I woke up with a jolt, my hand resting on an empty bag of generic cheese curls, my fingers still stained orange from eating them earlier. How long had I been out?

I turned my head and faced the red, glowing eyes of the digital clock sitting next to me, dutifully blinking away the hours. It was 3:00 a.m., time to wake up. As I turned my head the other direction, I found myself facing a lonely stretch of rainforest on a mysterious island, drifting in an ocean no one had ever seen before. And, oddly enough, I had breasts.

This was The Longest Journey, a game I had first come to know the year prior. It remains my favorite game, and I love to pop it back in the CD tray for another adventure in a futuristic land now and again. But, months ago, I made a decision to completely integrate myself into the game world; playing the entire thing through; sleeping when April, the heroine of the game, slept; eating when she ate; and living the adventure side-by-side, as I guided her through the cities, forests and landscapes of the surreal world I had been through many times before.

I rubbed at my eyes, slid off the couch and made my body erect ... sort of. I hobbled to the bathroom, my mind flashing back to the two-liter bottle of grape soda I downed prior to drifting off to sleep. As I switched on the light, my eyes shut and the world was filled with reddish-white tones passing through my eyelids. I closed the door, thinking to myself that being April Ryan was a lot of work.

***

This was new territory for me. I haven't been an avid gamer since I put my Super Nintendo in a cupboard back in the late '90s. Gaming progressively became more and more expensive and flashier, and lost something of the magic it had when I was guiding a pixelated Mario through a dark castle, carefully jumping, dodging and moving. (Why can't that damn lava flow just move out of my way! Why? WHY?)

I lost interest, which was kind of a shame, considering my childhood was littered with videogames and gaming systems and Nintendo Power and my obsession with Link and his adventures. As I grew, the flash-bang of next-gen systems started to wear at me, and it didn't seem worth the trouble (or expense).

Then, purely by happenstance, I heard of a new adventure game called The Longest Journey. Intrigued, and having been a big fan of the LucasArts adventure games, I ordered it. I started to bask myself in it before it even arrived stateside.

I was blown away. Never before had I so been immersed in an experience. Oh, sure, I cared about Guybrush Threepwood, Sam and Max, and Manny Calavera, but with April Ryan, it was more. She seemed real to me, as if one day I might shake her hand, begging her to regale me with her tales of excitement and adventure.

And, no, this is not something that makes me feel ashamed or embarrassed. After all, how many times have people said that they felt so connected to a character up on the big screen? Or, even more so, on the small one? One look at a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan board reveals the true meaning of the word "obsession."

I suppose, then, this game I was playing is where one of my own fixations originated. As much as I'd like to step into the world of a film for a few days, I can't. The narrative is lockstep and never strays. With games, however, it's different. Linear or otherwise, they envelope you in them because you are them, and they are a part of you as well. They're true escapism.

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