I'm not a gamer, which may explain how I have gone so long barely noticing GenCon -- including, as it turns out, a more-than-full schedule of writer's workshops that look both enjoyable and useful. (Larry Correia's even in town for this one and I owe him as least a steaming mug of Postum or whatever his beverage-of-choice might be.)
...On the other hand, given that all this (GenCon) week I have been working an early-morning-hell shift that has included a couple of extra-long days already and bids fair to go very long on overtime before it grinds to a halt, it may be for the best: I'd only be frustrated.
But that, to paraphrase Mr. Arlo Guthrie, is not what I came to tell you about. I came to talk about why it is I don't play computer games.
You see, at one time -- and it was a very long time ago -- I did. How long ago was it? I played games on a PLATO terminal, when the florescent-orange displays showed up at the crummy little extension campus where I went to college. I was one of the many users who called up the (poorly) hidden copy of STAR TREK on the DEC-10 we shared time on, and slowed it to a crawl. I played Lunar Lander using a printing-on-paper teletype terminal connected to a "minicomputer" and loaded via punched tape because it took just forever to enter a program using the front-panel switches. Yes, it was that long ago -- the more serious users still wrote in FORTRAN and hauled boxes punch cards down to the computer center and picked up their results hours or days later.
I played all those games quite assiduously, along with starting up and managing the campus radio station. I put in long, long hours...at radio and computer games. What I wasn't doing was studying; most of first-year EE is ridiculously easy if you've already been doing electronics -- okay, circuit analysis was a whole new notion and Mr. Thévenin and Mr. Norton offered the keys to some interesting puzzles. Math.... I'm no great shakes at math, but the guy teaching it was a retired engineer who had used the stuff all his career, loved it, and managed to share some of that delight. I got by (Bs and Cs) on very little work, very little sleep, and then...
Then the sleepy little extension college decided it need fewer amateurs teaching. Came the second semester and all us EEs got dumped into a heavy pure math course with a heavy pure math prof who had very little use for the sort of vermin who would sully the shining edifice of Mathematics by actually applying it; he announced on Day One he was out to flunk as many of us as he could and that he didn't intend that as a spur or a challenge: seventy-five percent of the class were dead meat. My other courses got more difficult, too, and my response to it was -- can you guess? -- more time playing computer games.
And so ended my one and only year of Higher Education. Back then, if you weren't in college, your access to a computer to play with was very nearly nil. I still had my radio experience and, for various reasons, I moved out my parents' house at 19 and have earned my own way for nearly ever since (age thirty, I was a returnee for six months. It went a little better than when I was 19.)
...Oh, yeah, when I went out and made my own way, I started smoking. Five years later, I wanted to quit -- and kept trying for the next fifteen years. Turns out I have a wee bit of an addictive personality. I even had a few years of drinking heavily -- never at home and eventually I figured out what kind of precipice I was looking over.
So my reaction to computer games, no matter how interesting or sophisticated they are, is about that of a dry alcoholic discovering there's a distillery next door that hands out free samples. Tamara sometimes chides me a little over my "superior" attitude towards them and I will admit what I see of computer games strikes me as suffering a certain formless simplicity of plot: too many short arcs, few if any long arcs, too much bashing things with hammers, swords and magic spells -- but that's not why I avoid 'em nor why it irks me to be around them. Nope, I'm stuffing up my ears and lashing myself to the mast lest the music draw me in. That's why you won't find me in the War of Worldcraft or elsewhere: I'd have too much trouble getting back out!
T. R. MCELROY'S STREAMLINED TELEGRAPH KEYS
1 year ago