It’s an odd experience. One week of university is now behind me and my head feels like someone set off a shrapnel bomb on the inside. I’m still not exactly settled back into a routine physically. Mentally, my psyche is doing backflips.
I wasn’t exactly prepared for the onslaught of new information that I’m going to receive in order to become an expert in my field. Since I want to do this right, though, I’m prepared to make a couple of hobbyist sacrifices to make things easier on myself. The first that has to go is Lit Bases, my blog on baseball literature. Now, in the greater sense, this blog isn’t really going anywhere at all – it will stay up for everyone to read. But my actual writings for the site won’t be coming in once a month like before. My readings on the subject just can’t be done at the rate I used to do them because there’s a real dearth of interesting material in this city. Even if that wasn’t the case, I just can’t afford to spend hours at a time poring over each and every review I write for Lit Bases.
That’s one thing, but in mulling over my options, it became apparent that it might not be enough. Then a very radical idea hit me: Why don’t I stop following video games?
(Stop laughing, Rob.)
If you know me, you now know the insane level of dedication with which I’m attacking my newest adventure. Nicholas Croston, giving up video games? Calling this a gun-to-the-head level of sacrifice doesn’t quite do it justice. For this to happen, it would take someone using the National Guard to tie me down Hannibal Lecter-style after I had already taken his gun and beat him to a bloody pulp. Upon hearing this idea, me ten years ago rips your head off and beats the rest of you to death with the dangling spine (heyo, Mortal Kombat shout out). Me now is willing to hear out the idea, and the more I thought about it, the more sense it made.
I can’t think of a hobby I developed when I was young which was so useful to me then and became so outdated now. Back then, they were my escape from a harsh outside world which hated me even when I tried to conform to it. Now, I’m a lot more comfortable in my own skin. When was young, gaming was a bonding activity between me and other friends. Video games are still able to do that for me, but trouble comes in because I’m an adult, and my friends are adults, and we can rarely get enough time to hang out in the same place at the same time. Even on the increasingly rare occasions that happens now, we tend to meet in locations where video games aren’t available, or in situations which don’t allow for hours of playtime. If THAT happens, the idea of video game bonding has been irreparably damaged from what it was in the 90’s. There’s no junk food and Mountain Dew involved anymore, because we’re mature adults who want to stay healthy. Bonding over video games isn’t practical for the grown-ups unless it’s through an online game – a thought which is blasphemous to anyone raised in the 16-bit Era.
I’ve developed hobbies over the last decade which have managed to supplant video games, too. First and foremost, there’s writing, something I honestly believe I can make a living doing in some way or another. There’s also bicycling and photography, and all three of those things are largely portable, so I can do them around other people. To play video games, I have to stay in one place. I watch movies and sports a lot, which are two of life’s great small pleasures that are enhanced by company without anyone fighting over a controller. Besides, I’ve long been watching games evolve into something unrecognizable. Today’s games are beasts compared to what I was playing as a kid. Now, I’m not complaining about the evolution of the medium, but growing up has meant being very slow and resilient to being sucked into today’s behemoths. I’ve become something all kids swear they’ll never become: A victim of generational disconnect. Gaming made me realize for all time that I’m now out of the loop, possibly for good.
Of all the forms of mass media, video games are easily the one that requires the most amount of effort to pull out the reward. Movies and music require little time during the day, so it’s easy to run through several a day, or one several times. Video games need to be played over periods of at least days. Sometimes they take months. Now one might point out that so do books, but books don’t require a giant learning curve or exact cursor precision in order to advance. They don’t frustrate because of something the computer did to spite you personally.
Now, in a larger sense, this doesn’t mean I’m going to quit playing video games. What it does mean is that my game intake is about to drop, and I won’t be buying nearly as many games as I used to. I won’t be scouring websites for the latest news on Square-Enix’s newest apocalyptic RPG the way I used to in the past. I won’t be bitching about the next move by Electronic Arts which will cause the death of video games as we know them. My game reviewing – which is what awakened the online world to my writing – isn’t nearly as frequent as it used to be. There won’t be any more randomly buying games in the hopes that I’ve uncovered some hidden gem. Gaming is expensive, after all, and I want to know that what I’m getting is quality. When I was writing for Netjak, I thought nothing of renting or buying games I knew probably wouldn’t be any good just to see what they were really like. Also, time to let go of the Youtube walkthroughs and speed runs. I’ll still buy rare games and play them, but I’m not going to lose my head over some hard to get titles. If you find Secret of Monkey Island for the Playstation 2, let me know. I don’t care about Sonic the Hedgehog, even if it’s a full return to two dimensions.
If I’m being honest with myself, I know that video games haven’t been my primary hobby for years – I have several friends now who think of me as either Nick the Writer and/or Nick the Cyclist before Nick the Gamer. Even Rob encourages me to keep writing. The likelihood of my buying a console in the upcoming console generation is becoming less and less, partly because the games are too big for their own good and partly because I don’t want to fight through endless feature menus with everything else they’ll have. So this is it. Let me know if there’s a rare game and I might be interested. If there’s not, well, this chapter of my life will be closing.