Zen and the Art of Video games – or what the Playstation taught me about life

On a sunday the Playstation3 came out of the sideboard. Yes I know, the 4 is cooler, but who am I – Donald Trump? I had long been looking forward to have half a day that I could lose myself in a video game again.

Zen and the Art of Video games
I had already gotten far in that particular game for the day – Motorstorm, for the game aficionados among you. That sunday it was time for the last, the final, the ultimate race of the game. I plopped down on the couch and got on with it. And it was difficult. Darn difficult! Alright, that’s what you’d expect on the last challenge of any game. But not like this! One tiny mistake, not getting a turn just perfect or scraping along a tree and the victory was gone. My relaxed sunday became nerve-wrecking fast. Even if I did everything right and raced like a young god, some other idiot driver would get in my way and cost me a half second. And again I was the second or third to cross the finish line. My sunday went down the river faster than baby Moses in his little basket.

Princess’ moments

I was about to throw the controller across the room in a princess tantrum (something I don’t like doing since it means that shortly after, I have to get up from the couch cursing in a not very princess like manner to go and get it). Then the thought hit me: what I am doing here! I have been looking forward to an afternoon of relaxation and playing. And now? I’m bitching around like a princess on top of too many leguminous vegetables because I can’t get that stupid trophy for the last race? And what if I get it? I’ll start the next game and once again I’ll be frustrated until I get a little further!

And then I though: “Know what, mister? You’ll just lean back, and you’ll play. Never mind if you lose. Just race and enjoy it. Forget winning – if you win you’ll just start over and do the same again anyway. So chill out bro!”

Then this one time later that afternoon I crossed the finish line and there were fanfares, halleluja’s and fireworks. I had won and I hadn’t even realised it. I simply had a blast and was enjoying my time.

Ok that was a long geeky story about how I spend an afternoon playing Playstation. But hey, I didn’t just play! I FINISHED the game! That’s a deed worthy of a blog post, or not?! But wait, there’s even a lesson to be learnt!

Zen and the Art of gaming

I realised how true this is for life in general. We stress ourselves to reach a goal. And once we’ve attained it, we keep on stressing to reach the next one. And all that just for the fleeting feeling of having achieved something.
How much better would it be, to just enjoy the process. Instead of working towards the moment when we pop the champagne bottle? How would it be to work – not to wrap the project up, but simply because we enjoy the work? How would it be to write a book, not because we want to see it on the shelves of bookstores, but because we enjoy writing? How would it be to study, not because we have to pass the exam, but because we are interested in the topic in the first place? (Or, if we have to learn just for the exam, can’t we instead pretend we are interested anyway?) When I’m animating a scene for a movie, I am not doing it for the day that I get to see the finished work on TV. I’m happy in the here and now, because I am animating. And when I’m writing this blog post, then not to put it online and see how people react to it – but because I like to write it.

When we approach things like this, then we are reminded of why we do the things that we do day in and day out. That it’s about the process, and not about an end goal that we might not even be able to grasp.

And something else happens too: suddenly it doesn’t matter anymore if we reach our goal fast or slow. Detours and setbacks become irrelevant as long as we can keep “doing”. It becomes unimportant wether the end result became as good as we had hoped or not. It’s even unimportant if the project, book, movie etc. gets cancelled, because it is no longer about the end result.

Man, I don’t even want to know how long buddhist monks have to sit on mountaintops in meditation to learn what I had learned in an afternoon of playing Playstation.

Where are you more interested in the results than in getting there? And does that need to change?

text ©Michael Herold  Safe Creative #1401030108909
image ©Evolution Studios (Background)

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