Is this going to be forever?

Let’s talk about me.

Super Smash Bros. Melee wasn’t re­leased at a very good time for me. I was in col­lege, away from home and most of my gam­ing friends. Also, it was re­leased for the Nintendo GameCube, which his­to­ry has shown us wasn’t a ter­ri­bly suc­cess­ful con­sole. In fact, I don’t think any of my clos­est friends back then owned a GameCube.

But be­cause I know peo­ple who know peo­ple, there was a hand­ful of op­por­tu­ni­ties to play Melee over the next few years.

I’d be at people’s hous­es and find mostly-young, mostly-male groups gath­ered around the TV trad­ing smash at­tacks be­tween sig­na­ture Nintendo char­ac­ters in the most won­der­ful­ly whim­si­cal car­toon fight­ing game imag­in­able. Mortal Kombat this is not. Continue read­ing “Is this go­ing to be forever?”

On wishing for boredom

This is not a post about Steve Jobs. I read enough of them in the days and weeks af­ter his death. I read in these a lot of what I al­ready knew and learned some new stuff for sure, but one Steve quote stood out to me in Wired’s obit­u­ary:

I’m a big be­liev­er in bore­dom,” he told me. Boredom al­lows one to in­dulge in cu­rios­i­ty, he ex­plained, and “out of cu­rios­i­ty comes everything.”

I’m not sure if I’d head this quote from him be­fore, but it put in­to words some­thing that has been trou­bling me for some time: I haven’t been bored in years.

The first time I no­ticed this was in the mid-2000s, and  I on­ly re­al­ized part of it, and I saw it through the lens of my Internet us­age, par­tic­u­lar­ly RSS. Even to­day, as the cool kids have moved on to fol­low­ing Twitter feeds (re­al­ly, talk about a step back­wards) of web­sites and blogs they find in­ter­est­ing, I’m still a huge fan of the no-bullshit, user-in-control, de­cen­tral­ized pow­er of RSS.1

What oc­curred to me back then was that hav­ing posts pushed to me dai­ly gave me more read­ing ma­te­r­i­al than I need­ed. And since I could nev­er get all the way through the un­read glut of posts from blogs I’d sub­scribed to, my need to ever go for­ag­ing for in­ter­est­ing things to read ba­si­cal­ly dis­ap­peared. RSS gave me tons of serendip­i­ty (thank you, linkblogs!)… and at the same time, prac­ti­cal­ly none at all. I miss the old days — some would say the bad old days — when I’d get my on­line en­ter­tain­ment and ran­dom bits of en­light­en­ment by brows­ing aim­less­ly from link to link, be­ing per­son­al­ly point­ed to in­ter­est­ing things by friends on AIM, fol­low­ing lat­est links post­ed to proto-blogs like Pixelsurgeon, and… I don’t know, how­ev­er else we found cool shit back then.

The sec­ond time I felt this ef­fect of this was at some point over the last few years, but this time in a more gen­er­al sense. This time it was big­ger than RSS; this time it was about every­thing in my life.

I re­al­ized I have far too many op­tions for en­ter­tain­ment. There are two rea­sons for this: mas­sive dig­i­tal stor­age de­vices and the fact that, be­ing em­ployed gives me an ac­tu­al en­ter­tain­ment bud­get for pur­chas­ing paid me­dia and fan­cy de­vices on which to ex­pe­ri­ence it. Between a pile of un­read books and bunch of e-books; more un­watched movies, sea­sons of old TV shows and ani­me se­ries than I can name; and games ga­lore that I’ll nev­er fin­ish (thank you Nintendo Wii and DS, Android phone and a still-kickin’ Atari 2600), I’m pret­ty much set for… for­ev­er.2 Even if I don’t seek out any­thing new, it’ll be years and years be­fore I get through all of this. And it’s not like I can just ig­nore new re­leas­es and stuff I be­come aware of in the meantime!

I might be able to en­joy this world o’ plen­ty, if I could for­get about what life was like when I was grow­ing up, be­fore we had the com­put­ing pow­er, stor­age and net­work ca­pac­i­ty to ex­pe­ri­ence all the dig­i­tal rich­es of more en­ter­tain­ment than we’ll ever need. I spent so much time be­ing bored grow­ing up, aim­less­ly think­ing and day­dream­ing and such. This was be­fore my first com­put­er; I had tons of books and had prob­a­bly read al­most all of them, made good use of the pub­lic li­brary, played with toys, ac­tion fig­ures and stuff a whole lot and still found time to be bored and day­dream be­cause it seemed like I had run out of things to do.

If you live a sim­i­lar­ly full, media-rich and em­ployed first-world life, and can still ever find your­self so lux­u­ri­ous­ly bored, how do you man­age? And can you teach me?

  1. Google Reader, please don’t die.
  2. I didn’t men­tion mu­sic here, be­cause the way I con­sume mu­sic is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. I still clear­ly have more than I “need,” but I don’t feel the same sort of pres­sure to get through it all, thanks to shuf­fle mode.

…I just want some snack cakes

I was play­ing some Scarface: The World Is Yours ear­li­er this evening on my Wii and while the game is in many ways a se­ries of mis­sions that don’t vary all that much, a part of the game that is pret­ty con­sis­tent­ly in­ter­est­ing is talk­ing to ran­dom peo­ple on the streets. (What does that leave? A pret­ty stan­dard 3D open world, drive-cars-shoot-people-deal-drugs rush rush af­fair that hap­pens to take place in a Miami I don’t quite recognize.)

But like I was say­ing, the conversations.

I can’t re­mem­ber what pur­pose this serves in the game, but you can have back-and-forth con­ver­sa­tions with the seem­ing­ly hun­dreds of unique NPCs that line the streets of the game. Walk up to one, press A and Tony spits out a line, to which they re­spond with some­thing that more-or-less makes sense. Press A and Tony replies with some­thing most­ly rel­e­vant to what they said. Do this back-and-forth ex­change a few times and your “Conversation” count in­creas­es by one. (You can on­ly con­verse with any giv­en in­di­vid­ual once, at which point talk­ing to them con­sists of seemingly-random one-liners that seem to ei­ther pro­pose sex­u­al re­la­tions or bod­i­ly harm… or are just strings of Scarface-style expletives.)

So ear­li­er, I (well, Tony) was vis­it­ing our lo­cal bank branch when I de­cid­ed to talk to some of the peo­ple hang­ing around in the stair­well. We walked up to one African-American gen­tle­man in an ug­ly sweater and the con­ver­sa­tion ba­si­cal­ly be­gan like this:

Tony: Miami is full of pussy, meng. You just need to be rich to get it.
Gentleman: Man, I don’t care about pussy. I just want some snack cakes.

I’m gonna let that one hang for a moment.

Okay, I fuck­ing love this game.

Fine wine games

There is a cer­tain class of video game whose ex­is­tence I’ve been slow­ly dis­cov­er­ing over the last few years. Let’s call these fine wine games.

My idea of a fine wine game1 is one that is best ex­pe­ri­enced a bit at a time. You know, en­joyed in mod­er­a­tion. The kind you on­ly pick up and play every once in a while… be­cause it’s just that good.

Does that sound counter-intuitive? Why would you want to take it so slow­ly with some­thing so great? Well, here’s oth­er side of the coin: this sort of game al­so has an el­e­ment of rar­i­ty, or scarci­ty to it. It’s not the sort of game that prints mon­ey, sell­ing mil­lions of copies, so the chances of a se­quel be­ing made aren’t very good.

So en­joy the game it­self. Savor it as you go. Don’t cry be­cause there won’t be a se­quel; think of how lucky you are to play it in the first place! Wring every drop of en­joy­ment from the ex­pe­ri­ence that you can.

Here are a few games you’ll find in my cask:

Zack & Wiki (Nintendo Wii) The orig­i­nal fine wine game in my book. Critically ac­claimed; sold quite poor­ly. Chance of se­quel? Slim-to-none. Thus, I de­cid­ed that I’d on­ly play Zack & Wiki sparingly.

With save dates as my ba­sis, I’d es­ti­mate that I would pick it up every cou­ple of months, play for a day or two (enough time to strug­gle through my cur­rent lev­el feel­ing like the world’s biggest mo­ron un­til fi­nal­ly feel­ing like the world’s great­est ge­nius, which is what this game does to you). And then, back on the shelf it would go, to wait for the next time I’m in the mood for sa­vory gam­ing greatness.

Thus, de­spite hav­ing bought this game in 2008, I on­ly com­plet­ed it this past week­end. $40 so very, very well spent.

Soul Bubbles (Nintendo DS) While I bought my copy from an Amazon Marketplace sell­er, this game was re­leased in the U.S. as a Toys R Us-exclusive ti­tle. If this ar­ti­fi­cial­ly lim­it­ed its au­di­ence, that’s sim­ply un­for­tu­nate, be­cause this is a beau­ti­ful game… one that I tend to for­get all about for months on end be­fore re­dis­cov­er­ing it anew every time.

I’ve been tak­ing my time with Soul Bubbles, and have more than half of it (read: years of en­joy­ment) left to go!

Mother/EarthBound se­ries (Nintendo NES/SNES/GBA) Enough has been writ­ten about this se­ries of quirky, rather un-RPG-like RPGs, which have at­tract­ed a cult-like fol­low­ing. Thus, I’ll of­fer on­ly this quick as­sess­ment: the fact that English-speaking gamers have the op­por­tu­ni­ty to play any of the three games should be enough to make a fan thank their lucky stars.

While it could be said that three games re­leased over the course of fif­teen years ef­fec­tive­ly nul­li­fies any sup­posed rar­i­ty… hey, you know what? Fuck you. Nintendo trans­lat­ed Mother and then prompt­ly shelved the English ver­sion, Mother 2 (EarthBound) re­ceived one stinker of a U.S. mar­ket­ing cam­paign, and the English trans­la­tion of Mother 3 had to be un­der­tak­en by a team of in­cred­i­bly de­vot­ed fans.

Mother games in English are some mighty fine wine.

Cave Story (Windows, WiiWare, et al.) Cave Story is the work of one ded­i­cat­ed am­a­teur over the course of five years… work that was sim­ply giv­en away for free as a Windows game, and lat­er port­ed to a hand­ful of pop­u­lar plat­forms by fans.

I start­ed Cave Story a few times over the years, but the lack­lus­ter Linux port kept putting me off of it; I knew I should wait for a good port to be avail­able for a plat­form I use. The WiiWare ver­sion was re­leased a few months back, and the rest is his­to­ry. After years of an­tic­i­pa­tion, I swilled this one down in a de­cid­ed­ly non-fine-wine manner.


Whether games or oth­er me­dia, what do you con­sid­er to be your fine wine?
  1. Initially, the idea I had was that a game of this sort (it was Zack & Wiki that brought this to mind) would be en­joy­able to play quite lit­er­al­ly with a glass of wine, as this is the sort of game that would be best en­joyed at a re­lax­ing pace, in a chill at­mos­phere. But last week­end, I in­stead start­ed think­ing of these games metaphor­i­cal­ly; the game it­self is the wine. I liked that thought, and knew I had to write this post.

How to kick your own ass

So last night I was let­ting my mind wan­der while sit­ting around play­ing some Cave Story,1 try­ing to de­cide whether I should blog the sto­ry of how I learned the word “res­i­dence” (yes, these are the things you think about when you are me), when I had a fun­ny thought. Yes, a sec­ond one.

It went a bit like “Everett, you could share bits like that on your blog, but you do re­al­ize that in do­ing so, you’re can­ni­bal­iz­ing con­tent that you could be sav­ing up for the mem­oir you may one day write, right?”

I chuck­led at the thought and con­clud­ed that the sto­ry of how I learned the word “res­i­dence” may not, af­ter all, make for that great a blog post. But in an­oth­er mo­ment of in­sight, I took my sec­ondary thought to its log­i­cal con­clu­sion: if I were se­ri­ous about con­sid­er­ing writ­ing a mem­oir (and I wasn’t), per­haps at this point in my life I should wor­ry more about who would even want to read such a book.

That’s not to put down my life and those who have played a role in shap­ing it, but… sor­ry you guys, I just don’t think it would make a com­pelling book. And a life spent sit­ting around won­der­ing if I should write a book about my life seems even fur­ther away from a life worth writ­ing about.

I won­dered if maybe this prin­ci­ple (one wor­ry­ing more about some po­ten­tial fu­ture, at the ex­pense of the present, which could be bet­ter used to get one to their de­sired fu­ture) is some­thing that a lot of peo­ple do, some­thing that has broad­er im­pli­ca­tions than some hy­po­thet­i­cal, self-indulgent tome. Consider the ex­am­ple of rel­a­tive­ly not-well-off peo­ple who op­pose that which would be ben­e­fi­cial to them, by, say, hav­ing po­lit­i­cal lean­ings that do more for those who are much bet­ter off than they are. Why would they do this? Do they ac­tu­al­ly think they’re like­ly to be in that oth­er class some­day? Planning on win­ning the lot­tery, much?

It’s one thing to plan for the fu­ture. But it’s an­oth­er to fetishize some out­come that, be re­al with your­self, is un­like­ly to hap­pen… and is all the less like­ly, yet, if you sit around day­dream­ing about it.

  1. Awesome, awe­some game. Free down­load here for Windows/Mac/Linux/etc. or buy it for $12 on WiiWare.