This week I’ve been going deeper into those narrative games I wrote to you about last Tuesday (and if this schedule keeps up I might have to change the name of the newsletter). I purchased, per a reader suggestion, as well as trying out the demo, a game called Detroit: Become Human. It’s about androids becoming sentient in a future Detroit. I’ve already gone through it once and will be going through it again to see how the narrative responds to different choices. But I’ll same my thoughts on that for another letter. What’s on my mind today is the game Fortnite.
Fortnite is definitely not a narrative game. It’s more of an obsession, one that I can feel passing through my system. I’ve been playing it with a friend in California, and a large part of the fun, for me, comes from the thrill of mastering (though not necessarily mastery) – of switching to the right weapon more quickly in combat or deploying ramps in stride to get up the side of a mountain. I already sense a moment, in the near future, when I’ll burn out on it and stop playing altogether, because in order to keep progressing, in order to be better than adequate, to be actually good, I would have to dedicate X amount of time to practice it and eventually at some point join an e-sports team. (This is how my mind works.)
I’m reminded of when I was practicing kendo a few years ago, how after months of rehearsing the same four moves over and over with the other students, I asked the sensei if I could get sparring pads and a helmet. The moment he said yes, I saw my future unfurled in front of me, a future of attending more practices, and competing in tournaments, trying to work my way up the ranks – a path pre-determined. And I couldn’t imagine myself in that future. It felt like asking for a work promotion, getting it, and then suddenly realizing you were in the wrong career.
Come to think of it, that’s been the difference between what I’ve stuck with and what I’ve let go: the things I stick with tend not to have a set path forward; they tend to have multiple potentialities. The more I write, the more possible stories I feel myself able to write. The more I meditate, the more I see that there are endless ways of relating to it – that don’t all result in becoming a monastic. The thrill is in more than just mastery/ing, but in following life where it goes.