Essays

How Video Games Helped Me Fall Back in Love With Reading

As a child, reading was the only real escape for me when I wanted a good fantasy adventure. I loved the action, battle, and magic, but was limited in how I could consume those stories. There was this idea that because I was a little girl who liked princesses, I wouldn’t enjoy “boyish” things like video games. It didn’t matter that what I was reading was the inspiration for a lot of the video games being created. I could read fantasy and sci-fi, but I wasn’t allowed to play it. It always felt like there was a divide between watching TV or playing games in those genres and reading in them. So I waited.

Once I hit adulthood, I was determined to make the switch. I got my very own system and started buying high fantasy and sci-fi games. At that point, those were the only genres I read, so it felt like the perfect place to start out. Besides, I had gotten a little bored with reading those genres, so maybe playing some games would help me rediscover what I loved about them.

I Accidentally Expanded My Horizons

It turns out that I had two very different types of games I liked to play: intense fantasy or sci-fi combat RPGs and cute cozy indie games. I either wanted to dungeon crawl killing undead or build a little farmstead and find love.

As I kept playing, I started to fall away from the massive open-world RPGs, and focused on the more relaxed and way less deadly games. It was fun to just play a story about a person being a person, not worrying about saving the kingdom or fighting the evil galactic empire. The outside world was so chaotic that I just wanted to have a peaceful time for myself.

After a few more months of really loving video games, I started to miss reading. I had spent most of my free time budget on video games and wanted to start spending it more evenly between playing and reading. So I got a little bit better about reading more and started working on getting through my massive fantasy TBR.

But I wasn’t having a good time.

I Encountered a Problem

See, my problem was that I had a very narrow window of what I thought I liked reading. I wanted high fantasy, I wanted a gritty battle, I wanted magic. Or I wanted futuristic hard-hitting science fiction. Those were the genres I focused on reading in, and it got boring.

You can have too much of a good thing. And I had read every single “overthrow the corrupt kingdom” plot under the sun (or that’s what it felt like). Reading became a little bit of a chore. It’s so obvious looking back that I had just shifted in my reading taste, but when this was happening I truly felt like I had fallen out of love with reading.

So, I went back to video games! I thought, hey, if I have to lose one hobby, I want to do everything in my power to preserve this new one! If I never read a book again, at least I could play my games.

Spoiler: I Was Being Overdramatic

One day, I opened the game library on my console and had a startling revelation. None of my most recent games were fantasy or science fiction. It hit me like a ton of bricks that I probably hadn’t actually fallen out of love with reading, I had just started to like other genres without realizing it.

My reading taste had been so narrow when I started playing games, that I had really felt constricted by what I enjoyed reading. Playing games had allowed me to try new stories in new genres that I ended up falling in love with.

As it turned out, I didn’t hate reading or even hate fantasy and science fiction, I was just looking for different things now. Video games had secretly been my transition phase for genres, because before playing, I hadn’t allowed myself to look at any other genre of book. I had gotten in my own way.

Thanks to the video games I played, I was able to find new books to love. And, after a few months, I was able to start back on my high fantasy TBR without getting bored. The problem was simply that I had been stuck in a genre rut, and video games pulled me out.

Some Words of Wisdom

If you think you might be stuck in a reading genre rut, find a different medium. It doesn’t have to be video games: it can be TV, movies, or podcasts. Look at what you consume in those places, and try to find books with similar themes and story elements. Especially if, and this is important, it’s not in a genre you’d normally read. Hopefully you, too, will discover a new favorite genre in an unexpected place.

Best of luck!

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