Permission to Play


For the last month I’ve been doing something rather uncharacteristic.  I’ve been powering through the Mass Effect trilogy along with as much ancillary literature about the Mass Effect Universe as I can cram into my overstuffed overworked brain.  Why is this significant?  I’ve always played games, here and there, but nothing to completion since… can anyone remember Turok Dinosaur Hunter on Nintendo 64?  Yes, that long ago.

BewareOblivionIsAtHand (master cheat)

Forget it.  I’m not patting myself on the back for finishing the ME trilogy, because I played in easy mode all the way through, even though I did fairly well.  I’m offering a virtual pat on the back to the massive talent over at Bioware for creating something so engaging that I couldn’t stop playing until it was complete.  A month.  I spent a month submerged in a character, Commander Shepard, who looked like me, and made decisions much the way I would have (or believe I would) in tough situations.


Does ME have its faults.  I think so.  Among those faults is the very dramatic premise that the fate of the entire universe hinges on my ability to unite fractured alien nations under one banner to fight a common threat.  The concept is melodramatic at least and utterly ludicrous at worst.  And yet, the story presents a certain urgency, a desire to do right, and a need to see what will happen next that kept me playing like a fiend.  Sometimes I even woke up early just to get in an hour of play before work.  I usually get up early to write.

In came the guilt.

I should have been writing instead. Right?

Oh, but I was.  I wasn’t actually putting words down onto paper, no, but I was writing in my head.  Heh.  I know that sounds lame, but allow me to explain.  Most writers would probably tell you that everything in their lives and the lives of others influences and informs their writing.  Me included.  Gaming, reading, work, exchanges in the grocery store, the news, daydreams, a conversation overheard in line at Starbuck’s.  All of these snippets find their way into our work in some form.

ME is a role playing game, wherein I get to be someone else.  I was someone else for an entire month.  Bioware created the premise but in a sense allowed me to write my own fate (to a degree).  I wrote my own story, so to speak, and I gleaned some terrific ideas for my own tales along the way.

I’m glad that I gave myself permission to play instead.  Now I have to give myself permission to get back to writing.

What guilty pleasures help you focus on your writing?