"Gamers with Jobs?"
Paul’s one of the Coffee Shop Mafia, a breed of Nonfat-Decaf-Latte kakhi that accumulates in the corners of "Sanctuary," the upscale caffeine station where I write 6 hours a day.
"Yeah, it’s a website I write for. Kind of a writers room for gamers with a community inside," I explain, failing.
He’s genuinely perplexed. "But don’t all gamers kind of have jobs unless they’re kids?"
I pause. "I guess you’re right. I didn’t name it, but I’ve always kind of figured it had two exclamation points. You know. Gamers! With Jobs!"
Paul goes back to his vague Italian beverage and his New York Times crossword puzzle. I go back under the chair-and-blanket kindergarten tent of the Internet.
So what distinguishes a gamer who has a job from Gamers! With Jobs!?
In a word: November
November 15th, 2008
1:20: Three hours of grinding in World of WarCraft has yielded me just one more level. But I’ve introduced Becca and Sway, I scored two good pieces of armor and I’m never going to have to back to StrangleThorn Vale again. Lamictal. Benadryl. Water. Sleep.
5:30: Wake up in cold sweat. Zombies. Shotgun out of ammo. Meditate to get back to sleep (Pon Pon Pata Pon).
7:15: Wake up in cold sweat. 4 year-old sitting on head.
7:17: Child ejected. iPhone. Twitter. FaceBook. Email.
7:25: Smell pits. Mental calculus. Shower. Dress.
7:35: Kids fed.
7:47: “Dad, I know the answer is probably no. But can we play just one level of Lego Indiana Jones before school?”
8:00: Drop disappointed and sullen children at peace-making non-violent Montessori school.
8:02: Read back issue of Edge in the car. Can't wait to see the way they do the blood in Mad World. Looks just like Frank Miller.
8:15: Jessica and I check in to our table at Sanctuary. Coffee. Breakfast Burrito. One hour of intense reconnection begins: emails to clients, research, blogs, twitter, websites. A little writing.
9:00: Becca joins us. Work stops. We talk about WoW. My wife shakes her head regularly in disgust as she pores through page after page of edits.
9:15: I reconfigure Becca’s WoW client so she can manage her pet better.
9:45: I had to test it out. Really. It’s the only way to be sure. And you can’t test it out without actually, you know, killing things.
9:45 – 12:30: Sacred Writing Time. Ashley, our ever attendant and well-tipped waitress, refills coffee silently. During bathroom breaks, I sneak off to play GalCon. It's not like I can keep writing in that little tiny tile room.
12:30: John comes in for lunch, which makes four writers and four Macs at our small stool-height table. No room for plates. Lunch conversation centers on LittleBigPlanet, which I have recently convinced John to buy, after convincing him to buy a PS3 so he could play Rock Band. John's says "I'm not a gamer, dude, but man, LBP is cool." Inwardly, I do my best Dr. Horrible laugh. Practice. Practice.
1:00—3:00: Sacred Writing Time. Decaf.
3:15: Jessica drops me home from the coffee shop, and heads back out to pick up the kids for their overscheduled afternoon.
3:16: The PS3 is looking at me. I can hear it breathing. I can smell its black plastic miasma choking the productivity out of my sleep deprived ganglia. I resist, banishing myself to the basement.
4:00: An intense bout of productivity in the quiet of an empty house. Childhood smells mix with the caffeinated mustiness of the basement in a brew of creative, impulse-denial amphetamines. Seven hundred and fifty good words in 45 minutes.
4:45: Ammo management in Fallout 3 is a pain in the ass.
5:00: Ammo management in Left 4 Dead is awesome. Bottomless pistols are the best idea since the bottomless coffee at Sanctuary.
5:01: Must not think about bottomless chaps if I feel like eating. Ever.
5:10: Kids return home. Sacred Family Time begins.
6:00: “Yes, Jessica, playing LittleBigPlanet with Todd in San Francisco counts as sacred family time if I have the kids on the couch with me. Sackboy wrestling does not count as violence.”
6:15: Sackboy wrestling is pretty violent. Especially since Todd has a sword.
6:45: Article topic: “Montessori Pedagogy And Piaget’s Stages Of Cognitive Development In The Generative Play Of LittleBigPlanet.”
6:46: Salable article topic: “How To Make A Penis Level In LittleBigPlanet.”
6:47: Thinking about gin.
7:30: Kids asleep, I realize how much work I didn’t get done. I write, email, take notes, and edit.
10:00: Feeling like I’m almost done, I fire up World of Warcraft and get in cue. Make martini.
10:30: Done writing. 30 minutes left in cue.
11:15: Out of cue. I shut down the Xbox 360. Gears of War 2 is way more awesomer than i thought it would be.
1:00: Bleary eyed, I stumble upstairs. Before turning the light off in the kitchen, I check the pile of mail on the counter. DeadSpace has arrived from Cory in Seattle. Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise finally showed up from Gamefly.
November 15th was a light day. It was a day where I managed to find some semblance of balance between getting paid and getting play. Throughout most of the year, gaming is distraction and entertainment. November separates the proverbial patriarchs from their upstart offspring. In November, the Gamer! and the With Job! blur. I spend my ill-defined work hours thinking, talking and writing about games. And the time I'm playing games become a form of work - a struggle to keep up no less frenetic than that of the clock-manager in Metropolis.
Looking at DeadSpace and Viva Pinata on the counter, I console myself with the thought that there's always tomorrow.
Except, as the clockwork daemon on my shoulder reminds me with manic certainty, it already is.