[Media Meandry] Level Up Yourself

Do we like videogames because it’s clear when we level up? I love getting into battles more than normal when a character is about to level up or advance something. Filling up status bars is so gratifying! There’s no ambiguity here! All you have to do is keep on playing until you level up. After playing one hour of FF7, I realized I appreciate the clarity of leveling up. Can we do that in life?

This is probably why I like writing so many essays and such.

My writing calendar is scheduled so far in advance that I’m writing this essay over six months ahead of schedule. Even publishing daily, I still use the same general mentality of doing a little more leveling up, where if I can clear out one more obstacle toward my next goal, let’s go! This essay is even an example of that dedication to leveling up. I’m writing this when I should be sleeping, but I was just so interested in this notion.

Every level up makes the monsters in videogames slightly easier.

I was already over-leveled when I got to these monsters outside the Chocobo Farm in FF7, but they were giving me enough of a challenge to make it interesting for me. I have my keyboard layout set so I can run around with WASD keys and I use the Q key to confirm and the space key to escape or run. I’ve actually had some wrist pain because I’ve been playing videogames so often here, just because I’ve let three games distract me from my lower back pains – this, Pokémon LeafGreen and ENDLESS WAR.

Each game has clear leveling up objectives.

The clearest leveling up objectives take place in ENDLESS WAR. All you do is paste !mine into #the-mines chatroom enough times to earn enough slime to do stuff. FF7 has some gauges for leveling up your characters and Materia. LeafGreen gives you infinitely more decisions with choices on characters and monsters. Leveling up characters in the Pokémon Tower of Lavender Town is exceedingly easy on the floor where you can walk over tiles that instantly heal your party, but only certain characters can fight there. If they can’t defeat ghosts, they can’t fight there.

All these gameplay loops are extremely gratifying for me.

Life is significantly less gratifying from this perspective. You can become stronger by doing reps, on say a rowing machine, but it’s like playing a videogame where you guess what you’re doing and can only see the results in hindsight. Sure, I’ve burned off over fifty pounds – from 267 to 211.5 pounds, most recently – it’s just that route hasn’t been as clear for me as leveling up characters in videogames.

How can we change that?

The easiest way is the effort and reward system. If you put in effort into something, then you get a reward out of it. The reverse can also be true. I’m writing this essay because I let myself play a game, but only if I used some of the idle time to think about why I was doing what I was doing. It’s a great way to unwind from the stresses of life and assess my motivations to then shape them into ways to motivate me in the future. Even if the end result is countless iterations on the same essay idea, I tend to get bored writing the same material repeatedly, so eventually, I either complete the thought or action that’s been lingering in my mind long enough to take hold in an essay.

How can we make out-of-game chores as exciting as in-game chores?

I’ve tried many ways to gamify tasks. None of them quite work for me as well as this notion of ‘you can only play a game if you write about something tangentially related to it.’ LeafGreen has been by far the most inviting for me in this regard. I want to dump as much time as I can into its mechanics. I feel compelled by it. It doesn’t have much in terms of narrative that’s worthwhile. We explore the map until we find new trouble to get into, new Pokémon to catch, so I don’t play it for the storytelling.

I avoided the storytelling in FF7 to focus on the gameplay.

I tend to like advancing in videogame stories at certain points. I’m training myself to be better at this. The whole notion of wanting to savor the story by never experiencing it was something that kickstarted this whole series because of how it prevents me from playing the videogames I want to play and experiencing the life I want to live.

I don’t really consider this website to be a diary, even though there are elements of it.

What if I used these essays as challenges to give myself each day where I could try leveling up, say, fitness or sobriety? Framed in that way, these essays can serve as the save points I’ve made in the progress I’ve made in the game I’m living in. I have many projects I want to do. Playing these videogames have been the most captivating for me lately because they require so little investment outside of some light brainpower, and FF7, in particular, has been such a long-term want that now that I’ve had some time to sit, I’ve let my indulgences get the better of me.

That’s where writing the essays have helped to prevent them from wasting all my time.

I know I’ll be doing this every time I play LeafGreen because it, by far, is the easiest to suck up time. I even, just today, jumped in for a few minutes to grab an item and try out my newest Pokémon, Nils-Snorlax. I’m worried now because I’ve run out of character names from my first novel to call these Pokémon. I’m not sure I’m ready to figure out the characters that will appear in my second novel just yet.

I still have to level up my fiction-writing skills.

Quotes: None.
Sources: My personal and professional experiences.
Inspirations: A meandry through why I like what I like.
Related: Other Media Meandry essays.
Screenshot: My almost exact inception point for this essay, but technically the battle before this since I’d almost defeated all the monsters by then.
Written On: 2020 May 03 [From midnight to 12:07am – the prep time, including editing the image’s title. Then from 12:07am to 12:50am for the actual writing.]
Last Edited: 2020 May 03 [First draft; final draft for the Internet.]
My big goal is writing. My most important goal is writing "The Story." All other goals should work toward that central goal. My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame some fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. I'm not better than you and you're not better than me. Let's strive to be better every day.