Here's another false dichotomy for you. There are two kinds of gamers. Those that come home from a hard day breaking rocks with sledgehammers (be it at school, the office, or the chain gang) and unwind with little WoW/Halo 2/Peggle. And then there are those who sit within striking distance of games all day long.
I am, unfortunately, the latter.
Here's a typical work day in the Rabbit household. Wake up. Get out of bed. Drag a comb across my head. Well, see, I diverge from The Beatles there already. I have no hair to speak of. Depending on the morning, I either descend to the kitchen, fill my coffee, and go to the gym, or I descend to the kitchen and start making breakfast and lunch for the kids.
By 8 O'clock I descend one level further into the basement.
The basement is my sanctuary, my cage, my temple and my prison. It's as self sufficient as a space station -- it contains a bed, a bathroom, weeks of food stores, and importantly, a supply of cheese whiz and gin. It is a museum of my life, holding treasures such as my game collection, posters from my youth, aeronautical charts, framed artwork from my children (all original), cartoons (some original) and the declaration of independence (not the original). It's where I store things of importance and recreation, holding bookshelves full of games, comics, miniatures, kites, crossbows, basketballs, bicycles and model airplanes.
It is also where I live. There is no single place I spend more time, including my bed. For twelve hours a day (sometimes more, rarely less) I sit, pace, and wander the 180 square feet that is my "office." 15 faux wood linoleum tiles by 12. I long ago recognized that this space was far to large and distracting to work in. And thus, I created a smaller one. A 7 foot square corner of the room, blocked in by two desks and wire shelves. To get in to my cockpit, I must slide past a cherry wood lectern holding the Oxford English Dictionary. It is lit, whenever I am in the office, by a college-era clip-light. It is the sole light in the windowless room.
In order to read anything not on a computer screen, I must stand and carry the paper to the lectern, and place the offending document on the lectern, resting on the 27,000 9-up micro-type pages of the OED. The ritual, repeated several times a day, brings me closer to the 300,000 words contained in my most prized possession, the focal point of my working life.
Inside the seven by seven corral, my chair has precisely enough room to spin in a circle without binding against another object. I'm surrounded. A wall of bookshelves containing mostly painting supplies, miniatures, game boxes and junk. Desk #1 houses the phone, the rarely used laptop, pencils, pens, paper, manilla folders and other archaic turn of the century desk objects. A white board with an endless combinations of deadlines, to-do items, passwords, ID numbers, and "stuff to think about." But mostly, there's the small desk and the tower of wire shelving around it.
Most of my time is spent, head bowed as if in prayer, facing this desk. It's where the "big computer" is, where all real work occurs. Connected by transient ones and zeros, every useful interaction I have with the outside world occurs through the LCD panels and the keyboard. Most of the time, this little temple is where the purgation of my hypergraphia occurs. But no matter how intent my eyes are on the screens, the only real illumination in the room, there are others with me. The TV. The Xbox. The PS2. The joystick and pedals and flight yoke. The real guitar, wedged on its stand against the wall. The plastic guitar on the shelf.
And of course, the endless distractions of the computer itself. Not just the barrage of IMs, e-mails, YouTube links and RSS feeds -- I've long learned how to manage the inherent ADD of working on the Internet. But on my virtual desktop the icons for distraction are ever present: the games.
I am not a strong person. I am far from perfect. Countless times do I turn to these myriad distractions, blocked, tired, angry at the words for not coming, desperate for the ones that came to go away, or simply annoyed that I'm writing what I am.
"I'll just play for a few minutes until the words come back."
"It's almost lunchtime anyway, I can't get started on something new."
"I'll just see if someone's on."
Most of the time, these justifications and promises bear fruit. I do just play for a few minutes. I do just check to see who's on. Most of the time, the moments delay will actually work, and the words do come back. Or perhaps it's simply that by eating away time, the deadline comes closer, and thus, when I turn back to the blank page, deadline-adrenaline kicks in at a higher volume, and the work gets done. and I don't waste half a day. Sometimes, more often than I admit to myself, I burn hours away. Hours that I will inevitably have to recapture at 2AM, resorting to the Gin-and-Cheese-Whiz solution to writers cramps.
This constant temptation puts me in a no-win pinch of guilt.
If I give in and play games during the day, I feel guilty because these are supposed to be my "work hours." And given the nature of my "work," defining what is and is not on the clock is tricky enough as it is.
But if I resist all day long, I feel guilty because -- well -- they're just sitting there. The guitar is holding the sustain -- Nigel Tufnel-esque -- of a note played days ago. The cases of games and the dull plastic of the controllers reflect just enough light to assert their presence. Constantly.
Their whispering is incessant. Demonic.
You can hear it too, right?