It’s fitting that the first Thursday of November is the day after Halloween, and that this is the first of the Thankful Thursday mini-series.
For those of you unfamiliar with the reference, Norman Rockwell was an American author and painter, who painted a rather famous series of paintings called The Four Freedoms, painted in 1943 and inspired by President Franklin Roosevelt’s vision of a post-war world with four basic human rights:
It is on these paintings that the next four Thankful Thursdays (excluding Thanksgiving) will be based.
While the fear I will be talking about is slightly different than Rockwell’s or President Roosevelt’s, it is a fear nonetheless, experienced by many video game characters: the fear of uncertainty, the fear of being alone, the fear of being destroyed.
These ideas seem to be the bread and butter of the gaming world, with many power fantasies playing into the idea that things are bad, things are scary, and only you can save the day.
But I’ve been thinking of games like The Witcher 3, and the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series, or Shadow of Mordor, or really most adventure, RPG, or action games. In Witcher 3, the world is on the brink of destruction by supernatural forces, and that doesn’t take into account the issues occurring on terra firma, as it were. In the original Mass Effect trilogy, the entire galaxy is in danger of being erased. In Until Dawn, not only do the characters have to contend with their friend who has experienced a psychotic break, but also a real, true monster that is trying to kill them all.
Sure, in games things can be fantastical. They can portray dangerous things because the player is safely behind the screen. But that’s the key, isn’t it? Like the kids in Rockwell’s painting, we are free from the crippling fear of annihilation that grips the lives of our favorite characters. We can sleep peacefully away from the horrors of the Reapers, and the monsters, because they aren’t in our reality, just like the Blitz (reported on the father’s paper in the painting) is not in the reality of the children.
So maybe that’s something to be thankful for: we all have an opportunity to be free from fear. But I’m reminded of something Ian McKellen said about playing Gandalf. Someone asked him how he could take such a movie so seriously, and his response (paraphrased) was because, to the characters, the events were real.
So maybe that’s another thing we should remember: we all deserve to be free from fear, even if that fear isn’t directly in our personal, immediate reality.
What do you think? Is having distance from fear a good thing? Can too much distance impact empathy? Or is it all just a game? Let me know in the comments!
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you soon!
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