Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Reminiscing on the gaming years..

I used to take gaming very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that almost a year in college was spent on an inverted nocturnal schedule that involved heavy doses of Wolfenstein, Age of Empires (AoE), and Medal of Honour. I don't play as much anymore, and most of my gaming is reduced to whatever I can run on my android tablet and occasionally my PSP. At this very moment, however, I can't even tell you the exact location of my PSP, because that's how long it has been since I last used it. It's been a different story on the tablet however, and I've been trying out that classic amongst games, Tetris. A far cry from the days of souped up computers and endless hours. 

It got me wondering, though. What was all that gaming in aid of? Did it really help me, other than to entertain? I pondered over this question a lot, and one by one, some of the lessons started coming back to me. It might sound a little corny as I go ahead with this post, but it turns out there were valuable lessons for me in gaming. Unsurprisingly, most of it came from my AoE buddies, since that's the game I played the most. It also helped that I played against people I knew and met on a daily basis - close college friends. 

It's easy to pick out the low hanging fruit first - years of time spent on various flight simulator games helped me on my journey to becoming a pilot. It's fun trying to barrel roll an airliner in MS FSX, but it's even more fun and useful trying to fly a plane as it should be flown. I will not go so far as to say that the skills translate directly into flying an actual plane, but the usefulness, especially on matters procedural, certainly cannot be discounted. But on further thought, it struck me as less valuable than what the others taught me. 

Blackmartyr - an AoE buddy - taught me the importance of winning. There are some people with an intense focus on winning, and he was one of those guys. Even if he was taking a beating, he would do everything he could - sometimes even ethically questionable stuff - to ensure that his team wins. It did not come from an innate evil nature, though. Sometimes you run into people whom you just cannot admit are better than you. For him, in such situations, victory was a good way of proving a point to himself. 

On the opposite side, RhythmSage taught me to enjoy the game. Win or lose, at the end of the day it was just a game, and the important thing was to have had fun playing. She's one of my closest friends to date, and this nature is more of a reflection of her true self, since she's generally regarded as a happy and cheerful person. We'd be on the same team, and would've just suffered a bad loss, and I'd come out of my room whining about it while she would just be calm, happy and chilled out about the whole thing. It would annoy me initially since I thought she wasn't taking this seriously enough, but eventually I picked up that skill a bit, though at far less than the ideal level a temperamental guy like me should have. In fact, she seems to have picked up more of my crankiness than she probably should've. 

C and S (I no longer remember their in-game names) taught me to take pride in my work. They were obsessed about getting their armies to march in perfect formation, and those armies were usually an intimidating sight with swordsmen marching into your territories in neat little squares and laying siege to the place. They had put a lot of effort into raising those armies, and they'd be damned if the armies were gonna look shaby. It did not matter if their armies were bulldozing the enemy unchallenged, or taking a proper hiding themselves, they were always neatly organized and beautiful to look at. Of course, on the flip side they also taught me not to obsess on one particular aspect among many, since quite often their focus on neat armies let to their being distracted from the tactical details of battle.

The last, and most important lesson came from the improbably named decaLODA. A close confidante of many years, he taught me in our AoE games to not stop fighting. You may be down to your last penny and being attacked from directions you didn't know existed, but you cannot stop fighting. When we started playing this game, one of the more skilled and powerful players named Aghust used to take on six or seven of us at a time and beat us all. Most of us would get dejected halfway through and resign from the game, but not decaLODA. He would keep fighting until he was down to the last villager, whom he would hide in a faraway corner of the game map and get him to build a multi-layered stone wall around himself. Aghust would eventually discover the villager, and turn his trebuchets against the wall and painstakingly knock a hole in them, at which point DecaLODA would kill his last villager, forfeiting the game. He may have lost, but he made life hell for his enemy until the very end. It took me a long time to digest this, but it was probably the best thing I ever learned from playing computer games. 

Perhaps all that time wasn't wasted after all.. 

Monday, 18 March 2013

The flying smart-aleck..

A long time ago, a friend asked on his blog : 

do i take a leap of faith, reach out and risk falling, failing?
do i maintain the status quo, not do anything, and wait for the universe to do it’s thing?

why does it always have to be so bloody difficult to make a choice in such situations?

And I replied, in a slightly smart-alecky way.. :

the universe does not do anything if you sit on your bum. it might discern enough to assist you if you're helping yourself. and even then, the best you could count on is a tailwind in the direction of your leap of faith that might take you a precious few additional millimetres forward. your main propellant will still be the faith in your leap. the stronger you leap, the more wind there will be beneath your wings, keeping you afloat across the abyss. its basic aerodynamic theory, actually.

Today, I read it, and smiled. :)

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Road Rage..

Mornings were never my thing. I have been accused of a lot of things but I've never been accused of being a morning person, whatever that may mean. So my foul mood was a given since I had been dragged out of bed at 5 30 a.m. and put in the driver's seat of our car. This was dad's doing. Ever since he's retired, he's declared himself too old to drive unless he has run out of options. Mom says he gets a kick out of sitting in the back seat while his sons drive him around. In any case, thanks to a combination of factors, not the least important of which was the fact that my aunt and her family who were visiting us needed to catch a train at 6 a.m., I was staring bleary-eyed out into whatever bits of road were illuminated by the headlamps. I made a mental note to myself to get the lamp checked; the dim was focused too low on the road. 

Having accomplished the task of making sure my aunt and family caught their train, we were on our way back. I was too sleepy to talk, and dad must've understood that since he was silent. Stray bits of conversation revolved around what route to take back home - I was unsure of my hometown roads and they had changed a lot in the decade I was away. As we reached the dual carriageway near palarivattom junction, I got into the inside lane with a plan to gun it and head home to bed as fast as possible. As I was about to place my reputedly heavy foot on the accelerator pedal, a mini-lorry overtook us on the outside lane and then cut in front of me without warning. I had to slam on the brakes to avoid a collision, and we were both shaken out of our silence. 

The first thing that came to my mind was an expletive, but I have over time developed the ability to shut my potty mouth when my parents are around. I was indignant. I had done everything right, and if the lorry wanted to overtake, all he needed to do was indicate that and I would've got out of his way. I floored the pedal and the car lunged forward. 

"What are you doing?", said dad. 

"Catching him," I said. "He can't get away with this." 

"Let it be," said dad. "It's pointless trying to teach him a lesson" 

We were gaining on him. "If people don't tell him he's an ass, he'll continue pulling stuff like this", I said. 

"He could be a thug". "Don't worry, nothing's gonna happen". 

When that change of track didn't work, dad fell back to his earlier point that the lorry driver will not get the message. I was right on his tail, looking for an opening to overtake. I was going to do this right, without stooping to his level of overtaking on the wrong side. Dad was telling me that it was pointless getting angry at people on the road, because there were simply too many of them. He prided himself on driving all his life in a way that had caused no one ever to get angry at him. I remembered the time when I had started driving, and he was ashamed when my overconfidence once caused a policeman to shout at us. 

I got my opening, and the car surged ahead of the mini lorry. Dad paused for a second and said, "It's an old man." 

I shot ahead, cut in front of him, and slammed the brakes, forcing him to do the same. Dad rolled down the window, shook a fist at him, and returned to lecturing me about how it was of no use getting angry at an old man who would probably continue driving like this for the rest of his life. As we drove off, I marveled at how he could teach me the right things while still playing on my team. 

I daren't tell him how I tried something similar with a bus driver while I was on my motorcycle.