It’s possible that my first sexual relationship began just like yours. I met someone cute and we started talking on instant messenger, where we exchanged an embarrassing number of kissy face emoticons. We held hands at the high school football game, followed by a fumbling attempt at making out underneath the bleachers.
–Samantha Allen, writing in a guest editorial for the web publication Kotaku
This makes a strange sort of sense. I’m going to dive into this using one of my favorite genres as an example, fighting games. All games have the effect to some extent–I remember actually getting weak in the knees when I finally finished off Kefka in Final Fantasy VI, after so many attempts over the years ending with disastrous failures–but it’s most immediate in a brawler.
Anyone who, like I, has gotten into the habit of getting to the quickest finish at any given difficulty level just so that they can ramp it up higher to feel that struggle, that rush again, can agree with this, even if the Freudian interpretation of things is a little bit derivative. (Keep in mind that I am not an expert–just a gamer who remembers that very first huge, whooshing frisson of pleasure that happens right after you land that very last hit on a boss and that split second happens where the music just stops–just halts–and the explosions start, and your adversary becomes a slowly disintegrating pile of STUFF that isn’t going to exist anymore.) It’s a mini-chill of sorts, and in some cases it can feel better than sex. You’ve just grabbed this thing, pounded it into submission, and now it’s just watching you stand over its beaten body like some sort of more civilized barbarian.
In a way, it’s a primal return to the activities that helped shape civilization. We fight and destroy, and instead of looting, or fine slaves and wives/husbands to be had, we’re in it for nothing but that rush that we get from pulling off each victory.
On the other side, each hit that we sustain in the fight is remembered, stored away as motivation for the rest of the encounter, and we return it–double–treble–sometimes more–each more satisfying than the last. It gets to the point where you think you’ll never get anywhere, and then–it happens. It’s different from game to game–maybe there’s a flash. Maybe the music stops abruptly–or maybe there’s an abrupt tonal shift in it. Or maybe you see that the numbers are in a range that can best be described as “Damn, no one could survive THAT.” Maybe suddenly there’s a TIME STOP–and you see that you can end it right here with a flashy finishing blow.
That might not be the same sensation as a sexual climax, but it can feel damned close. It’s a rush that is more than enough reason to make you pick up the sticks again, and again, and again.