In life, how often do we truly go to new places? We might travel physically or mentally to new areas, but we are often chained to our previous perceptions of reality. We might go out for a day or even a week, but we’ll often return. We might consider differing points of view, so long as they’re not overly challenging. Going somewhere new requires sacrificing old physical and mental perspectives and the clutter of both.
I was looking over my Twitch bio today and thinking about my health.
Months ago, I was optimistic that I would be feeling better by now – July, when I’m writing this. Will I be better by now – August, when you might be reading this, or later? If I am better, if I’m able to move around more than a few pounds worth of things at a time, or risk my health for a few days to move more, I would like to reduce more of my possessions. I have no need for the expensive apartment-mansion. Despite being in a nice area, my neighbors loudly slam their door until another neighbor yells at them, “door!,” and then they are polite for a few hours. Despite being having a nice view, I can’t enjoy much of it. I can stand out on my balcony and overlook the minor forest. It’s a nice view, but, I’ve seen it.
I’ve seen it for nearly three years now.
I was talking about videogames yesterday, relating to the notion of owning videogames for the sake of legally broadcasting them and the false notions that people have concerning how owning a physical object implies that it’s appropriate for them to broadcast its contents, nearly unmodified, when I said I eventually plan to sell nearly 100% of my videogame collection. First to friends, then to acquaintances, then to stores, then to strangers. I didn’t commit to 100% of them. Does that number include vessels of games I’ve “owned” since childhood of games like EarthBound – a key changing of perspective for me that life wasn’t only about school? I can’t own the game itself. The vessel contains a copy of the game, along with the implication of a private license for home use. If I get rid of the vessel, do I still have that license? Who can issue new licenses?
These questions matter regarding media and their experiences.
Owning the physical cartridge of EarthBound means I can play it whenever I want, but I haven’t been able to plug in a Super Nintendo into anything since I moved into the apartment-mansion, so I can’t really play it “whenever I want.” There’s the time of me finding and setting up the Super Nintendo, and, there’s the health investment with that, too. Does selling my videogame collection mean I can’t reacquire that same experience? The physical vessels would probably be different, but I could reacquire the same experience somewhat easily. Depending on the availability of the new vessels and – more importantly – my interest in doing all of that.
Playing a game whenever I want does mean using emulators to play them.
If I download an emulator to emulate the performance of the console, and a ROM that pretends to be the game, then I can – and have – broadcast those games out both for private use and publicly. I justify my broadcasts under fair use by modifying the games to such an extend, first by silencing the game audio, then by applying visual things on top, to where it no longer is the same game that was sold in stores. I would further advocate that just because you physically own a copy, doesn’t mean you have broadcasting right at all, unless perhaps you had bought it new from a store that had bought the game from a manufacturer.
Why is all this important?
We own things like media – videogames, movies, books, and more – through vessels like these. We tend to place value on the vessels for things like material worth of nostalgic purposes. I might say, “well, I remember playing EarthBound back in the 90s, and I remember this, this, and that.” Sure, that’s a nice sentiment, and one I recalled without the physical object in my immediate proximity. I don’t even know where, exactly, EarthBound is hiding amongst all of my physical possessions. If I wanted to hunt it down for the purposes of completing that thought, I have a few places I would search, but I couldn’t do so easily enough to conclude this paragraph meandering through its specific details.
The most I remember of the cartridge itself is a fairly generic image.
Super Nintendo cartridges are a light gray color, with a black label featuring colorful logos of the games inside, and are roughly the size of two palms put together thumb-to-thumb. They contain nice experiences, and some of them life-changing as was the case for me with meandering through EarthBound’s world, inspired by our real world, where people said all sorts of nonsense that was fun to read about years before I would meander through our world and talk to people that say all sorts of nonsense that’s fun to engage with. Does owning my childhood copy of EarthBound evoke that sort of memory in me – or is it the game itself?
Here’s a thought experiment.
Let’s say that I purchased a new-to-me copy of EarthBound and later found my childhood copy of EarthBound. Let’s say that any price sticker labelings were removed from that second copy and then both were placed side-by-side. Would I be able to identify which one was which? No. I’m sure that’s the nightmare of videogame collectors that are enthusiastic about this sort of stuff. The jumbling of physical vessels implying memories of the past. I don’t want to trivialize this experience, because I knew it well for years and years, but now that I’ve had nearly three years of separation from these experiences, along with nearly a year after my spine surgery that gave me some mental separation from my physical body, such that I now consider my mind to be the pilot of a body, I feel like there’s enough separation of both where it’s OK to say this:
There are many vessels that I can sacrifice to achieve what I want.
I have no overwhelming attachment to any of the videogames I own, but some of the CDs I own have sentimental value – more so than music I’ve loved, physical vessels that have been personalized to me. Autographs from bands I’ve met over the years might be the same as if my childhood copy of EarthBound had my name carved into it. If it were, would I hold the same sentimentality to it? Maybe so, maybe not. There are two reasons why CDs might get more of an exemption here: I can firstly store more of them in a smaller location so having a box or two of CDs wouldn’t be so bad to transport, and second I can use them more often. My current car has a CD player in it, I still have some CD players, and I might have an external CD player to plug into my laptop.
The major problem with this playability argument is the same as the videogame side.
I’m listening to a streaming album that, honestly, I might not listen to again. It’s not bad, but there are millions of other albums out there. If I had bought the album, I might be more likely to listen to it again, just to mentally recoup the price, but since I didn’t buy the album, it’s one-and-done, cataloged, and mostly forgotten. It was easy for me to queue up the album and play it. It’s easy for me to forget about it. The enthusiasts of physical media like CDs/records and videogames might imply an almost spiritual connection with the process of making sure everything is working to meander through the media, but, for me, that’s a bit of a waste of time.
My meandering divination through media happens regardless of physical matter.
I’ve had a song stuck in my head for the past few weeks. I don’t own a physical vessel of this song in any format. The band released the song, for free, for anyone to enjoy. The implication is that you would support the band without needing the media inside of the physical vessel. Once that separation happened with the proliferation of piracy on the Internet, most record labels that contract bands to generate media like CDs/records accepted that they could no longer reliably generate income through the sales of physical vessels, so they shifted gears. The new thesis is: “Have the music for free, but pay for it if you want, and pay for other merchandise that promotes the bands.” I do this as much as is reasonable, but especially since I haven’t been able to work in over a year, I can’t frivolously spend money on things like this – no matter how much I like it.
I still enjoy listening to the song and meandering through media – paid for or not.
The primary purposes of these vessels, then, shift from being the containers of media and are now primarily purer units of capital. When I buy media now, I will be fully educated in the media within – I can play the vidoegame probably fully and listen to the album almost certainly fully – all without paying a cent in advance. The payment becomes the offering of goodwill toward the media maker. Game developers making videogames now have an easier time making smaller games. They can work full-time, sacrifice in many other areas of their lives, and work for years before they get an overnight sensation. Bands, too. Getting signed to a bigger company to help finance your media project might actually be easier now because we have more tools to promote ourselves at all levels.
I can publish 2,076 essays and counting, here, without needing a publisher.
I am my own publisher of these essays. I don’t pay myself for the labor I put into these essays, and I haven’t generated income from writing these essays and other things, but this process has taught me the humility to recognize that if I truly believe in something – if I want to become a professional writer – I need to work hard for years. I may not even succeeed. Over the past 5 years, I’ve had to work many hours of labor outside of writing to keep myself in good financial standing. Had I known, years ago, about everything that I would be encountering now, would I have sold or donated everything I could?
My mind was still tied to the clutter in a deeply psychological way.
This paid off, in some regards, because during this pandemic, videogame prices have skyrocketed in value. People are hoarding physical vessels of times that evoke positive memories in their minds. People want to be seduced by the idea that physically owning a videogame means that they can legally broadcast it, and if they get a DMCA strike, well, shucks, they were unlucky! I can empathize with that, not just with those who I would want to sell my videogame vessels to for a decent profit, but because I’ve been there, and I know that feeling of having some cool thing that you wanted when you were a kid. Now I’m at the point where if I could live somewhere cheaper, quieter, and with more accessibility for me, then I’d sacrifice plenty to get there. Sell the videogames and most of the possessions at a loss for all I care. I’ve been in financially acceptable shape here, which just proves to me that I can figure out ways to write more, spend less on rent and superfluous stuff, and work more toward actualizing my dreams, rather than helping others actualize theirs by buying and not fully meandering through their dreams. In this way, I can visit new places.
I need to get out of this place first.
|Sources: My personal experiences.|
|Inspirations: Meandering through thoughts on physical ownership of property. I will probably keep the most personalized or sentimental objects, but the fewer the better, since the more objects I have to worry about, the more objects I have to worry about. Also, I’ll be experimenting with writing 2,000-word essays now. Not always. Especially if I’m feeling unwell or running out of time, but 2000 is the new 1000 is the new 500, but the limit will always be 500 words per day.|
|Related: Other Downsizing Zeal essays.|
|Written On: 2021 July 18 [10:200000000000pm to 11:09pm]|
|Last Edited: 2021 July 18 [First draft; final draft for the Internet.]|