Guest Post by Aisha Bushby
“You’ll grow out of it soon,” are words I heard often when I was a teenager. I would, apparently, grow out of watching animated films, reading children’s books, and playing video games. Spoiler: I did not. I’ve always found the concept that certain forms of entertainment are seen as juvenile an odd one. Why should we stop doing something we enjoy after we turn a certain age?
This is something that has followed me around for years, as a dungaree-wearing, animated film-obsessed adult, and it’s a sentiment I wanted to get across in my debut MG novel, ‘A Pocketful of Stars’. In it my protagonist, Safiya, plays video games and is obsessed with Studio Ghibli films (much like me). Her best friend Elle rejects these interests in favour of having a boyfriend because she sees them as mutually exclusive. I started feeling the same pressure Safiya faces at the age of 12/13, and that has followed me into adulthood (though I blissfully ignore it now).
But back then I did succumb to it in some ways. I stopped reading children’s books in my late teens, because I didn’t think they were for me anymore. It killed my love for reading, until I picked up John Green’s novels in my early twenties, and then rediscovered my love for middle grade and teen fiction. Without that, I don’t think I would be writing this piece right now, following the publication of my first middle grade novel.
But I’m not writing this to convince adults to read children’s books, because Katherine Rundell puts it perfectly in her essay ‘Why You Should Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise’. Instead, I would like to talk about video games, which play a central role in ‘A Pocketful of Stars’.
I was given my first game console on my eight birthday (a PlayStation) and soon after spent a significant portion of my weekends with Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, and Rayman.
Exactly 20 years later, my birthday treat to myself is going to be a Nintendo Switch, because the need to escape into new worlds hasn’t left me just because I can cook for myself and vaguely understand the way taxes work. I think I need games even more now, with all the pressures of adulthood.
When I’m going through anything stressful (*cough* deadlines) I struggle to concentrate on anything else, and so I can’t really read or watch TV as a way to relax, but for some reason I can always game. I’ve discovered there are two reasons for this: 1) I have to be actively involved in the game, and so I don’t have the chance to get distracted by my own brain. 2) I get to explore the world through a different lens. And with that lens comes a limitless set of possibilities: climbing mountains, gliding from tower tops, and swimming in tropical lakes.
Video games have made a huge leap in recent years with VR technology that promises to introduce players to real-world experiences they couldn’t otherwise have tried, and Open World games where we choose the way our narratives play out. And, in a world where so much control is taken away from us, isn’t it nice to be able to sit back and have complete autonomy, even if for a little while?
A Pocketful of Stars is published by Egmont and is available to buy at £6.99 RRP.
The views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the FCBG.