The other day while playing GTA V (Grand Theft Auto 5) I borrowed (stole) a jet-ski and went on a tour of the island, enjoying the vivid rendition of waves and water, occasionally crashing onto reefs, trying to evade the local police who seemed to think that my crime warranted my character being shot at and killed.
As I was cursing loudly (don’t worry all my eyeball scraping curses have been edited out) at the police for ruining my wonderfully irresponsible jaunt by being so bothered by such a minor offense compared to the other crimes my character, Trevor (the most debauched of the three characters whom you play as in the game), had committed which sometimes went unnoticed by the authorities, my partner (in video game crime) decided this was the perfect moment to reminisce about our real life.
Punctuating his laughter (or was it mockery) at the mess I was making onscreen, were softly spoken words of warm nostalgia.
“Remember when we spent a long weekend away in that ramshackle hotel in the mountains by a secluded lake…”
“What’s the matter with these people!?! Three stars!?! How can stealing a jet-ski be worth three stars when running over several pedestrians accidentally gets nothing!?! This game is stupid!
“Why are they still chasing me, don’t they ever get bored!?!”
“and the owner took us out on his jet-ski…”
“I didn’t go out on the jet-ski… you went on your own, and I bet you weren’t chased by homicidal cops when you did!”
“Didn’t you? Oh, that’s right, you didn’t want to go…”
“Seriously!!! If I could figure out how to pilot this thing and shoot at the same time… Look at my health bar, I’m almost dead!!! This is ridiculous… I really hate this game!!! And I did want to go on the jet-ski… I just didn’t go on it!”
“Why? It was great fun… you should have…”
“OH GREAT!!! Now I’m dead………..”
Pause for the death ceremony ritual of handing over the controls to other player.
Other player accepts controls and begins to play… more sensibly than their partner in game crime because they’ve bothered to learn the controls rather than just bashing random buttons and twiddling the sticks.
“So why didn’t you go on the jet-ski if you wanted to?”
“Because I do things like that…”
“I like to deprive myself of experiences which I’d like to have… it’s a quirk… which is annoying yet at the same time rather satisfying.”
One of my indulgences in life is playing. I love to play games. Puzzles, enigmas, solving problems, shenanigans, taking on a challenge, anything which my mind finds fun. It isn’t all about distraction and escapism, in fact it is rarely about distraction and escapism… it’s how I learn. I can turn anything into a game, and usually do or my mind switches off which makes it almost impossible to do anything, especially think.
I have learned a lot about myself from playing actual games.
Explored my limits, pushed them, confirmed which ones are definitely worth keeping and which ones were illusory.
Been uninhibited to an extreme due to be able to do things in games which are not possible in real life (at least not for me), free from the consequences of that (okay, maybe my character dies, maybe I have to start a mission from scratch, pay some sort in-game penalty… not always) and found out what it feels like to live and be that way.
I can be people whom I am not and experience life from their perspective, which gives perspective to my own perspective. And by switcheing characters in a game, I learn how to do it in real life which helps me to understand the point of view of others with detachment.
I’ve challenged fears and discovered ways to deal with the stress they induce – I used to experience anxiety shutdown of all faculties when faced with anything which needed me to complete a task within a short time limit. Thanks to video games, I can now adjust my thinking to deal with the rapid ticking of a countdown clock and get the task done instead of getting frozen in time as time passed very quickly. Not always… motivation is key.
I’ve become a better team player. I no longer feel compelled to backseat play.
I’ve trained myself to be more assertive. Do not play a boxing game with me unless you enjoy watching someone do an OTT victory jig. And don’t expect me to let you win, you don’t need me to do that, I’m not that good a player.
I’ve observed how the mind can undermine physical reflexes and how to synchronise the two so they work together.Or not… but the observation of how I psyched myself out and started to lose my confidence which had been buoyant all because of subliminal self-talk during a game of archery on the Wii has left me wondering where else in my life this happens. Data is at this time being gathered to be processed.
And I’ve uncovered hidden impulses, attitudes and behaviours which not only affect my game play, but influence how I am in real life. Some of the tweaks which I’ve made to myself for the sake of improved gaming have rippled into my day-to-day life and improved it too.
Our indulgences can teach us as much about ourselves as resisting our indulgent nature can. They both serve an equal purpose when it comes to personal awareness and evolution. Either one when it becomes unbalanced and tips the inner scales can be harmful to us and to others.
Too much self-control and you begin to try to exert control over everything and everyone in your environment to maintain order, which creates high levels of anxiety for the controller and those with whom they come into contact, until the slightest hint of disruption to the status quo feels like a match to a fuse. Too little self-control and you spill out all over the place flooding the world with your chaos, as you flail out of control in your own spillage, perhaps expecting someone else to save you, tidy up your mess for you, but when they try to help you lash out, drag them under and drown them.
There are so many different kinds of indulgence. Those who think they are indulgence free… that in and of itself is a type of indulgence.
Like with me when I deprived myself of the pleasure of going out on a jet-ski. I was indulging self-deprivation. It felt noble somehow, but it wasn’t. I did not think my partner was less noble than me for indulging in the experience… but I could have because those who indulge in self-deprivation do sometimes look down on those who don’t. However my particular self-indulgent self-deprivation tends to look up to those who do what I don’t, and I encourage others to do what I don’t and won’t do, because I know it’s going to be fun. Sometimes (maybe always) I encourage people to do it… for me. Even when they don’t want to. Luckily I know myself well enough to catch myself red-handed and back off. I didn’t always though… it’s all an evolutionary work in progress.
I love the concept of Fat Tuesday in its Mardi Gras celebration form. A day to set yourself free from your restraints and be a little wild, to embrace and join in with the wildness of others. To let you hair down and let it get messy, to live for the moment and let the good times roll… for a moment or two or three.
“Now Go! I Need To Meditate. Or Masturbate. Or Both.” – Trevor Phillips