It becomes necessary, after a certain point, to ask yourself: “What, exactly, am I getting from this?”
It isn’t necessary to have a good answer, but it’s necessary to ask. Sometimes it’s terrifyingly easy to spend an hour, a day, a week, playing a game, long after it’s become familiar, every experience expected, each encounter slightly trite. Is it just habit? Is it just the devil you know? Or are you still extracting something from the experience, gnawing away at a bone that may still have hints of flavor or may still be attached.
If you do something enough times it becomes a habit, by repetition, by definition. These habits grow wearing, scrape ruts and grooves we find it difficult to escape. It’s not a disaster, but it’s necessary to stop, and see, and try to remember: Is this actually what I want to be doing?
What did I want to achieve by doing this?
It’s not easy, when it comes to arts and entertainment. Why do we want games to make us cry, to shoot our old RGB Yellers and cane our citizens? Why, do we keep coming back to games that don’t do even that, that just provide arenas for taking lives and property, for practiced and efficacious inhumanity?
I keep wondering. Why do I keep coming back to the same games over and over, when there’s a world of amazing games I haven’t played yet – not to mention the many wonderful books and films and other media I have yet to experience! Or I could get one of those social life things that people keep talking about. Or maybe it would be possible to drop it all, redouble my efforts, pour myself even deeper into my own work, without reservation or fear.
I keep on thinking of all of these possibilities. And then I don’t do them. I take decisive action, where the decision in this case is to hit the snooze button. I can’t tell, day to day, whether I’m bound to the shadow of my life or it’s bound to me. It’s hard to tell, day to day, whether I live this life because I chose it or because I grew it around me like a shell or a robe or a habit.
I don’t know. I’ve given up on the theory that there’s just one thing that keeps pulling me back. The familiarity has its own pull, yes, and the habit, and the desire to become better, these all keep me riveted to the game, but I find myself attached in subtler ways, threads that keep pulling me back, facets that keep me glued. Sometimes it’s a friendly exchange with a player I see often, sometimes it’s mastering a trick I couldn’t do before, sometimes it’s finding a new technique to experiment with – and, just because the circumstances never quite line up to disillusion me with these all at the same time, I remain stuck, rapt, in place.
And I wonder, what is it I am actually getting from this?
And I don’t have a good answer – but I’m willing to forgive myself, for now at least. Who can say what time is wasted? As long as I can ask the question, and face it head-on, I’ll still have one hand on the wheel, ready to stop it spinning the moment I need to escape.