I’m excited. Today I hit level 3 in my real-life video game, and all signs point to me only increasing my commitment to this project until at least the “beta” phase is over at level 10. From there I’m going to re-draft my missions, improve my reward system and point structure, and try and see if I can make it a multi-player game by recruiting a couple other people to play it with me!
But here I want to talk more about why I’m doing this in the first place, and how I’m conceiving of the eventual end of this game.
The purpose of this game is to leverage both my playfulness and my propensity toward game addiction to become a better friend, partner, comrade, organizer, and thinker. It’s about using fun and games as a means of actually helping myself to mature and get more “serious” about the way I want to contribute to the world in my lifetime.
The roots of this are many: I’m getting older (30 on Sunday) and working with youth all day increasingly makes me feel old; I’m responsible for a huge family and will hopefully be a father in the coming year or so; I’m professionally adrift; family finances are a constant hell; I’ve been struggling with politically-rooted depression for a good decade now; and yet I’m still deeply, thoroughly, gut-level committed to building a just and democratic world.
Though there’s always more to learn, of course, I feel like my 15 years of radical struggle now have given me a pretty good idea of the work that I want to be doing, and the kind of social movement participant that I want to be. I’ve made my peace with the fact that I don’t want to be a famous movement superstar (though I do want to write a book or two). I know that I don’t care about professional advancement (except to bring Glendi’s family stability and to fund the movement) and I know that no matter what job I have, I’ll always hate working. I know that I want to be rooted in one geographic region and to slowly foster long-term revolutionary movement building from there. But all this time the sticking point has been the follow-through.
So many years of insecure fumbling. So many hard experiences of failure, followed by months of despondency. So many repeated conversations, promises, proposals. As the stakes have gotten higher and higher (now with lives depending on me being present and responsible), I’ve come to realize that it’s time to really get growing. It’s time to really apply what I’ve learned over the years in a meaningful, consistent way.
Thus, the game. The game is a way of motivating myself–really its more of a manipulation–to do the kind of personal work that I know I need to do to be the organizer and person I want to be. By getting points for participating in social spaces, attending political events, reading, playing, walking, and appreciating the work of friends and comrades, I am building new practices for myself that key off of my already developed triggers of, “just one more game,” and “I’ll quit as soon as I level up.”
The idea was actually inspired by what I’ve seen from people doing Somatics and Trauma work. Their idea, in a nutshell, is that we are sort of made up of our practices, and that those practices are based on years of responses to the world that we live in, so the things that we do that are unhealthy are usually rooted in survival strategies that once worked for us, but which are no longer serving us so well. The trick to growing and changing, then, is to be engaging with our mind-body-spirit (soma…somatics) to develop new, centered practices that can take us toward our values and our commitments. Right on. The problem is there are a whole bunch of reasons why the straightforward somatics practices and groups won’t work for me right now, so I chose to come up with something that could meet me right where I’m at and support me from there.
It’s working. My god it’s working so beautifully.
It’s my hope that in 6 months, 9 months, a year I will have developed and internalized enough new practices that the framing of the game can go away, and I can engage in more social ways of doing this work. Somatics groups? Maybe. Revolutionary organizations? I hope. Revolutionary congregation building? If only!
Of course, if the game does pan out for me, I’ll try to share about it, maybe with a special website, or a small book, or a youtube video or something. I do think it’s fun and creative and could be a help to a lot of other gamer types. But that’s not the point for me.
The point, for me, is entirely personal.
I want to end this game considerably more practiced in the skills and habits that I want to carry with me into fatherhood and old age. Because I know that my ideas and habits will continue to get more ossified with age, I want to make a big offensive right now toward getting myself on a better track. Of course, there is no endgame in trying to be a better person, but I believe there will be a point where I can do it without these wonderful training wheels that the game provides.
Onward to level 4, then level 10, and then version 2.0 of the game!