This week I did an experiment: I streamed playing a game for two hours every day, 8am-10am PST. Originally I’d intended to stream Dark Souls 3, but it turns out my computer can’t run it. I thought my computer would be up to the job because it ran Dark Souls 2 quite well, but…
It’s not certain, at this point, whether the poor performance is due to the limitations of my system, a lousy port by From Software, poorly tested drivers by nVidia, or some combination of the above. What is clear is that I can’t play this game yet, much less stream my playthrough.
So I went ahead and streamed other games, but the fact I can’t play Dark Souls 3 nags at me, something incomplete, something never-began, a hole in my expectations. I created this streaming schedule with that game in mind, believing that I would be playing it two hours a day regardless and hoping to get some extra mileage out of something I’d be doing anyway: However, rather than having to hold back on playing a game I’d been anticipating, I found myself, with no Dark Souls 3, having to push myself to play games I wouldn’t be playing otherwise. That was fine, at first: I’d been meaning to play Titan Souls, so I finally got around to that, which covered my first couple of streams – then I spent a couple of hours playing Nuclear Throne, which is a pretty cool game – then, yesterday, I started in on a run of the original Dark Souls, since that’s generally a fun game to revisit and a nice way to take a bit of the edge off of my discomfort with not being able to play Dark Souls 3.
But I feel off-kilter. It’s not just about not being able to play a video game: It’s about not being able to participate in a thriving conversation that’s coursing through games. It’s about, not only being unable to stream the game myself, but unable to watch anyone else’s streams. It’s everyone in the world watching the next episode of That Show You Like in the next room, and being three episodes behind and unable to join in with no opportunity to watch those three episodes for the foreseeable future. It’s not not playing the game that’s eating at me, it’s being unable to play the game, feeling unable to reach out and grab a fairly modest goal, something created to be available, and feeling like less of a person due to that lack.
It’s very strange the ways the tendrils of consumerism have bound the edges of our social and intellectual lives.
So I’m off balance. I feel helpless and incompetent, like all of my work is at just high enough a level of quality to keep people from sneering at it without actually being good enough to make anyone want to support it. I’m not sure if what needs to change is me or the world, if what I’m making is wrong or not good enough or I just haven’t figured out how to make it appealing… or if I’m just terrible at figuring out how to make money.
Mostly I’m okay with it. Mostly. Generally mostly. I am worried about money and my future, whether anything I’m doing or have ever done has been worthwhile, but I deal; because I feel like I’m moving forward. I’m trying new things. And I know that that’s actually part of why I’m freaking out right now, why I feel like everything’s closing in, collapsing over me and binding me in place, is because I’m expanding beyond the structures that have sheltered me. Because it’s easy to never feel the rain when you just stay under the same rock. If I’m getting rained on, I’m at least going somewhere.
You can’t beat the game by staying at the first bonfire.
It’s stupid to act like the trials of finding a place in the world and building around it are in any way like playing a damn video game, but. But. We all take strength from stories. From parables and from history, we construct an idea of what’s possible. So maybe it’s okay if, just for a bit, I take the story of stasis broken, of dying suns, of giving up and becoming empty or not giving up and becoming consumed, and use that to justify and reify my own problems.
Just keep trying. As long as you can do that, eventually something will change. Isn’t it odd that such dark and foreboding games teach such an optimistic lesson?