Round Table Entry 1/09: Putting the Game Before The Book

CorvusE, over at Man Bytes Blog, does a monthly Round Table on Games and Gaming. Here’s what he challenged with for January ‘09:

Putting the Game Before the Book: What would your favorite piece of literature look like if it had been created as a game first? In a time when bits of Dante’s Divine Comedy are being carved out and turned into a hack-n-slash game, I find myself longing for intelligently designed games–games with a strong literary component–not merely literary backdrops. So rather than challenge you to imagine the conversion of your favorite literature into games, I challenge you to supersede the source literature and imagine a game that might have tried to communicate the same themes, the same message, to its audience.

Feel free to ignore the technical constraints of the era in which the book was written. In fact, feel free to ignore the technical constraints (within reason) of today and push the envelop a bit. Also notice that I didn’t specify video game. Feel free to imagine a board game, card game, RPG, or sport, that could have been created during the same time period as the book in question. Be as vague, or as detailed, about the design particulars as you like. Work together with another blogger, or work alone.

When I originally read the above, I started to think about the book I’d most like to see turned into a game. I had an entire blog post about it. Then I realized, based on closer reading of the above, that I had missed the question. It’s not “What book do you want to see as a game?” but rather, “What kind of game would engender the same reactions and responses that your favorite book would?”

This makes the playing field much larger for me. There are definite books I’d like to see as games, and many I can’t quite see an adaptation working out so well.

So, I need to start out with a quick discussion of what kinds of books I read, and why. Let’s start with the genre. Science Fiction, abbreviated SF to set it apart from the more mainstream film/television term, “sci-fi,” has long been my favorite genre to read. It seems as thought there’s been a resurgence of the style in the past 10 years, based on my own highly-unscientific observation of there being tons more new SF books in the library and in book stores.

I like all kinds of SF (remember, this is the written kind). These days, I particularly like what’s being called New Space Opera, with grand themes and at least an attempt to stay within the bounds of known and speculative physical reality. I also enjoy what’s known as “Hard SF,” which is much more rigorous in it’s depiction of science and speculation limited to known scientific fact or theory. However, the kind of Hard SF that I most enjoy is typified by writers like David Brin, Ian McDonald, and Greg Bear: SF that is scientific, full of cool astronomical reality, but is extremely concerned with the human experience within the greater scheme of reality. These books are typically character driven, and the technology never overshadows the very real emotions and motivations of the central and supporting characters. These books also rate high on my wonder and awe index: they tell stories that bring me face to face with the incomprehensibly large, alien and fantastic. Call it escapism if you like, but this is what makes my brain sing and my heart race.

So which of these folks is my favorite author? None of them. I would have to admit that overall, my favorite author in SF has to be Orson Scott Card. He is definitely not a hard SF or New Space Opera writer. He tends to defy categorization. He writes in many modes, from literary horror to SF to more Fantasy/Alternate History. My favorite story of his, of course, is the SF classic, Ender’s Game, and it’s host of sequels.

Why is Card my favorite author? Well, he does the two things I appreciate in my fiction: he brings a sense of wonder, and he respects the character, and by extension, humankind. As a Mormon, Card has specific beliefs about religion and politics that I do not share. But his writing, even the overtly religious writing, never devolves into what I would call moralizing or preaching. He has a profound respect for people in all their diversity, and a strong sense of younger characters and women characters. His characters are not always perfect; in fact, they are usually far from perfect, full of the same conflicts, desires and contradictions that we all have inside our fragile, funky human bodies and minds. In one early novel, Songmaster, the main character is overtly and specifically homosexual within the story. I always found it incredibly wonderful that a religious person could write such a book. My experience with highly religious people has never been that they are very open minded. It was refreshing to meet one, albeit through his books.

So, what kind of game can I envision that respects human kind and brings the sense of wonder and awe that I crave? Why not actually make it a video-game, since that’s what I mostly write about here. And let’s make it a super-high rez, current or next-gen (next-next-gen? gen-cubed?) gaming experience, with high end TV set, sound, and incredible broadband connectivity. What could such a game look like?

The one thing I really want to see in a video-game is a cooperation component. Not a two man team gunning down hordes of enemies and progressing through what essentially is a single player story line, but true cooperation. I believe that this true interactivity is what bring s gamers to Role Playing games in the first place. It’s a way to involve each other in a shared story, and bring the human element in. Us with our petty, noble, confident, insecure selves.

My video game would be set in a science fictional universe, and while I’m at it, let’s put it in the Ender’s Game universe. And please, let’s not just recreate the Battle Room.

How about we do this: we make the game have two essential components: an acting/roleplaying component, and a cooperative battle component. Just to keep the violent sides of our nature appeased along with our creative sides.

Let’s take the basic universe and storyline from the first book for our first game. Keep in mind that we can do this with many of the sequels. In the novel version of Ender’s Game, there seem to be two main story streams: one about Ender Wiggin, and his progression from youngest child chosen for Battle School to final hero of Humankind, and one about his siblings, Peter and Valentine, who are fairly genius themselves, and their rise from stars of the world network to rulers of the Earth government.

In my dream game, we can use all the story streams and characters, because here’s how it would go. Keep in mind I’m not a game designer. I’m an ideas guy. So here we go.

Our acting / role-playing sections would be all about the narrative scenes from within the book. We would take each player involved in the game, up to 8 at a time, and let them choose, or assign them, a role. They can play specific roles in the scene, or they can be the director, camera operator, and score musician. The actors in the role would have to manipulate their avatar/characters to best interpret what was on the page (yes, reading is required for my dream game). The behind the camera folks would, in real time, direct and score and move the camera around to best capture the performance. I’m guessing this all could be captured procedurally, like MIDI captures music performance. The performance files are then placed onto game servers, where online friends of the players will be allowed to rate and judge the final scene. There might also be options for other fans of the game to start rating and judging performances online.

Like any acting production, there would need to be large amounts of preparation, rehearsal, and…cooperation. It would be interesting to see if traditional roles would inform the play styles of individual gamers. Would the Directors be auteur-focused, keeping track of all the details and running the story with an iron-vision? Or will we see collaborative scenes, built with little to no preparation into live-streaming performance art? How far off book will people go, and what are the potential for worldwide, language-barrier cooperation to ensue? The mind boggles.

For the second part of my dream game, we’ll do something a bit more traditional, with a twist. Imagine, if you will, a typical Battle Room scene in the book: there are two armies of 4 – 8 individuals entering a giant sphere with no gravity in it (or sometimes gravity, or unpredictable gravity, just to mess with the participants), and no up or down. It’s a space battle fought in spacesuits, with varying obstacles and penalties for being “hit. think of a game of laser-tag in space. Let’s design our game to force people to cooperate. It’s how Ender ultimately promotes through the ranks: by creating cooperation and helping his team think creatively and quickly on the battlefield. This is a traditional game experience, in that it would have leader boards (team based, only) and online rankings, and the like. The twist is that there are 4 – 8 individuals in that space, each with their own sense of space and field of vision, all trying to work together to cooperate to win the simulation. They may have voice communication ability in one battle, and none in a different battle. There may be lights on in one simulation, off in a different one. Gravity conditions fluctuate, as do the amount of penalty at being hit. Some suits might freeze up in the middle of play, some might lose control of specific limbs.

The gamers in this kind of game will need to figure out ways, built up over time playing with each other, to communicate, cooperate, and ultimately direct themselves in battle to meet the conditions of a win. I would love to see the varying personalities play out. Who would dominate? Would there be Generals created, each nurturing or terrorizing teams to win battles and move up the ranks? Will ad-hoc groups be able to compete with well-rehearsed tactical groups? What happens to the lone gunmen of the groups? Can they survive long as a member of any team?

Record these battles with the same procedural MIDI-esque system as the acting ones, and then have a third component to the game: movie editing. Create your own version of the book, edit together a completely different version. Create a Pulp Fiction style anti-linear narrative and change sound effects and voice overs to create whole new meanings. Join an editing team and build a fantastic feature length movie, which can then be submitted to the Gamerdance Channel, and voted on by millions of players all over the world.

Seriously, though, this is the game that could inspire a novel, or six. It would be a new way to role play that doesn’t involve giant manuals of dice tables. It could be a platform for all kinds of interactive storytelling and genre -skinning. imaging the Star Trek TNG mod, where the team must act out episodes from the beloved television series, and then cooperatively pilot a Starship in a battle with an equally piloted Romulan vessel. Think of all the horrible fart jokes that could be edited into a very serious production of the third chapter from Ender’s Shadow.

Granted, i have NO IDEA how to design, create, and/or market such a game. But with incredible visuals, well-created acting and production tools, this could bring that sense of awe and wonder that I crave from storytelling, along with the tools and support to tell some amazing stories along the way. Finis.


Because this blog is hosted on WordPress.com, the iFrame code that would give you a cool looking drop down menu to all the other blogs posting on this topic isn’t showing up. Instead, hit the link below for the entries for the month of January, 2009.

Please visit the Round Table’s Main Hall for links to all entries.

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Vintage Gaming Club

I’m pretty darn excited to be able to participate in the Vintage Game Club this month. The games being voted on right now are (in no particular order):

Chrono Trigger
Resident Evil (original)
Prince of Persia: Sands of Time
Super Mario 64
Beyond Good and Evil

Any one of these will be a fun game to play, and even the ones I’ve already played I haven’t finished. It seems like a book club, only with classic video games.

So, wish me luck, call me shirley, and stay tuned for some fun gaming commentary while I play along with these thoughtful, smart, and witty gamers.

Therapy by Immersion

I write a monthly “editor’s blog” over at GamesAreEvil.com. It’s a news/reviews/features site, and we’re doing our best to only publish stuff that matters, and to keep things this side of the joystick/1up/kotaku line. I hope that my little articles can be a part of keeping it there. As always, I appreciate the founder of Games Are Evil, Jason Evangelho, for allowing me to do my thing there.

Here’s a short pull quote, and the blog roll I placed at the end of the post, for further reading, and to continue the tradition:

Immersion Therapy: Fable II and The Tough Choices

One man’s attempt to immerse himself in the world of big name video-games, and come out the other side saner and, hopefully, wiser. This month: Fable II affects Rob in ways he didn’t expect.

generic-oakfield-03-800.jpgI just finished the main story-line of Fable II, not including the Knothole Island DLC. I don’t have a real long post planned, here, but I’m feeling…unsettled. The ending that, I assume, I had a hand in creating through my choice in the Tattered Spire, has left me feeling spent, and a little unhappy. I think that may be the most ambiguous feeling I’ve had at the end of a video game.

Since Bioshock, I’ve heard game developers say that they offer gamers a choice, nuanced and subtle, about what kind of person they want their in-game persona/avatar to be. I’m not so sure they’ve done it, yet.

In Bioshock, it was a non-choice. I’m not going to kill little girls. Period. I don’t even care if you say, “it’s just a game.” Not gonna happen. In Mass Effect, there may be several options, but it’s fairly easy to discern the good, bad, middle responses in the conversation trees (and I’m not so sure they really had much of an impact, either way). It felt like a forced choice between an alternative LEAST like me, and one MOST like me. It wasn’t’ a real choice; it didn’t involve my emotions.

See the whole post: http://gamesareevil.com/2009/01/immersion-therapy-fable-ii-and-the-tough-choices/

The Chainsaw Gun of Gore: a GamesAreEvil Repost

This is a repost of an article I wrote over at Games Are Evil entitled “Critical Thinking and the Chainsaw Gun of Gore,” reprinted with permission of the Author (me) and the Associate Editor (me, again).

firing from coverI’ve been trying for a month now to wrap my head around some unifying structure that I can put my thoughts about video gaming into. I’ve wanted to contribute to an Editor’s blog here on Games Are Evil, but just couldn’t find any theme or rationale for doing so.

I want to thank the Brainy Gamer, first and foremost, for introducing what, to me, is a whole new way to approach gaming journalism: a critical discussion of video games and their purpose in our culture. Michael Abbot produces a monthly podcast and a written blog that elevates the field in many ways. The new Gamer Confab structure to his podcast has introduced me to another ton of critical thinking games journalists, including The Quixotic Engineer, Acid for Blood, Design Rampage, Sexy Videogameland, Insult Swordfighting, and Man Bytes Blog, among others. [note: since writing this, I’ve since found a ton more worthy blogs. See my sidebar to the right for the ones I keep in my RSS reader]

The topic that I am seeing discussed across all of these varied and well-written websites is, to my mind, twofold: a desire to think beyond the typical “graphics/gameplay/controller” review to the deeper, perhaps even transcendent nature of video gaming as well as a willingness to ask questions for the sake of finding that deeper meaning. These excellent writers are, more importantly, critical thinkers engaged in both an inner process of reflection and analysis as well as a public, ongoing discussion of these cultural and personal issues. I find that the give and take in this section of the blogosphere to be most resonant with my way of thinking about the world and video gaming.

My theme, therefore, is the question: “Why do we play games?” I’m hoping to spend some time each month here, on other gaming sites, and on our forums, engaged in this very personal and very interesting conversation. I don’t think the point is to answer the question, but to think about it deeply.

And Let Slip the Gears of War

So let’s get right to it. I’ve been playing Gears of War 2 quite a bit lately. For me, as a father of two young children, a husband and full-time employee with a web design business on the side, video gaming is something I need to shoehorn into my life as I can. With my duties [at games are evil] as Associate Editor, as well as Portable Editor and general web-hack, I’ve been playing a lot of games on a lot of consoles.

So, for me, playing a game quite a bit means more than an hour at a time. It means devoting the kind of time many other gamers take for granted, in 6 or 7 hour shifts. Yes, I’ve spent that kind of time on this game. Why is that? What is it about this game, in particular, that has me hooked?

Let’s look at that question a little deeper. I’m a fairly non-violent guy. I abhor physical violence and warfare as a solution to ANY problem, large or small, private or national. I think boxing is a barbaric and ultimately stupid sport, and killing things with weapons is something I’ve never done in real life. I’ve played many violent games, though I tend to shy away from the more realistic ones, like Call of Duty, or Grand Theft Auto. I just can’t make myself do it.

I can, however, play games with more science fiction or fantasy violence. If it’s swordplay, or laserbeams, I’m able to get past my hesitance. The closest I’ve come to realistic gaming is Resident Evil, or Doom, wherein the enemies are clearly monstrous and horrible. There is little or no connection to a real human involved. Which, in its own way, is how I was able to connect to Gears of War in the first place. It was sci-fi themed, which is right up my alley, the enemies are fully non-human, and it had an immersive storyline that felt, to me, like a movie I was taking part in. I was able to get past the realistic ammo and “hoo-rah!” attitude of the main characters. The tight controls and the mechanic of cover and fire really brought me further into the game, as it’s how I’d probably react in a real bullet-fight: I’d hide, and take shots at available targets.

Violence Isn’t the Answer, Is It?

So, along comes Gears of War 2. It’s horribly violent. Death is gory and messy and loud. I’ve walked through rivers of blood, and chainsawed locusts and wretches with aplomb. I don’t cringe when my teammates cheer at the end of a particularly difficult Horde level, or when Marcus Fenix says something incredibly military. I’ve been known to yell, “Suck it!” into my XBox 360 microphone during a pitched session of Wingman. Who is this guy I’ve become? And why am I allowing it to occur?

The answer is, of course, complex and full of ambiguity. I’m going to mention a couple-three things, though, that seem to help me understand this phenomenon: participation, immersion, and gaming resonance. There are a lot more things that inform my thoughts, but these three, for now, are what I want to talk about. In the interest of furthering the discussion, I’d like to point you all to the comments, below, […]. Let’s have a discussion. Why does this game resonate with you?

Participation is the sense of, as Mr. Abbot says in one of his Brainy Gamer podcasts, being part of the discussion. I bought Gears 2 on launch day, and brought it home. When I popped the disk into my Xbox, my entire friends list was playing the game. It was the first time I’ve been there from the beginning (I got Halo 3 a full year after release, so that tells you the kind of buyer I am, as well). Suddenly, I was one of the cool kids, engaged in a discussion of which levels were great, how the multiplayer was shaping up, how far I’d gotten in the single player storyline, etc. I was, finally, part of the discussion. So here I am sharing it with the blogosphere, to get a broader perspective, as it were. This participation is immensely appealing to me, and goes beyond the simple, “now I’m cool” dynamic that I half-flippantly state above. It’s the same feeling I get from playing through Fable II, and then reading about it in articles like this excellent series of posts by Corvus over at Man Bytes Blog. If you have Fable II, I highly recommend going to read what he has to say.

Immersion Therapy

Now that I feel a part of the ongoing conversation, what also resonates with me is the immersion Gears of War 2 allows me. I’m taking part in a scifi action movie with all the high quality audio and video that implies. The story is only one part of the equation in any Hollywood blockbuster, and that’s also true here in the game. The music, sound design (bullets whizzing, chainsaws buzzing), and incredibly high-resolution graphics and animation complete the scene, if you will, for my falling in love. It’s like high-octane candy for the mind, with the extra-added value of being able to control the main actor for the stunt scenes. In addition, as I mentioned above, the gameplay mechanics fully mesh with the way I would act in a similar situation (if, of course, I were a highly-trained, foul-mouthed, cynical son of a bitch embroiled in a huge world-ending war with similarly equipped monsters coming in wave upon wave against me). I’d duck, hide, roll, vault barriers and throw grenades. I’d use long range weapons when possible to avoid up close fighting, and melee only when there’s no other option. This is immersive in the sense that it meshes with the way my brain already works, placing me into the action and story without realizing that I’m really only sitting on a couch, pressing colored buttons at specified intervals.

Marcus Fenix, at his best, resonates with me on another level. If I was the veteran of hundreds of pitched battles, with only my comrades and wits and serious boxes of ordinance to protect me and my world, I’d be just as cynical and battle-weary as him. I can sense his frustration and disgust with what he has to do. He’s a human being, in other words, who does what he has to do because he’s good at it. Who can’t relate to that? The designers of this game really kicked up their story a notch with the way they characterize the main people in the game. I wish they’d gone a bit more into Dom’s worry for his wife, though I haven’t completed the main single player story yet (I’ve sunk most of my available gaming time into the Multiplayer action), so I can’t comment too much on whether they fulfill the promise of such a characterization premise [note: Now that I *have* finished the single player campaign, I’d have to say they don’t. He’s kinda upset for a short minute or two, but then goes back to being Marcus’ backup shooter]. But again, who can’t relate to worrying about your loved ones? I worry about my partner and children when they’re a few minutes late getting home from school pickups. How much more intensely would I worry if they were missing, and I in a state of warfare with humanity’s future balanced on my personal actions? It’s all resonant with me. If the heroes of this story enjoyed what they were doing more than they do, I would probably not be such a huge fan of the game. Yes, it’s satisfying to yell at a nasty alien that almost got the drop on us with their own blunt-edged power-tool, but I only allow myself to do so with the understanding that I have no choice.

Final Thoughts?

In conclusion, I hope I’ve been clear about what I want to do with this, my little piece of the blogosphere. Video gaming has become, in my view, something worthy of a critical analysis and depth of thought that goes beyond the typical review or fanboy site. It’s my intention, with varying success, I’d guess, to spend time talking about my own reasons for gaming. Why do we game? There are as many answers to this questions as there are gamers. I hope that this post has begun the process for any one of you to begin thinking about your own gaming perspectives. I, for one, am by no means finished with my talking and thinking about this game. The joy of such a huge triple-A title is that there is a ton of content and playmodes to get through, experience, and enjoy. So, stay tuned for monthly posts in this vein, and let me know what resonated for you in the comments[…].

Where It’s At

special.jpgI’m a n00b to the gaming blogging community. It wasn’t until I really started to tune into games over the past six months or so in order to write about them at GamesAreEvil.com that I had any clue that there was intelligent discussion about gaming and what gaming means.

It’s the latter that I’m most interested in. From personal example, I’m interested in what gaming means to my culture, my life, my kids’ lives, my relationship, etc. My wife, typically anti-gaming, has moved ever closer to gaming, through innovations like the Wii and the experiential gaming it provides, as well as the media possibilities inherent in the XBox 360. My children spend more time actively problem solving and thinking through things than they do watching passive, televised entertainment. I can only think this is a good thing.

I’m indebted to Michael Abbot, The Brainy Gamer, who has inspired me (and a host of others) to try to think about gaming on this level. His level of discourse and insistence on conversation as the method of his learning and teaching is utterly brilliant and enlightening. He’s the real reason I’m doing what I’m doing right now.

Daniel Golding at Subject Navigator has put together a list of 29 gamer blogs that you need to read. He’s named it The Brainyverse, in what I take to be a tribute to Michael Abbot’s method and style of writing and conversation. If you know how to use RSS and a newsreader, you can have one heck of a brain day reading through these. Some I’ve read, some I’ve not, so I’ll be going through them little by little. I hope one day to be included in a list like this. For now, though, I continue to learn, write, and converse.

Here’s my list (which is also a lot of his list). It’s what I’ve got in my newsreader right now, and what I peruse when I want to learn more and be part of the discussion. For links to each of the sites on this list, look to the blogroll on the right, under “the brainyverse.”

* Above 49
* Acid for Blood
* Banana Pepper Martinis
* Brainy Gamer
* Click Nothing
* Cruise Elroy
* Design Rampage
* Discount thoughts
* Elements of Meaning
* Experience Points
* Fullbright
* Game Design Advance
* game-ism.com
* GameCulture Journal Blog
* Graduate School Gamer
* Graffiti Gamer
* Groping The Elephant
* Hit Self-Destruct
* Infovore
* Insult Swordfighting
* Level Up
* Living Epic: Video Games in the Ancient World
* Lost Garden
* Magical Wasteland
* male hipster leering
* malvasia bianca
* Man Bytes Blog
* No More Gamers Anymore
* Noble Carrots
* PixelVixen707
* Raph’s Website
* Save the Robot – Chris Dahlen
* Sexy Videogameland
* Slate Magazine – Gaming
* SLRC – ‘Super Legacy Reading Club!’
* The Autumnal City
* The Game Critique
* The New Gamer – We like to write about games.
* The Quixotic Engineer
* Versus CluClu Land
* Vorpal Bunny Ranch
* Writers Cabal Blog

PSP: P Stands for Promise

I promise not to just link to videos without some sort of commentary here, so let me just say that the video below really plays to the promise of the PSP. I bought one of these when they first came out. Paid $250 just for the machine, had to get a memory stick, and then some games. I had it for a while, and really loved the screen, the multimedia abilities, and the wifi/surf the net thing. But it was just so damn hard to get movies on there, the memory stick was WAY expensive for very little space (when you’re talking video media, it leaves quick), and there was no playing nice with my computer of choice: a Mac. So, no iTunes integration. It was fun, but a hassle to move stuff onto and off.

In addition, the games just really didn’t cut it. They looked as good as any console games I’d played (I only had a Game Cube at the time, and used to have a PS1), but they just weren’t as fun as I’d hoped. I sold it so I could afford to import one of the new cool DS Lites from Hong Kong. The story of my DS lis a different blog post, so suffice it to say that I still have and play my DS quite a bit, and the kids enjoy the heck out of it, too.

Flash forward a couple of years to my new gig at GamesAreEvil, and I’m writing about DS, PSP and iPhone games as the Portable Section Editor. So, of course, I should get a PSP. Because I really DID like it. So, I hunt around on ebay and find a REALLY cheap Star Wars special edition PSP. So cheap, in fact, that the screen can get wonky, and needs to be pressed on to work completely cleanly. Ah, well, buyer beware.

But here’s the deal. For playing console-like games, you cannot beat the PSP. Try God of War: Chains of Olympus. Try Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core. Try Star Wars Battlefront, for the heck of it. You’ll come away feeling like you’ve played a console game. That happens less frequently on the DS, and is only just starting to happen on the iPhone. The PSP has had some time to mature: memory sticks are MUCH less expensive, and there’s an online store to buy games and try out game demos. The web browser still rocks, and the Wifi is smooth and accessible. System updates are easy, as well. No, it still doesn’t play well with the Mac, but my iPhone does, so I don’t even worry about movies or music on the PSP anymore. In fact, it’s really just a great game mini-console. There aren’t a ton of games that I’d consider 4 or 5 stars on it still, but the ones that are do not disappoint. I’d say that two of the games I mentioned above are amazing games in their own right, regardless of the console they’re being played on.

Ok, enough commentary. This video is what started me off on the tangent. Pretty brilliant work, I’d say. Plus, it makes ya wanna go and grab yerself a PSP, don’t it?

The Whine of the Overprivileged – Resolutions 2009

“There are so few games that are good!” “My internet isn’t as blazing fast as it’s supposed to be!” “This coffee tastes slightly burnt!”

Complaining can be fun. Sometimes, it’s even cathartic. But I get to a point, sometimes, when the reality of the middle-class white privilege I live in hits home.

I’ve been on hold with my local cable provider for the past 10 minutes. I’ve got an “estimated six minute hold time” ahead of me. I’m reading some gaming sites, some Twitter scroll, etc. I’m seeing that people, especially us connected, well-off people, like to complain. We are well off enough to afford luxury items, like computers and game consoles. Some of us have even more than one of each. We can have always on cable TV and internet, and we complain when it’s not up to snuff. We make an online lifestyle about complaining how Starbucks is not as smooth and mellow as we think our local roaster’s coffee is.

There are people, right now this instant, living outside in my town. My town is cold. As in below 0˚ F right now. There are people who cannot afford housing living outside as I write these words. There are people all over the world, living lives of struggle, and pain, and tribulation. What am I doing? Complaining to my Twitter buddies about a game I rented through the mail.

I’m not saying we need to give up our comforts and our lifestyles. But there are times when I see what I have passion for as truly distracting from the reality of the world. Videogames are fun, and have a cultural impact. They help reflect and shape the world I live in. But the world I live in also includes those who are hungry, and poor, and have untreated mental illness. I need to remember to cast my gaze their way from time to time. To think about and reflect on what their lives mean to mine. How my privilege is somehow connected to their difficulties. And how I can make a difference in the lives of people who cannot afford game consoles, internet of any kind, or a Grande Mocha Latte or two a day.

I guess that’s my New Year Resolution. How about you?