Tuesday, January 01, 2013

2012: What I've Learned

I'm a big fan of Esquire magazine. Not the fashion tips, which are lost on a techie in the Pacific Northwest, but the articles are generally very good and the interviews also very interesting. This month, the magazine's focus is a series of comments, garnered through interviews but distilled so that it appears the subject is simply ruminating on a variety of topics seemingly at random. 

I can't resist a year-end recap, and I've gone into tremendous detail in years past on what games I thought were great and what weren't, but this year I'm going to try something very different (and you will see why below), and go with the distilled interview format, which Esquire calls "What I've Learned". 

In 49 days, I will turn 50. Something poetic about that.

At the same time, kind of disappointing that I didn't do the math yesterday.

I've always felt that I have the financial resources to be an ethical person. In other words, it's easy to be "good" when you have a full stomach, a warm house, and perhaps the most stable financial future one can have these days. 

Turned out that I also had the financial resources to hoard games. When my wife lost her job late in 2011 and we suddenly had a $1000/mo hole in the budget, the first thing to go were games. Not so much to sell, but that I stopped buying them. 

After a decade of preordering everything GMT Games put out, I cancelled everything but Virgin Queen. That was the only wargame I purchased all year. 

Euros followed a similar path, although I did buy a few. Mostly, I'm buying expansions to games I already have. Even that, though, is starting to tail off. Biggest category was multiplayer strategy games, like Eclipse. 

Sometimes a switch just flips in your head and you look at the world and what is important to you differently. In my case it was that the hamster wheel of acquisitiveness more or less came off of it's axel. Suddenly, instead of me in a game store saying, "Hey, I don't have that," I'm saying "Hey, I don't want that." And it's happening with video games and movies for me as well. About the only place where I'm not terribly discriminating is in iOS games, which are effectively crack cocaine for me. 

Even when my wife got a great new full time job and we ended up financially better off for the year than if she hadn't lost her old job, the acquisitiveness just seems to have petered out. While I still fight the desire to go into a store and buy something, anything, at the same time if I go in I'm simply not as interested in what's there. 

I guess this is what you call your mid-life crisis. When you become wise enough to realize that the framework of your relationships isn't the same as your relationships. I consider myself fortunate to have the relationships - many don't and then you end up with a Viper or too much hookers and blow. 

Although the Viper would have been cool. 

Here's the thing about games: The best part of gaming is who you play with.

I've known that for years, and I still really like playing certain games, but suddenly the game is nowhere near as important as the relationships that I've been building for 15 years through playing them. 

The person I'm most excited about playing games with: my granddaughter, who likes to cheat at Candyland. She's pretty sneaky. However, she's also easily confused about which direction you are supposed to go in sometimes (the board is essentially a back and forth scoring track, which I consider a cardinal sin in human factors design), but that ends up being a wash a good part of the time. 

Candyland is a terrible game, a game on a rail, a game that demonstrates that fate rules our universe, a game that is used as a pejorative as often as not for a terrible game. Unless you are playing it with your 4 year old granddaughter, then it's the Best Game Ever. 

Nice to see I can learn something from a 4 year old. 

That said, I'm looking forward to when she is old enough for Mice and Mystics or role playing. 

The best part of life is who you play with. 

In about ten days I will go off to the Oregon Coast to enjoy two+ days of gaming and excellent companionship in my gaming group's annual winter retreat. When we started doing these retreats in the late 90's (starting with the Sunriver retreats in the fall and spring) I was so excited to play the games. Now I am excited to be in very close quarters with good friends and the games are there to hang our memories on. 

2012 was a decent year. It had it's challenges (musically it's been a very mixed bag, for example), and in some cases those challenges give me no choice but to continue to learn about acceptance. 

Acceptance is really just faith that the things you have no power over are going to turn out OK, despite all evidence and history to the contrary. 

Acceptance is realizing that we are all simply eating time as we shuffle towards oblivion, but trying to do good anyway, and have as much fun as possible while doing it. 

Acceptance is understanding that New Year's Day is just another day, one where you can't really go shopping and there's nothing good on TV and Netflix is down. Again. The damned thing isn't even on an astronomically significant day, like the Winter Solstice. Even the calendar is based around whatever Julius Caesar thought was a reasonable point when he got tired of March slowly creeping up into autumn via the lunar calendar. It's like turning 50, a date which has significance solely because we have two hands of five fingers each. 

If we were all cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse, with three fingers and a thumb on each hand, the important date would be 40, base 8, which is actually 32 in base 10. 

I think that's a significant age for hobbits. Do they only have four digits on each extremity? I can't say, I refuse to go watch the movie in the theater because it looks like it was shot as a daytime drama. 

Didn't we give up on making half-hour cartoons into feature films in the 80's? Sometimes I think humans are incapable of learning anything at all.

Yeah, I'm getting crankier all the time. I consider it the only upside of the warranty running out at 40. That's 50 in base 8, by the way.

I've lost you, haven't I. Guess I'll need to accept that too. There's a lot of that in my life. 

I suppose that I will continue popping up with my stream-of-consciousness and navel gazing from time to time, but no one wants to read about how cool my gaming friends are, and as long as the game gets us to the place we want to be, I really don't care what game it is we're playing. 

As mid-life crises go, that's a pretty good one to have. 

The Viper would be good too. 

Happy New Year. 

I will end with one of my favorite Doyleisms:

Here's to looking up your old address. 

I'm not quite sure what it means either, but it always makes me smile and remember a good friend who left us in 2012. Maybe we can get through 2013 without losing too many more.