Okay, so given that my last post (in which I bid farewell to this site's forums, and to some extent, gaming) talked about my UPCOMING wedding, I know it's been a while. I just thought I would throw out an update on my life for the two or three people who are still posting regularly that may be following me. Eh, for all I know, the number of readers of this post could be zero. But I can't sleep, and I want to reflect, to here it goes anyway.
I had a bit of an epiphany tonight. I realized that I had gone through a particular cycle twice, and both times, it ended up with me feeling burned out. The first time it was with videogames, and the second time (more recently) it was with music. The cycle went like this--I devoted a lot of time and energy to it, hoped to achieve a career in the field, then gradually became disillusioned with my ability (to be a game designer and later a musician) and my seeming shortage of passion for the thing, only to follow it up by avoiding the subject as much as possible and simply not gaining the enjoyment out of dabbling with it that I used to. Seeing that has been weirdly liberating--I haven't played games much over the past five years since my last post, and for the first time in a long time, I can actually see that changing. (For that matter, I think I will also be able to start playing music again, which is a relief as well.)
See, I think I need to let go of the need to make my whole identity about being a gamer, or being a musician, or being a third hobby (that I will discuss momentarily). It kinda wrecks the sort of long-term career planning I have typically done, which is alarming as I am turning thirty this year (egads, I started on these board at age FIFTEEN!), but honestly, the long-term blue-skying about what I could do and could be has only brought me heartache and harm. I have a job for now, and it might lead to other things later. That's enough.
So for the first time in a long time, I think I may start to genuinely get joy out of videogames again. Those who saw my posts know that I was a Nintendo fan first, and I never really "outgrew" their games. It helps that I think the Nintendo Switch is the most personally compelling piece of hardware that they've done to date, and probably has me more legitimately excited to play their games since, well, the GameCube. I have a pre order in, something that I didn't do for the Wii U, and I think at this point, given my tastes have never quite jived with standard AAA games, the mix of indie and Nintendo games with in a portable system is probably about perfect for me.
There are a couple of things I do want to talk about. The first is that I've developed another hobby over the past several years. Let me introduce it to you with an image:
This is Terra Mystica. It is a board game, though I tend to distinguish Terra Mystica and other board games I like to play (as opposed to Monopoly and Sorry and Clue, which I am not interested in) as "hobby board games" or "designer board games". You may or may not be aware that in the past ten years, board games have undergone something of a renaissance, with a notable uptick both in their popularity and design quality. Terra Mystica happens to be my favourite game of any type, ever, surpassing even the hallowed Zelda games in my estimation. Instead of numerous evenings spent playing videogames, I now tend to spend whatever evenings and weekends I can cobbling together family members and friends to play my latest purchase (and they are not cheap, with an average board game coming in at $60-$80 Canadian), or going to a meetup at a local board game cafe.
I find that this hobby combines a lot of the things I got out of playing videogames as a hobby years ago. But instead of playing games on my own and then hopping online to socialize by discussing, say, Metroid Prime or The Wind Waker, the social aspect and the playing both occur simultaneously. In some games, how you act socially IS the game (look up a game called The Resistance, for instance). Even local multiplayer videogames don't quite capture the feel of playing a board game together with other people, as you actually sit and face the other players rather than all face a screen. If you consider yourself a gamer, and have never played games like Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, The Resistance (or The Resistance: Avalon), Terra Mystica, Pandemic, Dead of Winter, Splendor or even Settlers of Catan (which is sort of a bridge between mainstream board games and hobby board games), you are missing out. I guarantee that since you already like good game design, you will be able to find board games that appeal to you.
A good place to start might be to see if there is a board game cafe in your area. Basically, they will have a selection of hundreds of board games to play, and for five dollars a day (though I know of a board game cafe that charges $2.50 an hour... which is why I rarely go to that one), you can play any of them for as long as you want, in addition to offering food and drink for sale. If you like a particular game, you can also often purchase a copy on your way out the door. They're fantastic places to hang out, have a lot of fun, and learn some new games.
What has been most exciting is that I have actually landed a job at a new board game cafe opening in my city. My official title is "Board Game Master", and I will be responsible for essentially ensuring people have a good time playing board games as long as they are there. This is the most excited I have been to start a new job that I can remember.
As for what the future holds, who knows? I have been starting to think about fatherhood, and it is something I want, though I do want to be on firmer footing with employment before that happens. Maybe with a little less existential angst invested in making my hobby my identity, I will carve out some kind of career in board games. I don't know, but I feel more optimistic that it's going to turn out all right than I have in a while.
I want to leave you with this thought--my time here was critically important to becoming the person I am today. It helped me start to come out of my shell, and God knows that's what I needed in my teenage years. I am grateful for the ridiculous amount of time I spent discussing trivial things like the supremacy of Ocarina of Time to Final Fantasy VII (if Ted sees this, he KNOWS I'm right on that one) helped me socially, and I think intellectually as well. It helped me learn how to communicate a little more clearly. Most importantly, it taught me to see the value of other people at a time when I was very cynical about human beings. For that, I am especially grateful to you.
Thank you for reading, and thank you for being a part of my life.