Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Video Games (LOA)

The last few weeks have, by common standards, been uneventful.

I've been playing more video games (specifically, Pokemon) in the last few weeks than I have probably in the last year combined (although my play time isn't quite at pre-college levels). That's not necessarily a negative thing though. It's rejuvenating in many ways, but also (maybe surprisingly to most) empowering.

I've come to realize that, growing up, video games were my moral education of sorts. For reasons related to both my history (which I will not go into here) and my "biology", I've always been a quiet person, even in my very early years. I have spent a lot (if not most) of my in life time by myself, either physically or mentally.

A lot of that time was spent playing video games.

The kinds of games I was and am drawn to, I've found upon closer inspection, are a very interesting category. I loved (and still love) to play games driven by either grand adventures, engaging stories, or both (typically role-playing games, though I am also an avid Mario and Nintendo fan in general). These stories were filled with heroism and themes of kindness and compassion , though there were also giant challenges to overcome.

The characters in the games are almost always extremely eager to help each other. Imagine living in a world where everyone you approached talked openly with you, giving you tips, advice, and even cool things from time to time. It was also not that difficult to encounter someone who was so inspired by your journey that they agreed to drop everything and join you, even if it meant consuming all their time and possibly meaning death. That's commitment.

The journeys also always required an immense amount of growth (leveling up, getting better equipment, surrounding yourself with more powerful allies) and learning (new moves, spells, information that will help you reach your goals), often beginning very modestly with young people leaving home for the first time and with no special expertise or strength going on to do amazing and usually legendary things.

I started thinking about this idea of games as my moral education for a few reasons. First is the sharp contrast between my preferred genre and today's most popular gaming culture of Call of Duty style shooters involving sport-like deathmatches and super cinematic violence using powerful graphics engines. This isn't an argument about which is superior per say,  but if I were to choose a genre of game for some of my younger family members to play, it's clear in my mind which one might be more constructive. Exploring some of the reason's why I would choose that gave me some of the insights I've been talking about.

Second is the fact that, when I think about what was missing this last year and a half or so, video games is definitely on that list. I didn't think of that much at all; I paid more attention to things like lack of resolve, motivation, energy, and ability to live happily in the present as bigger issues to tackle on that list of things that were missing. It also seemed to make sense that the busier I get in life the less time I'd have to dedicate to games (interestingly, during my freshmen year of college, by far my favorite year so far all around, I did take the time to turn on my DS from time to time, not only during breaks but during the regular school year). And it's no mystery that "outgrowing" video games is a perfectly socially acceptable transition.

But those few times that I allowed myself to power on my DS again recently and take a trip back to the days when I could play games all day with no guilt, I realized that what I was really doing was going home. I went back to what was really a huge source of my idealism, my optimism, my relentless effort to be better. I was transported to a world where I could face a huge challenge not with hopelessness but with an eager, though nerve-racking, anticipation. I could have my hindquarters handed to me and still go back and take on the challenge over and over, using new tools and strategies and finding new ways to prepare until I ultimately succeeded. But most of all I found myself completely engaged in an activity and actually enjoying it again.

I have decided to allow myself into that part of me again. These past few weeks I went back to the latest Pokemon game I had and actually "finished" it, setting out to meet the toughest challenges of the game. I failed over and over again in the process, but I love playing, and eventually succeeded after hours upon hours of continued effort.

This may not mean much to most people, but it brought up the question of where video games fall into my time away from school. I have my incomplete courses to complete, as well as medical issues to attend to. On top of that I have a list of books I want to read, people I want to talk to/ shadow, places I want to volunteer at, and even jobs want to pursue. I haven't gone into detail in this blog about some of the concrete things I will be pursuing; that's coming soon. All I know right now is that I'm not abandoning my favorite hobby.

Yesterday I invested in a Nintendo 3DS (for a few different reasons), but clearly I would not have made such a purchase if I didn't plan to make good use of it. Obviously, like most things in life, a balance needs to be kept. My schedule for the past few weeks can't go on forever. But a good life is an enjoyable life, and I know now that I have to rethink what's important in my life, give myself permission to live it, and, in true Pokemon fashion, keep it lighthearted when I can.

Happy new year. :)

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