I’ve been taking walks lately, trying to make sure I get enough exercise to keep my hypertension at bay. I hate walking for its own sake, but I’ve found I can stimulate the “getting things done” part of my brain if I can turn the walk into an errand. There’s a store about a fifteen minute walk from here, so every day I look around the house, find some random household item we’re low on, and then hike to the store and buy it.
Technically the errand is pointless. If we’re low on obscure and rarely-used item, then I don’t really need to hike to the store to buy more. I could simply add it to the shopping list and we’d get it with the weekly groceries. Walking to the store for a single item is a silly ritual, but it really does help motivate me. My overall goal is “keep my heart in shape so I don’t die”. That’s a very long-term goal where progress is measured over the course of months or even years. It’s a bit demoralizing to get home from a walk all tired and out of breath, flop down in my chair, and realize I just made 0.001% progress towards my goal. Being able to come home and say, “Hey, we were out of cumin but I took care of it,” is far more rewarding. I wonder what the cashier thinks of the odd man that comes in every morning to do his grocery shopping one item at a time.
This trip to the store has also been providing me with a daily reminder that COVID is still a thing. I walk in the door, see all the people running around with a mask drooping across the front of their face, hanging far below the nose and just barely obscuring their mouth. This reminds me that there’s a pandemic going on, which prompts me to put on my own mask.In case you’re wondering: I’ve got a quality mask and I know how to wear it properly. The nose-out style drives me bonkers. Aside from negating most of the benefits of wearing a mask, it looks ridiculous.
Before I started taking these walks, I’d often forget about the pandemic for weeks at a time because it just doesn’t assert itself in my life the way it does everyone else’s. I’m a massive introvert, I work from home, and I’m apparently immune to cabin fever.
The latest Errant Signal was a sharp reminder that this is not the case for everyone. Chris Franklin is apparently getting worn down by the routine:
He talks about how he spends all day in the same room, and it’s obviously something that he finds stressful or demoralizing. I’ve been doing that for over 20 years now, and I never saw it as anything remarkable. This is apparently a superpower by today’s standards. My wife cuts my hair, so I’m not even suffering from quarantine hair like so many people. It almost feels like the pandemic is happening to everyone but me.
These are strange times, and I really do feel bad for all of the people struggling the way Chris is. It’s interesting how large an impact your personality has on things like this.
The main point of Franklin’s video is that he’s been playing Fortnite because it offers a steady supply of things to do. He can play a few rounds and check some items off the to-do list, regardless of how well he does at the main part of the game where your goal is to out-live the other players. I can appreciate this drive. It’s the same thing that keeps me going during my trips to the store. It’s nice to have small, short-term goals that can be gradually conquered by low-stress activity.
My theory is that this is the big draw with Ubisoft games. I’ve never really been a fan. (Although I did have a good time with Watch Dogs Legion.) I’m always interested in what the game designer is saying. I’m always thinking about the mechanics, or the art, or the story, and trying to figure out where the designer is coming from and what they have on their mind. Trying to find a message or theme in an Ubisoft game is an exercise in trying to wrestle smoke. Which means Ubisoft games are precision-engineered to annoy and frustrate me. But these games are also incredibly popular, and I’ll bet most of the audience are people in Franklin’s shoes – people looking for a set of clear goals that they can work towards and make meaningful progress in the context of an hour-long game session.
That’s pretty understandable, but it’ll probably always feel a little alien to me. That’s just not why I play games.
Anyway, here’s hoping you find a way to cope with the stress or tedium of the pandemic. Stay safe out there. Now if you’ll excuse me, we’re all out of hydrogen peroxide and garlic powder. Looks like I’m going to need to make two trips.
 In case you’re wondering: I’ve got a quality mask and I know how to wear it properly. The nose-out style drives me bonkers. Aside from negating most of the benefits of wearing a mask, it looks ridiculous.
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