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?