Monday, December 29, 2008

Life at Play

After aeons of nothingness Game Cabaret springs into action with the (passionate and wild) help of its very first guest blogger: the Red Bull from the excellent Red Bull Diary.

Play is a primal urge for me. Like eating. Like fucking. I want it in a way that is irrational and passionate. My brain hungers for new challenges. I'm only happy when I'm thinking hard. When I'm creating. When I'm feeling that brief sense of godhood as the computer makes the paintings in my mind glow with life. When the avatar I live vicariously through grows in power. This is an exploration of possibility space. This is the attraction of gaming for me: it's the realization of every Freudian, narcissistic fantasy that makes my lizard brain squirt adrenaline into my veins and the hair on my neck stick up. Play is the stimulation of a fundamental pleasure center, the satisfaction of an unspeakable, id-driven need.

But this is the thing that no one says, because we are overcome with guilt for wasting our lives sitting in front of our wondrous boxes of color and fury. There is your mother looking in on you and wondering whether you've done your schoolwork, or the clock face staring down at you, reminding you that you should have gone to bed hours ago. We cannot help but be ashamed because this feels so good. To be challenged in all these different ways. To feel a thrill of satisfaction when you've gotten it licked – beaten the boss, solved the puzzle, topped your high score. It's an experience like no other in history up to this time, encompassing all elements of theater and cinema, sculpture and story. It's a brave new world of virtual challenges and ever-greater realism. But for those who don't understand, who don't hunger the same way, they look at you with that dissatisfied bewilderment that says that you're just fundamentally lazy.

I'm the furthest thing from it. My mind is like a furious thunderhead, roiling with strange images and terrible energy. These punching bags, these hamster wheels simply serve to break up the storm. My brain is a voracious, tentacled beast. Its thrashing thoughts snatch whatever is at hand to pull into its maw. It's all I can do to keep feeding it and keep my fingers clear. The harder the problem, the longer my feral mind keeps gnawing at it, trying to consume its marrow. Only through play do we find ever-more satisfying fare.

I'm not sure if it's because I'm from the original MTV generation, or if I need to take my Adderall, or if it's the plastic seeping into my food from microwaving plastic containers. Maybe my television-addled brain can only understand the world when it's framed in a glowing window. Maybe I'm like the fireman's wife, whose friends lived in the walls. I can't speak for anyone but myself, a man with needs to constantly see something new, test my own limits, challenge, create and push on. This wonderful world of play gives me a way to do that.

Play on, don't be afraid. You only live this life once, my friends.