Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Discipline of Wasting Time

This year, I did the unprecedented (for me) and took a week and half off between Christmas and New Year’s. I’m not used to taking time off, and because I’m in constant “go mode”, I tend to have unrealistic fantasies about all of the things I am going to accomplish during my rare vacations. My big plan this time was to edge my goldfish rug, get my poetry chapbook up on Lulu, do a deep clean of the entire apartment, start up “Wolfpine Glen” again, color my hair, catch up on the news on Conspiracy Daily, and double down on my gym visits. So far, I have slept in late every morning, stayed in my sweat pants until past noon, played video games for twelve hours at a stretch, and staunchly ignored the grime building up in the bathroom and the dust thickening on the cherry wood nesting tables. I know this sounds like a laughable statement, but it’s actually been a struggle to fully relax and not give in to the temptation to Accomplish All The Things. My brain doesn’t know how to let go naturally, and I feel guilty when I’m not, in my estimation, “using my time wisely”, whatever that means. So this vacation has been an exercise in the discipline of wasting time. I’ve had to go to the mat with my inner scold, who loves to run around tapping her watch and accusing all and sundry of whiling away their days on frivolity.

One of those glorious bits of frivolity for me has been surfing game demos on Steam (Winter Sale, folks!) Most of them have been fails--I have a zero-frustration tolerance policy when it comes to gaming. My game principles are that I will stick with nothing that poses more than a minor mental challenge or that elevates my heart rate in the slightest. For a while, I was playing a game in which I was an adorable forest fox who could control the seasons, but then somehow I died, and then I was a ghost fox, and it wasn’t as fun anymore, and I got annoyed by the mushroom puzzle. Poof, gone! Then there was one in which I was being chased by a giant, suffocating haze called “The Void”, which was okay for the first hour or so, but then started to feel too much like real life. Deleted! Finally, I came upon a most wondrous story game called “Demetrios”, about a slovenly, dim-witted antiques dealer who gets caught up in a doomsday conspiracy. That one was delightful, and I played it all the way through.

Right now, I’m playing a game called “Dead in Bermuda”, which violates my game policy, but appeals strongly to my overblown sense of responsibility. In “Dead”, eight survivors of a plane crash must pool resources and work together to build a life on a desert island. As the player, I am in charge of making sure each character gets proper healing, help for their trauma and depression, adequate food and water, and enough resources to survive for another day. I find myself quite concerned about dear Julia and Jacob and little Illyana and the sweet if gossipy Alice. And the other four, including Bob the Fisherman and even that snooty lady surgeon. So far, despite my best efforts, my attempts have been disastrous. On my first go-round, I made it to Day 18 before three of the characters committed suicide, and the rest starved to death. On my second attempt, I made it to Day 31, but then they all ran out of water and died. After consulting a few online game guides, I came across the revolutionary idea that I should have been investing more resources in my people. In the interest of conservation, I had been pretty stingy with food and medicine, but the prevailing wisdom on the internet says that you shouldn’t hoard anything, but immediately invest any and all resources into the characters, so they are operating at peak efficiency and can thereby produce more. Hmm…perhaps a lesson for draconian corporate slave-drivers? At any rate, so far I am at Day 21, and while everyone is squabbling and hates each other, so far no one has died. We’ll see how far I get with my newfound largess with the food and medicine. In the meantime, here’s a Happy New Year’s video from College Humor. Warning: Lots of swears. 

--Kristen McHenry

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