Diverting

18 December, 2006 at 3:14 pm (city of heroes)

City of Villains avatars

I believe deeply in introspection and observation. So my relationship with entertainment that lacks substance, that doesn’t leave the participant or audience with additional cause for reflection, has always been tenuous. I wanted my diversions to be pensive and mulled, like cider. And this blog has always tried to be about sharing observations that had the potential for universality, based in observation of behaviors that are likely to part of a greater human pattern. In the Apologia, Socrates is said to have said that “it is the greatest good for a human being to have discussions every day about virtue and the other things you hear me talking about, examining myself and others“.

And I find myself in the difficult position of having made a choice that runs counter to my training as a human and my instincts as a critic: I am trying not to deeply examine my life just yet. I am fast approaching the close of the fourth month of employment at my new job, and I continue to reserve judgment. Why? Well, I have often espoused that in order to evaluate whether one is satisfied with one’s employment, one has to be doing something again, and not for the first time. Since I’m primarily worked in schools, this has mostly meant that a whole year has to pass until one really has the perspective to start to know whether one’s observations are part of a pattern, or an anomaly based upon the particular cocktail of instances, personalities, and learning curve that has to do with novelty more than enduring aspects of culture and circumstance.

And so despite the fact that I have nimbly leapt to a goodly number of conclusions about my job, I am doing my utmost to ignore these results and allow myself the time to overwrite them, to confirm them to a greater depth, and to allow my first impressions to prove themselves for good or ill. But it’s hard to do. And because it’s contrary to both my instincts as a human and as an individual, I am forced to waste my time in order to prevent myself from lapsing into my normal pattern of pattern recognition. And so I’ve been playing video games to dull my mind.

I’ve written about video games before — numerous times, in fact — but the posts have always been bemused in tone, as I have been surprised at my moderate successes with various encounters with the medium. Basically, I’m a video game spaz, and the ability to focus and not twitch uncontrollably to the point where my avatar dies a gruesome and preventable death always used to be well beyond my abilities. And one of the reasons why I have always resisted the gaming realm has been because of the sheer repetition: do the thing, move the guy, push the buttons, wait until it recharges, repeat, repeat, repeat. Gah. It’s never been my thing.

Mr. Russell: superheroUntil NCSoft’s City of Heroes. Many people tell me that World of Warcraft and Age of Empires IV are both superior in their own particular ways, but boy oh boy do I love City of Heroes and it’s eeeevil counterpart City of Villains. I love the costume configurations. I love the sound effects of the various power signatures. I love just randomly running around a city and beating the crap out of muggers and wizards and zombies and mobsters and trolls. And I am told that once one starts playing with a team, with a trusted crew of online chums, that the game multiplies in the particular aspect that helps create tension and accordant feelings of success and enjoyment: the balance of chance and skill. Beating computerized bad guys is the name of the gaming system, and the odds are stacked in one’s favour; villains coded at your character’s level still are far, far less resilient in combat. But it’s easy to find oneself in a mob, a gang, a coven, and then the odds are very difficult to stay on top of. Even with the most choreographed of combat sequences, there’s always the chance that a healing power won’t grab the necessary boost of power, or that a thundering burst of energy won’t lay the bad guy out flat. And then there’s a scramble to see if the balance will tip against your character. And that’s thrilling. And it doesn’t stop being thrilling no matter how many times it’s repeated and no matter how many times I cycle through Flares, Fireball, Fire Blast, Flares, Fire Breath.

All of which easily enables me to kill hours stretched out in front of the monitor, faux-3D sound enveloping me in a cavalcade of popping and clanking rotors, thrumming bioelectric auras, and the soft thwipping of a well-aimed arrow. Sometimes I spend so much time that when I finally stand up, my whole body is sore from the lack of movement. And yet I will have successfully, to quote Guster, “wasted every moment of [my] Saturdays and [my] Sundays” in order to stave off having to make judgements and reach conclusions about my current state of being. Who ever thought I’d say this, but thank goodness for mindless repetition.

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