Holiday Gaming and Life-Giving Rest

Summer is here, time for us all to pen down our thoughts about going on vacation and holidays in general. So let me start with a question: what do you consider the perfect holiday? How do you rest?

My idea of a holiday is to lounge in a tidy room, read, and play my Switch. No social appointments, no shopping, no surprises, and no sweating unless it’s from a hot bath. Just peace and quiet. Stillness. Channelling my inner sloth with a good game in hand.

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I would like a tent of solitude, all to myself.

Holiday Gaming

With a toddler in our lives now, I yearn more than ever to simply plonk in bed and have vicarious adventures through an electronic screen. When you say “vacation,” I imagine pushing our baggage-laden stroller up winding mountain roads. (Physically, that’s how it feels to holiday with a young child.)

Still, we’ve been fortunate to enjoy a few pleasant family vacations since Little Miss S was born. Our last vacation was in October 2021, and this is my fondest memory of it:

We waited until Miss S fell asleep before breaking out the Switch. Careful not to wake her, we turned the volume down until it was barely audible. Then we played Great Ace Attorney: Chronicles in the dark while sipping hot chocolate and munching McVitie’s digestive biscuits. I also played a bit of Dicey Dungeons before retiring to bed.

LadiesGamers Animal Crossing New Horizons
Sometimes, I take a break from striving for achievements by … going for a virtual coffee.

It was very calming after a long day of handling our toddler. We repeated this on the second night, except the menu was salty instant noodles and potato chips.

Yes, we had a good time at the aquarium and beach, but my favorite moment was gaming and snacking on the couch. Though, it wasn’t the gaming itself that made this memory so fond. It’s because I could share those simple quiet pleasures with someone. Desperate as I am for solitude, it’s still the shared moments that stick in my memory.

I don’t know if we can go somewhere special this year. But we’ll at least visit Miss S’s grandparents this summer and have them babysit for a few days. During that time, I hope to enjoy a staycation nearby, one that involves designing beautiful homes in Animal Crossing: New Horizons‘s splendid DLC. Or adventuring in Baldur’s Gate 2, an old fantasy RPG from my childhood. I suppose I prefer my adventures in fiction than in real life!

LadiesGamers Animal Crossing New Horizons
Eloise the Elephant knows what she wants in a dream vacation.

On Break From Gaming

I often look to my Switch when I want to recharge from life’s demands. But I also need a break from gaming sometimes. You know that feeling when a game leaves you tired? Drained instead of satisfied. An aftertaste of fatigue instead of joy.

That may happen with games that are fun for an hour but not for two. Or games with pockets of deep frustration. Or failure that feels unfair. Ever seen players go ballistic over a hard game? My husband stopped buying arcade fighting games (of the Street Fighter variety) when he realized that, tempting as it is to relive childhood days, it’s a guaranteed trigger of gamer rage when the tough AI keeps beating you down.

While I love gaming on breaks, I also take breaks from gaming. At times I do it because I enjoy games so much that passion turns to compulsion. After wading through a period of addiction, I start feeling that I don’t like staying in that state of addiction.

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Fishing: deliciously relaxing or tediously dull?

So I occasionally take a game-free day. Thursday works best because it’s my weekly day off work and unnecessary house chores.

Instead of playing the Switch, I try different ways of relaxing, especially methods I don’t normally use throughout the week. Like listening to music while lying in a dark room. Or napping. Take an afternoon shower or hot drink. I avoid social media and reading on the Internet. Often I go for a walk, and try to enjoy being with family without mentally dwelling on projects and hobbies.

I think there are different kinds of rest and different levels of rest. The kind I aim for on game-free days is a sense of spaciousness. Feeling still instead of driven. And being able to say now and then, “Hm. It felt nice to do something different!”

Life-Giving and Life-Taking

Several years ago I learned about a spiritual practice called Ignatian discernment (by the Catholic saint Ignatius of Loyola). Discernment involves, among other things, recognizing how something makes you feel and what motives compel you. To do that, you ask questions like “What’s been life-giving? What’s been life-taking?”

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Marcie knows.

Gaming can have both effects on me: at times rejuvenating, at times draining. So can vacations and days off. If a vacation involves getting lost while searching for your hotel, losing your passport, or food poisoning—well, that’s life-taking for sure! And how unfortunate if your body is on holiday but your mind is working overtime (e.g. worrying about something back home).

Will it be life-giving or life-taking? Will it fill my cup or empty it? I think we instinctively ask these questions, even if we don’t use fancy words for it.

For example: When someone invites us to an event, we recall memories of similar events and ask ourselves, “Will I enjoy attending this or not?” When deciding whether to buy a game, we read reviews and ask, “Would I find this fun or tedious?” We ask similar questions about all kinds of activities and products. Will it really boost my well-being? Will I be energized or deflated?

LadiesGamers Animal Crossing New Horizons
The open skies, the sea breeze!

We’re not always good at gauging what will make us feel rested or happy. But I’ve at least come to recognize what kind of holiday I most enjoy. I keep these preferences in mind now, while trying not to be rigid about them either.

How about you, dear reader: What feels life-giving to you?

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