My divorce will be final next week.
I know, I know. How did my ex-guy let an amazing woman like me get away? Someone who is willing to spend hours playing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and rarely complains if he logs too much time on the Xbox? Someone who’d rather be immersed in Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare and gets press passes to C2E2? Well, let’s just say that relationships are complicated, and what happens in Vegas apparently stays in Vegas.
Almost a year since we broke up our 13-year marriage for good, I am finally at peace with the world. My gift to myself during the breakup process was an Xbox One at launch, and it was probably the best thing I could have bought for myself.
When I became single again, I suddenly had more time for myself. I no longer have to cook two separate meals for dinner (my ex is a vegetarian), or do the things my husband wants to do (I get nightmares after watching “The Walking Dead”). I still have my son most days, but he’s at an age where all he thinks about and talks about are Minecraft and Clash of Clans. The other night, I was dealing with an editorial emergency and every 10 minutes, literally, he’d come in and ask me if I was done yet and when could I go into Animal Crossing and start catching feathers and could I get him a green one and don’t I know that Festivale is only ONE DAY each year. Now he knows how I feel when I nag him to clean his room.
But basically, I’ve had more time for gaming. Not much, but a little is better than nothing.
The great thing about gaming is that it takes up a lot of your brainpower and energy, or it can be relatively mindless and engrossing if that’s what you need. I don’t have time to stew about anything else when I’m playing a game, even if it’s just a free iOS app timewaster. Initally, when I was going through the stages of grief and anger and resentment, this was a huge relief. I spent a lot of time doing things that distracted me from focusing on the end of my marriage 24/7, and I think that was healthy. (Full disclosure: I also watched a shit-ton of “Doctor Who.” And “Sherlock” and “Arrow.”)
I know there are many critics of gaming who see kids playing shooters and think that’s a major cause of violence, but I think the opposite. I think playing games, if you’re already a mentally healthy person, gets the negativity out of you. I no longer feel like taking a BFG to my dear ex. I took that bad energy and used it to destroy demons. Killing the enemies in the game, whether the Covenant or zombies, was a metaphor for my own life – I’m getting rid of the things IRL that are bringing me down.
My soon-to-be-ex-husband and I now have a pretty good relationship. I can’t forget what he did, but I can forgive. I can appreciate his good qualities – the ones I fell for in the first place, back in the day – and the class he’s shown in making things easier for me since we split. We talk, we make decisions about our son together, he comes over and changes the lightbulbs I can’t reach, and sometimes we go to Chipotle to get tacos (steak for me, Sofritas for him) and catch up. Every person, gamer or non-gamer, should have that kind of relationship with her ex. Gaming made it easier for me by letting me vent my frustrations somewhere safe.
We all heal in different ways, in our own time. Here are the games I credit for keeping me sane during this dramatic and difficult time:
- Plants vs. Zombies 2 – mindless time-traveling fun fighting zombies with the cutest sunflowers and peashooters you’ll ever see. Since I could play this in small doses this is still my travel game of choice.
- Halo 3 – Halo 3 is a bonding experience for my kid and me as he carries me through missions – I’m terrible at FPSes, but working on it! We picked this Halo because it was the copy we could find. (And for the record, I know this and Titanfall are rated M+, but I also play the games and I know what my child can handle – no Grand Theft Auto for him.)
- Animal Crossing: New Leaf – There’s such an amazing online community, and this is the one game that I actually play socially with people other than my son.
- Pokemon X – My kid has Pokemon Y, so we trade back and forth and he helps me when I am stuck.
- Ninjatown: Trees of Doom – This is an Android and iOS game that I still play even years after it came out, because it’s so cute and fun and I am still trying to break 2100 feet. You climb trees, jumping or flipping from one to the other, with ninjas, fireballs, and other obstacles in your way.
- Titanfall – Ok, it was just the beta and we got in on it late, but wow. I admit to lifting my kid’s “no screen time” punishment for one day so he could check it out before it went away.
- Dance Central – One other great distraction for me during this period was exercise – I love Zumba and S.W.A.G. When I can’t go to the gym, this is pretty fun and I enjoy laughing at the pictures the Kinect takes of me in my Cookie Monster PJs as I try to copy the moves.
- The Last of Us – At least, I played this until it became too much for me – which, frankly, wasn’t that far in. As it turns out, the type of person who can’t make it through an episode of “The Walking Dead” certainly won’t be able to get through this. But the anticipation of being able to play it because I had more time all to myself was worth a lot. And there’s nothing better to remind me that life could be worse!