Serotonin: Respecting the process of playing games

January 30, 2015

Berlin Trip 008

Something wasn’t quite right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. The controller was fine; over 50 games have fallen to the might of my trusty PS3 gold standard. The TV was massive; we just got a brand new 55-inch Samsung SmartTV, and after negotiating color schemes and brightness, we had come to a mutual understanding that it was a TV and I was the person who decided what it should look like. I was well-fed, not at work and didn’t have to be anywhere in particular anytime soon.

But as I was playing through Tales of Xillia 2, I wasn’t sure why but it felt off. Like some entrée at a restaurant that should taste fine… does taste fine… but… I don’t know, too much salt? Not enough? Are those artichokes? I’ll keep eating, but I prefer satisfaction to a mystery when I’m dining out.

I cleaned up the room, I watered the plants (for the first time ever)and I was in my overly comfortable pajamas… but something didn’t feel right. The game was fine, the couch was fine… wait. The couch. My back was sore. I kept shifting around, like I couldn’t sleep. The angle was weird. The angle was weird! That’s what it was! I don’t play games lying down on a couch. I’ve never played games lying down on a couch! That’s not my style. That’s not who I am. That’s not my modus operandi. I need to be as close as possible to the action, despite the size of the screen. I retrieved a fold-out camping chair, propped it up about a foot away from the action and I was finally in the zone. I was at peace. This is my own process for enjoying my hobby, and it is of the utmost importance if I’m to fully enjoy my free time.

20150124_113535Everybody has one, for nearly everything. Sure, the free Wi-Fi at Starbucks helps, but the recognition and ambient background noise is manna for that student writing a paper on her laptop. Athletes wear their favorite trinkets on the field, and writers (such as myself) subscribe to many comforting constants. Some only work in the morning; the certainty of the sun rising and the world waking up before them stirs the creative juices. Others can only write effectively at night; there’s no chance of distractions, and a renewed confidence that their quiet vigil will reproduce something wonderful.

The very first room I remember having was on Oliver Street, from when I was five years old until I moved out at the age of 23. This was my home base. It was barely a room: more like half, before renovations. It’s not like I got screwed over. As the oldest, I’m pretty sure I got to pick and I chose the smallest. I’ve never needed a lot of space. This is where my personal process of gaming developed.

A single bed, a worthy and aged desk, a TV that wouldn’t fit the description nowadays and a chair that wasn’t designed to prop or lean against my mattress, but was somehow perfect for it. I had to sit close, or else contort myself into some Cirque de Soleil pose in order to properly adjust myself on the bed. It wasn’t going to happen. Chrono Trigger, GoldenEye 007 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time would have to be conquered within literal reach. And so it stayed. Playing close may be terrible for my eyes, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It became part of my process.

Routine breeds familiarity. Whether it’s stepping out onto the porch in the morning or reading by the fireplace, hobbies are best enjoyed when all other variables are known, expected and welcomed. Aside from sitting up close, there must be other factors at play if I’m to be in the zone.


Tea. Tea is essential. It must always be within reach, even if I don’t plan on drinking it. It’s far superior to coffee in every way. There’s nothing like looking out on a rainy day, listening as the pause music assures you there’s no rush and taking that first, divine sip. Slippers and a hockey jersey are to be worn, or in the summer, athletic shorts and sandals. It’s all about comfort. I’ll never win any kind of fashion award while I sit down to enjoy a game, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I have enough challenges in life. My car trunk is still leaking, I’m juggling ten things at once at all times and I never seem to win battles against dishes or laundry. But I know my process will result in me being as content as possible, before the game even starts.

It goes beyond peaceful solitude. I often find the need to surround myself with stimuli unrelated to the game I’m playing. My phone playing YouTube during a boring part will preserve my focus when it’s needed. If I’m lucky enough to have a hockey game on in the background, that’s all the better. I have no idea why having distractions allows me to focus, but it does. My process isn’t always a quiet one.

As I reach back upon the memories of nearly 500 games I’ve played in my 30 years, they all have the shared sense of possession. Physical copies come and go, but the memories of playing them, and how I played them, are vastly more important. I drink tea, sit close and wear the most cozy clothes I can find. It’s not particularly rare, or strange. But it’s my process.