Soapbox articles give our team a chance to share some personal perspectives; today it's the turn of Tom Whitehead to talk about why gaming matters more to him than ever before.
I've always been someone eager to lose myself in my imagination and intriguing worlds; from childhood to the present day my biggest passions remain books and video games. I studied literature at university, twice, and have now passed a decade in the 'games industry'; I've definitely been lucky to combine passion with work over the years.
It's certainly escapism I seek; that's not a bad thing, in my opinion. Especially as you reach a certain age, if all you think about is bills, taxes and which laundry liquid is for you, it's entirely possible life will be extremely boring. It would have certainly been the case in past decades and generations that adults should mainly think about 'grown-up' stuff, but nowadays it's possible to be a functional adult that pays bills and also someone that plays and enjoys video games. Kirby and the Forgotten Land is the next game I'm looking to get pleasantly lost in; the sheer verve in every single screenshot looks like the absolute polar opposite of 'boring'. Despite the post-apocalyptic-looking setting, Forgotten Land isn’t some gritty, The Kirby-style reboot, thank goodness — it offers the little guy’s trademark candy-coloured adventuring and I cannot wait to dive in.
Alongside reading and a love for certain TV and Film franchises, gaming has been a key part of my life since I was about four years old. I'm now... well let's just say I'm been gaming for over 30 years. As a kid, games were a huge part of my world of course, though they were also very different times — no download stores or always-online living back then. Tips and reviews would come from magazines and the playground, and we'd get games for the Sega Mega Drive (for example) as birthday presents or rewards / treats. I'd play the same game for a month or two and still love it.
To say games have been vital to me over the past few years is an understatement. Few diversions are so captivating, enthralling and essential
I've argued before that, compared to those days, this is truly the golden age of gaming. Technology is the key to that, as whatever games you like — even if it's retro titles — it's never been easier to enjoy them. As I've got older I've also been less able to devote time to gaming, thanks to pesky things like work and commitments. But a key sentiment I've felt over the past couple of years is that gaming is more important to me than ever before. There are a few possessions I will cling to above all else as they help me through each day. My hefty book collection is one. My video game collection is another.
I'm not someone that tweets about concerns or troubles a great deal, nor talks about them in general with, well, anyone. Nor am I someone that buys into all that 'stiff upper lip' talk that some throw around, though I do sort of live that way. I'm the type of person that supports and encourages people to discuss problems, without being inclined to do it myself. I know all the well-meaning advice about sharing, I just don't do it.
That's fine, it's who I am, but it's also fair to say the last few years have been unnaturally stressful and difficult, and being the internalising type isn't always a good approach in those circumstances. Not only do we all grapple with our personal baggage and problems, but we've shared a global pandemic, the climate crisis and for some of us a lot of thoughts right now drift to the ongoing war in Ukraine. I'm a heavy reader at the best of times and follow current affairs closely, but keeping up with events is frequently upsetting right now, and like — I suspect — millions of others, this can affect my sleep, moods, and thoughts. That's life, right?
My point is that, right now, there are so many issues in the wider world, and they feed into our smaller, granular day-to-day existence. As this happens I've become increasingly grateful for my books, my shelter and definitely games. To say games have been vital to me over the past few years is an understatement. Few diversions are so captivating, enthralling and essential. The sheer variety available now, catering to all budgets, is so important and has helped elevate and broaden the impact of gaming.
For me, Kirby's latest adventure is another arrival with Animal Crossing: New Horizons-style timing, a game that feels pertinent right now. It's so unabashedly cute, cuddly and reassuring that just thinking about jumping in eases my mind, just a little.
Escapism isn't a dirty word — it's a vital part of life, for those of us fortunate enough to have that luxury.
Kirby is a well timed release given all that is happening. It’s also well timed after extremely demanding titles like Elden Ring. It’s like the breath exhalation we needed. I doubt it will see the numbers that Animal Crossing New Horizons has but It still came at a good time for me.
Since when was "escapism" considered a dirty word by some people? How is a thing that improves your overall mental health and mood in what feels like an increasingly bleak time something to be frowned upon? Video games are a great source of comfort for me (and I'm sure many others) these days, and I hope sceptics start to realise this in the near future.
I disagree that this is the golden age of gaming, the 90s has that title.
It is the Golden Age of gaming. And the turdy age for a lot of other things, so lucky are we, the gamers, to have a place to be free from all that. Just make sure and mute your comms.
80s and 90s was the golden age of gaming, the 16bit era especially. Even though Nintendo are still amazing today. Playing Kirby this weekend cements that for me personally. Alot of games today aren't particularly fun, to serious for there own good, and no replay value.
As a 44 year old adult escapism is extremely important for me. I won't get into it for personal reasons but I've often used escapism as a tool to look after my mental health. I'm very grateful for games movies and what have you.
Another benefit of Kirby and the Forgotten Land :
It exists as a reminder that not every game needs fancy AAA graphics, good-looking trees, a deep thought-provoking narrative, or rouge-like souls-like difficulty.
It's enough to have a game be happy, accessible fun ❤
That's why I don't want any kind of politics in my games, I play games to escape, it's my only safe haven.
Majority of people are perfectly happy to have escapism in their entertainment media. It's only journalists and critics who keep insisting entertainment be infused with politics and current events.
Couldn’t agree more with this. As a teenager I wanted all my games to be about surviving the zombie apocalypse, now I just want cartoony games about little pink puffs.
@Kirby_Girl I totally agree. Kirby is right behind Elden Ring and Arceus for me this year. Kirby tops Horizon for me. It’s just so much of what I absolutely needed right now. Just a perfect release window in the same way Animal Crossing was in 2020. I wish it immense success.
> This is truly the golden age of gaming
>No new Ape Escape game
@chapu2006 Agree, if I spend $60 for games, why the heck I need to feel "dirty"? Entertainment exist for people to relax and have this escapism.
Only weird people feels guilty for having bought games for escapism.
And no this isn't a golden age for gaming, not with the mtx's, lootboxes, and nft's flying around in gaming landscape. Heck, even playstation, one of the last company that make games without BS now has mtx and online drm on their games (gran turismo 7).
@Xaessya This is also true lol. It's kind of sad though now the current playstation isn't interested in making japanese games anymore, man psone and ps2 era was fun.
I stopped gaming when I was about 20 in the early 2000s and only got back into it after buying a Switch for the kids in December 2019. It's been good for my mental health. For me it's not only about escapism but also about having a sense of control and accomplishment. The world sucks and certain things in my life have not turned out the way I hoped they would, but at least I beat that jerk Ganon!
Michael Jackson’s goal was to bring escapism to the World, take them places that they’ve never been before. Escapism was never a dirty word for me. Have Kirby for my son, he’ll get it as a gift next week and I look forward to seeing him enjoy it 😊
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@somnambulance yeah I'm playing and enjoying Elden Ring but Kirby is definitely my GOTY. Maybe I'm a biased Kirby fan but tbh Elden Ring is more Dark Souls with a big and impressive map but the feel is still very familiar and the balance is odd according to many. Also I still just prefer Sekiro. Kirby on the other hand is a blast so far, whimsical, magical, and a complete breath of fresh air to its respective franchise. It's straight up made me smile with its world and gameplay. It's not as brutal but some of the challenges are actually really tough like the no hit boss missions and best times. So it still has a feeling of accomplishment. I'm having a blast. I really hope it gets some recognition atleast.
@Chocobo_Shepherd media and stories have always had politics. You really think Wolfenstien, Star Trek, Star Wars, and Bioshock aren't political? Lol
@Kirby_Girl there is political and then there is political agenda shoved up in the games just because of the sake of it. 2 very different things, imo.
Yesterday was my birthday. I'd picked up RF5 as a present to myself. It's a much better game than some are saying and I'm enjoying it.
Then my best friend of about 33 years called and, tho she's not a gamer, told me to buy Kirby with $ she was sending in my card. I'm very grateful as it's rare that a game makes me feel so happy! Kirby is a gem and I find myself smiling like an idiot whilst playing it.
My playing or not playing a game will not impact the world's unrelenting crises in any way. I'll take joy wherever I can find it. A bit of escapism is a good thing and allows us a chance to refuel emotional stamina..
I always enjoy games where you do things that you can't in real life. Kirby definitely ticks that box. I will never be a pink blob who can swallow a car.
Kirby games are pickup and play anytime and I'm 100% for it! Pretty much anyone of any age or demographic can play them, which is pretty cool. And they are fun creative adventures you can sit back and relax to.
Nicely timed article, @ThomasBW84!
Picking up My Kirby preorder on Friday did give me a sense of deja vu - it just felt similar to this time 2 years ago making that fearful dash to GameStop to grab ACNH just as everything was shutting down for covid.
I’ve been escaping into video games and books for over 40 years now, and I’d say my mental health, literacy, and imagination are all better off for it. I need the distraction from heavy thoughts that I’ll spare you here.
(It would be a long list.)
So for that reason at least, games are a blessing for me and my dependents.
I’ll keep praying humanity somehow doesn’t squander our existence on Earth, this wonderful chance we’ve been gifted.
@clianvXAi yeah I would still put all those games and shows in that category. I think ppl just believe their own politics are neutral and everything else is shoved down their throats. I'll leave it at that 😏
@icomma @Kirby_Girl Me: I love this game, it's so cool that my character can have kinky hair and marry anyone I want them to!
"Based Gamer": WHY DOES EVERYTHING HAVE TO BE POLITICAL?
Escapism in moderation is good, I think the whole negative connotation behind it, is when it's in excess and keeping you from being present/attending to real life. But hopefully Kirby and the Forgotten Land isn't keeping anyone from their important irl responsibilities 😂
@Ironcore 30fps is fine unless you're an elitist.
Just have fun, dude.
Just got all Waddle-Dees on first world. Just started the ocean world.
Picked up because if I didn't like it I knew my grandkids would. Played an hour, yeah I'm good. Just doesn't hook you.
I don’t mind politics in gaming, but it needs to be of a more philosophical backing rather than actual day to day events.
I’ll compare two different games with political undertones, Bioshock and COD:MW 2019.
Bioshock does it right, MW 2019 does it wrong.
For Bioshock, it’s an exploration of Randian ideology. The entire game’s framework and backstory is a critique of Randian flavored libertarianism, which has numerous faults. At its core, Randian Libertarianism seeks to abolish morality from economic matters. And Bioshock does a good job exploring the pitfalls of that sort of system without being egregious about it.
MW2019, meanwhile, treats its political subject matter with very little nuance or respect. It’s an exploration of the political aspects of the War on Terror, which is ongoing event. That right there creates difficulty because it is an exploration of a political event, rather than an ideology. It forces the gamer who is observing to take its ideological bend at face value, without breaking down the ideologies involved in the conflict.
So for me, I enjoy a political game like Bioshock. While I didn’t care for MW 2019’s “ripped from the headlines” political dissertation. I think games like Bioshock, Final Fantasy Tactics (which is a story of class conflict), and Horizon Forbidden West (the conflict of environmental reorganization versus pure profit motive) do it right because they aim for high minded political discussions about ideology. Games like The Last of Us Part II, MW 2019, and Far Cry (which to be fair, is a parody more so than a serious discussion about politics) do it wrong.
I'm in the middle of the ocean world (world 2). I've always found Kirby to be easy for the most part (but that's also the reason I love the series, it's a stress-coping technique for me), the level where you get the Drill ability legitimately handed my rear to me when I was looking for the Waddle Dee I missed. As a 30 years old, maybe I'm just getting old.
Of the hours I've spent in Kirby and the Forgotten Land, I'd say about one at least has been nothing but running in the Waddle Dee settlement and greeting everyone (and sometimes attacking them by accident).
Escapism is indeed important. But never forget to go on adventures in your real life! Even just stepping out the door on a day you feel like sitting inside.
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Who said escapism ever was a dirty word? Seems like hundreds of billions of dollars are made off escapism per year in one form or another.
@Lordplops well i have no complaints if there are multiple golden ages
I like it,
but I prefer Blowout Blast.
@eleven as much as i agree, you can't live life without escapism. You should always live life fully informed, but unless you're a super-active social worker, then being informed and just being sad about the things that go on around you does nothing for the people in the world and for you. I mean, you're on this site, you play games! You may not play games for the sole reason of escapism, but when you're playing a game, your mind isn't on the world. I think to work more effectively as humans we need periods of time where we can just rest our brains, kind of like how we need sleep to rest our body. And to be clear, i'm not saying to be ignorant. Be educated, be smart, be aware. Heck, do service! I work at Second Harvest food bank when I have free time; it's not a lot, but it's something. Also, why can't we accept that there can be multiple golden ages? It just means we have more quality games to play! Anyways, I hope this didn't sound angry or preachy, I just wanted to give my 2 cents on the whole topic. Have a nice day!
@Kirby_Girl i havent gotten the game yet, and i will, but would you say it's on par with mario odyessy fun-wise? That game was only fun all the way through, does kirby also do the same? you seem like a good person to ask so yea
@moodycat companies have always been corrupt, its just that now we are able to notice it
@tseliot interesting! what about the game didn't do it for you?
@TheRedComet oh for sure! If it's done well and doesn't feel forced in, then I have no issue with it.
@nowthisisepic it's not as big as Odyssey. Odyssey had bigger sandbox areas. Kirby is more linear but there's still plenty through out the levels and missions to complete. Some of them even pretty challenging. It's doesn't have the scope of an Odyssey but I'm perfectly fine with that. Its more concentrated in a way. To me it's VERY fun and I loved Odyssey. Replayed Odyssey various times and see myself revisiting this game as well. Also it is the same level of whimsy and charm of Odyssey. There's a lot of richness to Forgotten Land that will fill you with wonder and put a smile on your face and that charm is exactly like Odyssey IMHO. I'm loving it!
If you strictly looking for bigger Sandbox or more open world design then hard to recommend but if you're looking for one of the best 3D platformers on the console that's more contracted fun, with plenty to collect or perfect, and that high level of charm and polish then its definitely one of the best on the Switch.
You seem willing to accept your own definitions as the only ones that are truth, yet are annoyed that others may see the world thru their definitions. Recreation vs escapism is a bit pedantic. Gads! Some stranger on the 'net may think you play for escapism! How dare they force that label on others!
Truth be told, I seriously doubt anyone cares why you play a game.
@Kirby_Girl You misunderstood my post.
@JasmineDragon The things you mentioned aren't political (anymore), but people politicize them for ... reasons. And anything that is politicized will polarize people in this "us or them" culture.
I was never sure a 3d Kirby was the way to go. But I was also disappointed when the hype died down and the pre-viewers wiped the proverbial egg off their face and realised it was the worst of both worlds, it wasn't 2d either.
It did look like the sort of game I could get lost in, have an adventure and some escapism and fun.
My thoughts so far are that Kirby is and belongs to the 2d gaming world. There are to many places you want to explore but are out of bounds. I been wandering around areas coming across collectables rather than looking for them, as the game seems to direct me where to go.
The games is fun while I'm playing it, but I have no great desire to return. I'm almost done with world 2, so maybe there will be enough variation in the other worlds to stop it feeling like more of the same.
This is one game that was made for the 3ds/2ds.
@eleven I'm sorry but according to the dictionary playing videogames can very much be considered escapism. Recreation Is a broader term that could include escapism... Some of the responses in these comments are clearly arguments for arguments sake.
@Arkay wanting to play a game at the bare minimum acceptable framerate isnt elitist, maybe 120+. Also is wanting a game to run smoothly to reduce headache really a claim exclusive to an elitist or actually a reasonable request?
I love the article, yes yes!
And I don't have a problem with "escapism" We need to "escape" our daily environment to create a better perspective for ourselves and our world. Like escaping into books, escaping into video games brings adventure, exploration, understanding, joy and yes, sometimes sadness.
I am loving Kirby!
@CharlieGirl The graphics, while not bleeding edge, are SO pretty. Ghibli's best animation is way more low tech than Pixar's. Still just as beautiful.
@Ironcore given your history of complaining about every 30fps game out there, yes, seems very elitist.
You came across as condescending, I responded in kind. This is not a hill worth either of us dying on. Peace.
I have to say, I've found my tastes leaning toward the light and breezy stuff lately. I'll see games I want to play, but the game description reads like, "A dark exploration of the heart of evil that beats within us all" and I'm like, "No thanks. Kirby looks fun, though!"
When was escapism a dirty word? Did I miss something?
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@JasmineDragon I mean yeah it's political, whether you like it or not. I think the real question is why are politics in everything not why is everything political.
"if all you think about is bills, taxes and which laundry liquid is for you" Sadly so relatable lol. Video games are a great way of escapism imo & personally help me balance out 💕
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@Arkay I’m literally asking for more pictures so that the slideshow resembles a video. How is that elitist? I am asking for the bare minimum requirements for a series of images to blend together to look like motion. This could not be further from elitist. Elitist is not the right word here. I would even take a 720p resolution if it meant minimum fps was achieved. If you saw my games collection you would immediately stop with the misuse of the elitist word.
@Teksetter I wouldn’t mind hearing those heavy thoughts, as I have my own and as a fellow gamer it would be of intellectual interest at the very least, but I won’t ask you to share them. This article was wonderfully timed as I have been feeling the same way as Thomas recently, so thank you for that.
@PrinsPaddestoel thats the frame rate where images begin to look like a video but then way after 30 is where they stop looking like lots of images.
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I don't think I've ever heard 'escapism' used as a dirty word for gaming. If anything it's often the opposite "wah, wah get these politics out of my game I want games for escapism" sort of thing.
Both are absolutely fine, perfectly acceptable ways for games to be and both have existed in tangent for a while now. Games are an art form like film and literature, they can choose to be pure escapism, a political commentary, a satire, all of the above and more.
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