Life is hard. Being content and happy is even harder. I don't know about all of you, dear readers, but I use video games as a means of escaping from the humdrum and anxiety-riddled moments of reality. Some might think of escapism as a sign of weakness, like we should be able to face our stress and responsibilities head on from the get-go. I agree that you should absolutely pay your power bill as soon as you can or make sure you buy groceries so you can actually eat and survive, but there's nothing wrong with playing video games for a few hours, instead of dusting your bookshelves. There's nothing wrong with enjoying a few peaceful moments of relative burden-free bliss in a game rather than talking to your significant other about their lack of cleanliness around the house. Those periods of enjoyment and escape help us be better prepared and capable of handling life's difficulties. So why don't we feature more escapism in our video games?
It's all well and good to play The Witcher 3 until seven in the morning, but there's so much battling and tactical advancement of skills. I have to make sure I have the right mutagens enabled, with the right skills attached to it, for specific moments in the game. At other times, I have to make sure I stockpile food and craft the right potions and oils before a big battle. These things are all incredibly engaging and certainly lead to a certain level of immersion that pulls me out of whatever real life troubles I'm experiencing, but wouldn't it be great sometimes to take away all that “fluff?”
That might sound like I'm suggesting games like The Witcher 3 should offer combat-free difficulty modes. That could possibly make for an enjoyable experience, but it would almost certainly feel bland. You generally can't just take away combat in a game that revolves around it and expect it to play well. In some cases this does work, like in Minecraft. A great number of people enjoy Minecraft for its Survival mode. You have to build up your home and the land around it to help you survive the perils of the night. But there are tons of other people (myself included) who like to play in the more peaceful Creative mode and just focus on building.
Not every game can parrot the success of Minecraft however. That's where games that have been created without any combat to begin with or who have made their combat-free mode easy to enjoy come in. Imagine if the Hearthfire expansion for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim had been created as a standalone. You could build up your house, marry a fine lady, have children, plant crops, and care for livestock. All of that could be enjoyed without the potential for a dragon to come along and raze it all to the ground. Some will probably say that this just turns Hearthfire into the equivalent of Harvest Moon or a farming simulator. But I say, “What's wrong with that?” Sometimes we just want to enjoy a simpler life or a different one than our own.
An even further development on this concept would be combat-free options in MMORPGs. What if we had an online game that allowed people to choose the life of a pacifist. Maybe you really want to experience a fantasy world through the eyes of a farmer, a blacksmith, a botanist, or an alchemist. Let the dual-wielding, max strength warriors fight the epic battles against creatures in the mountains! Then you can live the peaceful life on a farm or in a village/town. This concept could possibly thrive even better in a multiplayer game than it would single-player. It would allow for even more styles of enjoyment than options that currently exist. Players could take the place of pre-created characters, like those who man the shops or fold steel.
NPCs would still have to exist, in case there are some villages that peaceful players don't find particularly enjoyable, but having the option to go to a computer character or a player character, I'd probably almost always choose the latter. It's a unique prospect that I think many would find really enjoyable. I'm usually the no-holds barred warrior type. But if I could be the person who collects herbs in the forest with no worries, and then crafts potions for other players to buy for their journeys, I'd probably really like that too. It's nice to escape to a life simply lived some times.
What do you think of this idea? Would you play an MMO where you could choose a peaceful role? Would you play a single-player RPG that had an option to be a farmer or craftsman rather than a warrior? Let me know your thoughts!