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Stray Thoughts

You Can (Not) Start Over

Super Mario 64 ruined my life. My seventh birthday was unforgettable. I had bugged my parents for months to get me a Nintendo 64. On the morning I turned 7, I ran downstairs, saw a massive gift, tore into the paper, and unwrapped my first video game console. With it, my parents also bought me the definitive N64 game and the greatest launch title ever produced: Super Mario 64

My dad set the console up in our living room as I eagerly watched. My hands trembled with excitement as I picked up the controller. I flipped the power switch, and my life was forever changed. I was now a gamer. The rest of the morning was spent defeating King Bob-omb and Koopa the Quick. Eventually, my mom made me put down the controller. We went to eat pizza, play mini golf, and race go-karts. That afternoon was one of the most memorable times of my childhood, but I was still excited to go home and play more Super Mario 64.

When we arrived back at our house, my skin was still toasty from spending hours in the Texas sun. The only light I planned on bathing in for the rest of the day was going to come out of the TV set. I turned the console back on. I was ready to move Mario on from Bob-omb Battlefield to Whomp’s Fortress. But instead I had another idea: Why not just start over from the beginning?

I had only played for a little bit in the morning. Getting back to where I was would not take too long. Those first few stars were a lot of fun. I knew I could get them again without too much effort. I deleted my progress and started over from the beginning.

That morning was the start of my love affair with video games which would become my favorite hobby. However, reaching new levels and beating games was hard. So I frequently did what I did on the first day I had my Nintendo 64: I would play a game for a few hours, days, or weeks, but inevitably I would reset my progress and start over again. Restarting became a virtual addiction.

Soon enough, that addiction seeped into my real life. Throughout middle and high school, I must have changed what I wanted my future career to be a hundred times. Nowadays, I will try to diet, give up after a few days, and go on a binge eating rampage. It is alright though because I will just start over tomorrow. Well, maybe the day after tomorrow.

Nowhere is this weakness more clear than with my programming efforts. I will try to pick up a different language or start a new project. For a few days, the new, shiny thing will hold my attention. Soon after though, I will give up and move onto something even newer and shinier. I would like to say this has left my programming portfolio filled with half completed projects. However normally I am so ashamed by my constant restarting that I delete all traces of previous work. The truth is my programming portfolio is virtually empty.

I know why I like to restart things: Beginnings are easy. Near the start you still have plenty of motivation and things are fairly easy. Yet at a certain point, motivation dries up, and the practice becomes hard. So it is easy to give up and move on to something else. You convince yourself that whatever you were doing was not the right fit for you. The next thing will unlock your true passion, and you will be unstoppable. But the truth is everything takes effort. Tiger Woods does not always want to go out onto the golf course, but he has the discipline to do it anyway. Restarting lets you hold on to the fantasy that your life can be miraculously fixed, and knowing of that delusion does not lessen its appeal.

The problem is you never get the time back. I am almost 30 and have little to show for it. I am fat. My career feels years behind where I want it to be. And despite having programmed since I was in middle school, I have no major projects completed.

No more. I am through restarting. It is time to lose the weight, expedite the career I want, and stick with my programming projects. If I have a set back, then I will pick myself back up and keep going. You just cannot give up and think you can restart from the beginning again.

The most dangerous effect of video games is not a desensitization to violence or the sense of false achievement they can provide. The biggest lie that games tell us is that you always have another life.

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