thin air.

***

I put down my controller and wiped away the sweat on my brow. Examining the scoreboard on the screen I took pride in the fact that our side was winning. The game was Battlefield 1943 and it drank me in, refusing to spit me out. As I explored this game for the very first time it was nothing but pure adventure. Although it began to make me think, why doesn’t this happen to me in reality? Why don’t I experience the same curious thrill and excitement as I encounter new places and events in the real world?

***

A nearby tank was left unscathed, I hopped inside and drove forward with great force, determined to enact my revenge on the enemy. A cliffside lay approaching, I immediately steered the tank left but the turret moved instead. “Damn controls!” I cursed as the tank drove off the cliff, hurtling down, crashing past trees until I came to a stop at an abandoned building. The glistening blue harbour lay in the distance. I tried to reverse but I couldn’t find the right button. This was the first time I had driven a tank and boy was I off to a bad start. I jumped out and made my way to the water.

***

I often use games as a source of entertainment but part of me wonders if I use them more for escapism, to escape my present reality, to become someone else. My short time in Battlefield proved this point. I didn’t want to be boring little old me anymore, without a sense of purpose. I wanted to fight for my country, to shoot another human without consequence, to drive a tank. And I could do it all over again, my experience changing each time I played.

***

There were no boats so I waded in and started swimming to the other side of the island. Behind me an explosion boomed. My tank had blown up, along with half the building it lay next to. I didn’t give it a second thought, turned around and continued swimming. I dragged my wet body onto the sand; this was where the real action was. I pulled out my Thompson and ran up the grassy hill towards the war cries of my team mates and the roaring gunfire. The American flag was half up the mast but the Japs were persistent and they continued their onslaught, refusing to give up their base without a fight.

***

But don’t we all do this? Either through reading a book, enjoying a TV show, watching a film, or playing a videogame? We want to consume new experiences, become other people. As long as we don’t neglect our real lives, what’s the harm right? Games of course have a unique element that other media do not; control. We can fully direct our character, choosing where to go, deciding what our short term objectives are. Perhaps lack of control in my present lead me to taking command of a military man.

***

A jeep drove toward us with a Jap blasting ferociously on the back of a turret. I aimed my Thompson and pulled the trigger. Bullets spew out towards the jeep, the majority missing the gunner. He was a moving target, too hard to hit. Then he started firing at me. I began to run, run anywhere for safety, but it was too late and I fell to the ground, my body punctured with bullets. The year was 1943.

***

Whatever the case, this island I was transported to became my new sense of reality. All my everyday priorities and worries simply disappeared. I was born again, as an American soldier. Day to day life can’t always capture the raw and powerful moments you get from following a detective on the chase of a fugitive, flying around skyscrapers as a superhero, or racing a souped-up vehicle through dangerous terrain. Tomorrow I might just see what it’s like inside the shoes of a fighter in the year 2142.

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