While pottering about with a chapbook I’m writing at the moment, I’ve been watching a YouTuber play through SOMA. Well, the Handsome Sidekick has been watching it and I’ve been kind of looking up now and then to see what’s going on. For the some of you who might want to play the game, I’ll put the rest of this entry (and subsequent spoilers) behind a cut.
I received call a few months ago, asking if I’d mind participating in a survey. Since it was only going to take up seven minutes of my time, I thought, sure, why not?
The questions were mainly about consumer confidence. I was asked if I thought housing prices were higher than they had been this time last year. (I said no). I was asked if I thought they would go up in the future (I said yes). Then he asked me if our financial situation were better, worse or the same now, compared to the same time last year. I had to think. Our Offspring are getting older, and we’ve needed to pay for items we didn’t need before. I said that I thought we were slightly worse off, financially, than we had been. Finally, he asked me if I thought we would be better off at the same time next year. ‘Oh, better,’ I said, almost without thinking.
It occurred to me this morning that I completely failed to take any notice of Friday the 13th or Valentine’s Day. Ho hum. Neither is really a big deal for us, I suppose – and although the shops and restaurants would have you believe differently, Valentine’s Day is not that important a date for most people. Still, if you celebrate either, I hope they were good to you!
It’s a cool, overcast day here on the south coast. I may mow the lawn and bake biscuits. Enjoy your Sunday, everyone.
I went to see what First Offspring was doing the other day, and found he was playing a game on the computer. It’s called ‘Thomas Was Alone’, and the characters in it are different shaped coloured blocks. I’d heard of the game, but not played it, and I asked First Offspring about it.
‘Is it a good game?’ I asked him.
‘Do you feel sorry for that one—’ I pointed at a block on the screen—’when it can’t get to where it wants to go?’
‘Yeah,’ he said, ‘so this one helps the other one. This one is better at jumping than that one.’
I was 19 when I read Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes. Like most of my classmates, I was at first taken aback by the idea that people act out of self-interest, but I came to really appreciate the idea of that, and of social contracts and a strong leadership, which were the elements which saved us from the chaos of man in the state of nature. The state of nature, in which the life of man would be ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.’
My friends and I loved that description, ‘nasty, brutish, and short.’ We’d throw it into conversations and laugh the laugh of the philosophy geek. Continue reading
The Handsome Sidekick started playing the new South Park game, The Stick of Truth, the other night. I was reading, but in the same room, so I would look up now and then to see what was happening. In typical South Park fashion, it’s rude, racist, anti-Semitic, and sexist. It’s immature. It’s full of toilet humour. It’s offensive.
And it’s laugh-out-loud hilarious.
I’ve never really been one for labels, so I don’t think I ever really described myself as a ‘gamer’. It wasn’t as if I had no other hobbies. But playing games was up there in the top five. From Tetris to Sonic the Hedgehog, to Diddy Kong Racing, to Crash Bandicoot. I played games to the detriment of sleep, work and study. I’m sure I would have finished my Masters thesis at least 12 months earlier, had it not been for Diablo 2. I could sit down to a game after lunch and easily not get up again until it was time for dinner. After all, why stop for food when there were ever more caves to explore and demons to vanquish?
I think it may have been when I began full-time work that I realised I had a problem, although to be fair, I was able to balance them both quite well at the start. I’d get home and eat, have a shower and maybe some TV, and then I could easily fit in a few hours of my game du jour.
Unfortunately, as my duties increased at work after a promotion, I’d end up so tired that I would often have entire days where I wasn’t playing a game. At all.
A return to study was a chance to push reset on my gaming. The great thing was that games had advanced and there were even more from which to choose! Plus, doing a post-graduate degree by research meant… no classes.
I lost several days’ worth of study to some rather intriguing puzzlers, and then The Handsome SIdekick got hold of some time management and hidden object games, and I was in my element. And then there were the many variations of match-3! It was as if casual gaming had been made for me in mind.
Yes I was.
Looking back, I suppose the fun could only last so long. It happened slowly at first — I graduated and began teaching. I got pregnant. I had the baby. I went back to teaching. I got pregnant… and amidst it all, my time for games began to trickle away. So this was My Life, was it? Too busy, too tired to even engage in a little point and click once the children were in bed?
However, once I readjusted and settled into a routine at home rather than at work, there were a few times where I could sit and play. And at first, returning to my old favourites was a welcome distraction. Until it wasn’t…
I found myself haunted by My Life whenever I delved into the gaming world. How could I enjoy Diner Dash when I was already dashing around my own kitchen for most of the day? Tending to the plants in my zen garden in Plants vs Zombies ended up just giving me a guilty conscience for not spending more time with my real plants in my real garden. And Babysitting Mama was like the stuff of nightmares.
Even gorgeous-looking RPGs like Skyrim appealed strongly, until I began to spend any length of time in them. Once I’d got past the first mission, there were suddenly more missions, and then every single person I talked to had a mission for me and oh, good grief, what do you want from me? Another mission? Where am I supposed to find the time to do them all? The pressure, the pressure!! Won’t you all just leave me alone so I can go and look at the flowers?!!
Games just didn’t provide the escapism they once did. My Life skewed my priorities and my anxieties. I was so easily able to slip into worlds unfamiliar when I was younger. But then, My Life became ever-present, dragging me back, an undercurrent of responsibilities and time constraints. I was too busy, too preoccupied to enjoy a game for what it was, anymore.
I’ll admit, for a while, that was depressing.
But two recent realisations have given me some hope. First, my young children are getting older, which means they’re less labour-intensive, and more importantly, they’re starting to play games themselves. Already the oldest has proven himself a formidable gaming partner. The second-born is negotiating right-handed mouse-control from a left-hander’s perspective, but she’s getting the hang of things, too. And the toddler is obsessed with anything electronic. I can foresee some interesting times ahead for us as a gaming family.
And the other thing? One day, they’ll grow up and move out, and The Handsome Sidekick and I will once again have the house to ourselves. By that stage, perhaps I’ll have beaten My Life into some kind of manageable size, so that I can at least close the door on it for a few hours, while I smash a jewel or two, or slay some demons, or race against a princess and a couple of plumbers.
I mean, I’ll need to keep my skills honed, so I can hold my own against the grandchildren.