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.