Adamant introvert, incurable right-brainer, aspiring multipotentialite. Who are you?
If my life were a video game I would call it “Legacy”
I used to play this game called ‘King’s Quest’ on my dad’s old Mac Plus. It was beautifully illustrated and had all the wit, innocent and grandeur of a choose your own adventure book. Is Sierra Games around anymore?
I loved it.
You start out in the chicken coop of this evil wizard, who is just a complete jerk, and lives on top of a ridiculously thin pointy mountain overlooking the sea. You aren’t five seconds into the game when he appears in a puff of smoke and berates you, then yells at you to do clean his ‘chamber pot’.
What a bum life, you think, cleaning a Wizard’s poop every day. Your character, Gwydion, is stuck here, has no money, no friends anywhere, and if he tries to descend down the mountain, the wizard’ll poof up and turn him into a rat or make him do aerobics until he dies.
It’s really a weird existential situation you start out in. The first thing you want to do is rebelliously type “F*ck you” into the text input, in response to the cragged Wizard’s demands.
You wanna tell the old man that you, the corporeal eleven year old you, know this is just a dumb game and that you are free. You could go outside at any point and shut off the Macintosh.
But poor Gwydion, he doesn’t know he’s free.
To get Gwydion free you gotta figure out all this other tedious stuff. You have to sneak around, stealing bobbles from Manannan the wizard. You have to do chores, for chrissake! What kind of game makes you do chores?
But really, that’s reality, in a way. That’s like taking out the garbage when you’re a kid. Or being made to stay late at work for some dumb arbitrary reason.
A narrative of struggle is more like our reality than anything else.
I just remembered why I loved these games.
What I liked about it was the chaos and uncertainty. It had all the uncertainty of the real world, (even at that tender age I knew somehow) and I could play inside this world and experiment without any consequence in my corporeal yet sheltered, safe world.
My favorite games were always the ones where you seemed to have utter and total freedom and no map on where to go or what to do.
It was the same reason I loved the games ‘Flashback’ and ‘Out of This World,’ both made by Delphine software. The tagline for Flashback is The Quest for Identity. The characters were faced with an absurd situation, with no pretext or obvious goal set out for them.
You turn the game on, and there you are.
You didn’t need to read the instruction manual. Nothing is pushing you in either direction, you just appear there and have to start figuring out what to do.
The absurdist games
Flashback & those situational games were more like an ideal reality to me, more cinematic, a sense of stillness permeates the scene, you don’t feel time, time doesn’t matter. Does that makes sense? Your curiosity is peaked, so you move along and figure things out…
There are no clues to tell you what to do, you’re best just to follow your curiosity.
This is opposed to the timer-based games, that force you to run around like a chicken with it’s head off, as if they’re saying “Do something quick! Or else time runs out and you die!”
The timer games, so unreal
Sure, in a way, time does kind of run out and we do die, but we don’t have to be pushed along in one direction like a chicken with it’s head off making snap decisions trying to grab all the gold we can. That’s what makes those games so forgettable, you’re rushing through them without a single meaningful challenge.
That timer notion really becomes built into our brains somehow. Not that we’re running around worried about death, we’re running around following a path because it’s all we see laid out. The instruction manual tells us to do it that way.
For me, sometime after having a child and before turning 31, I sensed the pesky timer clicking in my head, time finally had a solid face to it. More than ever before, my brain was trying to make me think about what skills I have that will win me money.
This word crept into my head one night, like a car commercial, a breathy voice saying “Legacy….”
The word had never popped into my brain until that moment. Yet I thought, “I think I want to leave a legacy,” without going further into what that means.
What I think I meant then was that I wanted my life to have more meaning than it did.
I think it meant I wanted to do something external, to affect the world positively.
I knew that the only way to do this, or THE real way to do it, was to do something I loved. I knew then that work would flow out of me if I was doing what I loved, and I would never worry about my legacy again.
If my life was a video game, it’d be called Legacy.
And it would start when I was 30. The game would skip my 20’s, since I spent a lot of it just running around grabbing as many coins as I could, collecting mainly pointless points. I’d wake up in a dirty alley. Or maybe my cramped Tokyo apartment I lived in before, in a grim, grey Tokyo…
…and then we’d fast forward to 30, with dreams of youth forgotten, wondering what it is I ever wanted to do with my life, unaware of my power, seeing my skills as just hobbies, my inborn talents as nothing special, nothing to offer the world.
Maybe there’d be flashbacks to when I was 15, drifting around my tiny suburban town in the summer and full of idealism and dreams and longing to achieve them…
Then the game would be about trying to break out of the 9 to 5 loop of corporate life (or the 10 to 10, depending on the day), that doesn’t stimulate me or have any meaning a life in which I haven’t utilized my skills to their full potential.
Once you break free..
Once you break out of that life, you automatically get supernatural energy. Then you’re like the guy in Flashback, you gotta figure out what to do next. It’s all on you. You do some soul searching, picking up books along the way. You meet Steven Pressfield, who gives you the wisdom to continue your life’s work, your calling, to become pro.
You figure out how you can help humanity, using your own natural talents, and offering them in order to make a living meaningfully.
The more you continue on, the more powerful your meaning becomes, the more you influence those around you. Your skills get better as you hone them through various projects, you meet amazing creative people who also want a meaningful existence, and you all help each other in a community.
My game wouldn’t have an ending, you’d just keep getting better and better learning new stuff until you had to go to bed or brush your teeth.
Someone should make this and market it to educational institutions to trick kids into learning. Here they think they’re trying to win the game soon, but they’re just learning more stuff. I can imagine it’d be tough to get kids to pick the game up after a few plays… They’d prefer something with a threat of losing, I guess.
As an analogy
The timer-based game is actually a pretty good analogy for the routine life that most adults continue to live.
But if I were to make a game of that life, it would include getting drunk and regretting things, getting into trouble, fighting with people, being frustrated, not working, falling into despair and the game would end, too soon, before you ever get a chance to find your meaning and contribute your gift to humanity.
That game would be called “Resistance.”
And there wouldn’t be an end-guy, the biggest enemy would be you. Your ego. The resistance inside you.
It’s like Donkey Kong or Super Mario Bros or Pac-Man, the simplest of games… People grow into jobs and try to move up the corporate ladder, all the while grabbing every banana or gold coin or mushroom they can, dodging barrels from the boss, trying not to get sucked into negativity, desperate to get the princess…
Never being creative and never giving something back to the world.
How about you, what would be your ideal life as portrayed in a video game?
Oh, here’s the theme music this post: