I’ve been doing job interviews lately, and they have thinking about two things I wouldn’t normally dwell upon. The first is that putting oneself into a situation where the stakes are high and the outcome uncertain is really difficult. That’s essentially the definition of risk, but I would like to emphasize that it is difficult from a will perspective. Walking into a lion’s den goes against our natural human impulses to seek shelter and comfort. The second thing I’ve been thinking about is that the interviews would go much more smoothly if the interviewer could see into the future. Many people act differently in interviews, so how wonderful would it be if they could instantly know whether the candidate was what they were looking for.
I like arriving at a job a few hours early. I can get waffles, check out a few local shops, and snap a few pictures. Maplewood Village is a wandering town, the perfect place to spend a Saturday afternoon.
The trunk of the car creaked open lazily. The musty odor of weather-worn moving boxes wafted out almost visibly. It had been a year since he’d moved out of the apartment, but he couldn’t bring himself to unpack. Temporarily relocating was becoming more permanent with each failed interview. He sifted through the layers of clutter, and found the old pair of running shoes. They were shrunken from being over-washed, and the mesh sides had become Swiss cheese from wear. But the soles could still grip the Earth, and that’s all that mattered.
It’s 4am. I’m sitting in bed, trying my damnedest to fall asleep, but I know it’s not going to happen. My cat, one of two remaining geriatric animals in my home, is sleeping in a chair beside me. She hasn’t left my side except to eat and wander around the house, crying out for attention. I can’t help but feel shame for thinking that the decay-smelling lamentations are a poor substitute for the playful chirps that used to fill my home. Those were the meows of her daughter, Holly. But I’ll never hear those sounds again, because on May 27th, without sign or warning, she died.
A little over a year ago I became interested with interactive fiction, books or video games that are stories the player creates or manipulates. As a kid I loved reading Choose Your Own Adventure books, so much so that I asked my first grade teacher if I could create one for a writing project. She said no. Recently I discovered that interactive fiction was still alive and kicking, which inspired me to play around with various programs in the hope of developing a game of my own. My best attempt at creating a Zork-like game unexpectedly turned into an as-of-yet unpublished novella called Nimossany. The main reason why I’ve been so resistant to publish is because of the story’s perspective. Second-person present tense is a difficult to write, and equally difficult to read. If the author can’t convince the reader that the “you” in the story is actually them, then the reader will be lost and bored. For a long time I considered changing Nimossany‘s perspective to something more typical of prose fiction. However, three well-written works have convinced me that sticking with second-person is the right move. The three modern games that I feel have influenced my decision are Depression Quest, Gone Home, and Dear Esther. Each of the games make use of different storytelling styles to convey some very difficult, hard to digest themes, and present them in a way that makes game play engaging and personal.
The sound of the propellers drowns the voices of plane’s other passengers. Two by two they lighten the vessel’s load. The instructor tightens all the straps for the third time, and motions to slide along the bench in the middle of the cramped cabin. We wiggle up into an awkward standing position, repeating the same waddle as the last attached pair of bodies that just fell out the open door. We move up. “Ready?” I hear in my ear. The moment I dreaded has arrived. Will I hesitate? I look out and see Earth through a hole in the clouds. “1.” Where’s the rush? “2.” How is it that I’m not freaking out right now? “3!” Where’s the hesitation? The whirr of the propellers is instantly replaced with the sound of rushing wind. If I closed my eyes, I could have been in a pine forest during a hurricane. I try to look around as much as possible; I want to take in the whole experience. The instructor motions for me to make a shaka sign with my hand, and I begrudgingly cave in. As we pass under the clouds my hand is guided to the golf ball on the parachute’s ripcord, and then, suddenly, we’re floating. At that moment I realize something very underwhelming: I’m bored.
There is a game on my PC I can’t avoid playing. It’s one of those things I know I shouldn’t keep wasting time on, but I do anyway. I’ll never beat it, and playing it usually leaves me frustrated rather than content. I asked myself why I keep playing Wolfire’s Receiver, and this is what I discovered.
Imagine waking in an endless building complex filled to the brim with deadly robots. Sure, you have a gun, but do you know how to use it? Do you have ammunition? Is the safety still on? Normally a gun in a video game is simple; you press one button to reload, and another to make things in front of you stop living. I’ve played many first-person shooters where players can sprint while reloading a light machine gun, then score multiple head shots after leaping off of a cliff. Receiver does a very good job of showing how ridiculous that would be in real life. The game was created as part of a 7-day challenge, and has a lot of rough edges compared to other shooters. Because of this I’m hesitant to even call it a game. It’s more of a gun simulator that’s been wrapped into a game prototype. Every part on the game’s three firearms is simulated, and must be manipulated by individual keyboard keys. In order to prepare the M1911 for firing you have to eject the magazine, holster the weapon, slide bullets in one at a time, unholster the weapon, slide the magazine back into the gun, take the safety off, slide the top slide back, and aim the weapon. Was there a bullet already in the chamber? Well, now it’s on the floor. Learning how to reload is a chore, ammunition is sparse, navigating the rooms is uncomfortably suspenseful, and the enemies’ attacks are always lethal. Why would anyone willingly submit to such a difficult time sink? Because it’s awesome!
I love coffee.
I don’t need it to wake up or stay active at work; I choose to drink it because I love the taste. I don’t rely on the fresh-ground aromas filling my nostrils to start my day, but smell undoubtedly brings forth the day’s first smile. From that smile a ritual was born: filling the kettle, assembling my cracked and chipped french press, the tinkle of coarsely ground beans being poured, waiting to press the mix, the first sip. I love coffee. Whether it’s a fancy brew from a privately owned café, a chain doughnut shop, or a packet of rehydrated crystals in a hotel room, I love it all.
So why would I quit something I love so much? I don’t have any health reasons to stop drinking the liquid luxury. My schedule allows me the time to enjoy the lengthy ritual of french pressing my own java. Sure, I’m chemically addicted to the caffeine, but it’s an addiction I’m more than willing to live with. Simply put, there is no one-sentence reason I can give for why I’m giving up on my great passion. The answer came to me this morning when I was starring contemplatively at the drip brewer.