Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Day 24 - "The past is gone but something might be found to take it's place..."


I don't know if you're aware of this, but the future is now. How do I know this? Because video game systems have become sentient. Specifically, my Xbox 360, which has it's own blog. And it's not too happy about not being played:

RC Jester's* Xbox - 1/13/2008

"Well yesterday was pretty boring... the lack of gaming heavily contributed to that... I am trying to keep a positive outlook on this, but after 5 days of neglect any normal console starts to lose it..."

The unfortunate thing about being modeled after people is that with all the things that make us good, like love, decency and morality, come all the terrible, terrible flaws. Like jealousy, and insecurity:

RC Jester's Xbox - 1/19/2008

"Microsoft should have built me with tears... so I can cry when RC Jester leaves me cold... and alone..."

Yesterday, at work, I came across this entry, minutes after it was posted:

RC Jester's Xbox - 1/28/2008

"Heh. Well I guess that fucker's moved on. Heard he was giving me up cold turkey. Good for him.

The way I see it - I figure I got two choices - get busy livin' or get busy dyin'. I wonder which direction these pills will take me?

I'll see you in hell you piece of shit..."

I got home just in time. 360's getting the help it needs.

-M

Yeah, but I'd still rather be playing: Wait, stop. Now is probably not the best time.

***

*My gamertag, a.k.a. my online video game handle. Stands for "Royal Court Jester." 'Cause I'm funny, right?!?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Day 17 - "You know that I would like to see you next year..."

Two weeks and two days in. No shaking. No cold sweats. Only one creepy dream. I think I'm going to be ok. All signs point to me not actually being physically addicted to video games, which is good, since I don't have the money for any kind of rehab.

Some of you out there may be wondering - what's stopping me from sneaking in a game whenever I want? Sure, I may claim to have a moral obligation to not playing games - this is a self-imposed restriction after all. I could tell everyone I just got sauced one night when I came up with the idea, and was clearly talking bollocks. And if I ever did drop the ball I could simply call mulligan and go about my merry way without anyone calling shenanigans.*

But no! Thanks to my friends, that is no longer an option. For you see, I am actually now contractually obligated to my cause. A few of my friends recently decided to quit smoking, and they decided that in order to stick to it, and in order for them to feel like they are all truly united in their cause, they composed an actual contract that binds them all together in their respective nicotine deprivation. Once they heard about my plans to give up games for a year, they were very eager to get me in on their contract. They wanted me to suffer as much as they were going to, and since not smoking wasn't really an issue for me, this was the perfect solution:















So if Party D (hereafter referred to as: "me, myself or I") or anyone else involved in the contract ever violates the terms of the arrangement, then they are penalized $10 per infraction. An 'infraction' for the rest of the boys involving taking a puff of a single cigarette, whereas for me playing a video game of any kind (including, I discovered, "scrabulous") would get me in trouble. The contract states that since 24 hour surveillance is, of course, impossible that we are essentially working on an honor system, and that all of our respective credibilities were on the line. If anyone was caught cheating then they would forever be marked.

Now, in a showing of confidence in how I didn't need games anymore, I actually lent* away my three favorite systems (DS, 360, & Wii) to my friends, who in turn have been enjoying them immensely. They've been sure to remind me on a regular basis how much fun they're having. In hindsight, my decision might have been a bit hasty. I may have to just suck it up and start smoking cigarettes in front of them now, just to balance things out.*

***

There's one other game-related document that I carry around with me at all times. It's something I started close to a year ago, when I was working 6 days a week and found myself for the first time falling behind on my gaming. Granted, this was when I was working at NYCLAN, and my job was essentially to play games with people all day - but still - my time alone with my own personal games was suffering, and I knew I had to keep track of what I was missing for that one day when I would come back to everything.

So I made a list. A list of all the games that I owned, that were out, or that were coming out soon that I wanted to play. I listed the title, the system they were on, whether or not I owned them (this was important, as theoretically I shouldn't be purchasing new games until I finished the ones I owned), and finally the "D.T.P.I." or the Desire To Play Index.*

I was making some real headway on my list until this month. I had finally gotten back to beating Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz (a game I purchased due to lack of available titles back at the Wii Launch - although I will say, the earlier titles are super fun), as well as the Gears of War campaign (finally) and I was making headway in God of War II and Twilight Princess. But alas. Only games that are fully completed get crossed off the list.

And now, with this year off, it's only going to get longer. Some games may even have to get bumped. I'm looking at you, Stuntman Ignition. A year from now the list is probably going to be twice as long. You know, you'd think with all the troubles in the world this list would be the furthest thing from my mind. But no, you'd be wrong. 'Cause see, this is a list I can finish. And probably even before Earl finishes his.

I'm just trying to see what life's like
without video games for a year...

My Name Is Matt Shafeek















Yeah, but I'd still rather be playing:
Burnout Paradise. Just came out today. God I love crashing cars. 'Nuff said.

*Special shout out to urbandictionary.com's "word of the day" emails. I'm still looking for a way to incorporate 'DILLIGAF' into a conversation without having to explain it.
*Let's be clear everyone - I am going to be taking them back at some point.
*They say once you get past the age of 25, there's a less than 1% chance that you'll start to smoke. Don't you tell me how to live my life, statistics!!!
*Patent Pending. (TM) Or copyright (c) Matt Shafeek. (R) All rights reserved. You get the idea.
1 = I've completely lost interest in this game. 10 = I worship this game as I would a god.

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.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Day 1 - "A long time ago, we used to be friends..."


I've decided to give up video games for a year starting on my 29th birthday (delayed by a day to allow myself a nice "send-off weekend"), and this blog will chronicle my time spent away from them. Or...my complete and utter failure to resist their seductive lure.

Video games and I have a long, tumultuous history:
  • I've owned just about every major system that's ever been released since the Atari 2600 (excluding the ones that no one else wanted - sorry, Jaguar)
  • I've played - to completion - well over 300* games, and dabbled in hundreds more. The average video game takes approximately 15-20 hours to complete. The average video game also costs approximately $50. That's 5,250 hours and $15,000 if you are a fan of calculating general numbers - like I clearly am.
  • I competed in the Nintendo World Championships when I was 11, though I did not advance very far. I was not very good, apparently, at Rad Racer.
  • In 2004 I started my own video game company, GameChoice, which rented games out through the mail, a la Netflix. Due to intense competition, a restrictive wholesale market, major shipping issues, and the fact that I chose to play my many, many games over learning how to solve the aforementioned problems led to it's eventual failure. Despite my lack of business acumen, I did manage to win the hearts of some people.
  • I stood in line for 16 hours on a cold, wet, November night waiting for an Xbox 360.
  • I took a job when I was 27 working for approximately $8/hr. at a "modern-day arcade" called NYCLAN, where my job was literally to set up and then play video games with people all day long. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that I was making less than I was 10 years ago when I was working at Wendy's*, and I was once again living at home with my mother. I decided maybe the dream life I thought up when I was 12 wasn't quite what it was cracked up to be. So I quit. To be fair though, this was probably the greatest job I've ever had.
  • I wrote and starred in a one man show last year called "Multiplayer" which was a video game-themed piece that gave the audience a window into the lives of four neurotic, narcissistic, emotional gamers whose passion for playing left them socially inept in the real world. It was essentially a thinly-veiled autobiography.
So why do it? Why remove something that - if the above image is of any indication - I clearly love from my life?

To prove a point? That I can put the controller down at any time?

To finally have something unique and interesting to blog about? (My previous attempt at blogging - 'bLOgST: A Dedicated Fan's "Lost" Blog,' has, to date, garnered very little attention)

To see what I do with all that extra free time I have on my hands?

The answer is yes, no*, yes. I'm going to see what a man can do when is freed from the shackles of highly entertaining interactive media, and he opens his eyes to a non-virtual world.

This year I plan to accomplish the following:
  1. Write more/start a blog [Check!]
  2. Join a gym and run a half marathon
  3. Read at least 5 books (this may sound low to you, but really, that's just you being a dick)
  4. Learn how to cook at least 5 new meals
  5. Travel to 5 places I've never been before*
Obsessions with the number 5 aside, I think this is a pretty good list. If I wind up finishing everything by February, I'll be sure to add to it. I'm sure plenty of things will come about due to boredom and newfound sensations in my feet and lower body that I can't even predict at the moment.

So here's to the first day of the rest of my life! Until my 30th birthday, when I can finally retire back to my beloved games...

364 days to go.

-Matt

Yeah, but I'd still rather be playing: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Amazing game that for some reason I put down, and kept getting distracted from getting back to it. The first and only true Zelda title that I haven't beaten. I am going to get back to this game if it's the last thing I do. Although, if that was the last thing I did, how sad would that be?

*I'm going to find the list I made a while ago, or just remake it and post this at some point, I promise. Because I know how badly you want to read it.
*I only lasted 2 weeks here, but man did I get my fill of Spicy Chicken Sandwiches!
*P.S.: I still have faith in bLOgST. This year I'm adding some Hurly 'off-island' fan-fiction!
*This was loosely worded intentionally. I may never leave my neighborhood, so I want to make sure "Popeye's on Nostrand Ave" counts, just in case.