Obligatory Resolutions

What would a new year be without resolutions? Probably just another calendar day, that’s what. As arbitrary as all this “New Year” stuff really is, there is something in the human psyche that responds to milestones and ritual, therefore: New Year’s resolutions.

As I mentioned in my post about my year end mix, 2015 was for me what one might call a rebuilding year although in that rebuilding I can’t help but feel that I picked up some lazy habits and behaviors that I would otherwise like to alter. Maybe I’m just getting old or as my friend Toby once put it when he also hit the ripe old age of 37, maybe I’m starting to “feel it”. Either way there are some things I want to do differently in 2016 or perhaps be more mindful of as someone who finds it all too easy to fall into repetitive routines. To that end I’ve put together a little list of what one might call resolutions for the new year. As always: take it or leave it … do both if you choose

1. Buy Fewer Video Games

As a professional video game developer this one might seem somewhat counter intuitive, after all my number one piece of advice to people who want to design games has always been “play lots of games and play them with a critical eye”. Somehow in 2015 I got locked into an endless cycle of acquiring and playing games and like many of my easily settled into routines it became more of an obligation than a pleasure. I suppose it started at the end of 2014 when I decided to plow through a dozen or so adventure-style games that had lingered in my Steam library for too long. It ultimately put me in a mindset of keeping my Steam library mostly clear of unplayed games, which was a good way to ensure that I was actually getting some worth out of what I was purchasing. The problem became that I didn’t curb my purchases and ultimately locked myself into an endless cycle of obligatory gaming.

We’ve come to a point in the history of gaming that I’ve been waiting for for quite some time. We finally have a vibrant indie scene, one that is cranking out smaller, lower fidelity releases at a rate much higher than the triple-A developers. This has meant that for every triple-A release I’m interested in, there are 2 or 3 indie releases I’m interested in as well. Simply put: I can’t keep up and in a bittersweet move I’ve decided that I just need to be more mercenary when it comes to my game purchases. As with movies, music, television, and comics, I simply don’t have the time for everything I think I might be interested in and unless I want to spend all my free time gaming, I need to buy fewer games.

2. Twitter Adjustments

This one I actually began to work on earlier in 2015. Originally I got on Twitter because of what i saw as the best way of keeping in touch with what various content producers (bands, writers, etc.) I was interested in were working on or recommending. Also it gave me something to check on my phone while waiting in lines or for the next band to go on. Over time Twitter became for me what it has for so many others: a 140 character micro blog, but the signal to noise ratio has gotten worse and worse for me (and others) – partly as a result of who and how many people I follow – but also because we seem to have fooled ourselves into believing that we can have meaningful conversations or even debates in such a restrictive format. I’ve decided to pull back from Twitter a bit and use it less as a conversational medium and more as an informational one instead.

In addition to focusing more on posting or retweeting things that I find informational or amusing instead of attempting to prove points or getting involved in debates, I’ve been trying only to post positive or at least constructive things. If the only thing I can think to post is a one-sided opinion or a negative reply then it serves no one. The only caveat to this would be things that I think are amusing or funny (see: anything I retweet from @danozzi). Twitter simply isn’t conducive to conversation or debate and attempting to use it in such a manner only leads to reductive arguments and echo chambers. As an informational service I still think it’s a great way for people to talk about things they are making or liking, but let’s take the conversations elsewhere because there are important ones that are getting lost in the noise and the constant outrage of Twitter.

3. Go to More Shows

I used to love going to see bands play live here in Austin and over the last year and a half I’ve really cut back on that. Part of that has to do with the impetus behind resolution 1 above, but part of it has just been laziness. My default is always the path of least resistance and going out for the night instead of staying home and doing anything/nothing is a point of resistance. 99% of the time when I do go out to see a show however, I really enjoy myself. I love live music and there are so many great local bands here in Austin that I love to see play. I think I just need to make an effort to get myself out the door and into the music clubs more often than every couple months.

4. See More Movies

This one goes along with resolution 3. It’s that whole path of least resistance thing again, but I really should make the effort because I love film and there’s so many great ones both old and new that find their way to screens here in Austin. I really just need to make the effort to break my m-f “staying in” routine and go see them.

5. Write More

Part of the reason I started this new blog is as an outlet for writing more. I’ve got an Evernote notebook full of half-formed blog posts, stories, and reviews, but I never sit down to finish them. Even the reviews and articles I used to regularly do for the Austin music blog OVRLD have dwindled in the last year and a half. Part of it is because I’ve been less involved in the outside world, but part of it is also because I haven’t been writing regularly and when I do that I lose strength in those writing muscles.

It’s been said by many others before that one of the hardest things to do is write badly, especially when you know that you can write well. When I haven’t exercised those writing muscles I just produce crap. The trick is to not let the crap stop you from moving forward. I believe that writing a little bit every day may be a possible treatment for that affliction.

6. Exercise

Yeah, I know … how droll, but if I don’t say it, I won’t do it. I go through cycles of exercise activity several times a year, but once I fall out of the routine I fall hard. I’m not saying it won’t happen again, but I at least need to give myself that push to start up the first cycle of the year and hopefully not fall out of it around SXSW, which is usually what happens.

7. Make a Game

“Wait a minute! Aren’t you a ‘professional’ game developer?” Well, yes I am and I spend 40+ hours a week “making games”, but I really want to make my own small homebrew game. It may never see the light of day (due to contractual concerns) but I’ve got game design itches that the realities of being a professional game designer on a team of dozens can’t scratch and I’d like to flex those muscles a bit.

8. Enjoy New Things

I have observed that the older I get and and the older my friends get, the more things we find to dislike. Often the things we dislike are new things. For example, there’s been a running dialog involving Twitch among myself and a few friends where they deride it – questioning its value as entertainment and those who broadcast it as entertainers – and I retort, telling them they sound like parents in the 50’s talking about “the rock music.” Some of it comes down to preference, but some of it comes down to age. I’ve observed that the older we get, the harder it is to adapt to new ideas. We slow down as we get older, it’s inevitable and as we’re able to do less and adapt less frequently we may come to resent those things that we are not adapted or adapting to.

I don’t believe that resentment of things that are “new” or “different” is inevitable though. Sure, we slow down as we get older, but that doesn’t mean we should give up. It’s not advisable to stop exercising as one ages for instance. It’s harder, but if anything that makes it more important. I believe the same goes for liking things. I enjoy life more when I like the world around me and while I’m most definitely a grump and a cynic, I want to like things.

This resolution is nothing new for me, I think it’s something I’ve tried to do for several years now, but it’s good to keep reminding myself. It may be something that other people don’t need to do, but I find that if I’m constantly finding things to dislike and exposing myself to things I know will make me angry, then I enjoy life less. I don’t want to blind myself to opposing views, commentary, or things that are perhaps objectively bad, but I don’t need to force feed it to myself either or seek out reasons to dislike things. When I find something new, I’d rather try to find a way to like it or be at peace with it than not. It’s a different kind of exercise. For lack of a better term: exercise for the soul.