I have a problem with “being present,” and it’s an issue that’s seeped into several different aspects of my life, usually not for the better. In large part I blame my current career. Don’t get me wrong, I do love it, but it’s not without its downsides. My job primarily involves the past and the future. On a daily basis I work with the past, writing about it, answering questions about it, and reviewing documents from it. On a daily basis I also work with the future, planning for upcoming projects, budgeting for future needs, and thinking about how to best serve people who’ve yet to cross my path. Living this dichotomy every day for several years has led to me being unable to focus in the here and now. Even as I sit and write this post, I’m thinking about the next one, and how I still haven’t fixed that typo in that post I wrote a month ago. My brain always feels like it’s being pulled backwards and forwards; it’s hardly ever still enough to savor what’s right in front of me. It’s a poor way to live, and I don’t recommend it.
If there’s one thing that used to help me focus on the moment, it was gaming, but that too has become colored by my ill-functioning neurons. Fuckall if I didn’t sit down for a little Xenoblade Chronicles not long ago only to kill any enjoyment I might have had by constantly worrying about switching out team members. Will it affect the game if I don’t?, I kept asking myself while I was getting lost on Valek Mountain.
What if someone suddenly leaves the team and I never see them again??
What if I give them a special item and they suddenly disappear and I never see that item again??
What if…? What if…? WHAT THE HELL IF…???
Needless to say, I was quite upset at myself and at loosing and hour to worrying and not being present enough for the game.
But here’s the funny thing…as it concerns this situation and gaming, that is. I’ve somehow gotten myself into the strange predicament of being in the midst of two pretty major RPGs: Dragon Age: Inquisition and Xenoblade Chronicles (not to mention Chrono Trigger, and a possibly ill-timed choice to start Saints Row IV. And christ, am I ever going to finish Stacking?!) And deciding on which to play in the moment has become damn near impossible because each requires tons of time, focus, and effort in order to progress.
I’m usually pretty good about juggling games. At any given time, I like to have at least a few different games in progress on different systems; that way I don’t have to worry about the “what to play?” question. I play whatever I have going on whatever system is available to me at the moment. And it’s usually worked out that the my selection of handy games spans a couple genres – maybe an RPG on one system, a puzzler on another, a Metroidvania thing on a third, and so on. It keeps things interesting, and helps prevent any possible burnout on one genre or another. It just so happens that the gaming fates have turned away from my usual set up to bring me to this point. (Had I not dicked around with a bad initial playthrough of Inquisition, I probably wouldn’t be baring my soul as such here.)
But here’s the even bigger problem with this scenario. Whenever I do get a couple spare hours to play either Dragon Age: Inquisition and Xenoblade Chronicles, all I want to do is play. Like…until I reach the end. I don’t want to reach a suitable save point. I don’t want to give the poor console a break. I don’t want to stop and smell the goddamn roses. I simply want to play until the game is over. And I can’t. I can’t because bigger responsibilities loom like storm clouds. And at any moment, should my concentration on the game break of even a second, the rain will start pouring.
Did you remember to pay the mortgage this month?
Don’t forget that you have that thing this weekend with your folks!
The upstairs really needs vacuuming. Like…really, really needs it…
Didja… Don’t forget… Gotta remember…
OMFG, SHUT THE HELL UP.
And we’re back to the beginning of this post.
It’s a wretched cycle that forces me into a strange and unpleasant state. Because in that moment of confusion, it’s like I can see myself in three forms: the past form worrying about how I probably won’t get to game any time soon because of more pressing obligations; the present form trying to focus on a complex game with complex characters and a complex story; and the future form that can’t come to terms with the fact that it’s been a month since she picked up a controller (this despite that month having been no less fulfilling). The fact that my present form wants nothing more than the finish a game doesn’t help matters any. I can’t remember the last time I had a day to game; one where I wake up, have breakfast, and play a game with minimal breaks until bedtime. That’s simply an unfathomable luxury, and frankly, one that I truly envy.
But this whole “living in the present” problem isn’t relegated to worrying about life while gaming. It’s directly affecting my ability to game with purpose. As an example, let me take last…no, two weekends ago. That was the last time I played Dragon Age: Inquisition. (I’ve been generally alternating my weekend gaming sessions between Inquisition and XC.) At that point, it had been several weeks since I played the game, and it required an update. While waiting for the update, I seriously questioned whether I should be playing Inquisition at all. I was in the middle of the “Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts” mission, which was full of politics and drama, two things that often cause me to snore loudly while gaming. Ugh. If you really want me to lose interest in something, just pump it full of lengthy discussions concerning “political intrigue.” Ugh, again.
In any event, when I last left that mission, I didn’t like the way things were going. I couldn’t remember who the hell was doing what to whom and for what cause. And I think my character had unintentionally pissed off a number of VIPs. Did I want to start it over? was the question that then came to mind. And as I sat there watching the update roll through, I couldn’t stomach the thought of having to start that damned mission over. I simply didn’t care. And it paralyzed me. It made wonder (once again) if I really cared about the game at all. And then I started thinking about all the other games I could and should play. I got completely lost in the “what if’s” and “what could be’s” that I not only missed the end of the update but then lost nearly another thirty minutes contemplating nothing that mattered right then and there.
I think my brain has lost the ability to separate the bullshit from the bull.
I wish I could say why I’ve sloshed on for over a thousand words about nothing. But I appreciate you taking the time to wade this far through these words. What’s come to the forefront of my mind is that I want to stop all this RPG madness for a bit and simply drive around and shoot people in GTA V again or fly through the skyscrapers of Gotham as I wait for Arkham Knight (which just arrived in the mail). I sincerely want to play The Witcher 3, but damn if I don’t already know its fate if I tried to shoehorn it into my “schedule” now.
I also think I need a vacation. Maybe to game. Also from gaming.