This is an experiment. Not only will it be a lesson for self-improvement- a way to prove that I can see a difficult, time-consuming task through to its end- but also a chance to see how I’ve changed. Are the same games- the same experiences- that I once loved and look back with nostalgic stupor what I still enjoy in my entertainment? This is a journey of self-fulfillment, enlightenment, and escapism. This is the climax of my coming-of-age tale. This is my Final Fantasy.
Day 21, Time Played: 32 hours, 13 minutes
It’s been an interesting few weeks since Xmas. After starting off with such vigor emblazoned on my spirit, it seems I’ve fallen into my old routine. Among my friends, I’m known to be the king of procrastination, and it seems that even when in the middle of a challenge to change my ways, I can still fall victim to my chronic problem. Experiments exist for analysis, and this one is no different. No matter how it concludes, once school starts again, I’ll be able to look back at this test and analyze my findings. Like a condescending professor, I will scrutinize every aspect of my report, and whether or not I like what I’ll find, I guess is up to me.
Anyway, during the holiday week, I played plenty, but decided to take the week off from writing. Reporting my musings daily was becoming tiresome, and I found myself reaching for topics. Posts in this column should be my thoughts, so I may look back and witness my shifting moods and opinions during the process. To force myself to psychoanalyze my experience every day could easily devolve my posts into convoluted rants. So, after taking a weeklong break, I rang in the new year with new enthusiasm, ready to take on the world with my words, and found myself down with a cold. Excuses and reasons can be had for the past eight days of illness and recovery, but nevertheless, here I am: T-minus 13 days from classes and 30 hours in. I suppose 3 weeks into a 5-week process and about halfway isn’t too far behind, and, like I said, the idea of writing every day grew tired quickly. But it’s the prospect of only writing every few days to check in that scares me. When I can go a day or two without writing, I can easily make it a week. For the motivated person, the choice to not write daily probably wouldn’t be such a bad thing. For me, it was catastrophic. Once I remember the ease of simply not doing something, the challenge of pushing myself to do it can often become the impossible.
Pundits who argue against the gaming community, who deem the hobby a sinful practice for the sloth, bring up stories like mine. We’re the “culture of the unmotivated.” Our hobby, by nature, is to sit on the couch and isolate ourselves from others. Even the people who we admire have their own self-loathing stories. Tom Bissell wrote a 256 page treatise on the importance of video games by spending half of it describing his challenge with drug abuse. Felicia Day only escaped the dangers of gaming addiction by writing and starring in a comedy about a girl, intentionally not unlike herself, who ironically struggles with the same problem. One of my favorite books of all-time is Welcome to the NHK, largely because it was written by a man who still struggles with his own shut-in tendencies. The author, Tatsuhiko Takimoto, is one of my heroes, in part because he was able to write a best-selling novel despite his everyday struggle with idleness, but also because, even in his success, he is still struggling. Around every success story from our world is a tale of struggle with slothness, idleness, and lack of motivation. Is this a sign that our hobby is as unhealthy as the angry mom lobbyists are to have us believe, or is it simply coincidence? The shut-in/ hikkikimori/ motivationally-challenged inevitably spends most of his or her time at home, where the most interesting events take place on the television. Games, comics, and anime are companions out of relativity. One doesn’t have to go to the park to enjoy a game, it’s in the same room the shut-in already finds himself. And it’s easy. One can so easily fall into the trap of picking up a controller and escaping into another world for hours because doing so is so simple. A click of a button, and you’re gone.
I’m not arguing against games, though. I truly do believe that games are one of the greatest forms of entertainment, and every year, they get closer to equaling film in cinematic experience. None of the people I mentioned in the last paragraph criticize games for the influence they had on their lives. In “The Guild,” Day’s protagonist doesn’t lambast “The Game” once for her issues. The socially awkward heroine understands, fully, that her challenge arises from within. To make games the villain is to take responsibility away from the person at fault. I’m not sure why I struggle with motivation the way I do, but it’s not an effect of the games I play.
I started this column to give me a recording of my thoughts during the process of playing this game. The experiment is much more than seeing how much I still like JRPGs. It’s a challenge to myself to actually finish something I started. It’s a challenge to stay motivated and make the most of my time, during my break. Of course, the lessons will extend much further than these weeks in between semesters. It’s not just to see how much I still like JRPGs, but how much I still like games. It’s a way to show myself that if I can finish something as simple as a game, then I can finish something much more difficult, like school, finding a job, etc. It’s a way to see if I can actually enjoy something enough to actually want to do it, instead of endlessly having to pull myself out of the doldrums of laziness. And most of all, it’s a way to see if I can get the most out of not just my winter break, but the most out of my life.
Anyway, I hope everyones’ 2013 is even better than their 2012. We survived the apocalypse, so every day from here on out is a gift, right? I’ll be back with more letters from the front lines, soon.
See ya, NEET cowboys,
The Active-Time Blogger