Video games are one of the best ways to escape reality. They allow the player to experience things or go to places they would never get the chance to otherwise. Regardless of whether the experience is a fantastical adventure or a realistic simulation, video games transport players to those places. For me personally, Psychonauts helped fulfill one of my greatest childhood desires. It wasn't the ability to light wildlife on fire with my mind or kiss my fifth-grade crush. It was the ability to go to summer camp.
Whispering Rocks Psychic Summer Camp is magical, mysterious, and dangerous. It's a place where kids are encouraged to explore their minds and unlock their true potential. Sure, the staff are a bit eccentric and it's only a mile or two away from a psych ward, but it was a place I always wanted to go to. As a kid, I didn't mind the thought of bears or mountain lions with psychic powers. I just wanted to be in Raz's shoes and experience the adventures of summer camp. Or so I thought...
Summer Camp Sucks
The reason I enjoy Psychonauts so much is not because I wasn't able to go to real-world summer camp. No, in fact, I went to several summer camps during my elementary years. Psychonauts came out in 2005 when I was in fourth grade. Between my fourth and sixth grade years, I had attended at least five different summer camps and cried at every single one. Instead of Raz, I better fit the role of a Maloof or Dogen. I cried because I missed home, and my mother had to rescue me from every normal human camp I had attended.
No matter how many times I had gone to summer camp and cried my way home, I always wanted to go back. This is because I was obsessed with Psychonauts. I would come home from another terrible camping experience and boot up my PlayStation 2 only to be tricked into wanting to go to summer camp again. But religious summer camp #3 still wouldn't have a brain-stealing doctor or a crazy milkman or a secret underground training facility. It would have camp counselors trying way too hard to relate to children, and I'd spend my time wishing my mom would come to take me away, which is something Raz would never do.
Coming to Terms with Camping
For the past 16 years, I've made a point to play a large portion of Psychonauts annually. I needed answers for why I loved the game so much but hated camping, and I thought I could find them in Psychonauts. It wouldn't be until my later years of high school that I would truly understand why I was so drawn to the game. I finally realized that I didn't want to go to summer camp. I wanted to go to Whispering Rock. I wanted all of the campers (including Bobby and Benny) to be there. It wasn't the act of camping I wanted, but the exact experience that Raz had.
With that in mind, I tried summer camp a couple more times before I graduated. I went knowing that camping would never be like it was in Psychonauts, and I actually enjoyed myself. Did I spend every waking moment at the camp hoping that a mad scientist would kidnap my bunkmate? Yes, but when that didn't happen, I realized the beauty of Psychonauts. Real-world camping and Psychonauts are two separate experiences that shouldn't be compared. I'll never manifest psychic powers, but I can always return to Whispering Rock. I don't have to go to summer camp to fulfill my childhood dreams of becoming a Psychonaut.
Fears for Psychonauts 2
Now, we are on the precipice of one of my most anticipated sequels of all time. This game is 16 years in the making, and I'm terrified to play it. Psychonauts allowed me to live out my childhood fantasy, and I'm afraid that magic will be lost in the sequel. What drew me into Psychonauts was the atmosphere provided by Whispering Rock, but Psychonauts 2 takes Raz on a completely different adventure. I love the characters, art style, and soundtrack from Psychonauts, but what kept me coming back were my favorite campmates and the shenanigans I was able to get up to.
Regardless, I am anxious yet excited for the sequel. And I know that even if it doesn't captivate my heart like the original, I can always go back to Whispering Rock. I don't know of any summer camps for adults, but I don't need them. At any point in time, I can jump into Psychonauts, dig up some arrowheads, and purchase a hearty helping of Dream Fluffs. Mmm... Dream Fluffs.