Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Finished Business

A few days ago, I made a milestone achievement in my life. After over 200 hours of working relentlessly to attain absolutely every possible achievement, I fought and defeated the final boss of Final Fantasy XII, beating the game. I took it out of my PS3 with a sense of accomplishment. A story was written regarding my harrowing attempt to conquer the digital opponent, as chronicled here. Congratulations were issued by several people, who then wondered what my next move would be. I am currently exploring options.

If you don't know me, or are just unfamiliar with my modus operandi when it comes to video games, beating them is not something I typically do. Don't get me wrong; Super Mario Bros., Mega Man 3, Contra, all the big NES Classics are solidly in the "Beaten" file. While I may not have been as excited as this kid to receive a console, that Hanukkah in 1986 when the Nintendo from my grandparents arrived was a pretty special day. Well, special for my older brother, I'm not sure I even knew what video games were at that point, but that didn't stop me from reveling in his excitement before spending the next month or so diligently hammering away so that I could beat the first level of Super Mario. Almost two and half decades later, there are naturally a slew of games I've played through and beaten across nearly every console made since. Except Bayou Billy, but man, even Captain N couldn't beat that game, so screw it.

But the thing is, as long as the list of games I've beaten might be, the list of games left unfinished occupies much more room in my collection. It's not just that I haven't beaten them, though. This list includes games that require a time investment of 100 hours or more to get through in their entirety. I'm talking about games like Xenosaga, Harvest Moon, Dragon Quest VII, Final Fantasy IV, VI, and VIII, Robotrek, Breath of Fire III, Kingdom Hearts II, Valkyria Chronicles, and more - oh, so many more. These are games where I made it to the very end, sometimes right up to the final boss even, and then . . . I'd stop.

There's no real reason, no common unifying factor which dictates I stop playing. I make it all the way to the end and then just lose interest. A few days will be spent saying "man, I should really go back to that and beat it," and then I don't. So the games sit there, unfinished, added to a pile that I should totally really beat one day, you know, because I put so much time into it.

That's not the real issue. I could never beat another video game again and nobody would ever be affected. I could quit playing altogether and the only people who would care are GameStop employees whose Christmas bonuses I'd no longer be funding. Video games are the least important part of this story.

What's important is finishing things.

I've had an idea for a movie I want to write since like, forever. I've even started a few times. Then it's not perfect, so I quit. I actually did finish a script for a play and a different movie, and even submitted them a few places. Initial rejection told me they weren't perfect, so I forgot about them. I think that might be the cause of the end of many of my game-based endeavors. It's because I get so close to the end that I give up; I get hung up on the one or two things I have to do to make the game perfect and then the thought of the effort involved makes me walk away.

I don't want to become the kind of person who touts their personal laziness as a shield against putting effort into anything. You know the type - when asked why they don't take steps, regardless of how complex or simple they might be, they'll give a long-suffering sigh and reply "but I'm just too LAZY," or "it shouldn't have to BE that hard," as if that were a reasonable excuse against doing work. I don't want to be one of those people, but I am constantly afraid that I already am.

I should let you know right now that in the course of typing this post, I twice almost deleted everything because it wasn't just right. There was brief consideration of just giving up and putting up some kind of placeholder or promise for a better attempt next week. That's the kind of thinking I grapple with almost every time I undertake any sort of project. "This is not what I wanted, so I may as well just quit." And the truth is, up to this point in my life, I really haven't made a lot of progress.

But I'm trying.

I established The Backlog, my video game blog, specifically for the purpose of making myself go back and play through all my unfinished games. I've been working on a script for a video which has had its fair share of hurdles, and I continually contact my friends to try and get them involved in the project as well and make me keep moving forward on it. There's a story I've been writing for nearly four years now and I make everyone reading it give me feedback and their thoughts on good ideas for future chapters every time I can. I want to stay motivated. I want to just do something with all these ideas I have.

I had a recurring nightmare, or maybe more accurately a dreaded vision of the future when I was with my first serious girlfriend. She never really had much interest in my goals or ambitions in life, all she really cared about was that we were together. As long as we got married, she'd be happy; after all, she was smart and rich already, so why should I have to accomplish anything? And that was my fear; that I would grow old and my only accomplishment in life would be being her husband. I could not let that happen. We're not together anymore, but that doesn't keep that future from still coming to pass, just without the years of marriage. The only that that can stop it is if I make sure it doesn't happen by making something memorable out of my life.

The reason why beating Final Fantasy XII is important is that I didn't wait until I had everything perfect. I didn't give into the self-imposed pressure to spend unnecessary hours completing a project only I cared about just for the sake of doing it. I started a blog dedicated to writing about completing my unfinished games, and dammit, I have to deliver to my readers. So I put aside the excess and I just did it. That's what I'm aiming for in life. If I spend all my time worrying about whether or not something is just right to the point of not doing it, then I accomplish nothing. You can always improve upon something, but nothing can only be nothing.

So that's where I'm at. It's a process to be sure, and maybe video games aren't much of a start, but it is a start. The journey of a thousand miles and all that. Next I'm working on my writing. Then law school. I want to start a workout that I don't drift out of after six months. I want to fulfill my goals, and I want to do it well. And if it's not perfect the first time, I'll just keep trying.

Because I want to be something. And I refuse to be nothing.

Because if I live my life deciding that things just aren't worth putting effort into because they don't come easily enough, or they don't fit my ideal of how the outcome should be, then whatever blip I might have made on history's radar will disappear as if I'd accidentally said Candlejack, and nothing will be the only th

1 comment:

B.Graham said...

hahaha thanks for putting in the Candlejack reference, because I'm glad I was able to share in the joke.

Also: I read a book once that spent some time talking about perfectionists, and how they often actually have messy houses because they look around and think about how it will never be clean enough, become completely overwhelmed, and give up. It stuck with me for years because it's the story of my life. And I imagine this sounds familiar to you, as well.