Blame it on the economy, a "quarter-life crisis" or merely being young and restless, but whenever my friends and I convene, we invariably talk about What We Want to Be When We Grow Up.
"I'm so jealous you're getting your master's," my girlfriend bemoaned to a friend of mine. "I feel like I haven't done anything since I graduated college."
"But you're doing plenty of things with your life," she replied. "Don't worry."
The two men sitting at the table had a decidedly different take on the matter.
"You know what the problem is? She hasn't unlocked a class change yet," I said to my friend Allen. "She's leveling up, but she's not unlocking any new abilities. No JP."
Allen nodded. He and I played a lot of Final Fantasy Tactics together. "She's still a squire," he said. "She could still get pretty buff, but no cool skills. Just, you know, 'Throw Rock.'"
My decidedly non-gamer girlfriend just stared at us. "Okay, you guys," she said. "Whatever."
It's probably less strange than she thinks it is. Spend time with a group of gamers and you'll often hear them describe the trials and tribulations of their daily lives in game terms. What they're doing is "talking in Game" - that is, using the language of videogames to relate their problems to each other in order to prescribe advice, offer sympathy and help each other work through the decisions they must make while trying to get the high score in the game of life.
Navigating the dos and don'ts of your love life is hard for anyone regardless of vice or vocation, and it's where many people start talking in Game. Allen and I have done this for as long as I've known him, usually mixing metaphors from fighting games. He came to me once while agonizing over his feelings for a girl during a Marvel vs. Capcom 2 session. "Should I rush this chick down like Magneto?" he asked. "She's got the Captain Commando anti-air assist."
Translation: "Should I chase this girl? She's got some wingmen/women that might get in the way."
"Tag Storm in and build meter," I told him. "Bait the assist and punish. Then rush down. You're ahead on life - don't make stupid mistakes."
While this statement is incomprehensible to anyone unfamiliar with MVC2, he picked up on it pretty quickly. Allen is many things, but a skilled pickup artist he is not, and it takes some serious Magneto skill to rush down a girl without running into the Captain Commando anti-air assist, which takes off a good chunk of life and pushes him out to the other side of the screen. If he had some solid assists of his own - a good wingman, or Sentinel's ground assist - he'd be able to pull it off, but most of his buddies weren't quite up to the task. So instead of rushing in blindly and risking rejection, embarrassment and a high-damage combo, I advised him to focus on handling his own business - building meter (working out, spending his emotional energy on school and work) and playing it cool until he had enough social capital to deal with the assist on his own.