Thursday, January 17, 2008

Training, Blogging, & Puzzles - It's the struggle

I just read a Jiu-Jitsuer's discussion of why cheat codes wreck video games: Why we do this: part duex . I'd summarize Steve's article as: "It's not about the destination. It's about the journey." It's also how I would summarize almost everything of value. Nitor Ergo Sum.

I went platinum as the producer of a Playstation game a decade ago. It was a cute 3D platformer. While we were developing the game, I kept trying to get the team to deal with the question of "What is fun?" Why do people spend a hundred hours steering a little digital character through a make-believe world? I would take people to a nearby park to watch kids go down the slide, over and over and ask: "why are they doing that? Why is that fun?" We watch them swing back and forth, over and over. And climb. I was considering the nature of play and fun. I listened to the sounds that the kids made. I watched what play equipment the kids ignored. And we built a game with lots of fun noises and moves which felt good. It sold 4 million copies.

When my children were small, I would entertain them on the plane for hours by wrapping their beenie baby up inside the plane puke bags. I'd put one bag inside another bag. Inside another bag. Then I'd wrap the bags inside a page of an old newspaper. Then another puke bag. The kids loved unwrapping layer and after layer and finding their stuffed animal inside. And we did it for hours. Same game. Same prize. Just kept adding more puke bags.

In the same vein, there's jigsaw puzzles. Take many hundreds of pieces and drop them on the table. Then carefully sort and join them together over a period of days or week. Fun Fun. And have you noticed all those people who do the crossword puzzle every day? Fifteen minutes of intense mental work so that they can fill in a few hundred little letter boxes on a piece of paper before throwing it away.

My point is this. It's not the destination, it's not just the journey (which can be passive), it's the struggle that we enjoy. To coin a phrase: Nitor Ergo Sum. To be alive, you need to make an effort. Maybe, the more you struggle, the more alive you are.

I think there is some truth in this. I don't think it's the whole truth. (Confused yet?)But here's the point. I've been searching to understand why I'm working hard at training and at learning to blog. In both cases, I've recently outgrown my previous reasons. Before, I was trying to get a black belt and to blog enough to keep track of the kata and amuse my team-mates as we got our blackbelt. Now, I need to find my new reasons. Or the real underlying reasons. And today, I visualized the reason. I like the struggle.... to write..... to run a business.... you fill in the blank. What do you like to struggle to do?

As I said last week, I found a thought that I like: Any activity can become a personal discipline...The activity is really a vehicle....

It's the struggle which has meaning. No it's not playing a video game, hitting a tennis ball across a net, or filling in a crossword puzzle. For me these days, its the martial arts and blogging. With no cheat codes. And a 50 year old body to lug around and a busy schedule to fit it all into.

All part of the game. And the struggle.


Steve said...

Makes sense to me. One thing occurred to me, though. There are many pursuits which involve no conflict. In writing, whether it's a novel, screenplay or whatever, conflict moves the plot forward. In other words, without conflict, there is no growth.

However, in life, there is much to be said for appreciating the joy of an activity or pursuit without struggle. Taking the time to appreciate where you are.

As I'm looking at becoming a dad one more time, I am reminded of some advice I received when we were expecting number 2. That advice was to avoid looking forward to the next big breakthrough. It's easy to get caught up in, "I can't wait until my baby can roll over!" Then, "I can't wait until my baby can sit up on her own!" Then it's crawling, walking, talking, reading, cooking, driving, working and then whatever else. But if you spend your time looking ahead, you never stop to appreciate where you're at, enjoying the current stage of development and you've missed it.

Which game did you produce? Inquiring minds want to know!

Anonymous said...

I'd agree. I believe that being mellow and "enjoying the moment" is often the right approach. While I know that I enjoy the struggle to excel, it's not my only mode.

I don't agree with those that think that life is entirely about goal setting and achievement. That's part of it. And another part is enjoying what you have.

Part of it is wanting to have a baby. The other part is enjoying having the baby. Or enjoying trying to have a baby. Even if you don't succeed.

BBat50 said...

I just reread this post. It's been a year or so since I wrote it. I still think it's one of my most personal and insightful posts.

I was rereading it since one of my new favorite blogs, has a post about the joy of the struggle and the meaning of the black belt . I recommend it. Good job Ronsan60.