Monday, December 10, 2012

Not a Message from Our Sponsors

An open letter addressed to no one in particular. Just something that finally needed to be said, once and for all.

Dear Friends,

I love you all.

And it must be said, because it's starting to get annoying: I don't play games.

I don't play video games. I don't play computer games. I don't play online games. I don't gamble. I don't do RPGs or MMORPGs. I never have. I have no interest. I never did. I'm just not interested. Period.

At age 13 or 14, I was invited by junior high school friends to play Dungeons & Dragons for an afternoon, and I have never since been so bored again in my entire life. (In fact I never get bored. There's too much art to make.) The last video game I ever played, either in an arcade or on a computer, was Tetris. (In other words, long ago.) Yes, I do love the "Tron" movies. Yes, I have enjoyed playing on antique, physical pinball machines. ("Black Hole" was a favorite.) I also enjoyed some of those original 8-bit arcade games. ("Asteroids.")

However, I am not now nor have I ever been a gamer. Yes, I know that some friends believe that because I'm a computer-savvy geek and a nerd on several scientific and artistic fronts, therefore I must play computer games. I don't. Yes, I do enjoy playing other games, such as Scrabble, or Battleship. I even own a fine chess set, even though I suck at chess. (I suck at most strategic games like chess, however I am an adept and adaptive on-field tactician.)

As a computer-based creative professional, I often spend the entire day working on the computer. The very LAST thing I want to do when I end my work day (or night) is get back on the computer and play some kind of game. For me computer games are the exact opposite of relaxing.

We all live too much of our lives staring at one kind of screen or another. As a computer-based creative professional, I spend as much time as I can making art. Yes, that often includes looking at the little preview screen on the camera(s). However, when I'm out taking a camera walk, I often don't look at the screen, I just shoot and examine later. The many screens we all look at all day long need to be set aside from time to time. Just go look at the sky, or trees, for gods' sake.

So, friends, I love you all. Please take nothing that I say here as a personal attack. It isn't.

Just please stop inviting me to play stupid games. I'm just not interested.

Thank you. That is all.

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

I’m the same, Art. The last games I had any real interest in—apart from those I wrote myself for the Sinclair Spectrum—were Pac Man and Tetris (saw a most interesting documentary about the history of Tetris a few months back) and I still enjoy both of these on occasion but I never caught the gaming bug and the only games I ever play nowadays are of a similar standard to these two. I have a version of Snake that I play from time to time—I go through phases—and I’ve found a couple of games on my tablet that can keep me amused for ten or fifteen minutes—there’s a nice word puzzle I enjoy—but the idea of spending hour upon hour playing a game seems like such a waste of time and energy these days. I’m also very competitive—what’s the point in playing if you’re not trying to win?—and I don’t like that side of myself; Carrie and I have never played as much as a hand of cards. Many years ago, when I had a much larger circle of friends, I was called in to play one of them who’d been beating everyone at Trivial Pursuit. I did beat her—by the smallest margin possibly (so it was very exciting for my friends)—but I hated myself afterwards.

My son-in-law has a number of games consoles and I get him something every Christmas and I do enjoy looking to see what there’s out there but not since The Sims has any of them attracted me. Actually that’s not true. They attract me in the same way as most packaging attracts me—I do enjoy a good packet—but I know the contents would bore me within minutes. The only game I’ve ever bought was the slightly Python-esque Starship Titanic because of the involvement of Douglas Adams but I tired of it quickly and gave it to my daughter who probably did too.

Screens do dominate our lives, don’t they? Life cut down into handy rectangular chunks. I don’t own a smartphone and have no plans to get one. Like you when I’m outside—which I know is far less than you—I take an interest in my surroundings or as much of an interest as anyone can take in what surrounds me; it’s not like I live in Venice or anything. I don’t even take my iPod-thingy with me these days either and I used to never be without my CD-player in the past.

5:16 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

It's interesting that you mention competitiveness, as on further reflection that is also another reason I don't play games. But my reason is the opposite of yours: I hate feeling competitive. I'm anti-competition. I far prefer games that emphasize cooperation or collaboration. It's the same in the arts for me. I like to collaborate, and I think competitiveness between artists is a stupid waste of energy. Artist of all people should understand that creativity is an infinite resource rather than a scarce one. Scarcity thinking is all about fear, really.

Also, if I play a game it's just to be playing, not necessarily to win. I often don't care if I "win" or "lose." On those rare occasions I might go bowling with some friends, for example, I suck so bad at bowling anyway that I just don't care. I'm there to have fun and play, and cheer on my friends, and be social. (I go bowling maybe once or twice a year, max.)

12:59 PM  
Blogger awyn said...

My computer-technician mate installed a Scrabble game program for me, where you can play against a software-generated opponent named Ronan. It is virtually impossible to win against Ronan. Plus, Ronan cheats. I once used a word that the Scrabble program insisted was not a word -- only to have "Ronan" use the VERY SAME WORD a few plays later, for which he (it) got credit. The program also offers you the opportunity to play against yourself. Which is extremely weird, and no fun at all. Games are supposed to be challenging or relaxing. I just found this one frustrating and annoying--and like you said, a complete waste of time.

I also don't like activities where you're "timed". Those make some people better at something, faster. For me, the adreneline rush is unnerving, as if I haven't prepared properly and I'm suddenly being asked to perform. Oops, time's up: you die. There are too many games going on in real life, from which you're trying to deconnect yourself, to spend endless hours locked in game-mode for leisure.

(Not to say that playing with words isn't sometimes fascinating -- but that's a creative endeavor, not simply blasting digital zombies with a joystick or participating in imaginary war games. Although I once tried a race-car game, which I lost, of course, after crashing into a guardrail, a highway post, and a tree, which proved I can't handle driving an unfamiliar car at high speeds (but I already knew that). For those who like that sort of thing, well, that's the sort of thing they like. It's just weird the mindset where (in a game) gamers find it hilarious to mow down digital pedestrians or crash into police cars. "It's only a game..."

7:39 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

I'm with you about the timed games. I actually perform more poorly the more I'm stressed by the circumstances, so I didn't always test well in school, and I could never do well in a TV game like "Jeopardy," even though I have often sat at home watching it on TV and knew 90 percent of the answers before the contestants did. So if I'm relaxed and don't feel pressured, I test well. But timed games, not so much.

I think I was in 8th grade (age 13 to 14) when I was invited to join the chess club. I sucked at chess, as I've said, and still do, but I was smart and geeky which of course is why I joined. It was friendly fun, at least. Some of the guys were into speed chess, which I avoided by choice.

As a poet, I actually don't find myself having much use for word games either. "Fooling with words" as some have called it. When many poets talk about that, they're talking about playing with words and meanings, moving things around, punning, etc. To me if often seems very intellectual and ultimately not very meaningful. Often very surface-oriented and superficial. Nonetheless, I do agree that it's a creative endeavor, and much more interesting than video games.

Play and improvisation, as in music, on the other hand, often lead one towards something one can go deeper with. Where I differ strongly with, say, the Language Poets (or the so-called Cambridge School) is that I might use "fooling with words" to get me started, and to find my way under the surface of things—like the Surrealists and Dadas used dreams and irrationality to look behind the curtain of the normative world and go into the unconscious. In practice, what this means for me is that I might just free-write for awhile, putting down whatever comes to mind, then when I find a thread to grab and pull on that takes me deeper, I'll throw away most of what I wrote prior to that thread—and in my experience, many of the Language Poets stop as soon as they catch that thread, and keep everything they've written up to that point. Similar techniques, opposite results.

But that kind of writing is another game I just have no interest in playing.

10:33 AM  

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