I was re-reading this post from Twenty Sided and it got me thinking. I’ve been playing video games for over 20 years, since I was probably about 5 or 6. I have fond memories of playing Felix the Cat and Duck Hunt at an out-of-state cousin’s house (did you know that shooting ducks is really easy if you put the gun right up against the screen?). My first console was a Super NES, which came bundled with Super Mario World. My parents, in what I still think was a smart decision, limited my gaming sessions to 30 minutes so that it wouldn’t consume my life and eclipse my other pastimes, like reading, being kicked outside to play and reading under a tree, and trying in vain to read at the kitchen table. But I digress.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I grew up gaming, so I never really had to think about how to play; I was young enough that I soaked it up like a sponge and it became second nature. I never had to deliberately put in the time to literally re-learn how to walk, how to jump, et cetera. My hands slip just as easily into WASD format as they do into the home keys for typing. Contrast this with my girlfriend, who didn’t really play games until we started gaming together with games like LEGO Star Wars. I looked at the game and thought “Oh, this is a platformer, albeit in 3D. Let’s go have fun!” She, on the other hand, had to hike up the learning curve from the long way round. She’s gotten (much) better since then, but I’m not sure gaming controls will ever be as second nature as they are for me.
But I don’t think this only applies to gaming. I think it is very easy to forget the process we went through to obtain a skill, especially if we started very young. I mentioned reading; in my case, another example would be martial arts. I have done martial arts in some form or another since I was seven. I’ve done Taekwondo for 13 years, SCA heavy combat for 10, and SCA fencing for close to 8 (it’s shocking when you actually lay out the numbers). That said, I don’t really think much about how I fight; I just do what comes “naturally.” But that article got me thinking: is it really natural, what I do? Or has it just been so long since I started that I take it for granted?
This was thrown into sharp relief for me when my fencing mentor was talking to me about what kind of fighter he saw me as. He said I was a very “technical” fighter, and my first reaction was along the lines of what I said above: “No, I just do what comes naturally.” But listening to him describe what he saw, I thought about it some more and saw where he was coming from. I do think a lot when I fight, It’s just not usually conscious thought at this point. I plan, I scheme, I form objectives. And that’s something I hadn’t realized about myself until I was able to get some outside perspective. I find that fascinating.
It also raises the question: what else do I (and others) take for granted? How many times do we say “that’s just the way the world works” without remembering to account for our own biases and experience? And as a corollary, is anything absolute? Or is it all relative? If the latter, we would do well to remember it.