Geeked Out: The year of reading about big ideas

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016 at 12:00 PM
Geeked Out: The year of reading about big ideas by John Lindvay
Contributed photo

Recently, I realized how bizarre of a year 2015 really was: It was the year I played fewer video games and read more books.

This might not come off as some grand revelation, but for me it’s an oddity. I work in the games industry. In 2014 I played over 100 different games, the majority to completion. But in 2015, I finished maybe a dozen games, and only started a couple dozen more.

And it’s wasn’t for a lack of great games to come out last year, that’s for sure! Many awesome games were released, like the final Kojima Metal Gear, Fallout 4, and The Witcher 3. So what happened?

Coincidentally, I turned 30. This milestone weighed on my mind all year. Major age milestones tend to consume you. You think about what you’ve done so far and what you still wish to accomplish.

I’ve been playing games my whole life, and a few years ago I started my journey to break into the industry. I consumed games, examined them, figured out how they worked, and then talked to the people who made them to figure out the how and why behind it all. This was the creation of BigSushi.fm, a weekly podcast I still host. It started with me and two others, and now it’s down to just me. I then got my first job in the industry at the middle of 2014, and in 2015 I left that position to start a new position with a studio that I admire and on a project I love.

As I approached 30, I couldn’t help but think about how, even with all of this, I’m still far from my professional and personal goals. So instead of investing in new video game experiences, I found myself playing what I was most familiar with.

The video game equivalent of comfort food is playing games you’ve already sunk countless hours into. They don’t tax you the way games with epic stories or gameplay challenges do.

In truth, almost all games felt like too much of an investment of time and, at times, fruitless. I would ask myself, what am I getting from this? What am I learning or experiencing?

In truth, almost all games felt like too much of an investment of time and, at times, fruitless. I would ask myself, what am I getting from this? What am I learning or experiencing? Since I couldn’t be bothered to invest in the game’s story or novel gameplay, I found myself utterly disinterested. And I think it’s natural to fall in and out of excitement for games.

In that time that games used to consume, I found myself reading more. Not just Internet articles or news stories; but books, tangible books made of dead trees.

I was reminded what it felt like to read books and to quench that thirst for new information. I read works by Albert Camus, revisited classics by Salinger and Hemingway, and continued my slow read through Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. I read my first Virginia Woolf novel. I explored behavioral economics in Richard Thaler’s Misbehaving, which brought me to Daniel Kahneman’s incredibly insightful Thinking Fast and Slow, about how humans make decisions.

While in many ways 2015 was an odd year, it brought me back to something fundamental. I love learning, and books are still some of the best ways to learn about new ideas and experiences. Perhaps what I am trying to get at is this: This year, let’s resolve to take time to read about big ideas, and break up the cycle of mindlessly consuming media.

John Lindvay can be contacted at jLindvay@ErieReader.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @Fightstrife.

Erie Reader: Vol. 6, No. 20
Available on Sep. 28, 2016

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