Smile and Nod

Smile and Nod: That Which Does Not Matter

Russ Pitts | 31 Mar 2008 17:00
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It's kind if like refurbishing an old house. You can spend weeks knocking down walls or rebuilding the porch; meanwhile the roof starts to leak and you're on to a new project. You can do that in Oblivion, too. You can buy a house in each of the game's large cities, and each house comes with upgrade options, which are all listed as quests in the journal. You can even download fantastical living quarters, like a subterranean pirate ship, which also comes with upgrade options, which are also listed as quests in the journal. All of this costs money, meaning, if you want to follow though on any of these quests, you have to go adventuring to accumulate loot, or make and sell stuff, or toil in the arena, or, or, or ... There are plenty of ways to get loot, but to get bigger and better loot, you need better equipment and spells, which also cost money.

And this is where I talk about how complicated life can get, and how, as a money-earning adult, my life is so full of distracting crap that it's hard to focus on the things I truly enjoy. Like sailing, geocaching, writing or, yes, even playing videogames. A couple of weeks ago I Got Away from It All, and sitting on the beach in Jamaica, staring at the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean, reading a book about pirates and drinking run mixed with coconut mixed with pineapple, I had one of those epiphanies you only really get when you're in a situation like that. It was as if all the extraneous crap melted away and what was left was the realization that life is too damn short to not be happy. That I should just buy that damn sailboat I've wanted for years and actually write all those stories rattling around in my head. That waiting for things to happen is the same thing as not doing anything at all. That there is no fate, in other words, but what we make for ourselves. Easy to epiphanize about on the beach with a cocktail, hard to practice in real life, I know; but if there's only one thing that's important to take away from an experience like that, it's that we really are at our best when we let the things that do not matter truly slide. And most things do not matter, no matter how much we want or need them to.

I was half expecting to walk away from my Jamaica vacation convinced videogames were a complete waste of time, and refusing to spend another minute playing or writing about them. The opposite has happened. It's not that I feel games are any more or less important in the grand scheme of things. (Because, after all, they really aren't all that important.) But they do speak to our cares and concerns in a visceral, tactile way, unlike anything else. And through them, hopefully, we learn enough about ourselves to deal better with the things that do matter. Like happiness, and, if you'll allow me to be a bit trite, love. Games fill me with both. They are, therefore, important to me, and that's quite enough.

I'm still buying the boat, though. Just because.

Russ Pitts would rather be sailing. His blog can be found at

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