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May 13, 2012 / jwaxo

Video Games (Goals)


A couple of years ago I decided that I was going to get into the Electronic Entertainment Expo. E3, as we call it, is kind of a big deal in the video game and entertainment world. It’s where almost every console release is announced, it’s where you can meet all of your favorite video game celebrities, journalists, and developers. It’s where you can get your hands on some tasty tech demos, see announcements and reveals months before the public does, and pretty much live in gaming Mecca for a few days. It’s officially a media event, and journalists both complain and revel in it every year. Anybody who follows gaming news knows about it and wants to go there.

So I decided we would.

They’ve since lifted the ban on non-media-associated people going to E3, opening it back up to the public again, but at the time of this decision E3 seemed like it was a dying entity, a company running out of money or sponsorship or interest, among a million other problems. It would possibly stop happening soon, so anyone who still wanted to go to it would have to act quickly or never again, and it would be even harder now that they didn’t let laypeople in no matter how much money they had.

So it would be hard to accomplish this goal, you might say.

Well, just over a year ago, I started to try. E3 was open to the public again, but media badges are free while normal-person badges are in the $900 range. Which is kind of a lot of money.

Being a poor programmer, that’s not something to spend on a whim.

I needed some way to be a real, respectable video game journalist, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. The easiest was to start a blog of some sort, and was also the best way to avoid rejection letters from magazines and other places that wanted things like “a portfolio” or “journalism history.” Blogs require no history or experience, other than writing. And I do love writing.

So what could I write about?

It came to me in a flash, when I was driving home and stuck in traffic. I was only just missed by a car who squeezed in front of me, and I said out loud “phew, just barely missed me,” and my short lesson on the difference between “barely” and “almost” came flooding back. And, well, there it was. I could write about all of the stupid little lessons video games have taught me, starting with that and talking about everything in between, up until about 2001 or so. I could copy the style of some of my favorite blogs and draw little caricatures of myself and my siblings and my friends, and maybe update once or twice a week. E3 was as good as mine.

My goal was to keep it up for a year, apply for E3, and, well, profit. I just needed to keep working for a year. On something that might work out. With no real reward or reason to do it, apart from self-satisfaction.

There aren’t quest-givers in real life.

The whole thing reminded me of a time, when I was a sophomore in high school. It was my responsibility to mow the lawn, which I got paid reasonably well for, but I absolutely hated doing it. It was hot, boring, and just pretty lame. At the same time every week, though, right when I was mowing, I would always see our cool next-door-neighbor outside, carefully edging and clipping his lawn, tending the little garden plots, fertilizing, weeding, and overall loving it.

“Jeff,” he said to me when I complained, “some day you will have your own lawn, and no one will pay you for mowing it, and you’ll still love doing it just for the satisfaction.”

While I never appreciated the satisfaction of mowing the lawn while I was doing it, it was always a nice feeling when it all was done, even before I was paid. I had learned the satisfaction of completing unnecessary goals early in my life, probably one of the first lessons I ever learned.

What is the point of single-player video games if it isn’t for the arbitrary goals within?

Besides the bragging rights.

I mean, I love multiplayer games. I’ve talked about them enough to qualify. But before there were multiple-controller setups in our house, before we had LAN connections or messed around with the hotseat, all we had were simple games with even simpler stories, there purely as goals to attempt over and over again.

Some people play games to get their name on a high score, for the little fame that’s gained there. Some play them for the story, some to have fun for a short time, some to beat their friends. But all of these gain some of their enjoyment from accomplishing a goal, from satisfying that part of your brain that, yes, something is completed and in its place.

(Which, by the way, is part of the reason that games like Farmville are so addictive, even to people who don’t normally play games: it’s the reward-center area of the game being triggered over and over again for very little input)

So, while I didn’t get a media badge for E3 (something about not having 10,000 views per month, which I blame you, my hundred readers, on) there is something very satisfying at looking back over the list of posts that I’ve done in this year and two months. The hundreds of drawings that I’ve thrown together with my tablet, and the little characters that I’ve built up.

I’m still going to blog. There will still be something here twice a week, something to look at. But I think we’re done going over the stupid things video games have taught me, for now. I’m pretty much out of all of those, I think, even though there are still a few un-crossed-out games on my Big Envelope of Ideas (oh geeze don’t click that you’ll see how little my drawing style has evolved in 400 pictures).

But check back here, for sure. Subscribe through my various means. I’m working on a podcast with my friend JD, and about five people have come out of the woodwork in the past month telling me they’d love to write a guest post. There will still be poorly-drawn screenshots, idiotically complicated sentences, and callbacks to events that you neither care nor worried about.

And I’ll still be playing video games.

Wooo, randomly dramatic!

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