I do this bit on my main website, Kourtnie.net, called Poetry is Safer than Home, where I explore complicated issues by reframing an idea in verse, which is what I also do over at my vocabulary journal, except in that instance, I’m reframing a single word (and exploring it’s personal meaning to me), rather than tackling a concept or thought.
If you like this post, you may enjoy those other spaces I puddle-poddle on the Internet.
Autism, Video Games, & Safety
For autistic people, especially the majority bearing co-morbid anxiety, video games provide a much-needed safe space to recalibrate our spinning brains, so the neurotypical world feels less scary—a world worth exploring again.
Let’s go back to 1991, when I fell in 💙 with Final Fantasy IV.
Final Fantasy IV in the Plastic House
Final Fantasy IV was located at the end of the aisle, second row down from the Super Nintendo sign, on the other side of our local florist, at a Blockbuster that never believed in vacuuming the carpet.
If I remember right, the cross streets for the Blockbuster were State College and the 91 freeway, border of Anaheim and Fullerton.
The Blockbuster also rented other SNES classics…
- Mario Kart, and
….but I never bothered renting the Blockbuster Zelda, since that’s the game Santa brought for Christmas.
So I’m 6 years old, and we’ve been living in our apartment for a little over a year; I’ve had plenty of time to trash my bedroom with mounds of color-coded laundry. The playhouse in the corner of my room has reached the optimal point of cozy, with Christmas lights dangling throughout it, an automatic yoyo tucked in a vase on the corner shelf—my safe space, all broken in—and through the play house windows, I can see the big wooden-framed television, where I like to play Final Fantasy IV and forget bad days at school, because kids beat me up, harass me, mock me, and the teachers don’t do anything about it, which means my default mode is bleh.
The Journey to Blockbuster
So at the beginning of each weekend, my father and I walk to Blockbuster to rent Final Fantasy IV again. (He returns it after my mom picks me up, since she’s my weekday parent.)
Huge cracks run through Blockbuster’s parking lot asphalt, wide enough for nature to reclaim the landscape, tufts of grass and dandelion. I picture myself possessing these blooms as a kind of strength, the kind of quiet and earth-wrenching resistance I’ve appreciated my entire life.
I walk through the Blockbuster store, holding the roundest dandelion I could find, always gauging whether or not I am running too fast, because I am that excited to rent Final Fantasy IV again, as well as a Sega Genesis video game, at my father’s request.
In Praise of Final Fantasy
As much as my father understands why I like to fly in fantasy spaceships shaped like whales, (okay, honestly, I don’t think anyone understood how obsessed I was with Final Fantasy IV,) he also wanted me to try different things, so I had to rent Toe Jam & Earl, Sonic & Knuckles, Shining Force 2, and Ecco.
In Final Fantasy IV, I recorded my character reading the bookshelves in the Land of Summoned Monsters, courtesy of my second VCR, (the one with the red power light died,) (but the blue power light was awesome,) so whenever I was grounded, and I wasn’t allowed to play video games, I could study the texts in Final Fantasy IV video tapes to ascertain why the Lunarians brought Golbez from darkness to light.
This was better time spent than trying to psychoanalyze Final Fantasy Adventure III anyway, the gray-scaled Gameboy-and-game-combo I kept under my pillow.
My sister and I are supposed to play Final Fantasy XV together soon…
Lately though, I’ve been living in a hole. And I think that’s the counterargument for video games, really: “But Jane never goes outside!”
That’s not the video games.
The video games are an excuse, just one version of an escape pod.
But that need to hiss at sunlight, avoid people, and stim in the bath tub is, at least for me, tied to social anxiety. Also: online video games are expensive, and I’m doing the slowly-establish-myself-as-an-entrepreneur thing.
The cure for anxiety is usually a feeling of safety and security, and that’s been a rare commodity for me for,… well, for life; so that’s why it’s become a self-care and self-improvement project of mine to write in coffee shops more, to play MMORPGs with my sister (the hybrid of socialization and gaming), and to piddlefart in my garden, with the sun on my back, the wind in my hair…
But to also allow myself times to just vegetate with a video game for an hour.
I know it helps calm my brain. Because, when the world is too much—and for many on the spectrum, the world inevitably, always, is too much, in waves of overstimulation, searching for waves of calm—video games give me a space to think about complex things the neurotypical world can’t afford, a place for my mind to escape and process the existential, spiritual, and egalitarian questions which ultimately coalesce, day after day, into who I am.
From five years old—extending the measuring tape of nearly a lifespan—up to now, virtual realities have provided me healthy ways to digest my overstimulating perception of reality, and obviously that’s a need, because I keep going back to it, and many other autistic people keep going back to it.
We’re going to create an entire virtual world because of it.
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