What I learned from The Sims: lessons from the virtual world

“A symbol always transcends the one who makes use of it and makes him say in reality more than he
is aware of expressing.”
–Albert Camus

“Evil, in this system of ethics, is that which tears apart, shuts out the other person, raises
barriers, sets people against each other.”
–Rollo May

When I was young I played a lot of video games.  I was good at them, and I ended up learning more about computers from 15 years of playing games than I did in four years at college and 3 years of graduate study.  Certainly Nintendo and the old Sierra games for PC like “King’s Quest” offer different lessons than courses in Artificial Intelligence, but if a young gamer pays attention to what he is doing, there’s a lot to be learned from games. I quit playing video games when I went off to university at age 18 — as much as I liked them, it seemed like I should probably spend more time in the real world, studying, playing football, and hanging out with real people doing real things rather than crushing people in Madden football or achieving global domination in Sid Meier’s Civilization.  16 years later, with the exception of a few Wii games and a bit of online poker, I haven’t really felt the impulse to come out of video game retirement.

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Learning to extend metaphor: taking the red pill

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

In a recent post, I wrote about how attempting to write changes the way you view works of art.  As I continue toiling away, creating artificial worlds in which my characters come to life and try to deal with the situations in which I place them, I find myself thinking more and more about the choices that writers make in the creation of their own artificial worlds.

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The Poker Wisdom of Omar and The Wire

“Recall how often in human history the saint and the rebel have been the same person.”
–Rollo May

It’s been 5 years since I wrote anything about poker, so I thought it was time to get back to the roots of this blog and extract some poker wisdom from the greatest character in the greatest show of all time.  That’s right, it’s time for some quotes from Omar Little, the Robin Hood of the Baltimore streets, the noble stick-up kid and champion of “the road less traveled.” For me, The Wire transcends television… the show is so good that it goes far beyond the topics it addresses and offers up eternal truths that give us insight into how we should live our lives. Much like Hamlet is about much more than a Prince’s struggle to avenge his Father’s murder, the Wire is about much more than the problems of an American city.

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Thoughts on Expertise (part 1): Beating Mike Tyson

“If one really wishes to be master of an art, technical knowledge of it is not enough. One has to transcend technique so that the art becomes an ‘artless art’ growing out of the Unconscious.”
–Daisetz T. Suzuki

I’m not really sure why, but I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of “expertise”.  What does it mean to be an expert in something?  Should I strive to become an expert in something?  Do “experts” tap into some kind of wisdom that non-experts never experience?  Am I an expert in anything?  How do you become “master of your domain“?

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Finding your voice – art vs. craft

“If there is a magic in story writing, and I am convinced there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another. The formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge of the writer to convey something he feels important to the reader.”
–John Steinbeck

A good friend sent me a mail:

“I’d like to see you write about how writing effects how you read, or watch movies, even listen to music. I find creating music effects how I do those things.”

Ask and ye shall receive!  Sometimes.

As I find myself trying to learn how to write, the most interesting concept is the notion of “voice” and “style”.  I’ve often wondered how I’m perceived in the eyes of other people I care about… do they see me completely differently than I see myself?  Similarly, I wonder what I would think of my own writing were I to stumble upon it, knowing nothing about the author.  Who do I sound like?  Are my characters believable?  Does my story feel “true”?

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