What’s important is that you choose life… and then live.”
-Naomi Hunter, Metal Gear Solid
Is there no joy left in the world, even in video games?
Today I saw that Polygon was trending on Twitter, and I decided to check out what was going down, me being the inquisitive individual that I am. I also suspected that it was something less than savory. Usually that’s the case when Polygon is trending. My instincts weren’t far off and soon I had the distinct displeasure of reading an article entitled “Why I worship crunch”, a piece which seemed to me to praise working yourself to death in the face of your health and the love of your family. (NOTE: the Polygon piece has been updated with an intro by the author which sets his article in a much more redemptive light… there’s just that ugly title to overcome)
There are few things more off-putting to me, to phrase it lightly, but I’m not approaching this rebuttal of sorts from a standpoint of self-righteousness. Since the inception of The Well-Red Mage, I too have given in to putting work and aspiration above the really important things in life, the fundamentals. I documented last February that my wrist began to ache after a full year of blogging, trying to put out content daily or as often as I possibly could. For the first time in my life I had to buy a wrist brace.
On top of that there have been many, many nights where I’ve stayed up late into the early morning hours just trying to get those last few sentences in, only to go to my day job in a few hours. I consoled myself by saying to the waning energy of my soul that I was building something for myself and for my family. Though no one may even read the words I wrote at the lonely hour of 3AM, it was a necessary sacrifice in order to achieve my dreams. That, to me, is the Crunch.
But now I’m dealing with heart palpitations and murmurs again. I suffered these, tightness in my chest, dizziness, and extreme fatigue when I worked in the restaurant industry for a decade. When I managed my own cafe, I was downing quad-shots of espresso on top of several morning cups of coffee. No wonder I ended up in the emergency room one night. My health was one big reason why I left that soul-crushing industry.
Joke’s on me that I did it to myself again, not through work but through a hobby, something I love and enjoy: writing! But I don’t want it to be that way, and I’ve made the adjustments that I need to to ensure I get more rest, I don’t pull so many “all nighters”, and that I drink less caffeine to keep me alive. Because if I’m dead, not only will I not be able to dedicate myself to my work, I also won’t be around to see my sons learn their letters, go to school, graduate from college, get married, and bring my grandkids into the world. I have to think about what kind of legacy I’m leaving behind. One that will cause my children to hate my memory since I was never around, or one where they’ll remember me fondly and carry on the dreams of independence, creativity, and the craft of writing…
“When I worship at the unholy altar of Crunch, everything outside of the work fades away. ” That’s tragic. I’ll stop short of accusing that writer of loving life.
Here’s the difference and the glimmer of hope that I really didn’t see in the Polygon article, which seemed to me to normalize, no, glamorize putting work ahead of everything else (which the author of that article claimed wasn’t even necessary!). You can work and pour your passion into what you’re creating without turning it into a monstrous obsession. Addiction is never healthy and the Crunch is addiction. Why live to work rather than work to live? There are all kinds of reasons why it does happen but it need not happen.
I understand what passion is. I understand that in a fit of creative energy one can pour themselves into their work in an admirable way. Some great works of art have been made in this way but these are different than seeming to advocate for that fevered lifestyle as a kind of constant, something to be enjoyed as you work through the births of your children and the deaths of your parents. That doesn’t make you admirable. It makes you a sphincter. This doesn’t seem to help the stereotype that gamers don’t know how to have meaningful relationships with real people and that they obsess over digital worlds to the point of failing their own health, because that seems to be the case with the author of that article.
The author concludes by talking about how he considered the price to be fair, and I just can’t empathize with that. Creating video games in a flooded market where most titles are forgotten after only a few years, and doing so by sacrificing your health, your relationships, and experiencing your family is not a fair price to pay. This strikes me as a symptom of a culture which has lost sight of self-control.
Your children, your spouse, your family, your friendships… you don’t know how much longer you’ll have any of them. I have two kids under two-years-old now and Kal and Nolan won’t be little for long. No level of graphical fidelity equals seeing them smile at me. No level of fluid mechanics can match falling in love with my wife again every day. These things are without price.
Thank you for reading this article about health and video games, but now go spend some time on the relationships that are most important to you. If you need to, make some changes in your life. Don’t push away people. Meet ones that give your life meaning.
I don’t want to be the dad from “Cats and the Cradle” and I don’t think you want to sacrifice everything for your work either, even if it’s video games or content creation. Do you? I doubt anyone from Polygon will read this, so this is my earnest plea to you. If you were on your deathbed, would work be the last thing you’d want to do before your time is up?
-The Well-Red Mage
What better opportunity to support private journalism rather than the sliminess of the mainstream, as I’ve heard it described?
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