Videogames like Pokémon LeafGreen aren’t ambiguous because you have to understand what you’re doing in order to play. Mostly… I hated the SpeedRunners demo I tried recently because the game drops you in without warning into its tutorial. Without the ability to change settings, get my barrings, or anything to reduce the ambiguity, I was left frustrated. Pokémon won’t let you play until you’ve covered the basics. If only life were less ambiguous like that..
Yet, really, life’s ambiguities make it interesting.
Where would we be if we completely knew what we were doing at all times? I think I’m yearning for simplicity because things are much more complex than they were even three months ago. I had made plans to sell off vast chunks of my clutter, even without any return on investment, just to clear the space. I waited too long. The clutter is probably worthless to everyone. The most I can do is catalog the clutter and pack it all up. Right now, as I look past my monitor, I can see stacks of CDs that I can sell or donate, but they’re all part of a mass, which degrades the overall feeling I get from looking at them.
None of that ambiguity happens inside of a videogame.
In the screenshot above, I am leveling up my newest teammate, Linda-Vulpix, and switching over to Hank-Graveler when Linda-Vulpix gets injured. Then I’m using Venkat-Kadabra to teleport back to base to heal up and return again. I’ve worked out this process well enough to grind up the levels, which is infinitely more complex than FF7. Maybe that’s why I’m more compelled to it? Well no, with FF7, I want to soak in the story, narrative structuring, dialogue, and such.
Some of the dialogue in Pokémon is actually kinda clever.
Let me immediately clarify. FF7 and EarthBound used their characters to convey complex, challenging, and nuanced ideas. Most RPGs do not. Although the Pokémon games don’t have any particularly strong lines of writing, the lines aren’t all about gameplay mechanics. Those are more side points, though, because what I’ve enjoyed most about this playthrough so far is training up a diverse team. I get enough pleasure out of naming the Pokémon I catch after characters specifically from my first novel that I’ll have to rename my Gyarados away from its Nuzlocke inspiration.
Oh, that reminds me of what I really like about this playthrough.
I like fidgeting with data. I like seeing how much more it’ll take before I level up a character. I like researching what level I should wait until I evolve it. I haven’t decided on my long-term team so I haven’t decided if I should give any one-time-use items to anyone yet, but I like them all enough to where I’m training up a diverse team. It’s fun. That might be why I cataloged all the albums I have since 2008.
Data is usually unambiguous.
It’s calming to go there and update an entry, or whatever, just like it’s calming to spend a half-hour to !mine for slime in ENDLESS WAR or level up some characters. Although I’ve thought about applying some cheat codes, that wouldn’t be fun for me. I like the repetitive motions of gameplay enough to where I’ve noticed some repetitive stress on my left wrist from using the WASD keyboard layout too much. I should focus this energy I have, of not being able to do much as my back does its healing thing, on writing. The thing is, though, I only have so much energy to focus on exploring topics like this.
Sometimes, I just wanna up my stats in videogames.
I’m not interested in perfecting gameplay mechanics, so I could never get into a game like SpeedRunners on its own terms. At most, I did like its gameplay mechanics and thought some of it was clever, but I would never want to play it to any degree of proficiency. Instead, I prefer games and lifestyle choices where things can be as easy or as difficult as I want them to be, which reflects my writing style and mentality. I don’t write with much formality. These essays meander around disparate thoughts as they cross my mind. I ride the waves of my thoughts as I type. It might be stream of consciousness. I like to think of it as writing to uncover little thoughts, like above, where I realized that I love the simpler aspects of data entry or management.
Life, right now, is too ambiguous.
We don’t know if things are going to improve. Will there be a cure for COVID-19? Will we be able to go visit the seedy parts of the city to take photography without catching a highly contagious disease? We don’t have to worry about that when we’re playing videogames. The most I have to worry about is making sure I don’t screw up my game by saving it accidentally at the wrong time. Within games like this, we can make things as complicated as we want them to be, whether it’s through limiting gameplay mechanics or trying certain playstyles.
It’s all our choices, whereas, in life, many of those choices are decided for us.
What if we change our perspective on that? What if we say that we will live life on our terms, whether that means making it more predictable and boring so that way we don’t get overwhelmed, or deciding that we will take more risk in terms of getting out there and saying what we really feel? That might be like playing a videogame where you might make a jump before you’re sure you can make it, because worst case, you can try it again. You might have to expend superfluous energy to get back there, but hey, it’s just a videogame, right? Why take it all so seriously that you can’t have fun with it.
I would say the same, then, of life: Don’t take it so seriously that it’s not fun.
|Sources: My personal experiences.|
|Inspirations: Meandering through my thoughts before playing my next session.|
|Related: Other Media Meandry essays.
01 – “Easy Mode Living”
02 – “Real Life Grinding”
03 – “Had To Play”
03.5 – “Fiction Inspiring Fiction”
04 – “Videogames Aren’t Ambiguous“
|Screenshots: My grinding team, above. Below, my benched team. Below that, my team’s details.|
|Written On: 2020 April 30 [11:11pm to 11:50pm while listening to Five From The Vault.]|
|Last Edited: 2020 April 30 [First draft; final draft for the Internet.]|