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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Natural / Rational

Around two months ago, I got into an e-mail correspondence with Benjy. He started wondering about virtual realities- whether people would ever plug themselves into "a Matrix" voluntarily. I responded that in my opinion that would be the ideal, and he asked me to elaborate. With Benjy's permission, I am now reprinting the ensuing letters here, which dated between March 21 and April 5.

Note: In order to save space, I have hidden the letters from you. Effective, no? Just kidding- to read a section, click on its title (taken from the original letter in all cases).

Dear Benjy,

Today, people are forced to work in economies and live in societies that they would not have chosen if they had the freedom to choose for themselves. This is necessary, as it's impractical to give complete autonomy to every group who wants it. Beside, different cultures would clash with each other, as no one is really a world unto themselves. With virtual reality, everyone who has an idea for a lifestyle can create, and others would be free to live in it. To live their lives not how society is demanding of them, but how they want to live their lives. And no matter how radical any approach is, if it exists only in virtual reality it cannot harm anyone else. Tell me how this is not an ideal world.

Love, Mory

Where to begin...

1. No one in a free country is forced to work for anyone, or join a cultural clash, or follow a lifestyle. You don't have to look far to see that. I'm here, working and studying and everything else, because I want to. I could just as well be a bum, or live in a shack, or wander the Earth aimlessly without ever working a day. I wouldn't have much to eat, if anything, I'd get nowhere, I'd achieve nothing, that's hardly a life worth living in my opinion. So I choose to live in a society, to work, etc. I don't feel like I'm giving up any autonomy in doing so. Autonomy in a vacuum is meaningless: what would I be free to do? Without knowing anything, creating anything, desiring anything or putting an effort into anything, I would be anything but free.

2. There is tremendous gain from living in a society, that's pretty self-evident. There's no way any individual could discover everything, achieve everything, and think about everything; the combined endeavors of members of a society make everyone better off, so long as each member is free to choose his or her own path, as people definitely are in this country, in Israel (to a lesser degree) and in many other countries in the world. If for no other reason, you would have no video games if it weren't for the massive global markets and societies that create the incentives for
people to make them.

3. You could plug everyone into a virtual Matrix, and they could all wander their utopian islands forever, but there are still human needs. At the very least, someone has to produce food, shelter and energy to keep these plugged-in people alive and their machines running. Who would do this, and why? More importantly, though, people can't live in islands. If they all plugged in like that, they'd just meet each other again in their fantasy worlds. And they wouldn't make everything perfect, because that's ridiculous: if everyone is gorgeous, beauty becomes boring. If there are no problems, good things become meaningless. Humans are social animals, they want and need societies to live in, it's a fact of life. You can say otherwise because your food is paid for by someone else's work, your video games are made by mythic Others outside of economic requirements, and so on, but the real world doesn't work like that. A Matrix world is a parasitic existence; in the movie it's the robots sucking the energy out of the people, but in your utopia it's the plugged-in people living off of the working people. How that latter group would exist is not clear.

4. If the world were ever to become so virtual, I would very proudly stay unplugged. I'll be old-fashioned when it gets to that point, leaving computers to make life more efficient, and make information flow more easily, but at the end of the day I'm still a human being.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on all this.

You say: "No one in a free country is forced to...follow a lifestyle." From my perspective, you're wrong. The system gives only three choices:
  1. Follow the lifestyle which society has prepared for you.
  2. Live a miserable life in which nothing will be accomplished.
  3. Drop dead and stop bothering us with your presence.
If you weren't so comfortable with the first option, would you still believe that the world as it is gives freedom? I doubt it. What if someone wants to dedicate his life to art? That is not allowed. He must study things he is not interested in, play capitalist games he is not interested in, in short waste a good deal of his life, and he still has no guarantee that he will get to work on his art. How dare you call this a choice?! Look at all the security guards in Israel, sitting around all day doing absolutely nothing. If you think that these people chose the job freely, then you are fooling yourself. I'm not suggesting that people should do nothing all their lives- no one would want to live like that if provided with alternatives. But people should be given those alternatives!

Furthermore, I don't think anyone has the right to determine for everyone what constitutes a productive use of time. Almost all the time I've spent at school in the past decade has been what I would consider a tremendous waste of time. But what I consider productive -thinking about videogames, playing and trying to understand videogames- may be what some people -maybe you- would think of as a waste of time. And I can imagine other people thinking of both of these as wastes of time, and the only good use of time being socializing. Then there are people for whom the greatest way to use time is learning Gemara. These are all valid positions, and they all must be allowed.

You seem to think I was saying that there should be no societies. But I never did. Making virtual worlds would only expand societies by letting people be part of one society even if they are physically on the other side of the world! But I suppose if someone truly did not want to be part of any society, he should be allowed to live alone, although I don't see what he could possibly want that for.

Here is a section of you letter which I have trouble understanding:

"You could plug everyone into a virtual Matrix, and they could all wander their utopian islands forever, but there are still human needs. At the very least, someone has to produce food, shelter and energy to keep these plugged-in people alive and their machines running. Who would do this, and why? More importantly, though, people can't live in islands. If they all plugged in like that, they'd just meet each other again in their fantasy worlds. And they wouldn't make everything perfect, because that's ridiculous: if everyone is gorgeous, beauty becomes boring. If there are no problems, good things become meaningless. Humans are social animals, they want and need societies to live in, it's a fact of life. You can say otherwise because your food is paid for by someone else's work, your video games are made by mythic Others outside of economic requirements, and so on, but the real world doesn't work like that. A Matrix world is a parasitic existence; in the movie it's the robots sucking the energy out of the people, but in your utopia it's the plugged-in people living off of the working people. How that latter group would exist is not clear."

I don't understand what you're saying. Please clarify.

As for your pride in being unplugged, after great reality artists got a shot at making the worlds they think up, and you see how much is possible that was not before, you would quickly get over it.


Your mistake lies in confusing social constraints and natural constraints. This is what I mean: a social constraint would be, you need to get a degree to get a good job. A natural constraint is, you need to work to eat. Society does not dictate that people need to work; society does not determine that humans require food, that food requires production, that production requires labor, that labor requires wages, etc. This is reality, physical reality. In fact, many societies have tried to change this, change "the system" that they mistakenly believed was an artificial social construct; they failed miserably, because they were wrong.

So explain this to me. You can plug yourself into a virtual world, fine. But you still have a body, which requires food. You still need shelter from the elements. And you need energy to power your machinery. How will this be done? You seem to dislike everything society considers productive - so by your reasoning, the need for food production, construction, energy production and so forth are all arbitrary social constraits, which a perfect world would eliminate. But how?

There are many people who dedicate their lives to art. Just look around, there are artists everywhere. Well maybe not in Beit Shemesh, but in the world. But it's not like these people can simply sit and paint all day. Because they have to eat. And they have other responsibilities. So they need to work, and make money. Not because society says so, but because reality says so.

I don't think your videogame contemplation is a waste of time, but it's certainly not productive. Unless you want to redefine the word. Productive means it *produces* something. Show me a single thing your contemplation has produced. Your elephant program was nice, but if that's the culmination of years of supposedly productive activity, then something's wrong with the picture.

Yes, all of those uses of time must be *allowed* - they all *are* allowed. But not to the expense of all else! A person has every right to learn gemara - but to do nothing but learn gemara, won't feed anyone. You can play video games all you like, but you still have to eat. That means that a rational person, irrespective of society, has to divide time between naturally necessary endeavors such as physically productive labor, and leisure or art or other desirable but unproductive (as far as life needs go) endeavors. Do you understand what I mean by this?

Virtual worlds and societies are great. But within these, you have to realize, people would still have to *work*, make money, feed themselves, generate energy, etc. Both for the arbitrary social rules that each society makes, and for the natural physical needs of a human being.

So I'll end with a related thought. To desire a utopia, you have to live that utopia yourself. An idealist has to embody the ideals which he believes in, in his own mind and life. Do you embody your utopia? If you were on an island, you would have no food, shelter, energy or any other basic human need; you only survive in your world now because others - following what you consider social constraints - produce those goods for you. Just a thought.

Bravo on your letter. You successfully demonstrated that my utopia is unrealistic. As always, I am in awe of your reasoning skills. However, the entire letter was more or less entirely pointless, as I never claimed to be realistic in the first place. What I have been describing is the ideal world, not a realistic one. In fact, I make every effort to ignore reality whenever possible. You might say I am embodying my utopia in doing so, but I am not so naive as to think that I act on ideology rather than on more natural motives, such as laziness. The reason I have been taking so long to answer your letter is partly because I've been busy with the Megilla, but mostly because I saw that your argument was aimed at my utopia but had completely missed its target. I simply couldn't relate to your letter, and every time I reread it I came to the same conclusion: "So what?"

So I'll start with a thought. If I were on a desolate island, I would live for survival, as the circumstances would force it. But when we are talking about the ideal world, survival is a given. There should be no constraints- artificial or natural, which are forced upon man. This may or may not be impossible, but I really don't care. A man should be allowed to make his own decisions in life. This is the ideal, and the closer the world gets to this goal, the better it will be. If the goal really is unattainable, then getting closer to it should keep mankind busy from now until the end of time. For it is mankind's natural goal, which it has been striving for for its entire history, to overcome natural limits.

Once, man could not communicate. Once, man could not burn things. Once, man could not travel quickly. Once, man could not travel to other countries. Once, man could not fly. Once, man could not leave the planet. Today, man still cannot live without certain natural requirements. But tomorrow? Man created languages, man created fires, man created wheeled vehicles, man created ships, man created airplanes, man created spaceships. Could man not create machines to prepare and distribute food, drink and energy? Could man not create machines to take care of the machines? Or could man, perhaps, devise some genetic replacement for the requirement of food?

And when man overcomes the natural obstacles in his way, we will not live to survive - we will survive to live. No longer will the criterion for worthwile (not productive- you're right, that was an ill-chosen word) usage of time be whether or not it can get food on the table. That way of thinking might be realistic, but it is not natural for a human. An animal is realistic- it accepts the limits it is given. A human must struggle to be realistic, because deep down he wants to transcend those limits. When a human is forced by society to accept his limits, he suffers. Do you understand what I mean by this?

There is no one today who succeeds at dedicating their lives to art without having to waste a good deal of their lives. You may call this natural, but it certainly does not feel that way for the artist. An artist naturally needs only one thing- to make art. The rest is unnatural. Sure, the world around him requires it, but the world around him exists only in his mind, and his mind does not naturally think that way! Artists were allowed to live as artists only in Stalin's rule, when they were given all they needed without question and were free to spend their entire lives on their art. Not to defend Stalin in general, but this particular lifestyle was perfectly natural for them. Do you really think they felt deprived of the "natural" requirement of making money?!

A constraint like "you need to work to eat" is not created by god, it is created by society to address their problems. Society does not dictate that humans require food, but it does dictate that people need to work, that labor requires wages, etc. These laws have served mankind well enough to reach this point, but these are imperfect laws designed only to allow man to cope in an imperfect world. Your mistake lies in confusing reality and perfection.

I can only say two things. First, that such ideals are dangerous, because implementing anything in reality towards it can have disastrous effects on real life. Communism was based on similar ideals of overcoming "capitalist" limitations to the world. However, there is of course nothing violent in your ideals, nor are you actually promoting them, so for now at least there's no problem with that.
The second thing is, I wonder what your *measure* of perfection is, and question whether it's correct. "There should be no constraints- artificial or natural, which are forced upon man." So what is the measure - the quantity of limitations? You seem to imply that the quality of freedom is inversely related to the quantity of limitations, but I question this corrolation. You have a very good point, that technology and progress allow us to overcome previous physical limitations. Does that then imply that the elimination of all physical limitations is the ideal? I'm not sure it logically leads to that, but perhaps it would.
This thought just occurred to me: what would people do with their time if there were no physical requirements to fulfill? Even artists get bored, and most people are not artists. I think you'd have a very bored society if you reached anything close to your level of perfection, and I question whether such a society is in fact perfect.


PS. I hear you did a great job with the megilla, nice!

That thought which has just occured to you occured to me in seventh grade. I believed that since machines were sooner or later going to take over most of the tedious work from man, the day would come when a large portion of the population would either commit suicide out of boredom, or go back to a life as primitive as cavemen in order to escape technology. This was before I found videogames.

Obviously, no person would want a life with nothing to do, so the solution is to play in virtual worlds with their own limitations. If someone wants to live life exactly like people now live but in a virtual world, ala The Matrix, he should be allowed to do so, but /he is not forced/ to do so. At any time, the person can exit the virtual world and pick another. The person will naturally pick the lifestyle which is most suited to him. I imagine that most people would spend most of their time in advanced MMORPGs, where there is much work to be done, but all of it is rewarding. They will break up their time by playing smaller games, either alone or (if designed for the purpose) with a larger group, say their families.

But how can a small group of videogame creators satisfy an entire world? This is where my ideal for videogames comes into play. Just as the ideal for the world at large is to break all limits for man, so too is the ideal for videogames to break all boundaries of what types of art are possible. For instance, if someone is a composer, he could easily make a world which is nothing but a concert hall which plays for audiences, or he could get a group together and make a "Fantasia"-like world where the music is accompanied by pictures in every direction you can see. A painter could paint a simple canvas which you can admire from all angles, or he could paint a moving canvas, or he could paint an entire landscape for you to walk around in. An artist who has an idea for a brand new art form, like nothing to come before it, could create it, and other artists could join him in developing it. In this way, all the artists in the world, of all types, would contribute to the creation of a universe of virtual worlds for people to experience.

If you doubt that artists would be willing to create art without financial motivation, then just look at the game industry. There are many reports of how bad the working conditions are in the industry, how badly game designers are paid, how much overtime they have to put up with, but many new game creators join the industry each year /despite this/. I can only imagine how many people would join if they did not have those deterrants. A monetary reward is only necessary when the task is not an enjoyable one, and artists don't just enjoy creating art- they live for it. Add to this the desire for fame and respect, and you'll have plenty of artists ready to contribute.

Sounds good. So what are you doing to join the ranks of video game creators?

Well, that's sort of where it all falls apart, I'm afraid. Honestly, I have no idea how I can start making games. The elephant program, which was supposed to be a miniscule first step into an enormous world- was a failure. I couldn't control it precisely, and I couldn't figure out what was wrong with it, so I reluctantly gave up. I could theoretically (assuming that I could get over my laziness and stubbornness to change my laziness) get into a university which teaches programming, but that wouldn't get me into the creative aspects of making games, just the tedious work. There is one school in Canada which teaches game design, but it turns out you have to be fluent in French.

"but that wouldn't get me into the creative aspects of making games, just the tedious work."

Ah...and therein lies the whole flaw with applying even any aspect of your ideal world to the real world, or even having that ideal in your head as an ideal, as you walk thru the real world...getting to the point where everything's a perfect ideal of art and creation and beauty and meaning takes a shitload of WORK before you get there...!

Here's a thought. Maybe give the ideal a timeframe: life should be perfect and artistic and all that in, say, 10 years. Until then, life will be mundane, tedious, full of annoying physical and social limitations, etc. There will of course be some beauty and meaning and perfection in that time, too, but it will be secondary. Perhaps then, after 10 years, life will approximate your ideal world a great deal more. What do you think?

Congrats on your music report, a little birdie told me your teacher thought it was BRILLIANT. Glad to hear she's competent enough to see the obvious.


No, for two reasons. First of all, as you've noticed, it all really boils down to my laziness and stubbornness. The flaw does not specifically lie in the theoretical application of my ideal on the real world; it lies in my personality. Even though I know that doing well in school will give me a better chance at getting to where I need to go in life, I'm unwilling to put any effort into it. It is possible that I would be more willing to work when the goal is closer in sight, but probably not- I am, in fact, a lazy bum. Secondly, I'm afraid that if I were to force myself to do tedious work, I'd eventually get used to it. And that is just about the scariest thing I can imagine, because then /I wouldn't stop/ doing tedious work. My entire life would become a tragedy, with only hints of the tremendous potential it once had, but none of it fulfilled. When I look at most adults, I see the most boring creatures- creatures who once could have been humans, but have allowed society to make them into machines. I don't want that to happen to me. So I reject any work which I don't naturally want to do.

Yes, this means I'll never get anywhere in life. I deal with this by not thinking about my future. It's worked so far.

Mory, I'm going to be honest with you. You're wrong, you damn well know it, you know you could do something about it, and this is not about innate wiring in your brain that you have no control over. So cut the bullshit. There is absolutely no potential to a life without any *ambition*, Mory, so the "tremendous potential you once had" is meaningless. "I am, in fact, a lazy bum" is the most pathetic thing I have ever heard anyone say. You don't need me to tell you you're a genius and - if you were just a little ambitious - you would in fact have tremendous potential. I don't need to tell you that because it's so painfully obvious.
Of course you would get used to tedious work. Fabulous. What do you think ART is, a peaceful meditation? You don't think the great musicians spend days on end without sleep, endless hours writing, rewriting, toiling, WORKING to make their art a reality? Art is not an abstract ideal, Mory, it's the result of very, very, very hard work. So you can't have it both ways. Either you really believe in your ideal of art and perfection, or you're full of shit and you don't believe in any of it. Life with MEANINGFUL tedious work is not a tragedy, it's an ideal! It's the essence of everything great in the world, endless hours of passionately meaningful work. Sure, not everyone has such meaningful work. Many or most people find a career that pays their bills, keeps them busy and gives them the financial security to pursue other interests in life. Those people are not "machines", they're not tragic, they're not "formerly human"; they're people pursuing their own meaning in their own way. On your current track, you will never have meaningful work, you will never create work, and life will indeed be miserable. What kind of a fucked up answer is that?? You need to break out of the cycle, NOW, and start doing things. They won't all be ideals, or full of meaning; studying for an exam, working a shit job, or whatever people have to do to reach their true ideals, are not all full of meaning every moment. But meaning is not something in every moment, it's an *attitude*. The shit job and the endless hours of work and lost sleep and stress are
about the *means* to an *end*. But it's not the end that we live for, necessarily, because the process itself is beautiful. So what's your end? And what are your means? And what process are you on to fulfill them?

Your brother who really does care about you,

I appreciate your honesty. Where you are wrong is in assuming that I never do work for the sake of art. I have put many hours into my musical compositions, and I enjoyed it immensely. No, it is not tedious, because it is natural for me to compose. It is self-fulfilling work. I'm not afraid of getting into a good position where I can actually make games- I'm afraid of what it takes to get there. Because making games would be lovely, self-fulfilling work, but the work on the way would be filled with mindless tedium. And when you let yourself get used to tedium, you're not necessarily going to ever give it up. That would be the tragedy which I am referring to. Where I am asked to do tedious work for the rest of my working life and I accept, because I have changed into a person who ignores how much he hates it.

Your suggestion that I could change is undoubtedly true. But I won't, for the same two reasons I explained in the last letter. As for your observation about the "lazy bum" comment, that was just me being honest. I recognize that much of what I do can directly be attributed to laziness, so I say it. I imagine that many people are not too different in this regard, except that they choose to pretend they are not lazy. You may not like my natural laziness, but ultimately it's me, and not you, who will decide what I will become.

I think your utopian view of capitalism is blinding you from the very real problem which most adults have. You would be ridiculously naive in your worldview to think that the people who spend their time as security guards, for example, are finding meaning in their lives. When someone forces himself to go through something which is not natural for him because it's the only way to feed the family (Most work is like this, it seems.), that is not self-fulfillment. It is misery. Sure, the person won't allow himself to notice it too much because he feels he's too busy to worry about himself, but it is misery, deep down. An unnatural misery. You, Benjy, see beauty in capitalism. I am very glad that there are some people like you, who naturally fit into capitalism, but I am not one of them.

I am not wrong about myself. I know what an awful life the world has in store for me, and I accept that life. To do so is natural for me; thus, it is a small self-fulfillment. If I end up out in the streets, I will at least see the beauty in such a situation. If I end up commiting suicide, I will at least see the beauty of my final desparation. But if I begin to devote my life to a system and not to myself, I will never see beauty. I would be living an unnatural life, a life without meaning, a life with wasted potential for self-fulfillment. So I refuse to budge. You may think this is tragic, but I do not. I think this is gloriously human.

Perhaps you don't realize that it's possible to change one's life course many times. There is no reason why you have to get stuck in mindless tedium forever. That expectation is totally ungrounded. You may have to go through 5 years of "tedium" to attain your ultimate game making job. Except it's not tedium, because you will have other good things going on in life. And when you do get the job after 5 years, it will all seem like a blur of memory and it will all be worth it. Such is always the achieved result of long, tedious work.

The same for security guards. It's not a job for physics professors. That Israel has such people working in such a profession, is not a failure of capitalism, but rather, a perfect example of the dismal failure of the Israeli socioeconomic system. In every dorm building here at BU, there are several security guards. It's a boring job, I'm sure - they monitor who comes in and out, basically - and I doubt it pays very well. But some of the guards are very happy people who really like their work. One guy is friends with everyone in the building, he likes his work a lot and says so. Then there are the grumpy guards who just have a grumpy personality, unfortunately. In another building is a graduate student who works a night shift as a guard in order to pay for school. So there is nothing tragic about being a security guard. It's a low-level position that, in a functioning economy, is a stepping stone to better jobs. They can also move up; from being a lowly guard they can rise in the ranks of the guard management; there's probably a whole corporation that contracts out guard services to countless locations. Or they can become policemen. Or, like the graduate student, they can quit their temporary guarding job and go onto a real career. My point is not to glorify the wonders of being a guard; it is simply to refute your claim that many are inherently "tragic". You know, in a video game world, you'd need to rise in the ranks too. You wouldn't start as king of the universe. (A game that automatically put you as the king of the universe would have to be one in which there was no social interaction with any other real people, because everyone would want to be the king, making it impossible.) You'd have to start as a lowly grunt and move up in the ranks. Isn't that how video games work? It mimics real life. People aren't born into their dream jobs. But everyone who does achieve a dream job at some point, had to work a lot of lowly jobs first to get there. That's life, it's not tragic.

What do you mean, to devote your life to a "system" and not to yourself? What system? Tell me, seriously, have I devoted my life to the university system? Or the capitalist system? Or the American system? I would say, unequivocally not. Those systems are all extremely useful systems in which people can work to further their own lives. People function in the system because they are devoted to their own lives; no one is devoted to the system, that's a meaningless statement. No one says "I go to work because I have dedicated my life to the capitalist system." If they said that, it would simply be another way for someone who works in finance to say that like their job making money from the capitalist system. Devoting *to* the system is absurd.

Meaning and purpose are yours, not the system's. The system is there to work within to further your own meaning and purpose. The question, ultimately, is whether you really have any meaning and purpose, and whether you care enough to further them. The rest is hot air.


No one says, "I go to work because I have dedicated my life to the capitalist system", it is true. That does not mean that people have not dedicated their lives to capitalism, but just that they don't see it that way. Why should a security guard admit to himself that he'd be much happier if he were allowed to skip that "stepping stone"? To do so would just make him miserable, because thanks to the capitalist system he can't. So he is realistic, and accepts his fate smiling. But beneath that smile, I don't believe he is as happy as he could have been if the system had allowed it. If it had allowed him real meaning and purpose, without him having to pretend he had them. Life is capable of being so much better. By restricting himself to a realistic path, he is dedicating his life to following the system, whether he chooses to say so or not.

Theoretically, it would be lovely to dedicate a few years of my life to the system if I could get a real life after that. But as I said, I'm afraid of what damage those few years could do to my personality. I'm not sure that I would accept the good life over the realistic one. Would I, like the security guard, give up on what really matters? I have no way of knowing. I am not the same person I was a year ago, not even the same person I was a few months ago. If I forced myself into the system (the collective system), sooner or later I'd start ignoring my misery. Of course it wouldn't really go away, but I'd ignore it, because it's only natural to ignore things that are bothering you. And if I'm working to ignore my own natural goal in life, then I might never get back to it. What I'm worried about isn't so much that the system wouldn't allow me to end the tedium, but that I, a changing person, might get used to the constrictions of the system and prevent myself from ending the tedium.

I have some meaning and purpose in my life. I find it in playing games, and envisioning games, and composing music. But surely I could (ignoring the system) have more. So what would be a life of meaning and purpose for me? It would be a life dedicated not to the system but to creating games. It would be a life where I start, not with my "dream job", but with a school which teaches me the basics of game design. But that's not what I could conceivably start with in this system. Realistically, I need to learn lots of subjects which will not help me in the slightest, and then even when I get to the point where I can learn something useful I must waste my time on other things, like working in a meaningless job (by which I mean one which serves the system and not my life) to pay for my education. Next, in my ideal life, I'd move on to some small part of game design for small projects- say, the level design in a 2D platformer, or puzzles for a Zelda-type game. From there, I'd spend years of my life working my way up until I have the skill necessary for my dream job. Realistically, I'd have to get some job unrelated to game design, say programming or music composition, before I can work on game design at all. This is the difference between a meaningful life devoted to myself and a meaningless one devoted to the system.

So where can I get without having to deal with reality? Nowhere, obviously, so if you want to see all this as "hot air", that's fine with me. But I'm not a realistic person. I am concerned more about staying human than I am about reaching my dream job. Because if I reach my dream job and am no longer human, then it will have been a life wasted.


Actions speak more than words, and while your words are interesting, they do not match your actions. If you really wanted to learn game programming, you'd go buy a book on elementary game design. And you'd devour the book, and do as much as you can with the skills from it, then get another book. You don't need a formal school to learn a skill; I never took a single formal class in web programming and I make a nice living off of it. (And though it does get tedious at times, it is not miserable, or meaningless, because even at its worst, it is a means to great ends and hence worthwhile.)
So, since your game design career ended with a single failed spinning-elephant program, I say your actions do not match your words. What about music? You could do even greater things with music if you got out of your artistic bubble. You could record your music, for starters; you could perfect it, record it, sell it, and do great things with it. And don't give me a speech about giving up your music to the system, because it's recycled crap by now. A great masterpiece created and lost may have some abstract value in some Platonic world of values, but it will get you nowhere. Isn't Mory more important than Mory's work?

You speak of great abstract ends, yet you are not willing to invest a single ounce of effort into the *means* to achieve those ends. Goals do not come achieved on silver platters, and further, when they do, they're worthless. Being a game designer is a great end. So take a piece of paper. At the top of the paper write "now", at the bottom write "game designer"...and then map out every step in between. Because the end is the rung at the top of a great ladder, and if you never step on the ladder, you'll never even get close. And then, I say, you don't want to be a game designer at all, but simply pretend you do, with brilliant self-deception, as every human is innately capable of. Perhaps the guard truly does use subconscious self-deception to avoid misery at his lowly job. So what? If and when he climbs his ladder, all that will be irrelevant.

What do you want to be when you're 80? How badly do you want it? And what are you doing right now to get on the track towards it?

First of all, I'd like to clear up a few misconceptions. Game programming and game design are not the same thing. Game design is the creative aspect- designing worlds, designing interfaces, etc. Programming is the technical work. I never got to the point where I could start working on game design, because there can be no games without someone doing the boring programming work, and I was, as I discovered, incapable of doing that work no matter how much effort I put into it. I did learn the basics, and I got as far as the spinning elephant, which didn't work as I had intended. I didn't come close to creating even a simple framework in which I could design the game. So my game design career hasn't started, except on the conceptual level. Another misconception you seem to have is that I do not release my music for philosophical reasons. When did I ever say a thing like this? When did I ever even imply a thing like this? If people like my music, then fine, I'll give it to them. But I don't believe my music has much value, and to be frank I don't care about it all that much. I compose only as a hobby, and I don't have the slightest idea what I am doing when I do so. I just compose things which I enjoy playing. I don't believe the general public would like it very much, nor do I have much interest in finding out.

Of course these conceptions are beside the point. The real question is: Do I want to be a game designer so badly that I'll stick myself into hell to have a slight chance of reaching that goal? The answer is no. It should be mentioned, however, that I have tried mapping out a route for myself before. My own route. It was to start with the elephant, and end in "Through the Wind", which would be a giant step into the game world. I planned out all the programming I'd need, all the controls, most of the structure, etc. But it got nowhere because I can't do it alone. I need programmers and artists, but the programmers and the artists have all devoted their lives to capitalism. I can't make a game without a team; I can't get a team to follow me without experience; I can't get experience without sticking myself into hell; I am not willing to do that for any end. So I have taken that "piece of paper" -the one with "Now" and "Game Designer" and everything in between- and burned it. Sure, I've lost the goal, and I've lost the present, and I've doomed myself to a meaningless existence. But burning the paper was the only action I could take. Maybe I'll find a way to become a game designer. Maybe I won't. At this point, it seems irrelevant.



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