Making Memories

Recently I read an interesting post by Bhagpuss of Inventory Full. He starts out talking about WvW in Guild Wars 2 and ends up veering hard into the realm of existentialism (and if that doesn’t convince you to give his blog a try, I don’t know what would).

My avatar silhouetted against the moon in the dearly departed LandmarkIt touches on a topic that comes up often in gaming circles. It gets phrased different ways, but fundamentally, the question is, “Are we wasting our lives by playing video games?”

Bhagpuss’ answer to that appears to be a hard no. Many feel similarly — that if you enjoy yourself, it’s not time wasted, no matter how impermanent and abstract video games may be.

As someone who has spent what is by almost any standard an unhealthy amount of my life playing video games (and engaging in other pastimes), I have a more complex view of things. I don’t regret all of the time I’ve spent gaming, but I do regret some of it, and I’m trying to get better at focusing on games that I’m not likely to regret playing.

These days my criteria for whether a game is worth my time is, “Will this make a good memory?”

A large part of the reason I stopped playing Heroes of the Storm regularly is that I realized I’d been playing it almost daily for about two years, and had almost no memories of the game. It’s not that I wasn’t having fun. Most of the time I was.

But that game never really made me feel anything. It didn’t make me think. I didn’t meet any friends in-game, and I didn’t learn anything valuable. All those matches just faded into a blur of bad Raynors and dropping Blizzards on team fights. It meant nothing.

Playing as Alexstrasza the Dragon-Queen in Heroes of the StormI don’t necessarily regret ever playing Heroes in the first place, but I regret that I wasted so much of my life on it.

By comparison, I sunk hundreds of hours into The Secret World, and I’m overflowing with positive memories of that game. There was the time I spent an afternoon translating Caesar ciphers, there was spending Christmas Eve with Moiren, there was Joelzilla, there was soloing The Girl Who Kicked the Vampire’s Nest for the first time, there was wandering the streets of Kingsmouth and listening to the seagulls…

I could go on and on. Almost every moment spent in TSW, I was stimulated intellectually and emotionally. I treasure all of the memories I made in that game, and I don’t regret a single second I spent playing it.

And really I think this philosophy is something you can apply to any aspect of life. “Will this make a good memory?”

A few weeks ago, I went to a Chvrches concert. It was a fantastic show, and I had a great time, but what really makes it worthwhile for me is the way I’ll be able to revisit that night in my memory for years to come. Any time I listen to Forever now, if I close my eyes, I’m back in my seat at the Danforth Music Hall, seeing Lauren dance across the stage.

It even applies to life goals. Lately I’ve been going through a lot of changes in my life and thinking hard about what I want for myself and my future — what success means to me, and what I really want to do with my life.

Celebrating Christmas Eve with Moiren and friends in The Secret WorldI think a lot of it can be boiled down to the idea that I want to make happy memories for people. That’s why I write: I want to tell stories that uplift and inspire people, that will linger with them in a positive way the same way Lord of the Rings is still inspiring me after twenty years.

I’ve also been making it a goal lately to try to be more helpful and supportive to the people who mean the most to me. Again, I want to leave people with positive memories. I want to make an impact for the better.

I think that, really, is the closest thing to immortality any of us can ever hope to achieve. When our days come to an end, the only thing we really leave behind is the memories we’ve made with other people, and the lives we’ve touched.

Returning to the original topic, I think something can still be a waste of time even if you enjoy it. But if it leaves you with a happy memory that you can continue to enjoy for years to come, then that time is never wasted, no matter how frivolous or ephemeral an activity might seem to the outsider observer.

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5 thoughts on “Making Memories

  1. We went back and forth on this a little before, I think, but I largely agree with you t hat laying down memories (memories you relish, not ones you dread) is as good a reason for doing something as any. I wouldn’t rely on actual memory to retain those memories, though.

    Leaving aside the possibility o structural memory loss from age or illness, it’s surprisingly easy to lose memories and easier still for the edges of those once-sharp memories to dull. I have so many memories *of* memories now – things I can remember remembering but can’t clearly remember any more. Y

    our example of the live music experience is a really crucial example. I spent three full decades going to countless live shows. I started when i was barely in my teens and stopped in my mid-40s, not coincidentally around the time i started playing EQ. In the 1980s and 1990s I could have told you story after story about those gigs, scores, hundreds of them, with all kinds of amusing or entertaining detail, right down to what songs the band played and in what order in some cases.

    That was because I talked about music all the time and traded stories like that back and forth with friends. In the 90s I stopped doing that and by the mid-noughties most of those memories were gone. i can remember that i had them but I don’t have them now. The same is beginning to happen to my early-EQ and DAOC stories, which again I used to retail around a lot on forums and in conversation in game but which i now haven’t told for years. When I do try to re-tell something like the one about the guy who begged Mrs Bhagpuss to drag his corpse through West Karana and then started accusing her of stealing it, I can’t remebr much more than…well, than that.

    That’s one of the big reasons I blog. I wish now I’d kept an actual diary from my teenage years onwards. I tried but I never could get into it. Blogging works so much better for me. Anyway, if you want to make memories to last, write them down or take pictures, that’s my advice.

  2. Pingback: Memorable vs always fun gameplay – Mailvaltar

  3. Great post! Looking at gaming now through new eyes.

    I can see what you mean when I play “Life Is Strange”. That game is amazing and makes you think deeply about the choices you make.

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