Friday, May 24, 2024

Fighting the Demons

The other week, my son asked me how Baldur's Gate 3 was going. 

"I haven't really touched it since we last talked about it a month ago," I replied. He is quite aware that I try not to go bananas when playing a video game, and for me that means playing a game in fits and starts.

Yes, I'm aware that I play MMOs --and WoW Classic Era-- very regularly. The thing is, in those games I'm not very goal oriented these days, so it's more to play just so I can hang out with other people. Or people watch wherever I'm at.

There's always something going on in Vivec City.
Even at the bank.

Still, I worry about my ability to control myself, as I have the tendency is to go "all-in" on playing a game I like that I'm progressing through. So I play a bit, then I force myself to back off. Once I create a bit of separation, that magical pull that a game or a book or a piece of music has on me lessens, and I feel better able to balance my desires with my needs. 

BG3 is definitely a game that I enjoy playing. It has some moments that make me go WTF, such as your companions' backstories*, but overall I enjoy it a lot. It scratches that RPG itch that I don't get often enough these days, just as Age of Wonders 4 scratches that Fantasy building game itch that Master of Magic first gave me.**

Hey Sundren, how are you doing?
I remember you from Age of Wonders III.

So when I told my son that I hadn't played in what was effectively a month, he wasn't surprised. One of his friends had begun playing BG3 recently, and he was having to balance the video game with all of his grad school work that needed to be finished before the end of the semester. I didn't envy that friend of his one damn bit.


I suppose I've always known to a certain extent that I am prone to addiction. 

If I find something I like, I tend to do it over and over to an almost unhealthy extent. Even before the Satanic Panic derailed my D&D youth, I used to read and re-read The Lord of the Rings. And before that, The Great Brain series by John D. Fitzgerald.

This was the version of the books that I had.
From Amazon.

I clearly remember my dad coming into my room when I was in 8th Grade and sick with a cold, and he informed me I had better start reading something else than "those darn Tolkien books". Of course, that made me want to re-read them even more often just to spite him, but I instead turned my mind toward other Fantasy and Science Fiction***.

During my freshman year at college, I had problems transitioning to college level work because I got distracted by Star Trek, of all things.**** That Fall of 1987 was when Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted, and the friends at college and I would watch the show religiously and talk about it after. The internet was still in its protracted infancy and email access was restricted at UD, so those of us who liked geeky pastimes could only rely upon face-to-face contact for such discussion. So there I was, struggling to keep up with my studies, but all I could think about was Star Trek. 

Yes, I was a nerd. You had to ask?

When my grades began slipping to the point where my scholarship was in danger --and my dad made sure I knew about it-- I had to take drastic action. So I began dialing it back on Captain Picard and crew.

I wasn't as self-destructive as some people I knew in college, such as the person who lived in the dorm next to me. He didn't last a semester at college, as about 6-8 weeks in he discovered the pleasures of partying and simply stopped caring about his classes.***** His girlfriend (who was attending Notre Dame) contacted us because he had even gone silent with her, and she was worried. My roommate and a couple of other people on our dorm floor, including our Resident Assistant, basically held an intervention and convinced him it was smarter to drop out to get his life back together before he ruined it completely.#

Still, watching that happen was a sobering experience. There were several instances of people on my dorm floor imploding and getting themselves on academic probation, enough so that the joke was that our floor had the lowest GPA in the entire building, and that was despite several people with excellent grades calling our floor home.


Even today I have to be careful lest I get sucked into some distraction to the point where I haven't gotten any of the normal activities of home life completed. This goes for work as well, because I've had to be told more than once over the course of my career to basically "stay in my lane" and not do other work I found interesting but wasn't part of my job description. 

So while I'd love to be farther along in playing some of these video games, I know that I have to be on my guard. Writing down lists of things to do, much like how you'd write out a grocery list, help to keep me on track from being distracted too much, but even then my sense of time can get all thrown off when I'm absorbed in something. Maybe I ought to set a timer.

You and me both, Jodi.

*I have a post I'm working on about that.

**I should clarify that the original Sim City, Sim Earth, and hell, even Santa Paravia for those old farts like me were the video games that inspired my love of building and development games. 

I actually have a printout of the source code
of the game in TRS-80 BASIC. I'd meant to convert
it to TI-99 4/A BASIC, but I never got around to
it. Something something hormones something something.

***Likely to his displeasure. He never read fiction, much less F&SF.

****Given that I went to an all-boys high school, you'd think that I'd have said "girls" instead of Star Trek. And you're not wrong in that having girls in classes were a distraction after years of not having them around, but you have to understand I dealt with that already in high school. My junior year of high school I took Spanish III, and since only two of us signed up for the class they sent us over to the "sister" all-girls high school next door. I should have known that something was up when my classmate and I discovered we were in two separate classes, but even I was surprised on that first day of school I walked to the classroom and knocked, only to see thirty pairs of eyes turn and look at me. 

"Spanish III?" I asked.

The teacher smiled. "Sí sí," she replied. "Red?"

"Uh, yeah," I said, my face likely showing my mind turning to mush, as a wave of laughter swept the the class. It wasn't enough that I was outnumbered 30:1, but that they were all really attractive as well meant that I was in for a very long year.

"Do you want to sit somewhere up here?" the teacher asked, motioning to a desk in front. 

"No, I'll take this one right. back. here." I replied, sliding into the desk in the back by the door to another round of light laughter.

TL;DR: I survived the year, but that's because I made myself as invisible as possible. I'd say about 5-6 of the girls knew me from grade school, so most of them were a total unknown to me. My biggest takeaway from that year was that if you kept quiet you got to hear all sorts of interesting things about people's lives, particularly their love life. I also (now) realized that I missed a few obvious hints that some of the girls dropped that they were interested in me. This period of my life will come back from time to time, so don't be surprised if this reappears in a subsequent post.

*****I was there when it happened; we'd gone out on a Saturday night to the university village, nicknamed The Ghetto at the time, and we came across a student house that had kegs there but very few people in attendance. At the time I didn't drink so I passed (they got me a Mt. Dew, I think), but about halfway through his first beer our floormate decided he really really liked that stuff and he just started plowing through the beer like there was no tomorrow. He and another guy we were with got totally plastered and it took us the better part of an hour to walk them back to the dorm.

#As far as I know, it didn't help. Someone who was a mutual acquaintance ran into him at a concert back in their hometown a year or two later, and he was well down the "throwing your life away" path.

EtA: I corrected the time from 3-4 weeks to 6-8 weeks, as it was late October when this began.

No comments:

Post a Comment