Staying in the Game

There is no one oasis where we all gather, no single body of experience from which we drink. Never was, not really, but when life relied more on print than bandwidth, our oasis seemed not a mirage but a canon of stuff.

Since Gutenberg, we shared life in print; the twentieth century added broadcasting, both audio and visual. The Internet is all that and so much more–24/7 access to change. We’re offered what we want before we even think of it.

Thirty years ago, I would have said, “That’s not for me. I refuse to participate.” I can see me waving a Waterman fountain pen for emphasis. I believed in the canon of the writing process, another would-be oasis.

I was wrong, not only about me but so much more.

I bought into the Internet from the get-go, especially all the devices. As a writer, the word processor was my best friend and early on I was fascinated by systems development and still am.

Today, I’m a gamer, beyond the scrabble-like Words With Friends, which I play daily but not yet Xbox. The gaming world is another gateway into the diversity of imagination; I play for story, solving a mystery or revisiting Greek/Norse myths. Also, a bit of archaeology.

These are genre games, essentially, in which I play the protagonist in a story written by someone else. I become a player. Often, it’s not hard to figure out “whodunit” or how the story ends but the path is not always obvious and unless I focus, I lose my way.

Sometimes, I think could write a better game but that’s not the point. It’s not my story, I’m just a participant. I take myself out of me and become a detective, working through clues. That’s why I’m there.

I discovered these games as a way to make something more of my time when I am too ill to write but find myself straying from the medium of film or audiobook, needing to engage with life as character, until I can enter my own writing again.

Gaming is looking through another lens in the process.

I am completely immersed in the way of another writer (and developer). The game will not proceed unless I work within their rules and complete the tasks to clear the story path. More hands-on than reading or writing but be it film, audiobook, or game, the adventure returns me to my own writing eventually.

William Stafford wrote: “A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them.

It’s finding ways to stay in the game. Would I have been a gamer if I was not a writer? Writing has been with me for most of my life, not always for publication but I am an author, too. Writing has always clarified my thinking and for the last 30 years, a constant companion.

Now, because the physical act of writing is as demanding, if not more so, than the mental act, I have to find other ways. Gaming opens that door for me. To be in someone else’s story, having to solve puzzles and find tools to reveal clues, is to look through another writing lens in a most intimate way.

Gaming plays a real part in my writing process, and that always makes me smile. It is the structure that stays with me. The really fine games can be played at different levels so for me, one game is good for months. It reminds me of my own revision process. 😉

While I play, my own stories “percolate,” as I rearrange scenes in my novel or concepts for blog posts. Mostly, there is energy in resting one part of the process while still working. It keeps me in the game.

St. Mark's Refuge; Gulf of Mexico; KMHuberImage


4 thoughts on “Staying in the Game

  1. We seek to keep our minds alive and that requires, not just passively consuming ideas but engaging with them in whatever form that engagement may take.

    If you demand something of your mind (yes, the self seems to be something other than the mind) it remains agile, curious, and best of all, it continues to explore no matter where you send it to wander, always in the state of becoming.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating way of thinking about gaming!
    Story-telling takes many forms, but a good story is a good story, and I guess that’s what writers like you are always pursuing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s an extraordinary thing, really. Who could have imagined gaming would become one of the major drivers behind hardware? Or that they could gain development budgets that would do a movie proud? Some have teams of writers whose dialogue and plots would, indeed, do a novel justice. I think it was Valve software that led the way there, over a decade ago; and as you say, they lead the mind of the player in unexpected directions – with benefit to their own ideas.

    I went through a long period of not gaming much, but I’ve been picking up that ‘first person story’ style of gaming myself lately, at odd moments – playing co-operatively online with friends. To me such games are a different experience from a movie, or reading a novel, but no less valid, if they’re written well. It’s curious: the nature of programming means that, in effect, players are forced into actions and behaviours defined by what the game-developers produce. But is this different, really, from a novel, where the reader inevitably must follow and riff from the thoughts of the author? And I have to wonder: will such things join novels, movies and the like in future as a major medium? (I have a vague concept, here, of 25th century schoolchildren writhing in boredom when being made to study early 21st century games and having to have the cultural issues they’re framed around explained, the way Shakespeare was presented to me at school… but maybe that’s just me).

    Liked by 1 person

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