WHO WANTS TO BE A SUPERHERO?
by Lon Woodbury
The short answer is everybody! But in reality, some do not want to (or cannot) pay the price required for self-improvement in the real world.
We all have an urge to become better than we are now. That is the motivation for continuing our education and working hard to develop skills and reputation in our jobs, in relationships, and in gaining material wealth. In a sense that urge could be seen as the mainspring of human progress.
However, that positive drive for self-improvement and progress can be distorted in many ways. One way it has been misplaced is through daydreams without action. A vivid, idle daydream can give a person the feeling and illusion of power and competence. Child's play is along those lines. When children play like they are glamorous, easily handling all social situations, or competent in war, work or home, they are trying on a lifestyle. Up to a point this is a healthy and normal part of development and even plays an important role in their adult life. In order to accomplish something, we must have dreams, which at first might sound unrealistic, but for the successful person the dream is the motivation to do the hard work needed to make the dream a reality.
Comic book superheroes, movies and much of our entertainment over the years have fed this need to see how it feels to be glamorous, a warrior, captain of industry, a spy, successful, etc. Basically, all this entertainment was created so a person could briefly engulf another lifestyle and try it on for size.
Computer and Internet gaming utilize modern technology to take this daydreaming urge to a higher level and provide a more vivid daydreaming experience. It not only provides a more vivid experience than some daydream in your head or through some print medium, but that vividness is more accessible and makes it easier to get the feeling that it might be real through engaging more of our senses.
Unfortunately, this is the problem. While traditional entertainment and daydreaming were easily recognized as a fantasy, the sights, sounds, touch, actions, and personal actions through an avatar in gaming makes it more difficult to avoid blurring the boundary between fantasy and reality.
We all are awkward, clumsy, uncertain and confused at times. This is part of being human. But for some, and especially adolescents, this awkwardness seems to define them. These are the ones that are susceptible to going over the reality/fantasy boundary in escaping the problems of reality and looking for success in gaming. At that point, fantasy and daydreaming become more real to them than reality. Unfortunately, reality always intrudes and the result is a disaster for those who confuse virtual reality with the real thing.
Like most things, too much of a good thing often becomes a disaster. This is true of everything: drugs, alcohol, food, and relationships as well as daydreaming and gaming. Part of the appeal to a drug addict is the fantasy feelings of power, success and that all problems are solved. Part of the appeal to those with eating disorders is a sense of being able to have some control over their body and emotions. The manipulator gains a sense of power over others. The acting out child at least controls his/her family. All addictions give some kind of fantasy of self-improvement occurring.
As humans we strive to increase our abilities and become more than we are now. By marketing to that, computer and Internet gaming have been immensely popular, but only with balance can it be a healthy improvement to our lives. When a person gets lost in gaming, disaster is sure to follow.
The key to success is balance. In daydreaming, a little gaming provides relaxation, entertainment, a brief escape, and sometimes sharpens personal goals and skills. However, too much becomes a disaster sooner or later because reality will not be mocked. If we don't pay attention to the real world it will come back on us hard! Teaching children how to see the need for balance and how to keep daydreams and the real world in perspective is not necessarily easy, but is vital for a healthy life.