Alan Mehanna
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Feb 28, 2022

I was never much of a gamer.

Be it due to the long term commitment, or the lack of competitiveness, or even due to the simple fact that I tend to get fully immersed to the point where my emotions can get the better of me - I'm talking real life activation of fight or flight - I could never see myself gaming.

My best friend found this particularly strange especially because I pride myself on being a storyteller. He'd constantly say, "the best stories are being played not witnessed." I'd brush his statement off, or fire back with the latest TV series or film I watched and how that was the best form of storytelling instead and ultimately we'd agree to disagree.

Don't get me wrong, I played some games - I dabbled in Pokemon, I play some AFK (Away From Keyboard) mobile games like AFK ARENA and MYTHIC HEROES, I tried my hand at a turn-based RPG from RiotGames called The Ruined King - this was post me watching NETFLIX's ARCANE and becoming obsessed with the League of Legends mythos. Yet, even those games, I drift in and out of playing.

Now, my partner is a massive gamer.

He sees the world through the lens of a game, the majority of the time and even has dreams that function more like games. For real, he's said multiple times how he can legit plug back into a dream he was having before and continue the sequence.

The content he watches (mostly Anime) he enjoys due to their expositional dialogue that dissect and analyze character stats, fight strategy, magic/power usage, which arguably is very similar to how a game functions, especially Role-Playing games (RPG).

With all the efforts he has made to enjoy the content that I watch, I hadn't yet crossed the bridge to the realm of gaming.

When we both got hit with Covid earlier this year, I found myself feeling very unhappy due to the fact that I could barely function and yet had so much time on my hands. I know I'm a mess. I wanted to use that time to write, to create, to be productive, yet I could barely think straight.

So, knowing fully well that I wanted to share gaming with my partner, I took a leap and bought my first game STAR WARS: JEDI FALLEN ORDER, my strategy being I combine something I love with a world I know very little about.

At first, the tension of the game got to me and my mind/emotions didn't know how to handle all that the game offered, but once I got the hang of it, and got out of my own head, I started enjoying the immersive experience that is gaming.

There is a very interesting aspect of gaming that came to me a few days ago, something that also relates what my best friend once told me.

"You don't watch the story, you play the story."

While on a drive with partner, we discussed my realization of this aspect.

When you're watching a television series can be a massively satisfying experience, you are still passively witnessing the events of a story taking place. You are being told where to look, what to look at, when to look at it, and how to feel about it, with the rare why you should feel that way. You are a passive component within that experience. Nothing you say or do will have any affect on the story because it's all be written, acted, shot, edited, and presented.

On the other hand, when you're experiencing a narrative within a game, you are actively participating in the events of the story as they take place - meaning, they are happening as you, the player, move the narrative forward. You chose where to look, what to look at, when to look at it, how to feel about it, and most importantly, you know the why. The why is because if you don't the story stops. The why is because you, the player, actually matter in the experience of a game.

As I inched closer to completing STAR WARS: JEDI FALLEN ORDER, I wanted to have a second game to play as I had enjoyed gaming so far. As I perused through my partner's game selection, my eyes fell upon a game by the name of HORIZON: ZERO DAWN.

Take a look below at what some Game Critics have said about the game:

Which brings me to the purpose of this blog post: gaming helps me stay in the present moment.

Much of my days as of late involve me trying to stay as aware as possible and fight off the energetic vampires that are social media platforms, Lebanon's current state of affairs, and the black hole of political discourse.

Trust me when I say, it is a full time job on top of a full time job doing this.

When I sit down (or lie down depending on my mood) to play HORIZON: ZERO DAWN, I am fully immersed into it. The thing is one of my biggest challenges has always been that I am easily distracted. Call it a severe case of FOMO or ADD or whatever, but I get easily distracted. My brain is constantly moving at a bajillion miles a second as it tries to handle every aspect of my life at this same time.

Taking this from a spiritual perspective, I struggle with being grounded. I am at the end of the day a water sign, and water is rarely ever still.

So, it is very difficult for me to BE in the present moment.

Through gaming, I discovered what being in the moment actually means and feels like. You know that statement? Time flies when you're having fun. Well, I think it should be something more like: Time flies when you're in the present moment. Because Lord is that ever the case.

When I'm gaming, I have to stay as focused as possible or I die - it's that simple.

If I get distracted I run risk of losing the stage/mission I'm on...

...and trust me when I say, you wouldn't like me when I lose. I get quite unhappy (another thing I am actively working on improving about myself.

I am forced to stay in the moment in order to focus on the tasks at hand and complete them one at a time. There is a sense of accomplishment. You did something. You.

You see - in a game, you're the one in control of the story.

Believe it or not, story plays a big role in a game. I know, I sound like I've been living under a rock - like of course story is important, but it is more than that.

When you're gaming...

...You're not passively watching the story unfold like you do in a movie or series, but rather actively participating in the narrative.

It's not just participating however, but also shaping it. Your choices affect the entirety of the experience of the game. My experience will differ from yours.

As a writer and storyteller this aspect adds to my growth as a writer because I am able to experience storytelling in a completely new, engaging, interactive, immersive medium.

And immersion is the final point to make.

This is escapism in its highest and purist form. You chose the path forward. You make a difference.

Escaping to new horizons and exploring worlds unknown was something I used to enjoy doing via films, books, and serialized content. Yet, there are times while doing that I catch myself reflecting about it negatively. Instead of being active in my life I'm doing the opposite -- I'm being quite passive.

Now, I'm not saying that being passive is a bad thing, on the contrary. Sometimes, one needs to take a day to be passive and recharge. But as a writer and a creative, I also want to be conscious and more strategic about where my energy is going.

Gaming is allowing me the opportunity to be entertained, to expand my understanding of storytelling, all the while escaping and being in the present moment free from the distractions of everyday life and that is quite a win.

What activities do you do that keep you in present time? Please feel free to share in the comment section below.

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