Like most of you, I used to be into video games as a kid.
There was the requisite Warcraft and Starcraft in high school, often squirreled away between Science Fair deliverables and assigned reading chapters. There was Halo 2 in middle school. Before that, it was the standard list of SNES games — Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy 3⁄6, Super Mario World/RPG — that I think most white suburban programmers my age fell in love with. I played almost all of them; I only beat a few, most victories falling victim to my short attention span. (Why finish this game when there’s a new one to try out?)
When I was a kid, I was able to teleport into 2300 A.D., Ivalice, the Mushroom Kingdom, wherever, and to leave everything behind: taxes, homework, obligations, guilt, earthly desires.
And then — I’d jolt back into reality, having discovered I spent an afternoon tethered to my controller. It wasn’t a big deal, then, to waste time like that. I had homework, and chores, and then what? I mean, I was a white dude in a neighborhood called Barrington — there were no legitimate stressors in my life. It was simpler times.
Flash forward half a decade, though, and things are different. I don’t play that many video games, beyond the requisite amounts of FIFA. Still, being an adult is great. (It feels a little embarassing typing that out, as if I’m trying to convince myself.)
Nowadays, it’s hard to actually sit down and play games. There’s just too much weight. I spend an hour playing the new Final Fantasy and the back of my head is screaming about how much paperwork I could have gotten done or how more truly rewarding fixing that squeaky drawer would be or what the hell am I doing playing a PlayStation, I haven’t been to a doctor in eighteen months! There’s no sense of absorption: even if I wander into a new world, one of my feet will stay firmly planted in Seattle.
The thing I miss about video games — about youth — is the ability to defy gravity. When I was a kid, I fantasized about being a grown up with a disposable income who can buy all the games he wants and stay up all night playing them: I’m an adult now, and I can do that, and it just feels hollow and unrewarding.
I realize this is not entirely a “video game” thing so much as it is a media thing. My imagination used to be this thing that was desperate to escape and fill up any container it came across, and now it’s more along the lines of a molasses reluctant to leave the confines of its tastefully decorated studio apartment.
My imagination just doesn’t get captured the way it used to. Maybe its the other way alone: maybe it’s my fault, for letting the muscle of my imagination to atrophy and wither away while I focus on things like refactoring and invoices.
The solution, then, is to find new things and hobbies to fit that gap, to figure out ways to indulge in a little escapism. Side projects help — especially ones that I know will never see the light of day.
But still, I’m worried: the days I spend completely lost from the world, are they gone forever? Do I ever get those back?