Category Archives: Philosophy

Brief Thoughts

I haven’t been feeling the writing bug much lately, but that probably comes as no surprise. Work, combined with the dog, has me using enough mental energy that when I get home I don’t want to do much other than play video games.

So I’ve been working on that a lot. Mostly on not feeling bad about enjoying myself when “wasting” time on games, and I’ve actually been relatively successful recently. I’m slowly but surely working my way through my backlog, and doing so actually fills me with a sense of progress and accomplishment. After all, if I’m not gaming just to pass the time but to accomplish something, that seems to sit better with my overdeveloped conscience. And it’s not like I’m neglecting my other duties; I’m still walking the dog, doing my job, and making it to SCA practices.

That’s the other thing: I worry that if I “game too much” I won’t be a Productive Member of Society (whatever that means). But in reality, I already am a reasonably responsible adult. I have a full time job, I pay my share of the bills, and I generally do a good job taking care of myself and those close to me. So why should I worry about anything past that?

The funny thing, though, is that if I tell myself “stop worrying about how much you game,” I then start worrying about my inability to do that. So I end up just giving myself something else to worry about. So I’m not going to do that. I’m going to strive to just enjoy myself, passing my free time how I see fit. And if I miss the occasional blog post, I’m going to try not to sweat it too much.

We’ll see how that goes.


So I’m coming to the realization that my hope of having a large chuck of time to set aside to build things is probably in vain. And of course, all the other issues I talked about yesterday are still in play. So I’m going to try my hand at working on my new computer piecemeal, a few minutes here or there in the morning or evening as I get them. After all, I’ve read all the manuals I could (including the descriptions of BIOS features that I can’t use yet), so I’m pretty much stalling at this point.

Maybe this is for the best, though. I have an unfortunate tendency to involuntarily fixate on the “big picture” of a problem, and can have trouble breaking it down into manageable steps. My desire to do things all in one sitting could be a reflection of this. It could also be a result of my perfectionism.

So my waiting for the “perfect” time to build my computer is likely overly idealistic. Part of being an adult, after all, is making the best of less than ideal situations. I’m learning that one the hard way. So I’m going to try and do things as I can. And even better, rather than doing them so I can write about them, or look back later and say “yep, I experienced that thing,” I’m going to try and actually experience the… well, experience. Far too often I’ve found myself worried so much about remembering something or preserving an experience for posterity I forget to actually enjoy myself. It’s like people who take a trip halfway around the world and then view everything through the tiny viewfinder of their camera.

So that’s where I’m at. I’m telling perfection to bugger off, and to take not-being-present (or whatever you’d call it) with it. I’m gonna do what I can, when I can, and hopefully things will turn out alright and I’ll enjoy it along the way.

To that effect, I took my motherboard out of the box and antistatic bag this morning! And I mounted my power supply in the case the night before! Yaaay, this doesn’t sound lame at all!


Gaming Vicariously

It’s shaping up to be A Week.  People are in town from the home office, I started off the week with a sleep debt, and I’ve got a fair amount of sewing to do.  If this post seems a bit disjointed, that’s probably why.

I like video games.  But like many people, I don’t have as much time to play them as I’d like.  So rather than lament my lack of free time, I’ve been trying something different lately: I’ve been listening to people talk about video games!

That is to say, I’ve been listening to The Diecast, a podcast where people talk about video games and the games industry.  It’s been pretty fun.  And while it doesn’t scratch the itch the same way that actually playing games does, doing so has allowed me to engage with my hobby in a productive, safe-for-work manner.

I often try to put something on in the background while I’m drafting.  Sometimes it’s music, sometimes it’s podcasts.  Depending on what sort of work I’m doing, different things can help my productivity in various ways.  Podcasts are nice because they’re interesting and engaging, but not so much you need to be paying attention all the time.  This one is nice because it’s really just a conversation amongst friends, and while the discussions can sometimes get technical, they’re not too engrossing that it distracts me from my work.

Well, or so I hope.

And they really do have interesting things to say.  I’m slowly but surely working my way through the backlog, and the gaming news is becoming more and more current.  I will say it’s also contributed to my backlog problem, as I’ve picked up a few of the games mentioned throughout the various segments.  But it’s refreshing to hear from people that are both passionate about gaming and interested in its more philosophical and artistic aspects.

Because that’s something we don’t really get enough of, in my opinion.  I know it’s something I don’t do enough of.  But I think my recent attempts to reconcile my collecting habits with my playing habits has caused me to think more and more along these lines.  After all, most of my angst comes when I think of games as nothing more than throwaway entertainment.  But when you think of them as having more cultural cachet, of having something to say, it can go a long way towards not feeling guilty.  At least, that’s what it does for me.

And since I can’t spend as much time as I’d like gaming, the least I can do is think about games and encourage other people who do the same.


I’ve been thinking a bit about my video game collection, and how it really isn’t feasible to play all of them. But at the same time, there‘s something to be said for the simple act of collecting, of building up a library. And that got me thinking: maybe the reason I feel so weird about my video game collection is that, unlike my book collection, it’s largely virtual.

There’s something to be said for wandering through a room where every wall is lined with books. The image of a private library is one that still holds a lot of cachet in our culture. At some point, a library becomes less about the individual books and more about the collection. A book collection is something to be proud of. To put on display. To overwhelm others with your learnedness.

It’s harder to do that with a virtual collection. Sure, I can tell people I have over 400 games attached to my Steam account, along with the over 60(!) in my GOG library, but I can’t exactly take someone on a tour through all of those titles like I can my books, or even my console and physical-media PC games.

So that feeling of tangible investment is missing. I’ve started brainstorming ways I could address that, and one of the ideas I came up with is putting together a “display collection,” where I could take empty DVD or CD jewel cases, print out “box art” for the various titles, and then put them all on a shelf. It would look pretty neat, no? But then I realized that spending that much money on empty plastic and printed paper would be silly. Maybe if I burned backups of the game files to a DVD? No, that would also be a waste of resources when I can just download everything on demand. Besides, there’s no way I have that much shelf space.

I did find a neat little utility, however, called SteamHeaderDownlader, which can generate a collage of all your Steam games. So now at least I have a giant, chaotic collage on my computer desktop of all the Steam games I own.

But I guess the real epiphany I had is that there’s something to the act of collecting in and of itself that can be enjoyable. Of having things for the sake of the aggregate whole, rather than individually. Collecting can have its own merits; in fact, I’d miss a lot of my things if all I had was what was “necessary.” The cruft we accumulate is what can make life interesting.

Never Enough

Having just made it through another Steam Sale (right on the tail of a GOG sale and a Humble Bundle or two, of course) slightly poorer, I got to thinking about why I continue to buy games. Because let’s be honest: I’m not likely to ever be able to play all of them. So why do I do it?

Maybe it’s some sort of collector’s instinct. A lot of the games I pick up are “classics,” or are at least titles that I’ve come across over the years that piqued my interest for one reason or another. And if I have those games in my collection, at least there’s a possibility that I might actually experience them one day.

Maybe it’s some sort of purchaser’s compulsion, where the steep discounts short-circuit some inhibition routine in my brain that causes me to think “Sure, you’re never likely to play it, but 75% off! You’re not spending $5, you’re saving $15!”

Maybe it’s my way of supporting the work of developers and programmers I appreciate. Sure, maybe I never get around to playing their work, but they still have my money. I know there are games I’ve bought on general principle because I liked what they set out to do.

And to be honest, I really don’t like admitting to myself that I’m not likely to get to all of my games. But it’s an unfortunate truth. When you get down to it, I really don’t have as much time for gaming as I think. Really, Mondays are my only free night to myself. Tuesday is taken up by Agents of SHIELD, Wednesdays are… you know what, I’m sure I’ve talked about this before, and I don’t really want to belabor the point yet again. Suffice it to say, between my various hobbies, interpersonal relationships, and adult responsibilities, the amount of “game time” I have is limited.

But what can you do? I don’t want to sacrifice the SCA or my friends and family “just to play games” (and yes, I admit there is some judgment in the use of “just”). And just as I’m going to keep all my hobbies, I’m not likely to stop purchasing games any time soon. I suppose I’ll just have to be content with the fact that I’m not blowing huge wads of cash on things I’m never going to touch, while at the same time remembering to still have fun. After all, I picked up all the games in my collection for a reason. They piqued my interest in some way, and will likely still do so whenever I get around to experiencing them.

Wanting To Escape

I’ve been thinking a bit about why my night of checking out earlier this week was so effective in helping me relax and recharge. After all, I spent the evening playing video games; isn’t that a “bad” thing to do? Isn’t that a “waste” of my time? Does the fact that I was that desperate to play video games speak to some unhealthy habit on my part?

I’ve touched on this before, but I have an odd relationship with video games. I really enjoy them, but growing up they were framed to me as an inconsequential pastime, something to be experienced in small doses so they didn’t interfere with more worthy pursuits. And I think I internalized the whole “games don’t have many redeeming qualities” thing a little too well, so there’s a part of me that always feels a little guilty indulging in one of my big hobbies.

But the more I think about it, I think my break earlier this week was less about playing video games and more about escaping. Video games, in addition to letting us feel a sense of accomplishment, also provide us with an alternate world to experience and enjoy, in the same way that fiction books, television, and movies do. And I think that’s more what I needed: an escape, a break from the day-to-day world that had been demanding a level of engagement that was starting to break me down.

I also think that there was a slightly more petulant reason behind my night off: not having been able to sit down and play video games for a while. Remember back to when you were a young kid (or your last dealings with a child). What was the best way to get you to want to do something? That’s right, telling you you couldn’t. Suddenly, that thing you were only slightly interested in became a much bigger thing because it was verboten. Want a cookie? Well, not that you can’t have one, you really want it. Can’t play with that toy? Well, it might as well be the end of the world.

So I think my need for a video game binge resulted from a number of factors. One, I was running very low on spoons. Two, I needed to escape from the inconvenient reality of normal life for a while. And three, I wanted to play video games because I hadn’t been able to. Luckily I got some time in, and I’m feeling much better. And I also don’t have to do much this weekend, so that should help even more. Plus, next week is a short week because of the Turkey Day celebrations. So if everything goes well, I might have enough mental energy to successfully navigate the holiday festivities. And that’s a good thing.

Deep Nerds

I think of myself as pretty nerdy.  I read sci-fi/fantasy, play video games, and spend a lot of time on the computer.  I am also fairly introverted, shy around new people, and think of myself as relatively socially inept and awkward.  But holy cow, did Mile Hi Con remind me that things aren’t as bad as they could be.

You know that stereotypical nerd that makes us all cringe?  The one with no brain-to-mouth-filter, who thinks that everything they say is inordinately clever?  The one with no sense of personal space or voice modulation?  That deep, dark thing that we other nerds feel the need to emphasize that we’re not “like that” whenever we’re talking about our interests to someone who might not share them?

They exist.

I had thought that maybe, maybe these Deep Nerds were a thing of the past, where as it became more socially acceptable to be into “nerdy” things they would fade into myth.  Or that maybe they were always mythical, an exaggeration put forward by unfriendly parties.  But no, I stand corrected.  There still exists a class of nerd that experiences very little human contact, and because of this, is often forgotten until they wander out of their barrows and into the light of day to answer the siren call of a convention.

I’m being overdramatic, I know.  But like I said, I fancy myself pretty nerdy, and it was a shock to realize there are people that make me look like a social butterfly by comparison.  And you know what the worst part is?  I can see parts of myself in them.  As if “there but for the grace of friends and family go I.”  I can see how, had my path been only slightly different, I could have ended up among them, rather than pitying them from the outside.

Because as annoying as some of them are (and believe me, there was a really annoying one at the con), Deep Nerds are still to be pitied.  Much like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings (the books, you philistine).  And because of that pity, part of me feels bad for denigrating them.  But as tragic as the effects of having no social interaction outside the gaming group you’ve had since middle school may be, it doesn’t make them any less annoying.  And I feel bad that seeing people like that makes me feel better about myself.

Where Do We Go From Here?

One of the reasons I started this blog was because I needed an intellectual outlet. Working at Costco was mind numbing in the truest sense: a half-trained monkey could have done my job. Sure, interacting with customers and asking questions about electronics took some engagement, but I quickly developed a patter, a series of small sound bites I could string together to simulate a conversation without having to actually engage my brain. And don’t get me started on pushing carts or stocking merchandise. Grunt labor at its finest.

Needless to say, this was a huge shift from grad school, where I was spending almost my entire day thinking about something or other. Even at work, when it was slow in the computer lab, I could find interesting stuff to read online or chip away at the ever-looming pile of homework. Have you ever been riding a bike, pedaling hard in a high gear, when suddenly the chain slips off the sprocket? That feeling of there suddenly being no resistance? I went through a mental version of that.

Blogging helped me reengage those gears. It gave me something to mull over, to toss back and forth in my head while on the job (when I wasn’t just too tired to think). It gave me something to do. And it was great! I went from being fairly listless and bored most of the time to only being listless and bored every once in a while (I was still working at Costco, after all; there’s only so much better about things I could feel). And I’m pretty proud of myself for keeping up with it for as long as I have.

But now that I’ve changed jobs, my level of mental engagement has also changed. I’m suddenly having to mentally exert myself again, and now it’s more akin to having accidentally slipped into a higher gear while going up a hill (my bike is a little old and has a few quirks). I’m spending most of the day drafting, and the learning curve alone is leaving me pretty spent.

So what does that mean for this blog? I don’t know. I know that I don’t have as much mental time/space/energy/whatever to devote to things as I used to, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the posts get slightly more inconsequential and banal. I do still want to continue, though.

I guess it comes back to the question of who am I writing for. Am I writing for an audience? Then I have to worry about keeping things interesting, and writing things people want to read. Am I writing for myself? Then it shouldn’t matter what I write.

I tend to forget to do the latter, and all too often worry about doing the former. I’m not sure how to fix this (see previous comment about mental energy), or if it’s even a problem at all. In all honesty, I’d probably do well to remind myself about the name of this blog, as well as that thing about hatched chickens being able to do math.

Have ALL The Fun!

Although it may not seem like it, I have a lot of hobbies.  I read.  I write.  I play video games.  I watch the occasional show on Netflix or (very rarely) TV.  Plus all the stuff I do as part of the SCA: heavy fighting, fencing, archery, costuming, camping, et cetera.  I have all these things calling out for a small fraction of my free time, and that’s without taking into account working for a living and the basic upkeep required to live like a proper human being.

I bring this all up because I’ve had something of an epiphany lately.  In the past, I would look around at other people in my life, be they family or friends, coworker or acquaintances, and reflexively start comparing my accomplishments to theirs.  I would look at friends who seem to do a bunch more with their time, who seem to be much more accomplished than I’ve managed to be.  Whether I’ve wanted to or not, I’ve been worried about keeping up with the metaphorical Joneses.

This has been exacerbated throughout the years in that I’ve often surrounded myself with friends and other people that are older than me.  Sure, age differences matter less and less as you age, but after a certain point you can’t get past the fact that more time means more done.  I tend to forget this, much to my detriment.

But I’m getting sidetracked from the point I wanted to make.  And that’s this: sure, I may not be as “productive” (whatever that actually means is left as an exercise to the reader) as some of my friends.  But while we may have some hobbies and interests that overlap, I don’t know what else they have going on in their life.  I don’t know if they’re focusing exclusively on one activity above all others.  I don’t know if they’re using skills that just come naturally to them.  I don’t know, and I can’t know.

But I do know this: I have a lot of interests, a lot of things that make me happy.  I shouldn’t feel guilty spending time doing something that I don’t see my friends doing.  And since there’s a finite amount of time during the day, of course I’m going to have to invest less time in each activity if I want to keep up with them all.

I suppose that this is yet another way of me coming to terms with the fact that yes, it’s okay to play video games.  Growing up, my video game time was limited; like I’ve said before, I don’t begrudge that.  But there was still a background opinion that video games didn’t have many redeeming qualities, that playing them was just a way to pass the time.  It was never outright stated, but somehow I ended up internalizing this philosophy.  And I’d really like to move past that.  I’m tired of feeling guilty about enjoying my time with video games.  I don’t like the fact that it makes me feel like I’ve wasted time.  I shouldn’t resent my own hobbies!

But I think I’m managing to make my first few shaky, timid steps towards that point.  That epiphany that I had earlier?  It was that I do have a lot of hobbies, along with the realization that I do enjoy them all.  And that enjoyment makes them valid.  And as a result, I shouldn’t feel bad if I’m not as “productive” as someone else as long as I had fun along the way.  After all, beating a video game is still an accomplishment.

So screw you, dark internal voices overly concerned with outward appearance and the accomplishments of others.  I’m an adult, and will do what I want!

So Long And Thanks For All The Creepers

So, apparently Microsoft has bought Mojang, the creators of Minecraft. I’ll let that sink in for a bit.

Back? Good. Now, I’m just as surprised as everyone else, and while I’m sure I won’t have too much new to add to things, I want to take a minute to sort through my thoughts.

For those of you who don’t know what Minecraft is, you’re really missing out. It’s like a world made out of virtual LEGO that has taken the Internet by storm over the last few years. It started out as a small project by a single developer, and has since managed to sell over 16 billion copies on the PC alone (it’s also been ported to consoles and smartphones). It’s the ultimate indie gaming success story. And the company founded by the creator of Minecraft just got purchased for $2.5 billion.

That’s a lot of Sagans.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you who Microsoft is. If you use Windows, then you know. If you use Mac or Linux, you still know. Chances are if you grew up even remotely techy around the turn of the century, you may even think of Microsoft as the Great Satan, defiler of all that is pure and holy on the digital frontier. You may think that Microsoft’s purchase signals the death knell of a wondrous ecosystem of creativity and community that has sprung up around one man’s labor of love.

I’ll admit it, my knee-jerk reaction to the news was much the same. I even went so far as to dismiss the rumors that started to surface last week, as something out of a bad dream. And when I saw those rumors confirmed today, my heart sank. “Great,” I thought. “Another unique gem of the Internet subsumed into the monolithic gray mass of Microsoft. A light has gone out in the universe.”

And while a part of me is still worried, my opinion started to change the more I read about the deal. While it can be hard to parse through the inevitable marketing gobbledygook, it may be possible that this Microsoft is not the same one that we had in the 90’s and 00’s. After all, Microsoft Office is available on a wide variety of platforms, including Mac OS X, iOS, and Android (sure, you need a subscription for the last few, but let’s leave that aside for now).

But what really made me stop and reconsider was the letter from Notch, Minecraft’s original creator. I’d urge you to go read the note. It’s the words of an individual who only wanted to make games, and found himself thrust onto a world stage he didn’t expect, let alone want. Add to the unwanted limelight the fact that the Internet is not the kindest of places on the best of days, and you’ve got a recipe for disillusionment and burnout. As an introvert myself, that’s something I can relate to all too well. I hate being the center of attention at something as small as a local birthday party; I can’t imagine being an actual celebrity.

And while I may feel leery of the change a large corporation may bring to the indiest of indie games, I can really relate on a personal level to Notch’s feelings. I don’t begrudge him his decision; in fact, if this sale lets him pursue his passions (as I’m sure Minecraft has made him fairly wealthy), then I can only be happy for him. It’s sad that it’s come to this, and while I fear change as much as the rest of you, it is an inescapable part of life.

So while you may worry, don’t despair. Maybe I’m being overly naive; maybe I’m letting my optimism get the better of me. But if the only alternative is throwing a tantrum and burning the proverbial house down around me, I’ll take hope any day.

Good luck, Mr. Persson. May you find the quiet, happy life you so desire. And thank you.