I've had a busy few weeks of work. I'm just getting past Midterm in the semester, and as a result I've completed a ton of reading papers, grading (as some of my classes are accelerated 8-week courses), and doing internship evaluations. On top of that I'm contributing a chapter for a book coming out. As a result, I've done a lot of double duty on work related stuff, often taking breaks from doing one type of work to do another type of work. There's just not been a lot of time for some of my passion areas recently.
This will all work itself out of course. In the coming week my workload should level off again, and I'll be able to get back into some gaming. This ebb and flow of work is pretty common now, and in talking to several of my friends, I'm not alone. I remember a friend in college who would often paraphrase something he watched or read stating, "All this living up to my full potential is cutting into my sittin' around time." That's very true. But a worthy sacrifice. However, it's also caused a change in how I look at my gaming experiences.
I've grown up in a golden age of gaming. As I grew, the games were constantly evolving. I started with a vintage Nintendo and a Sega Master System (along with my dad and uncles' Atari). I got a lot of games as a kid, and during holiday and summer breaks, after my homework was done, and on odd weekends where my family didn't have any plans, I could peck away at games pretty regularly. I didn't always finish everything, but I was able to polish off quite a bit. And in some cases I would replay certain games over and over again, trying to unlock everything I could. In the age of Achievements and Trophies I found a new drive to try and complete everything I could in as many games as I could. Some Achievements were simply unreachable for me, but I would try and fully complete everything I could. It was important to me to try and reach "Fully Sync" in every Assassin's Creed, and pick up every Riddler Trophy in the Arkham games. I had to beat Halo on Legendary, and in multiplayer, I tried to unlock every customization for my weapons and prestiges before I felt comfortable moving on to the next title in the franchise. This, even in the early days of my career, was doable, though it has quickly become unmanageable.
As my career and personal life have evolved over the years there simply hasn't been the space to enjoy multiple play throughs of a title. Or, for that matter, to try and squeeze out every single minor piece of my favorite games. Admittedly, this has created a sort of anxiety for me. I had historically gained a sense of pride from completing achievements, or fully completing every title. So when I don't, I feel like I'm betraying myself. Sometimes that means I just don't play a title at all, because it feels disingenuous to be the person who doesn't achievement hunt every corner of the game. But this also means that I'm constantly behind, and never experiencing any of the great stuff that made being a geek and gamer a passion of mine.
So the long and short of this is that I'm in a state of restructuring. I'm learning what it is to be a geek who may not watch every single new series or film franchise that comes out, but I do watch and enjoy the ones I want to. And I may not reach the max level with every one of my favorite titles, but I can still enjoy the games I want to. It's like Carl Rogers once shared about the "real self" and the "ideal self." If our real self and ideal self are too far apart, we create discomfort. So this means we either have to move the real self closer to the ideal, or we move the ideal a little closer to the real.
In some areas of my life, like my health, personal relationships, etc. I try and move my real self closer to my ideal self. In the case of my gaming, I'm trying to move the ideal self closer to the real self. I don't have to be an achievement hunter, unlocking every secret to still really enjoy the franchises that I love. So that ideal self can can come a little closer to the real. I'm a work in progress with this. But I'm sure I'm not alone in trying to accomplish personal transformation.
Over the summer I was spending some time catching up on Destiny 2. For those who aren't familiar with the Destiny franchise, every summer they begin a themed event called "Moments of Triumph." The basic idea is to encourage everyone who has been playing throughout the year to finish off the high difficulty challenges (like a Raid or the quest for a special item) that you may not have completed yet, but also to go back and indulge in all of the content that you may not have visited and tried out in a few months. This is a kind of a "victory lap" of all of the games activities for the year before they release the new years content in the Fall.
Though I play on and off throughout the year (see my previous post about my "Relaxation Paralysis" experiences) this is a reminder to go back and finish things up that I might be missing. The folks over at Bungie, who create Destiny, create incentives to complete the "Triumphs" by adding unique emblems, cosmetic items, and even a t-shirt you can earn in real life. This year there were a series of challenges that needed to be completed to earn a unique set of armor. These challenges were mostly low level in nature, but there were a lot of them. These, along with some of the slightly higher difficulty challenges either required, or were made easier through completion by a team. Sounds great right? The catch to all of this is that I'm mostly a solo gamer these days. Many of the people I used to game with just aren't as involved in gaming or we don't play the same things anymore. My schedule is non-traditional at work, and trying to find new consistent people to play with is difficult, because I'm very inconsistent right now. So that leaves me one option to complete challenges like this. I have to searching on "Looking for Group" forums, abbreviated to "LFGs."
LFGs are a really mixed experience for me. I've met some great people out there by randomly connecting with them. However, I've also met some people who weren't willing to be patient with anyone who needed to learn something new. I get this to some degree, some people play a lot more often, and are just trying to find some random additional players to jump on and quickly knock out a bunch of challenges. Unfortunately, there's many of us who never have the opportunity to learn how to achieve these challenges, but would like to. The reality is that I've run into many Gamers who can play well, and are interested in playing socially, but are too uncomfortable to put themselves out there and risk rejection or negative feedback by their peers. However, occasionally, there are posts that come up in LFGs that encourage new people to jump in. I began my search looking for these sort of posts. They're very few and far between. But this is when I discovered a new tagline that ignited my curiosity.
In order to group LFG posts, people use short phrases or hashtags to help interested players more quickly find what they're looking for. So you'll see posts labeled "#Raid," or "#KnowWhatToDo," or "#BeLevel350." The ones that caught my eye were those labeled "#NoMicNeeded." What really shocked me about these posts is how quickly these parties would fill up. I immediately realized why. If I don't have to have my in game mic active, then I don't have to communicate with other players in real time. As a result, the pressure to get rejected or experience negative feedback is significantly diminished. This is great for a lot of players. Many of us know the basics of what to do, but we don't want the pressure that comes along with having to perform cooperatively at a high level with people we aren't familiar with. Hell, much of the time I can even perform at that advanced level, but I don't want my gaming to feel that pressured. Additionally, a lot of the time that I do get to play, I'm streaming my Xbox onto my laptop, so that I can spend time with my wife, but we can enjoy the experiences that we prefer. If I have my Mic on I'll be talking in the room with her while she's trying to watch TV or read, and that totally defeats the purpose of trying to hang out and talk to one another while we're enjoying our own interests.
So finding this #NoMicNeeded tag was a breakthrough for me. I tried a bunch of times to get into these rooms, but I had to be extremely fast because of how quickly they'd close. Then I came to another realization. What if I made a post with this tagline? Would I have the same results? Yes, I absolutely did. I began creating my own requests for the things I needed to finish in Destiny 2, and posting a request for players with the tagline #NoMicNeeded. I would sometimes have so many immediate requests to join I had to turn people away. I started logging those peoples Gamertags and would contact them directly with the next activity I was planning to play, to try and be fair.
This little experiment has been eye opening. I fully completed my Moments of Triumph in record time (for me) once I landed on my discovery. The number of Gamers who are willing to play together, but are intimidated by the pressures of interacting with people they don't know and that they can't be sure will be safe or friendly, was significant. It's resulted in me spending a lot of time thinking about ways to be more inclusive in my gaming, and how I present myself to others online. Definitely more on this as it evolves.
All the best,
- This post written by Dr. Steve Kuniak
This post is about the question I ask myself regularly ("What should I play?"), rather than any actual advice on what's best to play. I struggle with this question every time I get a chance to pick up my controller. Mostly, I struggle, because the opportunities to pick up my controller are so few and far between. I'm a faculty member in a Masters of Counseling program and I work non-traditional hours. In addition to teaching my assigned classes and grading materials I also supervise Internships, and have to respond to student questions for all of these things along with my the needs for students with whom I've been assigned as an academic advisor. On the side I'm also having to keep up with long term requirements that are associated with my earning tenure. So, I've been working on several writing projects along with presentations, and service on committees, etc.
Then, there are the "just being an adult" responsibilities that also cut into my gaming time. I'm married to a wonderful woman, who is also a counselor, and I want to make sure I'm a good husband to her. We have our two dogs, and they're wonderful, but I have to be a good doggy daddy. There's taking time to pay bills, and go grocery shopping, and keep the house clean, and the list goes on. It all adds up so that my free time is usually spent doing another form of work. So much so that when I'm actually free I experience a sort of relaxation guilt. I don't feel like I SHOULD be relaxing because there's probably something else I ought to be doing. #Adulting
I'll add that another complication is that I want to make sure my wife has time to enjoy the relaxation activities she loves too. We try to practice compromises in our relationship, and we also like to spend time with one another. In many instances we find Netflix series that we both like, or genres that we can share with each other. But I'm still a Gamer, and this adds to my subdividing my game time. A fix to this has been the ability to stream my games. I'm primarily an Xbox fanboy, and a lot of times in order to fit my gaming in, I'll stream my Xbox through the Xbox app on my laptop, so that my wife can have the main TV, but I can still play at the same time. I can't always have the volume fully up, and I definitely can't jump into in game chat, but Xbox's game streaming has been a help (I'm writing another article about this specifically for another time).
So all this to get to the point that, when I do convince myself that I don't have anything else to be doing, I feel like whatever I choose to enjoy ought to be something that is absolutely going to be worth it. It's a question of what's going to give me "the most bang for my buck," as it were. What's funny about this is that it results in a sort of "relaxation paralysis" for me. I can never find anything that is in any way going to fully meet my needs. For a while this resulted in me just never playing or watching anything of quality. I would intentionally find something that I didn't want to really indulge in, just to fill the space, rather than to find something to enjoy. I realized I was "saving" the stuff I loved so that I could enjoy it when I finally had the time to really indulge in it. The reality is that I will never find THAT time. I always have a next thing to do.
So I started forcing myself to just play something I would like when I had some time. This works in a general sense. Though I've discovered a new layer to this process. I choose a game and while that game is loading I think of another game I'd also like to play. So I switch games. Then I think of another one I'd be excited to play too. So I switch games again. This actually eats from 10-15 minutes of my "free time" before I actually get to play anything.
I love story based games, and some of my favorite titles are Halo, Gears of War, Assassin's Creed, Destiny, etc. I end up trying to savor these titles, because I really want to be immersed in the story. I end up playing games that have some mindless components like multiplayer, or side quests that I can keep advancing on without having to experience all of the aspects of the game in order to enjoy it. I tend to jump into multiplayer in Halo and Destiny while playing side missions and generally leveling up in titles like Assassin's Creed and Sea of Theives (one of my new favs).
As a result of these balancing decisions I make, I have a huge backlog of games that I would like to play, and never really catch up on (Fallout, I'm looking at you). In the interest of practicing better personal mental health, I've made a pact with myself that I will begin working through that backlog, and that I am just as worthy of having recreational time as anyone else.
We all deserve to give ourselves some of this kindness, though as a counselor I know this is much easier said than done. I always advise my clients that they are deserving and should take opportunities for self care. I'm going to do my best to practice what I preach, and begin seeking more opportunities to log on and indulge in the things I love. I hope you all do the same.
All the best,
- This post written by Dr. Steve Kuniak
Welcome everyone! It's great to get back to writing.
I'm Dr. Steve Kuniak. Maybe we've met before at one of the conventions I've attended, or perhaps we've talked on Twitter or Facebook. Maybe you're totally new and arriving here for the first time. I've been working as a mental health counselor for over a decade now, and have been a geek and gamer since I was born. Truly, for those of you who don't know the story, I've been playing video games since I was about 4 years old, and basically learned to read through comic books. I've dedicated a huge portion of my career to using my mental health credentials to educate folks around the idea that being a "Geek" or "Gamer" really isn't bad. In fact, I believe that when people use the stuff we love in healthy ways, it can actually be really good for you. I've done some blogging and been interviewed on these ideas before (check out the Resources Tab for links to articles), and plan to do more. Experience Points is that base for these new initiatives. My goal is to grow this site into a resource center, and eventually move into doing outreach services as well.
I have several projects I'm working on simultaneously right now. I look forward to sharing them as they reach completion. For now, this Blog will serve as a place where I, and some of my colleagues, can share what's "good in gaming," or what's "good in being a geek." I look forward to catching up with everyone on social media and out in the world as well. For now, thanks for stopping by, and plan for an update here every week going forward!
All the best,
- This post written by Dr. Steve Kuniak