Frankly, I’m surprised it’s taken this long to reach a real crisis point with my Horizon’s Broadening Project. I made it almost half a year before coming to the conclusion that perhaps this is all a fundamentally flawed effort, and for a person generally with the gaming attention span of a distracted gerbil, I think that’s quite the accomplishment.
That said, I don't think the answer is in abandoning the effort. Instead, I simply wonder if I’m approaching it all in the right way.
For those not following along in your handy Playbill, the Horizon’s Broadening Project was conceived as an expedition of discovery into heretofore untrodden realms of gaming nirvana and, with any luck, eventually a platform from which I could plumb my own depths of self discovery. Thing is, self discovery is much easier when you’re eighteen than when you’re thirty five. I’ve pretty much seen it all from myself, and at this point “what I didn’t know about myself” has transformed into “what I have avoided having to admit about myself.”
Ideally this should be an article about my experiences with April’s HBP game — The World Ends With You. Those of you who listen to the podcast already know that my attempts to peel back the onion layers of this particular game can best be described as a cataclysmic failure. For those of you who do not listen to our humble show, surprise! I hated it!
Actually, hate may not be the right word, because that implies I spent enough time with it to elucidate an informed opinion. I did not. Repulsed might be a better descriptor. I reacted in much the same way that I would had I discovered that my Ham and Cheese Hot Pocket were stuffed with raw sewage instead of the foodstuffs to which I am accustomed. To be fair, I really should have just looked at the box, because it said right on the front Raw Sewage Hot Pockets.
The fault is mine.
I am hesitant to say much more than that, because I realize for one that we have a lot of people here who hold the game in high regard and for another because I simply can not speak from a place of objectivity. You might as well ask me why I am so hostile to the works of Zamfir, Master of the Pan Flute, and while I can find no functional flaw in his artistry I can’t get over the driving rage that makes me want to break his reedy instrument right across his blow-hole.
It was an experience I do not wish to repeat, like eating bad shellfish.
But, on to the broader point which is that so far what I have discovered about myself is that I like the things I pretty much already knew I liked. I feel somewhat like a guy who suddenly sat bolt upright in a chair, announced to a roomful of strangers that he was going to investigate whether water actually flowed downhill, rushed outside and sometime later that year shouted, “Yup! Definitely downhill!”
This is disappointing, not only because I had really hoped that I would quickly find something I’d heretofore been missing out on, but also because I am rapidly finding my existing biases a real barrier. I mean, we can talk all fluff and nonsense about overcoming prejudices and sticking with what at first seems unapproachable for the big-happy cultural growth of it all, but when you’re a guy with a mortgage, a job, two kids and a wife who would occasionally like the passing nod of vague recognition, that becomes a luxury of staggering commitment.
Square this scenario for me.
“What are you playing?” asks my wife as I grimace over the DS.
“A game I hate,” I respond.
And the implications of that resonate in the deep waters. After all, there sits my five year-old ever interested in some precious daddy time. There waits the office with half the border stripped waiting for some fresh paint. There is the lawn, the public shame of the neighborhood, aching for some seed and care. There are the games I actually like to play, their endless siren call ringing ever true. Oh, and look at that, my wife who doesn’t ever actually say, “so you’d rather play a game you hate than have a conversation?”
And, she doesn’t say it now either. Hell, she probably didn’t even think it, though she really should have.
Then again, the Horizon’s Broadening Project was never intended to be a forced march through the hell of games I hate, and I think that is where I’ve slowly gone wrong. Looking back at the debacle of TWEWY, I think the moment I chose a game that I knew I wasn’t going to like, no matter how highly recommended it was, proved a poor decision. Ideally, if we look at this from the self-discovery angle, this needs to be more about playing games that I otherwise have no prescribed existing bias.
As I reach the halfway point and reevaluate my experiment, I find this line of thought gives me much more enthusiasm for carrying forward. The point is not to knock down walls, but explore out the fog-of-war covered areas of the gaming landscape.
And, it is with that impetus that I enter May. Long live horizon’s broadening.