I realize I’ve been AWOL for quite some time. I have a ton of excuses – life’s been hectic, the kids’ schooling has been demanding, people keep getting sick, etc. Mostly though, I’m just not feeling it. The writing, that is.
Two days after starting a journal, I rip out the pages and throw them away. Blogging has followed similar lines – if I manage to sit myself down to write a post, I end up deleting it before publishing. I still haven’t finished editing the novel I wrote for NANOWRIMO two years ago, and I’m not sure I ever will. I feel blocked and kind of depressed. Inspiration is hard to come by right now.
I’m embarrassed to admit what I do in the few precious moments of free time I have, because it’s not an activity that lines up with my professed morals. While I should be doing yoga or writing or meditating, I play Call of Duty. Yes…the violent, pretend-you’re-a-soldier-and-shoot-as-many-enemies-as-possible game. It’s my guilty pleasure.
I’m stuck with an old version on a little-used platform, where only 100 of us around the world might be playing online at any given time. I will shed tears the day they discontinue the game’s server. Sure, I could play on my daughter’s PS3, but it wouldn’t be the same because my friends wouldn’t be there. And I love my online gaming friends.
By “friends” I’m talking about the handful of players I know by user name only – the ones I tend to play with over and over again (after all, there are precious few of us left). I don’t “mic up”, so I’ve never talked to these people outside of a few brief online messages about the game. I don’t know anything about them except what weapon they prefer and what type of gaming style they exhibit. Most of them don’t use mics either, so I’ve never even heard their voices. So why on earth do I feel like they are my friends?
I guess when you spend so many hours with someone, working towards a common goal (albeit not a particularly warm and fuzzy one), a feeling of togetherness develops. My Call of Duty friends don’t ask much of me, nor I of them. We simply hang out in the comfort of our own homes and shoot pretend people in a pretend world. There are no messy emotional exchanges, no hard feelings. No expectations, no commitment. Hackers aside, it’s a fairly level playing field where it doesn’t matter who you are in real life. No one asks, no one cares. The game and how well you play it are what matters.
In the real world, I have a hard time living in the moment. I’m always analyzing the past or worrying about the future. Lots and lots and lots of worrying. Enjoying the here and now is a struggle for me, because even when things are going well, I’m anxiously waiting for the other shoe to drop. But not when I play Call of Duty.
Once I hear, “Time to work soldiers,” everything else falls away and I am completely absorbed in the here and now of the game. There’s no time to worry about bills or health insurance or groceries or what’s going to happen six months from now. That brings my troubled mind a certain amount of relief that I can’t get anywhere else.
I imagine most people will see it as just another form of escapism. Maybe it is. But I prefer to think of it another way – that Call of Duty is teaching me how to get out of my own head for a while and live in the moment. Yes, it’s a stretch. But it’s one I’m willing to make in order to justify the happy moments I spend with my pretend friends in our pretend world.
Namaste (with just a touch of irony).