Curb My Enthusiasm: TF2, Overwatch, PokemonGo, and Work

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr)

I should be really enthused about games right now.

TF2, which I adore, has added ranking and competition along with smooth new interfaces. Games feel they’re taken a bit more seriously now, as opposed to SwagBag420 dancing around his sentry.

Overwatch, which is amazing, is here. It’s got competitive mode and casual mode and great gameplay.  It’s got a new character coming.

PokemonGo realizes many of my ideas of augmented reality and socialized gaming.  Also it’s Pokemon and it’s highly social.

Except . . . I’m not feeling that enthusiastic about any of them. This is probably a phase, but I realized it said something about me, games, and recreation.

All of these games, for lack of a better word, involve resource and people management. TF2 may require teamwork, but Overwatch’s whole rock-paper-scissors type mechanic means teamwork is overwhelmingly important. PokemonGo is social and can involve various rival gyms and factions – and management.

And lately, busy at work, where I’d probably want to game, I find myself less enthused about two beloved games and one interesting take on the franchise. I should be interested and I’m not.  Then, I realized why.

Because these games are about what I do in real life.

I manage people. I direct resources. I’m used to charging forwad, goal-driven, with a team behind me (or me behind them). Work’s been pretty busy lately, and that in turn means the games that I like to escape with . . . seem a bit to much like what I do for a living.

This is weirder to me as I love games that play to my strengths – especially resource management and planning things. I love games with people. But when I have enough of that at work . . . I don’t want it as much in my games.

Moreso, a lot of these games feel “workish” anyway. PokemonGo has things constantly happening in the real world. Game wiht a team of friends in TF2 or Overwatch and people will inevitably want to play competitive – and TF2’s casual mode still has its leveling. The games are a bit too close to my job right now, and then a bit too workish anyway.

It’s a strange thing to feel and I’m curious to what happens to my interests anyway. I feel a bit bad as I haven’t gamed with various friends online from anywhere from a month to a week and there’s a strange sense of guilt about it. But really fun things that happen to be like my job – and like work – in all the wrong ways is a new one on me.

I assume as work calms down my mind will change.  Heck I sort of want to force myself to play. But for now I feel like I peered around a corner into some demographic issues that could be explored more.

When are fun thngs too much like other things to be fun? What does tht mean for the audience?

– Steve

Because We Need These Moments

Recently, a friend of mine lost their job – a job they weren’t fond of anyway, but it was still a loss. I was concerned about them – but then this person reflected how, that very day, their work in the community made them feel better.  My friend always liked to help people and this moment, this single moment, reminded them of what they did and why.

My friend remembered what was important.

We’ve probably all had moments like these – in our civic work, on our hobbies, in times of being silly. No matter what we need these moments of “yes, this is right.”

These moments of “this is great” aren’t just a quick high (or shouldn’t be); they’re those vital times that remind us that life is worth living, that we like what we like, that things can be great. We need these moments not just to keep us sane, but to remember what we can do, what we like, what we care about.

One of the reasons I preach the idea of fan-to-pro (in the rational sense, not the blue-sky sense) is that your fannish activities tell you what matters. Oh sure you may not what to mention what you were doing at the time when you found something that mattered, but it’s important. Those little moments give you an idea of what makes you who you are.

When we can string enough of those moments together, we can find a way to build a life out of them.

It migh not be something other people like. I’ll be honest here, part of the reason I’m a Project/Program manager is that I’m an incessant problem solver. I have to fix things, both by concern, by a sense of order, and by a love of a challenge. I denied I’d be a manager many times – and here I am.

But find what matters to you. Go do those crazy things, stupid things, silly things, personal things, deep things, unremarkable things – that you care about. It’ll tell you what matters, and maybe get you onto a better path in life.

If you pay enough attention to these great things, those moments of depression and darkness and doubt are kept at bay or evaporate.  They’re just not as permanent as you may think.

  • Steven

No, Actually I’m Pretty Fine With My Emotions And Everything Else

“You’re being irrational.  That person is being irrational.  Those people are being irrational.”

We all know the drill.  There’s a discussion or an argument, often about politics, and then it verges into that special brand of stupid where someone declares that A) the people they disagree with are irrational, and B) Imply directly or indirectly that they themselves are thus rational.  This is intended to end the argument.

Usually – but not always – the person who invokes the argument is really just derailing the conversation.  When I encounter this “aggressive statement of rationality,” the person making it is usually pretty emotional – either seething with rage or displaying the kind of smugness that produces seething rage.  Occasionally they just seem emotionally dead and distant, as if that’s somehow good and implies a functional decision making process as opposed to the need for therapy.  Rarely does the person making the rational/irrational argument come off as someone that should be listened to.

(And usually I find the rational/irrational argument is best made by being the person who basically doesn’t freak out, act like a jerk, or come off as emotionally stunted.  If the argument is true – and relevant – it will be made on its own.)

But the use of this argument ignores a larger issue.  Emotions aren’t bad, the emotional/rational divide is nonexistent, and the idea of a separate rationality is meaningless.

There’s nothing wrong with emotions.  Evolution (or if you want to get metaphysical God or whatever) seems to have given us one hell of a range of behaviors and reactions.

They’re the hardwiring of the soul.  From the reaction to pain that saves us from harm, to the passion of love that drives us, to the snap of rage that lets us land a punch on an attacker, emotions are actually pretty awesome.  They’re part of being human.

Emotions aren’t separate from our rationality.  We use our rational intellect to decide how to make a meal more like mom used to make.  We use rationality to charm the person we love with, emotions helping us find the right choices as we carefully plan.  A rush of inspiration is deconstructed later into useful parts.  We get angry then intelligently plot revenge.  We get happy and calculate the best gift someone would want.

It’s all processing of information – with different levels and context, all lumped together.

In fact, emotions are a a font of meaning.  That ability to feel connections and reactions is powerful.  The awful taste of a bad food that saves us from poison gives us caution in other areas.  The sense of camaraderie brings us close together, and infuses a holiday or a job with substance and context.  Curiosity drives us onwards.  The visceral elements of emotions gives us a sense of being of reality.

Really what is rationality without some human element to it?  Processing information without connection, the idea of humans as unchanging ping-pong balls bouncing around.

I’m just bang along fine with my emotions.

I’m not sure were the idea that “emotions are bad” and “I’m super-rational and thus better” came from.  Freudian ideas of ID and Superego, idea of separation of soul and body, no idea.  Emotions can backfire like any other part of being human, from our senses to our appendix to our rationality.

So no, when people try to argue they’re rational and thus right, be suspicious.  Chances are they’re neither – and not very self-aware at that.


  • Steve