Living Let’s Play: On Living

Yesterday I introduced the Living Let’s Play. I’ll be playing through a game–for now, Assassin’s Creed–and talking about it in-depth each Friday. I’ll talk about the game itself, but also use it as a jumping off point to discuss history, philosophy, mythology, and so on.

That certainly makes for an in-depth Let’s Play, but it’s Saturday where the “living” part comes in.

Reality Check

Ever since I read a fateful book named World of Warcraft and Philosophy when I was 13, I’ve been fascinated by the overlap of video games and self-improvement. It’s easy for video games to become a huge drain on your time and productivity, and they certainly have been that for me at many points in my life. Maybe, if approached correctly, they could help you be better instead.

I’m not the first one to have this thought. It’s an idea I’ve seen applied well. More often it’s an idea I’ve seen applied very, very poorly.

Any time you have a hypothesis that you would like to be true, you have to extra stringent in your search for evidence. If you’re a gamer, you’ve probably come across listicles explaining why video games make you a better person: better coordination, critical thinking skills, teamwork and leadership abilities, and so on.

Yes, video games can make you better at all those things and more. If your goal is to improve any of those things, though, there are countless better ways to do it than playing video games. At best, these lists should give you the feeling of “at least something good comes of indulging my vice”. The takeaway should not be “gaming is so productive, I’m going to spend even more time gaming!”

Unless playing video games is your job, it is one of the least productive things you can send your time doing.

I’m not against video games, obviously. Everyone needs some form of entertainment. Gaming is no worse than watching TV, browsing the web, or lounging by a pool drinking mojitos. It isn’t any better, either.

Self-improvement takes work. It’s difficult and means taking time away from things you would rather be doing, like gaming. Mixing video games and self-improvement isn’t a free pass to play all day and pretend you’re doing something productive. If you’re willing to put in the work, though, it can be a ton of fun.

Aesthetic Is Everything

Aesthetic matters. By definition, it is something shallow. It changes the way we perceive things without changing how things are. All that is true, but it still makes all the difference in the world. An appreciation for aesthetic is baked deep into human evolution. I know people who pride themselves on their rationality but struggle to divorce themselves from their dependence on aesthetic.

It’s a concept I’ve grappled with for a long time and have a hard time explaining my reasoning. For the topic at hand, it will suffice to give a simple example. I’m good at coming up with ways to improve myself and my life, but like many, have a hard time consistently practicing new behaviors or habits.

It gets easier when I apply an appealing aesthetic. I know it’s completely irrational, even childish, but I have an easier time sticking to a fitness regimen if I think of it not as working out, but as, for example, “assassin training”.

Each Saturday, I’ll post about something productive I was inspired to do in the real world thanks to my time in a game world. I’ll hopefully inspire you to try these things, too. To get a better idea of what this might look like, let’s talk about the first game we’ll be subjecting to this bizarre experiment.

Living the Creed

You might be wondering why I would write about a game that’s over a decade old which nobody talks about anymore. Or you might have caught on that the game being outdated and fairly basic by modern standards is actually a plus for our purposes.

We’re not here to talk about gameplay. We’ll probably talk about the game’s story, but it’s not the main focus. Yesterday I described how it would be a jumping off point for research on topics like history and philosophy. In this column, we’ll be jumping instead to real-world activities.

I mentioned working out above. I’ll create an “assassin training” regimen–borrowing heavily from workouts created by people who actually know what they’re doing–and report on my progress as I follow it. We’ll start at the most basic level, something someone who has never been to a gym before could do, and work our way up. It’s ambitious, but maybe we’ll even get to some basic parkour training.

Parkour is 90% of being an assassin, after all.

I’ll also look into some relevant recipes and do my best to cook them. Many people don’t know this, but Mexican cuisine has a lot of Middle Eastern influence, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to find relatively authentic ingredients for these dishes. I might even try to learn a little Arabic, although I know that’s going to result in my embarrassing myself a lot.

This column might be the most experimental of everything I’m trying to do, and that’s definitely saying something. Still, I’m excited to see where this crazy journey will take us.

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