Outside: More Magic than Mundane

The sun peaks up over a verdant landscape, its light chasing off the gloom that thrives in the solitude of night. Young, jubilant rays warmly greet every tree and flower like old friends reunited; their very presence bleeds across the sky in a watercolor celebration. Creatures of the sky sing out a symphony of sunrise as vibrance reclaims its throne, the veil of dusk receding into shadows like a banished phantom. Dewdrops depart the greenery as forlorn lovers and begin their lonely way home. Nestled deep into every nook and cranny, the morning chill holds strong for as long as it is able. Slowly, peacefully, the world awakens.

The majesty of a sunrise is breathtaking when you think about it. Countless different factors contribute to the coming of dawn, yet it happens every single day without the tiniest mistake. I haven’t always appreciated that. In fact, a good amount of my years were spent ignoring the miracles of the outside world in order to further my progress on adventures through digital realms. Imagine my surprise when these transient excursions became a catalyst for spurring me out of the very comfort zone they encompassed.

It was a slow turn. I had been more than content to dwell in these imaginary storyscapes that offered sights unseeable in our “mundane” world, from cartoony kingdoms in the sky to bleak, underground caves filled with fluorescent mushrooms and deadly predators. These were the places I was set on visiting. Then I played The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, and my static perspective was challenged. These new lands contained creatures both frightening and fantastic, but their basic geography did not vary much from our own. Grasslands. Hills. Forests teeming with wildlife. The game’s magic entranced me. This wasn’t just a “video game world” with alien sites: it was a living, breathing ecosystem that I just happened to be passing through on my way to fulfill the next contract. The meek reverence I had for nature grew three sizes across my playthrough of the game, and I began to do the unthinkable: go outside.

I eased myself into this new routine: a short walk here, a morning run there. I didn’t want to jump right in: I mean, that would be crazy! But I found that the more I wandered outside to my local park, the greater my appreciation and enjoyment of nature became. My new habit snaked upward in frequency. The feel of a cool walk in the morning…the freshness of the air…the use of muscles that had lain dormant for far too long…I was getting hooked. It wasn’t long before this pastime became the very breath in my lungs.

Time felt at a standstill in early 2016 as I adjusted to several new life circumstances at once: I worked a job I didn’t enjoy, lived in a town where I didn’t know very many people, and remained in a home that my (now ex) wife was no longer a part of. There were many days when video games did not help to manage the pain: I would instead sit and just mindlessly watch show after show on Netflix, wishing it was time for bed so I could just forget everything. Music was another coping strategy that I utilized. However, I didn’t enjoy being imprisoned in the pale shadow of my once-happy home, so…I went outside again. To the park.

Nature welcomed me back with open arms. As music filled my ears, the earth supported me and the wind embraced me. The sensory bliss of simply being alive in such a beautiful place became both overwhelming and fulfilling. I started venturing to the park every single morning for a brisk jog, eager to partake of its simple delights. Deer in the fields. Birds in the trees. Swaying branches in the wind. As dumb as it sounds, these sights made me feel even more at home given that they invoked my nostalgia for The Witcher III. Yes: real life reminded me of the game that reminded me of real life in the first place. Perfectly normal.

While I don’t have to worry about Leshens as I walk the trails or road, the world around provides enough mystery to keep every visit interesting. Perhaps I notice a new path, previously hidden by shrubs and overgrowth. Maybe a tree has fallen across the beaten way, requiring me to work my way around it unconventionally. These constant discoveries make every trip to the woods feel like its own unique quest. It’s weird, it’s nerdy…but that’s me! And it’s a far healthier alternative to the stagnant laziness that used to define my every waking minute. I encourage all of you to give this a try if you haven’t before: it could change your life.

Have video games ever impacted the things you do in your own life? Let me know with a comment below. I’d love to hear your stories! As always, friends, game on!


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