Crackdown 2

Last night, something weird happened when I played the demo for Crackdown 2. I loved the first game, but most of my memories with it are associated with hunting for agility orbs, which allow you to run faster and jump higher. I collected every single one in the first game, and ignored much of the game proper simply so I could do it. In fact, I spent several weeks hunting for the last 2 or 3, to the detriment of other real things I should have been doing.

As the release of the Crackdown 2 demo grew closer and closer, I found myself completely uninterested in the game. I had some concerns about the graphics, the tweaks to the gameplay, etc. However, when I downloaded the game last night, all of those thoughts vanished as soon as I saw the first agility orbs. I was like an addict, immediately falling back into old habits, getting my fix. I played the demo 4-5 times in a row. It was a weird glimpse into my rather obsessive compulsive way of doing things at times.

This obsessive trait of mine rears its ugly head in gaming more apparently than in most other areas of my life, and results in some odd gaming habits. I think this is the primary reason that I’m obsessed with achievements for the Xbox 360. While I wouldn’t say that I pursue achievements in a totally unhealthy fashion, I acknowledge that I’ve done some out of the ordinary things to get them. For instance, I rented the TMNT video game (which was not reviewed favorably) one afternoon, simply because I heard you could get 900-1000 achievement points for it in just 3-4 hours. It’s not pretty, but it’s the truth.

OblivionAnother example of weird gaming behavior was with Oblivion, Bethesda’s first person RPG adventure. Rather than spending time on the actual game, I spent 30 hours following characters in the game around and robbing their houses. With a whole beautiful world to explore and citizens to help or rescue, I would instead learn their schedule, memorize it and then steal all their stuff while they weren’t home.

I’m not really sure what this says about who I am as a person, but I try not to think about it.

You see, I am a goal setter. A man that orients his schedule around tasks. When I wake up, I know the list of things that must be accomplished before I can either go to sleep or become a ball of stress underneath the covers. Whether that’s posting on blogs, writing for Seven Sons, working on Web Zeroes, or even spending time with my wife, these items are all compartmentalized like something out of the Container Store and filed away in my brain for later use.

This doesn’t mean I am organized, by any means. It just highlights my obsessiveness, I think. When I was young, this manifested itself in other bizarre ways. Whenever my shoes were off, they had to be lined up and touching. I would only take an even number of steps between cracks on a sidewalk. If I touched something by accident, I had to touch it again and count to 4. Yes, all of those things are true, and I’m glad I’m past them. They’re all strange, I’ll admit it, but I was 13 and everyone is strange at that age.

When I examine my habits in adulthood, I can still see faint traces of this. I think the trick for me has been trying to turn this weakness of mine into something that can actually do positive stuff for me. It all started a few years back, when we formed Smooth Few Films. Really, I started to see how that kind of persistence and attitude could cause some cool accomplishments over a period of several months or more. Especially in the last year, I’ve tried to use that part of my brain to a bigger advantage. It was the genesis of both my novel and trying to lose weight. Small goals, met again and again over a long period of time. It was kind of like getting achievements on my Xbox 360, only the rewards were real.

What I need to be cautious of is once I’ve met my goal, trying to set new ones so that I don’t stop the good habits I’m making. I can already see warning signs of this. After I ran the half marathon in January, I quickly lost interest in running for exercise, simply because there was no goal associated with it. Losing weight has gotten a bit more difficult once I hit my initial target weight loss of about 50-60 pounds. Writing for my novel is going to get harder once I’ve finished the rough draft, I can already tell.

I’m not an expert, but I imagine it’s the trick to getting stuff done, not just in the creative arena, but any arena. It’s easy for our hang-ups to get the best of us, so we’ve got to isolate them and figure out how they hinder us. I’m pretty sure this is the basis behind The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield, which I keep hearing is a fabulous book for creative types. I suppose it’s time to read that one.

Unless it doesn’t have achievements.

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