Sunday, January 13, 2008

Day 8 - "It starts out easy, something simple, something sleazy..."

Less than one week in, and I've already cheated. Yes, that's right, I played a video game.

It was Mass Effect. You see - I wasn't able to beat it in time, before my birthday. So when I came across it in the arcade room inside the Carnival Cruise ship I was riding in late Tuesday night, I was magnetically drawn to it. I saw someone struggling to play it - a rather large Latin fellow - and I felt compelled to help him. Explain to him the nuances of the game. I grabbed the controller from him, and suddenly, I knew who I was, and where I belonged. I shot down some dirty Geth troopers down with my space pistol, returned it to it's holster, applied the appropriate stat points to Commander Shepard after I leveled up, and handed the controller back to the stranger.*

Minutes later, looking over the side of the ship, wondering why I was taking a trip to Barbados in the middle of the week when I knew I had work the next day, a wave of guilt suddenly overtook me. I just cheated. I failed at my goal, and I didn't even last a week! And I didn't even know I was doing it until afterwards! How pathetic am I, that playing video games is so hard-wired into my brain that I can't consciously stop myself? Then I looked around and realized no one I knew was around me. Should I tell anyone? Should I just start over? Or should I just consider this a fluke, and hope it never happens again?

Well, as it turns out, there was no need for a decision. A few seconds later a large black claw came down on my face, and suddenly I was awake in my bed at 4:30AM. Milhouse, my lovable but demanding feline companion* had woken me up from a very disturbing nightmare. I was immediately relieved - I didn't actually cheat! I just dreamed that I did! Huzzah! The freaky thing though, was that the emotions I went through in the dream felt extremely real. 29 years old, and my brain still tricks me night after night.

Shouldn't I just be dreaming of playing games I've beaten and enjoyed before? Or imagining the games that I've yet to play, making them far better in my mind than they'd ever actually turn out to be? That would be my subconscious working with me, not against me.

***

I started my 1st book this week - Forever, by Pete Hamill*. Got about 100 pages in so far. I think the title makes this 613 page book just seem more daunting than it really is.

Before this year, I had slowly evolved my gaming habits to the point where I carried my Nintendo DS or PSP (usually the DS) with me wherever I went, and by this past year, I just stopped kidding myself and didn't even keep a book in my bag. So this feeling is one of faint familiarity.

As it turns out, I can read, and I can enjoy a good book on the subway ride to and from the city. Whereas before, I was completing a dungeon, testing my brain age, or catching a few new Pokémon on my trip to work/home, now I'm simply advancing a slow-moving, highly detailed narrative about 25-30 pages. So far I'm not thrilled with the trade-off, but I guess I don't have much of a choice at the moment.

I will say this - video games have a real knack for making you feel like you accomplished something awesome yet ultimately pointless in a very short amount of time. I guess it's essentially the whore* of entertainment mediums. While I'm glad to have started the road of settling down with a nice well-respected novel, I know deep down in my heart they're never going to make me go crazy like those dirty dirty games have in the past.

-Matt

Yeah but I'd still rather be playing: I actually would love to really be playing Mass Effect right now. Only got about an hour or two into it so I was still getting the hang of everything, but if I had the time, I'm sure I'd be totally sucked in.

*Just so we're clear, I help people by taking the controller from their hands and showing them how they should be playing. This is why I cannot continue my coaching sessions until next year.
*I tried writing a description for my cat a few different ways, and they all sounded a little feminine. I quickly realized that it wasn't the vernacular - simply having a cat was the problem.
*Now taking book suggestions. I'll be especially likely to read it if you give/lend it to me!
*Yeah, I know what you're thinking. In my metaphor, porn is still just porn.

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