Nathan Hwang

01 – The Reluctant Gamer

The first and second days: sacrificed to the gaming gods, they have. It was an easy enough pit to fall into, with what seemed to be a small niggling feeling that I “deserved to have a break”, and that gaming was the perfect way to spend that break. Then, after buying up some games (yes, crazy steam sales got me) and playing for an hour or two, the gaming mechanics hooked into me (have some points! have all the points!), my latent gaming glands kicked into gear, and before I knew it Saturday night had rolled around and I hadn’t written anything yet (hence, this).

If you haven’t already inferred from the tone, I don’t like this turn of affairs. My break from being compelled to do sometimes silly academic things is quite short (maybe I’ll talk about why I’m done with academia another day), and I want to do something useful with it. But looking at what I want to do (cook all the things! write all the things! code all the things!) then it’s less clear that that’s a good thing, since none of my desired activities are purely recreational. The obvious rejoinder “all work and no play makes jack a dull boy” comes to mind, and the objection “fun and useful” comes almost as quickly.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of hedons, perhaps you should go read a bit about them first. tldr; hedon is like a util for feelings. What’s a util? Well, that’s not going to fit in a tldr, so you should just follow the link. I bring up the concept mostly for shorthand, because it fits pretty nicely into an analogy with dieting: gaming offers a burst of cheap short-term hedons, but reading a seminal work of sci-fi offers nearly as many healthy hedons that last much longer: for example, I’m certain no game has not touched me as deeply as Solaris has. And then, when you look past books and look at things like coding, it should share the same deep-seated satisfaction that really good books offer.

Or, maybe I’ll get fewer hedons from coding. Then perhaps I’ll normalize: once I get fewer hedons flowing into my system, then the hedons I do get will satisfy more, analogous to how people that diet on sugar find dark chocolate sweet.

Enough theorizing: how can I change myself to reach my goals? If I could limit myself to playing an hour or so a day, then it might work: I could do other things that day, and not lose momentum on projects. However, I don’t seem to operate well under those conditions (example: reading sprees), so I might have to cut myself off: maybe finish Limbo, crack the mental knuckles, and then start flailing around madly in cyberspace.

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