Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

The academics are fighting over crumbs while Ganon threatens Hyrule.  §

Every year since I-don’t-know-when I’ve done this “year-end post” thing.

It’s about time to start cooking mine up for this year I suppose. I’m not sure to refer back to previous years to get a flavor for what I have done in the past (because for the first time, instinct really just isn’t carrying me there) or whether to just wing it.

I guess I’ll find out over the next few days which wins.

— § —

Among the other things worth noting this year is that 2021 is the year that I started playing video games again. There were accidents and disasters and then we all got COVID and somewhere in the middle of it, as everyone was laid up and reeling, I noticed that my kids were playing this game on their Switch units that spoke to me somehow. I asked my son if I could mess around for a bit and before you know it, I was playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Like, a lot.

Throughout my COVID recovery and then the rest of fall I played it, without spoilers, until I finished the game and nearly all of the tasks. It is amazingly deep. It almost immediately joined this category of “gaming experiences that stick with me as life memories.” This category also includes:

  • Riven

  • Nethack

  • Pac-Man on Atari 2600 (used to play this with my dad)

  • Original 1980 Star Wars arcade (first serious video game experience)

Don’t get confused about this list, I’ve played a lot of games. As in, a lot. But most of it dates back to the ’90s and early ’00s and I haven’t really played anything since maybe 2011—that is, until the second half of this year.

— § —

I stopped gaming for two basic reasons:

  • Games were less and less fun and more and more just about polygons and FPS

  • Serious academics don’t play video games

I’m embarrassed to admit the second one, but I spent half my life swimming upstream against an army of people spread across the continent who said I’d never make it and that I wasn’t serious—and I was determined to prove them wrong.

I’m ultimately not sure whether I did or not… I did get my PhD and I was a professor for a time, which I think are the two things they meant I’d never accomplish. But at the same time, by 2021 I haven’t used my PhD for anything in ages and I haven’t been a professor for eight years. So did I make it or didn’t I? Hard to say.

What I can say is that I was absolutely tuned in to playing the “serious” academic game in which you are working hard to be “competitive” and to “embody” the role.

In practice this means pitched, highly political, often vitriolic and underhanded battles between aspiring academics and other aspiring academics, and between aspiring academics and other aspiring academics’ faculty advisors. The battles are all-encompassing and deeply bloody and brutal, and if you’re going to survive, you can’t be spending your time playing video games—you have to dedicate your whole self to survival and coming out on top.

The funny thing is that despite how seriously academics take these battles, and how convinced academics are that they are Very Important and that The Future of Humanity may rest on each one, in fact they are completely invisible to the real world.

The academics are fighting each other for supremacy over each other in the end, though they don’t realize it—not for anything in the real world.

In the real world, the global video game industry drives $350-$400 billion in sales every single year, just shy of the accumulated total endowments of the entire Ivy League put together.

In other words, all those people coming home from work and playing Breath of the Wild (which is, incidentally, the greatest video game I have ever played, hands down) are the real world; the academics who are sure they’re fighting The Important Battles in the Real World are, in fact, off in la-la land engaged with each other in battles that are entirely irrelevant to anything.

They’re like rats fighting each other in the basement crawlspace under a house. They’re battling each other to the death over spoils that must seem all-important to them (say, a bit of granola that fell down a furnace vent), but in fact the real action in the house is much larger and elsewhere, and is entirely unaware of the rats—and wouldn’t care to worry about them if it somehow did become aware.

— § —

Anyway, back to video games.

Post finishing Zelda, I was at a weird loose end. I’d acquired this Nintendo Switch and it seemed silly to use it just to play a single game and be done with it. So I hit the Nintendo e-Shop to see what else was on offer (and on sale) and came up with Hades, which I am continuing to play regularly. And now I’ve acquired another half dozen or so titles—whatever is on sale in the shop for $2-$4 in a given week.

So I guess I’m gaming again, at least by my measure. And I think I am enjoying it as much as I ever enjoyed academics—especially the part where I don’t feel guilty about it any longer. (Well, at least not in the same way.)

That’s the 2021 factoid for the night.