I just played FTL for the first time. As the game recommends, since it was my first time playing I went ahead and played on easy mode, and everything was going pretty well up until the last couple of star systems. A few minutes before the rebel flagship unceremoniously tore my beautiful ship into charred metal ribbon, I started noticing that fights weren’t going so well. I was warping into new star systems sporting a quantity of flames greatly exceeding the merely festive, with pirates still hanging off of my ship and hacking away at my theretofore delightfully intact and unasphyxiated crew. However, after being unceremoniously recrafted into a million novelty ashtrays by the rebel flagship, I now know approximately how powerful my ship will need to be. So it was a learning experience.
I also just announced my first major game project, Eve, a few days ago. I’ve tried to work on this project and others like it before, only to find myself distracted or displaced over and over again. The last few days have been incredibly exciting, but also alarming, as I observe tendencies that have lead me to ruin before:
“I’m too excited to sleep!”
“I’m too sleepy to work.”
“Well, I’ve gotten plenty of work done this week already, maybe I could just take a day or two off…”
“I’m making great progress on this section of the project, but I’m going to have to wear a bunch of different hats so maybe I should be trying to do two things at once!”
I keep meaning to get back to The Binding of Isaac as well. It seems less and less likely I’ll be able to find the time, but there’s something innately exciting about the formidability the game offers, a huge curiosity cube you have to chip away at piece by piece, delving deeper each time using the skills and information you gained on your last foray. Each time, you find out a little bit more, and not just about a game. You learn about what causes you to fail, what your weak points are, how you can focus the skills you do have as a player, as a human, to defeat the game once and for all.
I grew up being pretty good at everything I tried putting my hand to. It’s only relatively recently, in the last five or six years, that I’ve started to realize that this isn’t necessarily a good thing. Being adept, at least when you’re young, means that you can quickly and easily achieve what is asked of you. And, whoever’s fault it may be, once you’ve achieved what has been set out for you, however meager it is, people rarely ask you to do more.
The world, though, the entire world which you find out too late that you always lived on, will keep on asking, no matter what you achieve. You can strain your capabilities to eternity, become better than anyone has ever been and then better than that in your chosen field, and the resistance against you will be as strong as it ever was. If you want to be more yourself than you have ever been, there will always be a way for you to become that, but it will never be easy.
And yet we keep lowering educational standards, in order to raise test scores– scores which only have relevance based on the standards which define them. And yet we group children by age level instead of aptitude or readiness, because we’d rather they score high on tests of questionable relevance than actually learn. We make movies and games and literature which are devoid of challenge and feed them to the young, then criticize them for not having developed the skills to excel. We make things easy, we train people on trivialities, and we never transition them into anything more difficult until life does it for us– we are so afraid of failure, so afraid of challenge, we sell a lie that failing only happens to those who don’t take things seriously. We make any failure a moral failure, which is incidentally the great and terrible assumption propping up right wing values. But I digress… well, more than usual.
Hell yes I’m resentful, I’m bitter. I feel betrayed by the lies of the easy games the AAA industry craps out, the easy morals that popular fiction embraces, the easy ‘education’ that bears only the wispiest shadow resemblance to what honest and skilled teaching actually looks like. At least they’ve done me a kind of service by driving me into the waiting arms of real games, games like XCom and Isaac and FTL, games that hunger to fuck me into oblivion just like the universe does. It’s excellent training.
So: I’m getting the lessons I need, even if I’m getting them late and getting them harshly. I can embrace that this won’t be easy. I can endure a struggle. Once I see the obstacle… I will overcome it.
Even if I have to try again.