Saturday, February 18, 2012

To abandon decades

I've seen old people in the park, just sitting around, and can't help wonder "Do they sit there because they're just too bored to try anything?  Or do they know some secret about the park?"

Lately, growing bored with all games, I debate my motivations.  I worry about my doubts.  But fear wouldn't stop me.

Activities will.

I want to write, work out, study my religion, work, have friends, save my wrists, discover music, enjoy shows, and and and and and...there's more.  A normal game can eat six hours a day without trouble.  A bad one will take up thirty hours before I give it up.  A good one can devastate a hundreds over a few weeks.

But like an old friend, not just familiar, but dedicated, beneficial, loyal; games draw me onward.  I can skip them for a while.  Days.  Weeks.  I go back.  Ask an addict.  It isn't the addiction, it's the time.  What do I do with it, and how do I manage being productive?  If I'm not incinerating three hours a day, should I create something?  Or find a new addiction?  Which is easier, and which costs less, given decades of debilitating habit?

I often debate abandoning computer games.  This is more life changing than it sounds.

In 1987, when I was three, my father bought an 8088 computer, mostly to learn how to use computers for work.  My mother and I have a story we tell about this computer, where we played a game called Castle Adventure, though we remember it as Castle.

Since hard drives were mostly reel-driven tapes at the time, booting this monstrosity required a precise ballet of disks and commands.  DOS into slot 1, BASIC into slot 2, BASIC B into slot 1, DOS into slot 2, CASTLE into slot 1.  I knew the system at three, including what to type with each disk, even though I could not spell or type.

I insisted on playing Castle, but being three, could not type or spell.  I believe my father remembers hearing me give instructions on the order to my mother.

Castle taught me letters at before I learned them in school.  Fast forward to 1991 when we discovered Civilization while at my mother's parents' house in Rapid City, SD.  Playing this game, I learned about things such as Feudalism, The Republic, and (I feel,) founded a deep interest in strategy, which resulted in my reading many odd books, including The Art of War so many times I regularly quote pieces.

In 1994, my father, still driven to unravel this computer mess, installed modems in the home computer (not the 8088, but likely a 386 DX, with a whopping 25 megabyte hard drive.)  I learned to dial a modem, interpret the various noises and tech-speak the computers would give me.  At 10, I had memorized as much computer information as anyone who did not hold a degree in it.  (Ok, maybe not.  Give me a break, I was 10.)

Over the next ten years, I played dozens of games.  Once online, I met people in several countries, including Britain, Australia, Russia, and Chile, as well as across the USA.

My wrists have paid the price for poor habits, but even if I went back and corrected my posture, I somehow think 12 year old me would ignore my advice.  I kept going for years.

During high school (1998-2002,) I played several games which I still consider to be the best I have ever played.  Maybe it was me, maybe it was the times, but somehow I've never had as much fun playing as I did then.  MMO's carried me into 2005, but since then...meh.

I thought "Maybe I've just grown up.  Maybe games were never that much fun."  But recently having picked up a few games from 1999, ones I never played before, I'm suddenly in high school again.  I'm enjoying a game.  My wrists are killing me.  I'm not afraid of addiction (or whatever it "really" is,) I'm just interested in what it means about me.

I attribute something akin to addiction to at least two of my failures in college, though psychologists seem to rate computer addiction as a function of depression instead of its own disease.  (No, I can't cite that, it's from personal experience; conversations with professionals.)

Whatever the cause, the results stand for themselves.  I played games instead of studying and paid for it with loans.

This is not the greatest of my mistakes, but it has slowed my "progress" a bit.  If I stop playing games, then what?  Do something?  Ask a retiree what they do.  Talk to an addict.  I have hobbies, but I can't write 12 hours a day.

Even having fun requires a new concept when I'm not having fun the good old way.

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