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My Virtual Life…

Antiope crept past the slumbering monstrosities, their noxious breath filled the air, stinging her nostrils. Fortunately, that sleazy merchant Belethor had actually come through for her this time, Antiope’s alchemy skills were virtually non-existent, her life had been devoted to the sword and bow, no time or desire for the mixing of ungodly potions and salves, it was beyond luck then, that just before setting out on this perilous pursuit that she’d run into the shady shopkeeper Belethor in Whiterun, who happened to mention a certain philter of invisibility was readily available for a mere 400 gold. Yet, even though the imbibed decoction had rendered her all but invisible to the undead Draugr wretches, it did nothing to prevent the virulent stench that arose from their slowly decaying bodies.

Her shield sister, Aela, had warned her not to take the quest, this was Mannimarco after all, the first and most powerful of the Liches, a founder of the Psijic order, but as daunting as the task seemed to Aela, Antiope gently reminded her that only months earlier she had already achieved what everyone thought was impossible, she had killed the black dragon Alduin, The World Eater had fallen to her bow, so in comparison, Mannimarco should be a cake walk, should be…

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Welcome, fellow agents of Precinct1313, to my virtual life, the above prose is a but a tiny glimpse into my alternate reality, my heady escape into another dimension, away from the rigours of our current reality. Like the majority of the planet, the past year and a bit have been tough and draining, here in the UK we are still in a nationwide lockdown (which is looking like it might last until early April) after we recorded the worst percentage death rate in the world with over 100,000 people sadly passing away from this awful pandemic. I’d rather not get into the politics of this crisis in Britain, but what I will say is that if we’d had a competent Government in charge, rather than the circus that is currently running things, then, I believe things would be very different, but I digress, I’m here to share my love of living a virtual life in a distant dimension, far, far away from the bleakness we’re currently experiencing.

I love Video-games with almost as much reverence as I do Comic-Books, I’ve been gaming since I was around eight years old, and in that time have delved into hundreds of realities far removed from anything I could ever do in the real world. Want to be a Formula One driver? you got it, or how about a Samurai in ancient Japan, yep you can be that too, blast off into the uncharted void of space, fight ninjas, and even bring down the great black dragon Alduin, all these things are possible in the wonderful world of gaming. 

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The above character Antiope, is my personally created avatar from video-game classic, Skyrim, the open world fantasy epic that lets you be, whatever you want to be, I mean where else could I take on the role of a female Nordic assassin who hunts vampires, hates giant spiders, and loves putting arrows into the side of colossal black dragon noggins, why only in video-games my friends. I have been playing this game religiously since it first came out way back in 2011, and am currently experiencing its fantasy delights through my wondrous Nintendo switch, which hosts a beautiful remastered version of the game, and the ability to un-dock my Switch from the TV so I can continue questing on the go, or even on the loo!

Immersion is a word that perfectly encapsulates not just the world of gaming, but also other popular media such as comics and movies, the ability to engage with something that is technically intangible to the point where your actual reality dissolves around you, so that only the medium in front of you exists for that time you spend with it, is astounding, and gaming is the ultimate embodiment of immersion.

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I have played and enjoyed virtually every genre that gaming has thrown at me over the decades – racing games, beat-em ups, simulations, rhythm action, et al (though not sports, I hate sports… I’m a geek!) but my most beloved medium has always been the role playing category, as previously mentioned the capacity to play as someone, or something that would be impossible in the “real world” I can do in games like Skyrim, or Dragon’s Dogma. It’s thanks to this reality sapping pastime, that I and many others have managed to retain at least a sliver of sanity during this horrendously pervasive pandemic, whenever life starts to take its toll, I head on off to the cyber-space province of Skyrim, and fight dragons, hunt vampires and play happy families with my virtual wife and kids (yep, you can marry and have kids in Skyrim… how’s that for immersion)

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Alongside my life as a female Nord in Skyrim, the other significant game that has helped soothe my senses during this traumatic time is the lovely life sim – Animal Crossing: New Horizons, this was my first dalliance with this series, and I love it! Like the other 31 million (31,000,000!!) people who are currently experiencing their very own tropical island getaway, I picked up this Nintendo spawned gem in April last year just as the lockdown commenced, and like Skyrim, this game has salved my sanity. As things began to look bleak in the really real world, I would engross my self in my own created island of Themyscira, little virtual Bruce (my in game avatar) would spend his days landscaping, digging rivers and tributaries, building the town, relaxing on the beach, but most importantly (because this privilege was lost during the pandemic) hanging out with my anthropomorphic animal island friends. It helped give a structure to each day that was slowly eroding from the norm. 

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With what will probably be another two months of lockdown here in the UK, I am grateful for the ability to leave this mad materiality and abscond to other planes of existence – fight dragons, trounce ninjas and generally escape, if even for only a few hours. I must go now, as I have left poor ol’ Antiope in the middle of a Draugr infested dungeon, and she’s not looking best pleased…