This is the Mega Post, ask the nexus of purpose, concern, and reality. Cue dramatic music, and the fog machine.
Despite knowing better, I don’t have a problem discussing myself on the Internet. A lot of people feel the same way, although they would if you cornered them in real life. I think the same reason people are dicks on the Internet — anonymity, not always knowing where your contacts are in relation to you, strangers — is the same reason why people who aren’t interested in being dicks can open up about themselves. Standing face to face with another stranger, even if you converse with them all day online, adds in another dimension of reality that’s very much like the reality we experience that may have been what made us hesitant to discuss ourselves in person in the first place. When we’re “talking” at people we don’t know, or people who are also comfortable behind the relative anonymity of the Internet, we’re more at ease (in some cases).
I used to be very introverted, but I credit college with having changed that about me. Living among strangers would have been terrifying if I hadn’t quickly come to the realization that these people and I were equals: all of us had the same opportunity to shed our old lives and reinvent ourselves in a new environment to rid ourselves of the personalities and quirks we knew were holding us down. It wasn’t an overnight process; I think it took all four years for me to reach my relatively Zen state of “whatever, man”, but I’m not as introverted — or as angry — as I used to be when I was younger.
That was compounded when I had a child. Before, my life was my own. Now, my life was someone else’s (not to belittle my relationship with my wife). I realized that everything I did was being watched, studied, and learned from. My actions were learning experiences; my beliefs were templates for the formation of someone else’s values. I had a responsibility to make my life matter because in my own small way, I was carving out a chunk of the world my child would inhabit and inherit.
A lot of my writing over the past several years has been focused on “community”, and specifically the gaming and geek community because that’s where I live. It’s my hobby and a part of my identity. My brother in law is a professional brewer, and he talks about beer like he’s going to run out of it at any second, and while I’ve come to appreciate beer, I don’t share his enthusiasm. In turn, he doesn’t share my enthusiasm for gaming and geekery (although his sons do). Everyone has something they hold dear, and when my daughter started showing an interest in Minecraft and anime, I knew that my responsibility had to take on a whole new dimension. Not only did I have to make sure she gets her vitamins and does her homework, but I have to ensure that this geek-in-training grows into a community that treats her like a human being and judges her on her enthusiasm, not her experience or gender.
Most of my posts had been about begging the community that was within the sound of my…posts…to consider why we’re in this community. No one (aside from reporters, soldiers, and doctors) runs towards a place they’d rather not be, and our presence in this space always told me that the geek community wanted to be here because geekery was part of their identity just as it is part of mine. The act of being here meant something good to everyone. But there’s such poison in this community, of the type you’d expect to see if a country was under siege by a contingent that wanted it wiped from the map. To this day I cannot fathom how so many people can claim to love this community, and yet not accept that their behavior is destroying it.
So the focus on the community had always been important to me because I know that I want to do better, and to hang out with people whose company I enjoy, who enjoy my company, and with whom I have this culture in common. I always felt that these artificial demarcations we raise between platforms or genres or regions or skill sets or age or gender are truly just that: artificial. We as humans want companionship and understanding and acceptance, but for some reason it’s more important that we’re seen as being right than we are in actually being right. It’s never been more poignant than when someone believes they’re in the right when they’re neck-deep in being wrong. Make no mistake…there is a right and a wrong, and it transcends the geek community.
Before anything else that we claim to be, we’re born into this world as a member of a single community: the human race. We don’t learn about gender, religion, or nationality, or skin color, sexual preference, PC or console, Xbox or Playstation, or any other “bucket” we inhabit until much later. Sadly, I think that humanity is the first thing ejected from our identities as we strive to rarefy ourselves to fit in and to stand out. We won’t get noticed if the best we can claim for ourselves is that “we’re a decent human being”, and yet that’s exactly what I focus on so often: the humanity or it’s lack in how we treat one another in this community.
About Me and You
No one can possibly get along with everyone. With billions of people on the planet, each of which has their own unique set of genes, and having each experienced their own unique life, there’s going to be people who become naturally opposed to one another. As sad as that is to consider, it’s inescapable.
Of course, I (and others in my generation, and those older than I am) remember the days when finding people who share our interests wasn’t easy. You mostly found one another by chance, or if you had the resources, could get yourself to a meeting of like minded people. Maybe that’s why going to church has declined. It used to be a sure-fire way to find people you can relate to, but now common interests are only one subreddit away (may gawd have mercy on our souls).
Don’t get me wrong: it’s exciting to have access to the planet’s largest Rolodex without having to get up from the couch. I’ve made contact with legions of people that I would never have found 25 years ago when being a geek wasn’t anywhere near as cool as it is today. Of course, that doesn’t mean that everyone I’ve come across fits into my personal puzzle.
Despite my high-minded calls for everyone to get along, I’m not a paragon of kyumbaya. I get angry at people for reasons both legitimate and trivial. I get jealous and enjoy the occasional superiority complex. I bob up and down on the waves of social engagement quite often. I’ve threatened to leave this community (or at least the public eye aspect of it) several times now, but here I am, writing to you…assuming you’ve made it this far.
People are important to me. I can’t say that all people are important to me, but the net result is that I can’t back out of this community even if I wanted to — really wanted to, and not just claiming to do so for attention. Like I said above, geekery is part of my identity, and I care deeply for the people who make up this community whether I interact with them or not, get angry at them, or follow or unfollow them several times. That’s you. You are important to me. And if you’re not a member of this community and have stumbled upon this post and are reading out of morbid curiosity, that’s you too, because if we have nothing else in common, we’re both human beings trapped (for now) on this planet. That counts for a lot, believe it or not.
And The Future
Folks who know me know that I’ve recently (as of this posting) trashed my other blogs and proclaimed that I was done with blogging. Apparently, that’s not entirely true, and it bothers me both that it’s not, and that I wasn’t entirely honest, or at least was not clear.
I had been struggling with “keeping up with the Joneses” on levelcapped.com. I wanted to be important in the blog-o-sphere, and felt that keeping time with posts would help to grow a dedicated following. I had some success, but there’s a part of my personality that wasn’t accepting what I had achieved, even though I consciously knew that nothing I wanted to achieve was an overnight deal.
My problem is that I have reached the statistical half-way point in my lifespan. At this point, I have a job, a house, a wife and child, a car, a dog, enough money to be comfortable, and good friends. But it’s not enough. Rather, none of those things fills this need I have to accomplish something before I die. Many people would suggest that the things I do have could easily be considered accomplishments, and that’s a true statement. But layered on top of that is the anger about the frailty of humanity, that as far as machines go, we’re lemons without a warranty. If we were a car, we’d be deemed unsafe at any speed.
My mother died of cancer. A friend shot himself. Another friend was killed in a car accident. The frailty of the human condition has been thrust in my face several times in the past decade alone, and it’s made me angry that no matter how long we spend on this planet, everything we have ever done and more importantly everything we could do will someday be negated simply because as human beings, we’re shitty machines. Out of billions of people we’re just dust in the crevasses of this worldwide mosaic, and while we may be survived by friends and family, it only takes a generation for us to be remembered only as a leaf on someone’s family tree…if we’re lucky to have someone interested in our genealogy, that is.
I will admit that I have an ego. I am also selfish. I want to accomplish something that will make me feel like my time here on earth isn’t just time spent writing these long blog posts. I’ve tried many things: game development, novel writing, art, music, podcasting, community projects…but nothing has stuck. Despite my growing panic of not having accomplished anything, I can’t seem to gain traction in anything I try to do. Most of it is my failing, but sometimes I find that my enthusiasm isn’t shared by people I had hoped to entice along for the ride. A lot of things I can’t do on my own, but getting buy in has been difficult. Despite my claim of egoism, though, it’s never been about me. I just want to be part of something larger than just me so later on in life I can look back and say that I had been.
The demise of LC.com was part of the realization that it’s not going to happen. As a platform, that site was crumbling under it’s own air of self-importance. I felt that I had done as much exhorting of the community as I could possibly do; it wasn’t doing any good. The community continues to be rotten. My voice wasn’t strong enough, not far reaching enough, not important enough to make a difference. People don’t like being talked at, and no one likes to be confronted with accusations that they weren’t doing a good enough job. Hell, every one of those posts was hypocritical; I was never worthy of claiming that I had the right to post those articles myself.
So now I’m down to this one blog. It’s the catch all for all kinds of stuff. I wanted to get away from the drudgery of coming up with posts to garner readership. I was tired of the finger-wagging tangent my writing usually fell back on, and I couldn’t swallow just post about what I was playing over the weekend. I had no projects to sell, no excitement to drum up, and eventually realized that every time I had tried, those projects fell by the wayside. I was an over-reliable promoter and unreliable producer. I couldn’t expect anyone to want to work with me on anything at that point.
As a complementary move I’m pairing back my social media. I prefer Google Plus still, but still wade into the faster running waters of Twitter. But I don’t treat either as I used to in the days when I was happy to just follow anyone and everyone who shared the same interests as me. I’ve unfollowed many people recently who just weren’t “doing it” for me, either because of a lack of engagement or because they weren’t ever talking about anything that interested me that I could share in. I’m only following 85 people on Twitter, and at least half of those are “official” accounts for companies and services. I have a paltry 480 followers, and my weekly digest of people who’ve unfollowed me is steady and unending.
This is a leaner life. In some regards it saddens me because I don’t believe that I unfollow anyone out of ill will. If I didn’t like a person I wouldn’t have ever followed them in the first place. But as I am changing, my priorities change, what I want out of my social media changes, and what I can live with changes as well. But this pruning of my social tree, so much as it ever was, shows that my willingness to participate in this community is waning. Unfollowing people. Cancelling my blogs. This massive fucking post. I’ve also written about how I’m having increasing trouble devoting myself to sitting down to play any games recently.
It’s uncharted territory to an extent. Almost my entire life has been spent in the geek community, but now it seems like less and less of a place that feels comfortable to me, and more like one that’s eager to show me the door. It’s not something that will ever leave me, but I’ve been spending more time doing other things as of late. Less interactive things. Slower things. Things that have fewer consequences, and fewer potential consequences. It’s like retirement, but I still have to go to work.
As much as I really don’t want to leave, it’s just feeling like it’s no longer worthwhile to put in the time outside of what’s directly in front of my face. I’ve got to come to terms with the fact that I’m not going to accomplish anything outside of living my life, and I can’t bear to watch as other people manage to succeed where I’ve repeatedly failed. It’s really easier to just sit and read or watch TV than it is to give it one more shot in the hopes that this time might be the time. As Danny Glover said, I’m getting too old for this shit.
Amazingly enough, this is the first post I’ve written with an honest to goodness epilogue.
I didn’t want to end this on the down-tempo, because in a way it’s actually liberating to not try and take the weight of a world on the shoulders. No one had ever asked me to, so it’d been born out of my desire to have a better community for everyone. Sadly, I don’t think the community wants to be better for it’s own sake. We’re headed for a catastrophe of Biblical proportions, with no one to blame but ourselves (despite the certainty that blame will be placed everywhere but with ourselves).
Now seems like a good time to start letting go, albeit slowly. I’m not that old, but I now understand the feeling of “passing the torch” to the next generation. I’ve kind of done all I think I’m able to do. I’ve helped shepherd this culture from the dark, wedgie-filled hallways of unpopularity to the multi-billion dollar juggernaut that it enjoys being today. That’s brought about some unique challenges which aren’t going to be resolved by my generation, or the generation behind me, as sad as that sounds. Instead, those resolutions will fall to a generation that’s more accepting and open minded than the dregs who can’t deal with their weak self-images in the face of a changing ecosystem that is increasingly marginalizing them in favor of wider acceptance.
I guess it’s all good, because it can’t be anything else, really. Maybe in a few weeks or months I’ll feel different, will rush to re-embrace everyone, and you won’t be able to find this post anywhere, but I never delete anything, just draft it. I may want to at least look back on this post and see whether or not I was prescient, or just a fool.