August 21st, 2006

Grumble grumble.

The Reading Phenom

One week before I left for Tacoma, I packed up my Xbox and Gamecube from New Jersey and shipped them off. One month after this move, the consoles still sit in boxes. I've not had time to go looking for games consoles, and to be honest, I don't have the desire to. With just one television in the house, it'd get looks of disdain from everyone else in the household if I wasted my time over in this gorgeous spot of the world "just playing games".

This is a household full of spirituality, 24, and the drive that we should do things together. While games are wonderful for engrossing you for a limited time, they typically engage just that player. Three other people in this house have no time for any of that. Well, maybe Jamie likes the odd game of Mario Kart DS or Zookeeper. But the point is there.

I can recall several times I've done something amusing in a game over the last two years; be it a ridiculous shot in Pro Evolution Soccer/Winning Eleven, or an amusing line of dialogue in another game, or producing a seamless run in Super Monkey Ball. But it's hard to show Jamie, as it just doesn't correlate with as much significance, just like I don't completely understand a lot of things that drive Jamie. Maybe I haven't linked the potentially global significance of what she wants to show me against the trivial things I want to show her.

The Nintendo DS has been used a lot since moving; it gets recharged a few times a week. In my defence, I've mainly used it whilst waiting for things to happen - and we've had a lot of that. Since moving, Mario & Luigi: Partners In Time, Meteos and New Super Mario Bros. were completed, with nothing left for me to do with them shy of selling them and getting some money back. I still have other things I can do in other games I own - I still have the chance to try to get three stars next to my name in Mario Kart DS when I play online, or unlock another character in Advance Wars DS by navigating my way through the Hard Campaign.

And here is the problem of games. Does any of that read as an engaging and worthy activity, to anyone outside of the world of gaming? What if I told you it'd take about twenty hours to achieve those two potential targets? I'd be shocked if it still seemed like a worthy excursion of my time. As a person who displays many obsessive-compulsive traits, the idea of completing every aspect of a game sounds satisfying. But what could that time be spent doing instead?


I've started reading again. This afternoon, I couldn't stop reading Tony Hawks' book "Playing The Moldovans At Tennis", and finished it just before I started on this post. It doesn't stray far from books I have enjoyed in the past, which start with drunken bets and end with life-altering circumstances for the authors; sometimes making an immature decision and following it through leads you to be a more mature person at the end of things. Though the pragmatist in me informs me that sometimes it simply means you just have an amusing idea, and you can make money out of how people react to "lunacy".

Other books in this vein include Tony Hawks' "Round Ireland With A Fridge", Dave Gorman's "Are You Dave Gorman?", Dave Gorman's "Googlewhack Adventure!" and Danny Wallace's "Yes Man", where the author indeed travels and embraces the hospitality people offer to lunatics. Both Wallace and Hawks have an air of smugness to their writing, so I had some pensiveness as I began this book.

The author sparks a debate about how he could beat the Moldovan soccer team at tennis because he has a knowledge of tennis basics. His friend states that it's more about if a person is naturally a sportsman, and that professional footballers could play tennis in their spare time, and play it well, if necessary. Two chapters on, and our author lives with a hospitable family in the war-torn country of Moldova. He lives in a "good house" because it has hot water. He lives in an area where the government cannot afford to light the streets at night. He lives in an area without manhole covers because people can melt those down for a profit. Things could be done about this, but in a state just getting used to capitalism, the government is far happier to embezzle whatever they desire. This is how some people live, day in and day out, and it took a light-hearted book for me to stop and reflect and admit that this happens, and it happens everywhere in the world that we don't have time for. Our concept of freedom is quite a difficult one for someone in another area to comprehend. Their concept of a luxury being central heating is something I've taken for granted for so long.

So, games. On a scale of luxuries, it is a strange one. It is one that allows us to create another world where we can escape from reality. Yet for us to have the TV, the console and the electricity to power it all, we've no right to shirk away from what we do and where we are from. It is also a secluding luxury - disassociating us with other people. Of course, this is the extremist view - people can fit games into their lives as something to do to fill some spare time, as a way to relax, and it can be a method that can involve a group together. Television, alcohol and other addictive drugs are exactly the same - depending on the person in question, they could seclude a person away from friendships or involve a person to make new friends. It's all about what the person wants to do in their life for the (traditionally larger) gaps in between the spare time.

Some people do a lot in their lives. Some people die before they have the chance to. Some people never even try to do anything. I've gone from someone who believed he was a bit of an apathetic sort with nothing to prove with my life (and I planned to do even less with it) and I am now in the US and married and I've moved into a house of herbivores, and I am set to endure my third move in two years. It is a change of pace that throws me a little regularly.

But I'm glad for that. I don't see any reason why I'd have changed from the Dean circa 2004, otherwise. Thankfully my usual pattern of being a perfectionist and wanting to unlock everything is waning with my lack of attention for these games. Yeah, they still take up time as a useful distraction, but I couldn't go back to the days of playing Final Fantasy 7 for hours, or - a memory that's revolted me for a long while now - leaving the PlayStation on for half the day because I couldn't find a way to a save point before we had to leave for a trip to my Nan's.

So, with this next move we get to pad out our bedroom. Maybe we'll have a television in the room. If we do, I don't know if I'll be hooking the consoles up. There's still going to be the entertainment value of the occasional game of something, but maybe now is a good time to spend some money on something else. A different type of addiction.

And as fickle and materialistic a dream this is, I have always harped on about wanting a pool table...
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