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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Inscrutable Exhortations of My Soul

No, thanks. I'll just fall off.


Last weekend, my wife and I took a trip to Bar Harbor, Maine, to go "snowshoeing." Only there wasn't any snow, so we ended up doing an alternative, less romantic-sounding activity called "hiking in the cold." I've been to Bar Harbor more than 20 times, but one thing I've never done is wait until low tide and then hike across the bar that gives the town its name to Bar Island. Our bed-and-breakfast was relatively close to this natural land bridge, so we decided to do it.

Arriving on the other side, we found that the road diverged into a hiking path and an overgrown track marked "private road." The private road had manifestly not been driven down all winter, or even longer, so we decided the odds of encountering an angry landowner while trespassing were low. In less than half a mile of walking, the road ended in a clearing. There was no house but rather the ruins of one: a couple of chimneys and a low stone foundation overlooking the rocky coast. It looked to have been abandoned for a good century or so. (I later found out there was, until recently, a modern house in the clearing next to the ruin, but it the land had been donated to the park and the house torn down. I haven't been able to find anything on the older house whose ruins were still visible to us.) I took this picture:




As I gazed at the sad and overgrown ruin, a strong and inescapable feeling crept over me: I wanted to go back to the hotel room and play a CRPG.

I realize how pathetic that sounds, even to fellow gamers. I was looking at something fascinating--a piece of history in a place that I loved. But there was never going to be anything else to stoke the sparks of mystery about the place. I have no doubt that the "private road" sign had failed to deter hundreds, if not thousands, of other hikers every year, and there was no chance I was going to find anything in the ruins that hadn't already been picked over by thousands of hands. I wasn't going to open the ash trap of one of the old chimneys and discover a previous owner's journal, detailing a horrific murder that had taken place decades earlier, but providing just enough mitigating clues to heal the heartbreak of a sad centenarian residing in some lonesome house in town. Orcs were not going to suddenly rise from behind the wall and snipe at me with bows. I was not going to find a chest nestled against the outer walls, containing a sword and helmet. The brambles tangled over the stone were not suitable for brewing into potions, nor did they conceal runic letters that, when absorbed, would bestow upon me some fantastic skill. I was not going to stumble upon a concealed trap door, leading me to treasure-filled depths.

While real life, and the real location, should have offered real rewards to compensate for these deficiencies, they were not, at the moment, enough. And so, after spending a respectable amount of time hiking the rest of the island, I used the promise of a fireplace, hot tea, and a good book from the store in town to persuade Irene to return with me to the confines of the bed-and-breakfast, where I spent the next four hours attempting to win Wizardry V. I failed, and I still don't know exactly what I'm going to do with that game, but I do know that...well, I'm back.

Looking over the comments from my "hiatus" posting, I'm amused by how many of you didn't understand my core problem. The suggestions that I change the nature of my blog by playing only "good" games, or switching to console RPGs, or doing "let's plays" instead of writing blog entries...none of them got at the real issue, which is that playing games, even in "moderation," takes a lot of time--time that, as a self-employed person, I could be using to make money. If I didn't feel like making money, it's still time I could be using to do other things that would help me in the long term: learning a new language, exercising, practicing the piano, reading great works of literature (or even my own professional journals), taking dance lessons. I had decided to stop the blog because when I sat down with my list of goals for 2012, I needed the time that playing games was taking away from me.

But this is what I discovered in the intervening month: I'm apparently going to spend a certain percentage of my time screwing around, whether said screwing around involves playing video games or watching Babylon 5 for the seventh time. I've made fair progress on my goals in February, but I've also spent a lot of time on Reddit, reading old articles on Cracked.com, reading the Mistborn trilogy again, and playing Boggle on my iPhone. None of these things are what I stopped playing CRPGs to do, and playing games, and writing this blog, while overall about as useful as anything else I've been doing, at least lets me document my experiences and interact with interesting people.


It was either this or a Boggle blog.

With that in mind, I have to figure out my next steps. I've left five games from 1988 in various states of incompletion: The Bard's Tale III, BattleTech: The Crescent Hawk's Inception, Sentinel Worlds, Star Command, and Wizardry V. The easiest thing to do would be to write them all off and start fresh with 1989, and I may do that, but I want to think about it first. Before I do, I'm going to offer a posting on the 1970s dnd, because I already have it half-written. Then we'll see about these other games.

I want to be clear, though: this is not the passion I would have chosen for myself. If I could design my own life, and identify the calling of my blood--the thing that, while hiking in some random part of the world, would suddenly fill my heart and mind with a palpable compulsion--it would not be computer role-playing games. Sure, I enjoy them--immensely--but I don't enjoy enjoying them. If that makes any sense. If you don't mind that paradox, I'm glad to have you as a reader.


115 comments:

  1. Good to see you hungry for more...I recently got copies of Ultima Underworld 1&2 for six bucks each, legally even...highly highly recommended, so delicious and wonderful.

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  2. The Dread Pirate RodgersFebruary 22, 2012 at 9:08 PM

    Welcome back, its good to see you again. I am eagerly awaiting your tales of voyages through musty old crpgs again...

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  3. I have struggled myself with the knowledge that I enjoy these seeming wastes of time I call video games. But...you know, I do enjoy them, and as I come to terms more with myself I am getting better at not having to justify and let my enjoyment be enough.

    I look forward to your continued writings; I've found that you've captured the essence of playing these games in a way that other Let's Play-type thingies don't.

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  4. This is a wonderfully written and honest post that makes it abundantly clear why we've all missed you so much. I'm stoked to have you back in action Chet, and I also empathise with your closing comments. We can't always choose what it is that we're passionate about.

    Personally I would love to learn languages, do more cardio exercise and spend more time cooking. I love the idea of these things, but I'm just not passionate about them. Any attempts to make them the focus of my life simply fail within a matter of weeks (at best).

    My passions are music, movies and video games, and I may as well spend the years I have on this planet enjoying those things while taking part in communities of others that enjoy them too. I would never say they are important to the human spirit or the world at large. But they're important to me!

    I very much look forward to joining you on your journey through Cosmic Soldier and beyond. Welcome back!

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  5. Cool! Well, it's not pathetic at all to having the sudden desire to play an oldschool game while in the strangest places or situations! Anytime there's Sumo running on the TV news here (I live in Japan) I feel the desire to load up World Games into the C64 emulator.

    Please give Sentinel Worlds another chance. it's such a good game. Otherwise I see myself being forced to open a SciFiCRPGAddict blog and post my tales about it.

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  6. I've been using the Internet on a daily basis for about fifteen years. I've read countless thousands of articles and blog posts. This is the first time I've ever posted a comment.

    I just wanted to say welcome back. We've missed you.

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    1. I guess I'm honored to be your first. Do post on other blogs too, though. Writers like knowing they have readers!

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  7. Welcome back! Glad I stayed subscribed to your RSS feed.

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  8. Like I said in my comments to what appeared to be your last post, we all have leisure time... it's just a choice of how to spend it. That being said, I'm quite sure it's a lot of work to BLOG about the games, in addition to just playing them. I hope you play whatever games in whatever order makes you feel passionate about it. I still think jumping around is absolutely fine... if you beat one from 1999, you just check it off the list ahead of time.

    In terms of managing your time, maybe you just have to follow "rules" like you probably did when you were a kid - do your (home)work first, then when that's done, you can play...

    Anyway, very glad to see you back. You have a great writing talent, and I hope you can keep it up!

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  9. I completely identify with what you said about gaming taking up time that is "better" spent on more enriching activities. Often times, I find myself conflicted when indulging in games, as I know I could have been practicing some other skill like programming, wood carving, art, or languages. I spent a good six months off of games, and what did I have to show for it? More time on forums, more TV shows watched, and more movies I can use as pop-culture references.

    Even so, there's a empty although fulfilling feeling I get when finishing a game. I'm resigned to acceptance that this is what I need to do because without it I'd be only wasting my time in other ways; possibly even spending it thinking about or researching video games without playing them. Often I find myself knowing I should do something more productive, but somehow can't break into action, so I continue whiling away. At least playing games gives the illusion of accomplishment. It seems like the only way to not feel trapped in life's routine of eat, sleep, work. Video games seem to be the only constant source of enjoyment I have. In fact, I've tried many other activities, but they always fall away somehow. If none of this really resonates on the same level, then maybe it's different, but it sounded like the same thing I deal with. I only call video games my passion by default, as it's the thing I'm most passionate about.

    In any case, I look forward to reading more. I'm playing through Ultima III right now, and I'm anticipating reading through your postings of the game when I'm done.

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  10. I forgot to note: "I've left five games from 1998 in various states of incompletion"

    Shouldn't that be 1988?

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  11. Welcome back Chet.

    I've tried to post some solutions that will help you keep your playing under control; Do any of them look sane or useful to you?

    You shouldn't feel like you need to spend every hour of every day productively, even if you are self-employed. My Dad likes to tell an old story (Which I can't verify to be true, to be honest): When the early settlers were crossing North America some stopped on Sunday, since they viewed traveling as work, and some didn't. Oddly enough the ones you rested on Sunday arrived first, since they had more energy the other 6 days and thus could travel further.

    From my own experience: When I was in my 3rd year of uni I took a mandatory Quantum Mechanics class. Easily the hardest class I've ever taken, and it scared the pants off me. I sunk time into it, like, 6-8 hours a day, more on weekends. I freaked out, wasn't like myself and actually had friends worried about my mental health (As was I). I passed, with a good mark in fact, but my relationships, my health, my mental health and all my other marks suffered-- I lost a scholarship because of it in fact.
    I then went off for a work term, then a summer job, and came back with some more confidence and a decision to take things more easily, even if my marks suffered. I did, oh, half the work I had the previous semester...and made Dean's Honour list.

    Sometimes breaks are good: The important point is moderation. Which is challenging, I know. Perhaps you should keep a log book of time spent playing and report it with each blog post?

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    1. I appreciate the suggestion, but this strikes me as something I'd rather not know. I think I may even stop estimating the total of number of hours in my rating spreadsheet.

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    2. I understand the reasoning, but I find it helpful when I'm playing through a game to compare my time spent to others. Just something I thought I should point out, as I'm sure others enjoy it. If it really is a negative aspect for you though, by all means do away with it and never look back.

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  12. Great post. I find like you that despite best intentions there's always going to be some completely wasted time here and there. I think there's actually real value in letting your brain have that down-time. If you can't have something that you really enjoy at least semi-regularly it degrades your commitment to more useful tasks.

    I've been playing Ultima 6 during my morning commute for 3 months now, mapping the whole thing, which is clearly stupid. However, I still enjoy it immensely and it's both an incentive to get out of bed in the morning and a way to sate the habit for the day.

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  13. Welcome back, Mr. Addict. I hope you find a way to enjoy your enjoyment of these games. I have always enjoyed reading your blog.

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  14. Yeah, he's back. This is excellent news.

    I'm also self-employed, and I can work as many hours as I want, but I try and work a regular work week. My passion is flying RC airplanes and helicopters, which some people would consider wasting time playing with toys. All I know is that it is great fun, challenging, and something I look forward to.

    Another of my passions is reading this blog to relive the glory days of RPGs, and I'm very glad it's back.

    You shouldn't feel any pressure to post regular blog entries. If work or other pressures mean you can't post for a few weeks, your faithful readers will wait.

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  15. Good to see you back... like others have said though... just play when you want, what you want... and then blog about it if you feel like it. We all enjoy your posts, so you know the readers will be eager to see what you're into when you have time to write about it.

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  16. While you were away I tried to play a bit of BG II (which like many other rpg I played, I never get pass chapter 3).
    I ended up reading ton of walkthrough (dan simmon of course and a few other).
    Then I realized I like reading about rpg more than I actually like playing them.
    So welcome back for sure!

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  17. I am glad to see activity here once again.

    I would selfimpose some time restraining rules like 4 hours of CRPG gaming per week or 16 hours a month or whatever. And follow it very strictly. Then you will have time over for other activities. I see that as the only viable solution, since you could never, ever get the time you need to play all the CRPGS you wanted.

    /Saintus from http://crpgrevisited.blogspot.com/

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    1. 4 hours a week? I play more than that every day! I can't imagine a life with only 4 hours a week, you meant per day right?

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    2. Well, the example might be a little to strict. But the problem with CRPGAddict is that he spends so much time on CRPGS so he neglect other activities. If he thinks he could manage, say 12 hours a week or more that is only for the better for the rest of us.

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    3. What I'm hearing is that even without CRPGs, he'd be neglecting his other activities in another way. So, it's not that CRPGs distract him, but that he's distractable. CRPGs just happen to be his "drug of choice" if you will.

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    4. A little distraction is a good thing, spending all your time working is unhealthy. Think of CRPGs less as a drug and more like alcohol. A drink now and then isn't a bad thing: There are signs that a glass of wine on occasion can even be healthy. However, letting alcohol rule your life is VERY bad.

      The trick is that you always have to be the one in charge, going "I am going to have a drink, play an hour of CRPGs, read this book", it can't be the drink/game/book demanding you read it.

      I think Santus's suggestion above is a good one, and matches my suggestions of using it as a reward. I've heard of people who do a lot of good work, because darn-it, I want to do X, which I can only do if I finish this Y. However, I've never found it works too well for me, as I get distracted and cut corners to finish.

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    5. I appreciate you trying to help me out, but my reaction was the same as innategamer's. I'm going to try to restrict myself to less than four hours per day, but if I only did four hours per week, you'd get a posting about once every 10 days. I'd hardly be "back" in that case!

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  18. You've always used terms of psychopathology to describe your situation, and in this way sadly the only way 'we' can be described are as enablers. This isn't a good thing for any party.

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    1. Yeah, I didn't consider those implications. If it makes you feel any better, it wasn't the blog that called me back; it was the games.

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  19. Thanks for the good news, Chet!

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  20. Imagine my delight when I saw your title pop up in my Feed Reader. Imagine my further delight when I read your decision.

    In other words... welcome back to the dark side. Here, we baked you some cookies!

    Now just don't eat them all at one time ;)

    Skarlarth

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  21. Welcome back, Chet. I never un-bookmarked you. Never will. You have not idea that you just got my morning off to a great start.

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  22. Welcome back!
    (I was really hoping to write these words someday! Yay!)

    I just want to say one thing – what you’re doing is far, far from useless. Your blog allows people to experience history of the genre, contextualize a lot of things that we take for granted in modern games, come in contact with games that they’ve never played (and in quite a lot of cases, would have never played). You offer a unique perspective, so there’s no need to undersell yourself and your work.

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    1. Fair enough. I appreciate that perspective. I meant more "useless" in the sense of my own personal development, but certainly playing and blogging to hundreds of readers is more rewarding than playing alone.

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  23. Woo-hoo! So glad to see you're back.

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  24. The Chosen One has returned!!! Kill the fatted calf for tonight we feast!

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  25. Ah, welcome back. I've never posted a comment, but my joy at your return has inspired me to do so. I've been reading your blog for about a month and a half now and I love it. I can so relate to you. I'm in my late 30's, married, successfully self employed, and I have other hobbies and interests but the majority of my leisure is spent in computer games, preferably CRPGs.
    I'm a psychiatrist today. (Digression: did you know that they are considering putting video game addiction in the DSM-V?) Anyway, back in my final year of residency (heck, EVERY year of my residency), I spent too much time gaming and not enough doing things like learning the side effects of valproic acid. I failed that year. So, I spent a year working at the local psych hospital under a "special" licence and decided to cut down on gaming. One of my rules: never play games in the time between waking up and going to work. See, that led to going in to work late. It also led to early morning awakening. Anyway, without games to sustain me in the morning, what did I do? I spent time reading about games of course! I did pass my exam the following year, by the way. But years later, I still adhere to the "no gaming in the morning" rule. And that's how I found YOU! Yep, if I didn't fail that year, I probably never would've come across this blog.
    Like many of the others have stated in one way or another, I feel like I'm among kindred spirits (sort of) here. Yes, we're addicts too. Yes, we're enablers (good point, Helm!). And it's good to have you back.

    InSaneBRAIN

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    1. Wow! It's a mental disorder! I do play in the morning, sometimes I skip breakfast though.

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    2. The morning is the best for me. I set aside 5AM-6AM to tool around a little. I never used to wake up so early.. then at 6AM I have to go wake the kid and my morning rolls and then I go to work.

      I think nighttime is the worst. You start playing at 10:00 then you see it is midnight.. then you are like ooh but I am almost to the scepter of pure power and goodness.. so you play some more.. and before you realize it is 3AM in the morning and you have to get up for work tomorrow! ARG!

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    3. Bleh, the DSM V is also the one where dolts are trying to lump Asperger's in with Autism, despite the objections of the foremost Asperger's researchers. As a result I trust exactly 0 of the other changes to it, since the people writing it obviously value their own opinions above the people who actually know what they are talking about. So yeah, they can take the DSM V and shove it where the sun don't shine.

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  26. While I look forward to reading your future posts, my reasons are fairly selfish. The comment about us effectively being enablers strikes home for me. Please keep your life in balance. I will enjoy reading your posts, but if the balance slips out of control, I hope you will take another break to get recalibrated.

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  27. On day life and CRPGs will converge but that day isn't here yet.

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  28. Well... welcome back!

    I honestly didn't expect this pause to be so quick, but I'm happy to read you again as long as you keep the balance in your life at acceptable levels. The CRPGAddict link didn't leave my chrome favorites bar in any case :).

    I'm not in the habit of making suggestions, but as for your "left-over games" issue, I think you should finish them before moving to something else, even if relaxing the rules a bit on saving and this kind of stuff. Starting to see how your mind works, you won't feel satisfied if you don't and it will be a lingering thought. Also, I think your blog started to be a bit on the erratic side when you started to cummulate more than 3 "80s" CRPGS, + Skyrim, +older ones, + various posts... Writing = grinding, it's sometimes boring, but you get a weird kind of very satisfied feeling when you have gone through it. I'd say don't go over "playing" more than 3 games, whatever you're blogging.

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  29. When ever I try not to play games I usually find myself reading about some game on ign or something. I'm addicted to strategy games and unlike for instance action adventure, which I also enjoy, a strategy game can be played over and over. I estimate that I've played Civilization 1 for over a year adding the hours up (did I mention I'm quite good at it, I usually hack a save file in order to play on a difficulty level that's two steps harder than the hardest one that the user interface let's you choose), but I've also played other games. Moderation is a good thing, I'll try some. Right now I'm playing too much in order to be moderate, so I think I'll try to adopt some kind of rule that I have to follow.

    Real life IS boring compared to games. In the Zelda games the world is always so vivid, real life is rather dull in comparison. If I could I would rather dive right into a Zelda game than live in real life, but I'm stuck on this side of the screen. This blog is helping me find new games, I never played rpgs that much. I never did finish Pool of Radiance though, the trolls in the rope guild keep killing me, the bugbears too. Maybe I should sell some magic items and level up my party, but I'm a hoarder and I can't let go of magic stuff. I'm looking forward for more modern games, when wire frame is replaced by real 3D. You're addicted to games, but at least you know how to write a [good] blog post, and that is more than you can say about me.

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    1. [Cue appropriate music: http://youtu.be/x2uyWOlKGcM]

      Hey, you just did a "Sovngarde" on us now, didn't you?

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  30. Welcome back!

    Please post about the Crescent Hawk games, I'm really looking forward to reading about games I haven't played in over twenty years. Time sure flies, eh?

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  31. I'm a little biased, but I would like to see you complete the prior year games. Two of them are ones I have played through completely:

    - Star Command was one of the first games I ever had to play, so I know that game in great depth.
    - Crescent Hawk's Inception I played much later(one of those 3 game packs of PC BattleTech games).

    Star Command well predated any internet access for me, so no faq's or walkthru's were available. The BattleTech one I did need to look things up at several points- the main quest is rather un-directed.

    I offered some hints for both previously, I'd be quite willing to offer more if problems arise.

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    1. I actually may need them again when I get to them, so please jump in.

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  32. I get what your saying I think.. or at least I feel sort of like they are fun and entertaining but not really fulfilling... well, maybe occasionally when you solve that really hard part you have been working on for so long!!

    Everything in life in moderation. That is the key. Anything you do in excess is going to cause an imbalance of your life.. but on the converse side peoples passions tend to take a hold of them and it is very hard to stop. Discipline and a balanced life is the key I think. Of course I have not reached that pinnacle myself but its the striving that matters.

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  33. Good to have you back! I've never commented before, so:

    I love CRPGs, but as an artist and a father I just don't have time for them. But I love to read about your exploits, and enjoy all these wonderful old games by proxy. So you're doing a valuable service!

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  34. As everyone is being far too serious here:
    Over at http://allconsolerpgs.blogspot.com/2012/02/game-3-ultima-exodus-nes-introduction.html we've declared you are a ranger. Also you decided to come back while hiking in the winter, something a ranger would do. Coincidence? I THINK NOT.

    Secondly: How to keep you from playing too much? Zeno's Collar. Dog collar you have to wear to get any games to work. Zaps you after 1 hour, then after 30 min, then after 15, then 7.5 and so on, until you are forced to stop playing. Takes 3 hours to reset the timer.

    Ok, you can go back to struggling with important issues now. I need to go study organometallic chemistry anyway.

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  35. Of all the games to play... Wizardry V? ;)

    There's a lot less mystery in the world with all we know, and compared to a CRPG it doesn't provide me the same sense of wonder, accomplishment, or interwoven stories. This is especially true in our dreary modern day lives. While it's said truth is stranger than fiction, the quantity of such cases is much greater in the latter.

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    1. I actually wanted to play Skyrim, but Wizardry V was what I had on my computer, and I thought it would be a more powerful "return" posting if I abruptly announced that I had won the latter. Alas, having a good idea for a posting doesn't make the game any easier.

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  36. First off a hearty welcome back, you were definitely missed.

    I guess it's normal that as one gets older and takes on more responsibilities that one looks at the pure selfish pleasures of gaming with a guilty eye; I know I often do. The fact remains though that you're really good at writing about them. Have you thought of trying to capitalize on that? I'm not talking about loading up with advertising or anything user-hostile like that. What about self-publishing some of your work as an ebook (or series of ebooks)? It shouldn't take a lot of effort to do so (though if you wanted to throw some additional material in it couldn't hurt) and despite everything being available here I'd imagine you'd at least be able to garner some financial benefit from all your time and effort. Even if it's not enough to quit your day job, maybe it'd be enough to justify the work even if only to yourself.

    Just a thought, I just don't want to see you go away again. :-)

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  37. Welcome back Chet.

    I think there's a lot of personal insight to be gained by trying to understand why you want to dislike something you like.

    Be at peace and have unencumbered fun.

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  38. Welcome back! I have been lucky (?) enough to find your blog just a few weeks ago and have been enjoying your back catalog immensely. I can't say I'm sad to see you writing again. I look forward to your future posts and wish you all the best in your self-employment as well!

    Cheers,
    Mike

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  39. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  40. Welcome back, an avid reader and rpg gamer from Argentina!

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  41. Welcome back! I haven't been very frequent with my triple-Elder Scrolls playthrough as I should be, due to work and incoming-baby issues, but I think your return may spurn me to more frequent postings. Glad to see you're back!

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  42. Tangent: There's some RPG from 2005-ish (don't recall the name offhand, I played the demo) where the combat mechanic is Boggle.

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  43. Do you mean Puzzle Quest, and Bejeweled?

    Boggle would be more interesting, and I can't find anything online.

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  44. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  45. First off, a hearty WELCOME BACK! I truly enjoy your posts and insights about classic RPGs.

    I was one of the people who suggested paring down your list to "good" games, because I thought one of the things discouraging you from continuing your project was the knowledge that you would never finish it given your time constraints. Why continue something that was BOTH sucking time out and also you were never going to finish? At least, I thought it was a major contributing factor.

    Another reason was the joy factor. When you wrote about good games, you often wrote that it "revived your love of gaming." I can't help but think that slogging through Wizardry V played some role in your hiatus.

    Surely, once you get on a great game, it's possible to limit yourself to some hours per day, yes? Or am I just not understanding the nature of your addiction?

    I write these as friendly questions and don't want to make you feel defensive. I genuinely hope you can find a way to balance your life priorities - with the added bonus that it keeps you with us! :)

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  46. I can definitely relate to the not enjoying enjoying RPGs bit. I'm a college student in pursuit of a degree in Computer Science (junior year). I should use all my time for either earning money, learning different programming techniques/languages/paradigms, studying, attending lectures, or working on various projects assigned by my courses.

    Instead I find myself all too often delving into some virtual dungeon, level grinding, fetch-questing, or doing some other CRPG or console rpg dalliance, all at the expense of my productivity and enjoying every minute of it (and then afterward regretting the minutes lost to what could have been productive endeavor).

    So far I've managed to keep my GPA up, but I don't know when/if my RPG habit will cause me to slip up either in my academic, social, or professional life. Only time will tell.

    tl;dr: You are not alone. And, as are many others here, I am glad you're back. Wish you all the best in all you do! :)

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  47. Great to read that you are back! Personally, I think it would be a pity if you would write off the "left over" games from 1988 altogether. Maybe now, as some time has passed since you have initially started to play them, you can get more enjoyment out of them? Either way, it's your blog of course, and I'm immensely enjyoing all of your posts!

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  48. I was inspired to write a blog post about your return. Okay, it's not entirely about you, but about how "unproductive" gaming can be good for us.

    The need to be “unproductive”

    At any rate, welcome back! Looking forward to reading more post as you can write them. :)

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    Replies
    1. That was a very interesting and thought-provoking posting. Thanks for linking it. I think my problem is that I have no sense of moderation. If I'm playing games at all, I'm playing them too much. I agree with the need for "balance"; I just can't find it no matter what decisions I make. But probably not playing at all was more out-of-balance than playing too much.

      Delete
    2. Eh, if your wife isn't threatening to leave you and you make enough money to keep yourself fed, you're not doing too bad. Beyond that, you're probably just feeling societal pressures. Once you start ignoring your wife or stop being able to pay rent, then it's time to worry. I suspect you're a long way away from that point, though.

      Delete
  49. Well, you could enjoy wearing women's cashmir sweaters instead, so I'm sure it could be worse...

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  50. @Psychochild
    Great post!

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  51. I feel like the last one to know. 61 comments already!? Sheesh. Disclaimer: I did not read previous comments, forgive me if I am repeating what others have said.

    CRPGAddict, I am glad you are back. Gaming journalists, and more, Gaming Historians are too few. The enjoyment of games and the ability to write about them are not mutually exlusive, but it is still a rare combination, and our community needs you.

    I am a frequent reader, infrequent poster. I have read all your posts, I have seen this thing from the beginning. I have posted this before, but I say it again: It would make you life a lot easier if you got hold of the concept that CRPGs have value because YOU enjoy them. Not becuase they are enjoyable, not because they can teach people things. You are valuable, and the things that you enjoy are valuable. Trying to use all your time to improve yourself, make money, or do things for other people is not a life in balance.

    And life is balance, one way or another...

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  52. @Jason Dyer:
    I'm thinking the Boggle based combat game you are thinking of is Bookworm Adventures.

    http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2006/11/31

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  53. You are back! Hoooray! :)

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  54. I actually won a copy of bookworm adventures in a contest a while back. While fun, and great for improving my spelling (I have a learning disability) it is not an RPG.

    Man, I should reinstall that.

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  55. @Kellandros: Actually I was thinking Dungeon Scroll.

    http://www.rtsoft.com/pages/dscroll.php

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  56. Addict: Good to see you back. I hope you find the work/play balance that works for you. I too can relate to your concerns about your hobby of choice. I'd probably have preferred having a deep interest in carpentry or auto mechanics instead of tabletop and computer RPGs and overpriced computer hardware.

    As for the comments about playing in the early morning vs. playing at night: I find that if I play in the morning, I can't really get into anything because if I do, I'll be (really) late for work. If I play at night, I have to be careful about watching the clock and sometimes will have to sidestep questions about what I was doing so late over the weekend. There are times that I'll go awhile without playing anything or go off playing anything during the work week. Fortunately, it seems to be getting somewhat easier to moderate my tendencies the older I get. By the time I retire, I'll probably be able to be a fully-functional adult. ;)

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  57. Hey Chet, welcome back. I hope you don't feel bad about taking the break or about returning. I'm looking forward to whatever you have to say, regardless.

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  58. I really appreciate all of you welcoming me back, although I wasn't really gone that long, so let's not turn this into too much of a weep-fest. I'm honored to have so many readers interested in what I have to say about...well, anything. I wish I'd kept up on all your comments so that I could post individual replies (by the way, when did Blogger start allowing nested comments?). Since I can't, I hope you forgive me for this mass "thank you."

    I am going to take another stab at these 1988 games, probably starting with a return to The Bard's Tale III, as I'm a bit burned out on Wizardry V. An earlier version of this post said that I'd play Cosmic Soldier: Psychic War next, but I found it unplayable.

    It probably isn't worth spending too much time offering me suggestions for moderation or better time management or "balance." Most of your ideas are perfectly reasonable and yet, for me, completely implausible. I'm just going to stop talking about it, as well as the psycho-babble that seems to have crept into so many of my postings lately.

    Nothing's changed on my goals or rules. Occasionally, when I'm in the middle of some serious work, I'll be gone for a while. When not, I'll try to post every other day or so.

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  59. Oh, and didn't ANYONE get the reference in the title?

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  60. Replies
    1. THANK you. I use that line all the time when people ask why I'm doing a certain thing.

      "Why did you order another drink when you've already had six?"
      "I must obey the inscrutable exhortations of my soul."
      "Why did you bring home a hooker?"
      "Same answer."

      There's no situation in which it doesn't work.

      Delete
  61. Welcome back!

    You know, Nethack is available for the iPhone. Sorry for pointing that out ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is the only proper response one can have to that statement.

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    2. I don't suppose it is out for Android for those of us whom dislike Apple?

      Delete
    3. yes, multiple versions on android. You also have angband and angband variants. As well as rogue, moria, and larn (in roguelike clasics)

      Delete
    4. I couldn't get into it as much with half my screen used for the touchscreen keyboard.

      On an unrelated note the one thing I don't like about the segmented replies is that when I get an email update from a subscribed thread, it doesn't give me any syntax to what conversation has been updated.

      Delete
    5. If you enjoy roguelikes, definately try Rogue Touch on the IPhone, really great implementation of the system, though unfortunately not available on android devices (pretty much the only reason I miss my IPhone).

      Delete
  62. Let me be the 90th person to say welcome back, sir. :) I hope the time off was valuable. :)

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    Replies
    1. Geeze, I thought you were joking about 90th. No wonder my phone is beeping with new emails constantly. Though actually it is less then 90 PEOPLE as a few of us have posted more then once. Still.

      Delete
  63. Great Scott! Your back! (though I really hope this isn't killing your offline life and business)

    I know how you feel. I have been trying to stave off my internet addiction over the past few weeks, but I broke down tonight and look at how I am further drawn in to come back!

    PS. Before my little internet hiatus I was reading a blog about general thoughts on RPGs (mostly concerning console ones) called Thinking Inside the Box. I recommended the blogger, RPGenius, to visit this blog right before finding out just now that your still on for the long haul.

    Man, I am so freaking shaking with excitement your back!

    - Giauz

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  64. Damn, I was still thinking of a good goodbye comment to the previous post. Good to see you back though. I see you're making the "but I'm going to waste time anyway" excuse. But yeah, we all need downtime, why not do something you enjoy. Best of luck keeping it in balance.

    I was looking forward to Psychic War, as I've tried playing it myself. It's weird as hell. It should be playable though, and interesting. To quote Hardcore Gaming 101 about the series, of which that game is the second one: "What makes these games so interesting is their age, as they were among the first Japanese RPGs ever made, still showing the influence by early American games, but still showing some of the directions that the genre would later take. The second game was also one of the first Japanese RPGs to be released overseas, and an example of a well-done localization that is superior to the Japanese original. The first two games deserve some attention because of the unique style of gameplay and their age, but only the first one is barely even playable, whereas the PC version of the second one can be considered a good game." I for one would love to read you blogging about it.

    cheers,
    --Eino

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  65. Welcome back! I wish you the best of luck in managing your hobby/obsession vs. your responsibilities. :)

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  66. So happy to read this :D

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  67. As a parttime neuroscientist (the main part of my life offcourse being a fellow gaming addict :-) ) I was particularly interested by the finding that the same (reward) structures of the brain light up in young gamers and crack-cocaine users: http://www.livescience.com/17033-gamer-brain-reward-system.html
    Addictions can be managed but it's wise to acknowledge them firstly and have insight into which behavior modification will work in each case.
    That said, I'm also happy that the Blog has returned!

    Here follows my rant about some aspects of my addiction. Feel free to skip...
    I'm mostly at a loss when I try to think about what I (should) think about my proclivity for gaming. It's because I don't trust myself coming up with proper arguments that are not tainted by avoidance behavior or reduction of cognitive dissonance. I would for example point out that for the brain the difference between reality and virtual reality is in the end a meaningless distinction. So it's ok to game I guess. Or how much I have learned/sharpened my brain with gaming (I owe my knowledge of English to games in great parts), and how the US military distributes a game for free just to make use of that effect and mold young brains for enlistment (more gaming means better reflexes and maybe also some moral dulling/getting used to killing things). Oops, maybe that last example wasn't that strong....Or how my favorite cRPG is just an interactive fiction/fantasy novel in which I happen to star, and interacting is by definition more active than passive reading, and therefore Better. Or how my problem solving skills improve because of the decisionmaking in the games (yeah right, like Skryim offers mindbending puzzles to begin with.... :-))
    But then the "high" wears off, I feel less connected to people around me, stuff has piled up and I'm more irritable than I want to be because of the fact I can't time-manage my gaming and lose too much sleep. I feel guilty about having done nothing Useful with my time. I feel conned by the game that tries to lure me back into it's ever revolving hamster wheel*. "Play me!" it cries out, "I will reward you with an even better hamster wheel if you level up". And yet, with every iteration of the Elder Scrolls (or any other cRPG that beckons me) I fall for the lure. And I immensely enjoy playing them! Could we but live two lives simultaneously....
    End of rant

    *I borrowed this metaphor from somebody who IMHO nailed the description of the levelgrinding process in cRPG's and especially in MMORPG's like WoW: "just run 10.000 circles in this here silver and gold hamster wheel, and then we will reward you with this platina, jewel-encrusted hamster wheel. Rinse and repeat"

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  68. Wow, I had stopped checking your Blog because I thought you were gone for good. Time wasting happens a lot, it happens with my blog, too. I usually only have an hour or two on weeknights to play for my next entry and I wind up using it to watch TV shows, read, or just goof off on forums. It is liberating to not put too much pressure on yourself, though. Now I have a lot to catch up on here, too.

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  69. Hello crpgaddict. I enjoy your blog, but I am a bit reluctant as it is addiction to you. But your motives to overcoming it are as you write: make money or make something for yourself (between lines: to make more money in future). What about helping someone else? For example Irene?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That comment seems a bit close to home. And I mean that in the literal sense...

      Delete
    2. I appreciate the reminder of why I should keep personal stuff off the blog.

      Delete
  70. Hopefully 99% of the people reading are totally normal and wont make strange posts about your personal life. so glad to have you writing the blog again!

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  71. Welcome back! I'm still following you from my blog, but it wasn't until just now that I noticed you were posting again. Great!

    Well, great for me, at least. But I'm not so sure that it isn't great for you, too. Yes, you HAVE to work and you HAVE to keep your home-life happy. Some things simply must be priorities, however you manage it.

    But the rest of it - learning a new language, dance lessons, the piano, etc. - is only important if those are the things you really want to do. Life is too short to make all of it a dreary duty, it really is.

    I understand the addiction of computer games, although you seem to have it worse than I do. One way or another, you have to control that. But once the basic requirements of life are met - and that certainly includes your family life - you should feel free to enjoy yourself.

    PS. I took early retirement six years ago, and I thought I'd have so much more time to play games! Funny, but I seem to have less time now than when I was working. Partly, that's because I started a blog (so I understand how time consuming that is) and other hobbies, too.

    But mostly, I think, I just don't have the deadlines I used to have. I don't have to be at work early in the morning, so I get up and putz around on the computer, having a leisurely breakfast, and just getting nothing accomplished - not even gaming. I'm just saying that work might not be such a drag on playing games as you'd expect. :)

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  72. First world problems... :)

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  73. How strange... I know that feeling, and almost exactly like that:

    Periodically, I stop playing space strategy games because they just eat up so much of my time. But then I randomly read a tidbit about new stuff found by our astronomers or how our probes keep creeping out of our solar system.

    And then I get this hard do describe feeling of wanting to explore the unknown and I find myself back at my PC, playing stuff like Distant Worlds or Space Empires V again.

    Sometimes it even works exactly like it happened to you: I see an old ruined factory or something like that and I get the strange urge to play RPGs. (Or space sims which lets you explore, both genres speak to me the same way.)

    I'm a bit sad our world is nowadays so full of humans you can go literally everywhere and someone was already there before you: Antarctis, the Deep Sea, everywhere humans have already been. And I fear I won't live long enough to see real, manned expeditions into deep space.

    Well, since the real world is lacking, we still have our games so we don't go mad.

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  74. Huh... why would any self-professed CRPG addict be playing Boggle instead of an RPG on his iPhone is truly beyond me. =p

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For the same reason an alcoholic drinks soda, my friend.

      Delete
    2. Also the same reason why a straight guy would wanna watch 2 ladies going at it with each other, eh?

      Delete
    3. Wait, what? No, I don't think that is quite it.

      Delete
  75. For some reason gaming is taboo, but sitting on your couch watching college football all day Saturday and pro football all day Sunday isn't. I think you need to lose the self-hate over gaming and accept it as a worthy use of leisure time. Everyone needs a healthy does of leisure to stay happy and sane. If you're happy (aside from worrying that you game too much) and your wife is happy then it doesn't matter how much you game. If it starts to creep into work and wife time then make a schedule and stick with it, you seem like the type to like to-do lists and schedules.

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    Replies
    1. I'm the type that likes them. I'm also the type that's easily derailed from them.

      I've hit a reasonably good balance lately. The problem was that a year ago, I was doing all this blogging AND Skyrim was eating up a ton of my time. I had a drink in both hands.

      Delete

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