We store cookies, you can get more info from our privacy policy.

Comfort Games in the Wake of Death

by Neal Ronaghan - November 13, 2014, 8:49 am PST
Total comments: 3

How Fantasy Life helped me in my time of need.

My grandfather, my last living grandparent, passed away a few weeks ago, less than two years after my grandmother passed away. It sucks. I'm not going into too much sappy detail other than my grandparents were fabulous, amazing people who will always be a part of my life. Instead, I'm going to focus on how video games helped me through coping with their untimely passings.

During my grandmother's final days in early 2012, I spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals, specifically waiting rooms. As anyone who's been in that kind of situation knows, you don't really know what to do with yourself. Everyone's somber. Most everyone is exhausted, whether they've been there for an hour or 10 hours. In those times, I found myself gravitating towards playing my 3DS in downtime, focusing on familiar games. I got up to Mr. Sandman in Punch-Out, because it reminded me of being younger and playing games with my brother. I replayed Super Mario 3D Land because that's such an unfathomably happy game. It made me think a lot about the idea of comfort games. Those kinds of games you go to in a time of need.

Actually, Scott Thompson and I recorded a segment about it on Connectivity a few months after my grandma died. Scott's tales were kind of on the opposite side of the spectrum, as he went to comfort games when he was preparing to have a child (now the dude has two kids!).

But now I'm facing death again from another angle. My grandma's death wasn't exactly preordained, but she went to the hospital a few weeks before she passed and from the moment she went into the hospital, things looked dire. I had the chance to spend time with her in the hospital, as did a lot of my other family members. No one really got to say goodbye, but we all had some sort of closure.

With my grandpa, that wasn't really the case. Even at the time of this writing, his passing hasn't fully hit me yet. It'll likely sink in more around Thanksgiving and Christmas when my family will have a gaping hole in it with his absence. But, as I'm closing in on two weeks with him gone, I noticed that the only game I have any interest in playing is Fantasy Life.

It's a little bit different than how I reacted to my grandma's death. With her passing on the horizon, I gravitated towards the familiar, primarily games I had some level of nostalgia for. With my grandpa, I just wanted to get away. What better way to do that then throw yourself into a game you can get absolutely lost in? I mastered lives, fought enemies, gathered ingredients, and made all sorts of weapons and items. When I got my own horse in Fantasy Life, I named him after my grandpa, mostly because I'm weird but also because Charlie is a pretty solid name for a horse (also, my grandpa was notoriously stubborn, so having him named after a video game horse just felt right).

I'm starting to come out of my Fantasy Life cocoon now. I mean, the review copy for Smash Bros. on Wii U came in the day after my grandpa's funeral (good timing, Nintendo of America), so even if I wasn't quite ready to move on, I had to. While Fantasy Life was already one of my favorite games of the year, it is now forever tied to my mourning for a loved one, meaning it's ascended to some kind of holy video game state in my book. Fantasy Life comforted me in my time of sadness, making it representative of a lot of the things that draw me to video games: good ones make me feel really happy.


KITT 10KNovember 13, 2014

I know how you feel man. My Grandmother on my Mother's side was my last grandparent and she passed away just as the summer of 2013 was gonna start. Like you, a game helped me through it. For me it was New Super Mario Bros. U that I fell back on. Everyone deals with loss like this differently, I say there's nothing wrong with a video game to help ease the pain, everyone has their ways.

TheXenocideNovember 14, 2014

I'm in the middle of this right now. Only a week and a half after finding out we were pregnant, we lost our baby. To make it worse, it wasn't a simple miscarriage, it was a tubal pregnancy which required surgery; we didn't just lose the baby, we had to wait for the specified day we were going to lose our baby on. A lot of Ocarina of Time 3D was played during that time. It's been two days since the surgery (in which she also lost the tube the baby implanted in, making thinks extra devastating). I've somehow found myself in the mindset that I can't bring our baby back, I can't put her tube back, but I can help her with anything she needs; it's probably an unhealthy way of looking at it. I've basically turned myself into a butler on crack, so when she's asleep or (by some miracle) actually comfortable, I don't know what to do with myself. I've turned taking care of my wife into my coping mechanism, so when she doesn't need anything, all the emotions and anxiety and depression hit me. I've been looking forward to the GBC Pokemon TCG to drop yesterday for some time now (not really into the cards any more, but I LOVED that game when I was little); when I hit the free time, I fill all I can with that. People can think whatever ill they want about videogames, but right now I don't know what I would possibly do without them.

When a relative of mine passed away several years ago, my now wife and I came home from the visitation and I bought a copy of Flower as a pick-me-up and for my wife and I to have something to do the remainder of the day.
It was a spring rain outside, but my wife and I devoured that game the remainder of our day.  Now whenever there's a spring rain, I have the urge to run through Flower, and think about that relative.

Kind of reminds me of music and breaking up with your first girlfriend.  When I broke up with my high school girlfriend, I clung to Death Cab for Cutie's Transatlanticism, and even now when I listen to the last track, I think about the memories of that relationship.

Got a news tip? Send it in!