Monday, August 11, 2008

Why did you stop, Pete?

I was tired. I was scared. I was lazy. I was relaxing. I was searching. I was well-off-enough to not have to care about working for a while.

I took a "life sabbatical" that took a bit longer than I expected.

Two words keep spinning around in my mind:

• Ameliorate
• Exacerbate

Many people know me, and it would be fair to say that I have, in my life, exacerbated some situations to the detriment of my own performance and the outcome of my relationships and projects. I suppose that is part of being a fallible human.

What kept me from action for a few years towards this project was the thought that I might actually, at times, do more harm than good. That rather than solve anything, I might just be stirring up things better left alone.

After coming back from Croatia, I was emotionally and psychically crushed under the weight of all that stood ahead of me on this path.

Who am I to solve global conflicts? Who do I think I am? Don't I argue with friends? By objective observation alone, apparently I can't even keep a successful relationship or career going. So how in the world am I supposed to solve problems of the world far larger than my own? "Bah! Physician, heal thyself!"

Fear plagued my thinking over time. What if, in some future day, I might say something to get a fatwa declared against me, or some offended religious group decides to boycott or plague the efforts of what I am setting out to do? Or I get sued or investigated or arrested for all sorts of increasing fantastical but possible reasons. What if, for instance, in the name of peace, some day I might get shot?

I actually made peace with the "putting my life on the line" rather easily. Moreso, I was embarrassed. Who in the world did I think I was to try to tackle this big a project? My ego stood in the way of progress because it was not being strong enough. The word, specifically, is pusilanimous -- the spirit of a small child.

Who did I think I was? "Eek!" So I hid for a bit from my worldly obligations.

If I was strong and manly, like Popeye the Sailor Man, I'd say "I am what I am and that's all what I am." The credo of the existentialist hero.

If I was Siddhārtha Gautama, I'd simply touch two fingers to the ground, and answer with the silent affirmation, "The earth knows who I am."

Jesus might ask, "Who do you say I am?"

Yet I am neither cartoon character nor a divine being. Anyone who may accuse me of being some sort of egotistical prophet should know this about me: I am quite aware of what it takes to be a superhero, and I did not pass the test with flying colors.

I'm Peter Corless. No more. No less.

Back when I began this blog, it was when I was playing NationStates. Max Barry's oddball dystopic faux-U.N. I went on my trip to Europe and when I returned, I was so zonkered from everything, including The Overnight, that I just laid on the sofa for a while and did very little for a very long time.

For the past two years, really, since around 2006 when I last tried to "get up and out of the house," I had enough money in the bank to not really do much except play games.

I did play a lot of games. I've played a lot of The Sims 2 and SimCity 4 in 2006, Civilization IV in 2007, and most recently, since November 2007, World of Warcraft.

I have been fortunately blessed with sufficient savings to have been afforded this lifestyle choice -- one that would be best described by the Japanese word "otaku."

It is not really a "job," since I wasn't getting paid, but as a game designer, I devoured these games to really understand the scope of play-over-time: factors of gameplay healthiness, such as addictiveness and burnout, replayability and customization, expansion and so on.

Over all this time, I wanted to understand both the psychology of the player and to see what the game designers were incenting their players to do based on their design decisions. All through this two-year period, I was not in denial about the unhealthiness it was causing in my own life. There are both adaptive and fun, and maladaptive and unhealthy ways to play games. I was at the outer limits.

If explorers of the 19th Century went to deepest, darkest Africa to learn the secrets of the native tribes there, I went to WoW to "spend time amongst the natives." Terra incognita of the human psyche when exposed to the environment of an immersive MMORPG. I found a fair share of abnormal psychological phenomena. Which is why I had avoided playing the game for so long. I had a feeling it would be a time-wasting phenomenon. Indeed it was, yet it has also been a learning experience. Now, when people talk about WoW, I can at least say "Been There, Done That." Yet I can also say far more, and feel more vindicated now about some specific thoughts I have on game design. Some thoughts which will likely show up in other projects I have percolating.

So it is time to put away those games and begin some work that may pay me back for all those draining hours before the computer screen.

It is time to ameliorate many things in my life, after having exacerbated them to some rather unusual extremes. I've "done the heck" out of some things in my life. So long as I put those experiences and the knowledge that came with those experiences to some beneficial use, then it will have been worth the opportunity cost of being out of the job market for a few years.

At this point, there are some things that I am doing for love. There are some opportunities emerging for earning money. In fact, I celebrate that I have a check to deposit. Not big, but it's a check. Ideally, I'd like to earn a 'right livelihood' -- something done for both love and money sufficient to meet the hopes I have for this life.

Now it is time to begin again.

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