Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Yes, there was indeed a time I was married. Yes, we had children. No, none of them were mine. They were four boys (aged six through nine) from her previous marriage. At one point, one of the boys informed me that “I would be cool if I played video games.”
No doubt the inspiration for this comment was his uncle, who was single (just as I am), living alone (as I am today), and largely spent his time playing video games (unlike me, who today spends my time largely watching movies).
God, I’ve become him.
They were children. Their opinions are tempered by youth and inexperience, but I got to thinking about their uncle and the whole relationship he had with his games. Now, this isn’t meant to sound as arrogance or ignorance. I know that the things I’m about to discuss don’t really matter to kids, and I don’t take it personally. I also understand that the boys had a much stronger relationship with their uncle, who is of the same blood, than with me as their stepfather.
But here they are comparing the accomplishments of their uncle with me. I had my doctorate, attained the level of full professor, met Nobel Laureates and Soviet Union Generals (well, one, anyway, but a few Nobel Laureates), published research articles and more. Their uncle probably held high scores in several games. I’m not sure if he went to college or not, but he did have a wholly unimpressive career.
Now ignore all of that. It sounds like bragging. The point I really want to make is the choice that he, that I, that we all have had on how we are to spend our time. To be honest, if I went and asked him about it, he would no doubt be happy with the way he spent his life. It was low stress, and he had fun. But it never would have been enough for me.
I spent my time playing video games. Heck, I grew up in the days of video arcades, and saw the introduction of game systems bringing those games into the home. Yes, I’ve had game systems, but I also know that I tend to play them all too much for several months, and then rarely touch them until they’re outdated. I just don’t get into the virtual world.
On the other hand, I’ve made my real world something astounding. Sadly, I’ve traveled this world alone, but I have traveled far, at least figuratively if not literally although now that I’m retired I plan to travel far literally as well. When I do play video games, I tend to spend far too much time trying to accomplish that one next thing and put my life on hold. How can I find the time to do anything real when I’m so embroiled in the virtual world? Yesterday (as of the writing of this post) I picked up a Gibson Les Paul guitar. What I do not have is the guitar video games where the idea is to press the peddle at the correct time while pushing the correct buttons. As much effort as people put into that game, why don’t they just learn guitar, and maybe impress somebody with beautiful music? How many people with real talent will never know, and never be able to share that talent with the world, because they’re stuck trying to get the virtual audience to cheer louder?
Here’s an odd concept. You can play video games in the virtual world or play life as if it is a video game in the real one. With every accomplishment in life, I’ve worked to achieve the next level. Finishing high school, the next level was college. Finishing college, I tried the industrial level. When I realized that I had probably gone as far as that would take me, I jumped over to the graduate level. In the graduate level, I finished my doctorate, and so forth. Each new level came with new challenges, amazing side quests, and great accomplishments of their own.
It’s not my intention to judge or insult anybody for the lifestyle they’ve chosen. I just personally believe that there are so many fascinating and wonderful things to accomplish in this world that jumping into a virtual one seems difficult to fathom. The virtual world has a habit of taking a bite out of real life, taking time away from family, education, work and more. I wonder if gamers ever think about what they could do with their time if they gave up their gaming lives. Maybe for them it’s not worth it. For me, gaming to be “cool” isn’t worth it.