If you ever want to combat pre-Election Day nerves, try going to Kyoto or Nara or sometime. Instead of sitting around chewing my nails while watching both polls and the evening news, I got to spend my time being chased by F.O.E.s while marveling at how much Nara looks like Wisconsin. I think it’s all the rolling hills.
Going to Nara was also a good chance to continue the little experiment I started when I went to Thailand and Cambodia back in late July: I left my Nintendo DS and PSP at home. Not exactly revolutionary to ditch video games for five days, I know. But it recently occured to me that not a day goes by when I don’t play play games, even if I do have to squeeze it around work, writing, and studying. Games are great and all, but electing to spend my one free hour a day on them means that things like reading tend to get left by the wayside. Kind of sad when I was the kind of kid who used to devour a couple books a day.
Of course, leaving the games at home in favor of a couple books is actually harder than it sounds. It’s mostly a matter of routine, but that doesn’t change the fact that the first night always seems to find me laying in my hotel room and wishing that I could pass the time with Super Robot Taisen. But being on vacation is all about breaking my routine and doing something interesting, and games are about as routine as it gets these days. If I’m lying in my hotel room and playing my DS like I would at home, then why did I even bother going on vacation? I can endure for a night or two.
Interestingly enough though, there are a couple (relatively) unexpected side effects to this forced deprivation. The obvious one is that it keeps me from getting burned out on gaming, which I suppose is important when you write about and play them every single day. The other is that it has an odd way of helping me to refocus on what I actually want to play, as opposed to what I feel like I should be playing. When I was in Thailand, Pokemon intruded in my thoughts to the point where I found myself reformulating my team in my head while I choked back Tuk-Tuk exhaust. SRWA Portable, in the meantime, got to share time with mortal fear as I evaded hungry deer in Nara. Not so strange, then, I guess, that I would want to pick them up again when I got home.
Those are all just the superficial reasons, though. I suppose the reality is that, in the end, it feels good to put aside the games for a couple days and see what else the world has to offer. Not because I hate games, or I’m tired of them. If anything, taking a break helps me to appreciate them even more. No, it just feels good to come home feeling well-rested, relaxed, and weirdly cleansed. Makes it just that much easier to endure the Gradius II beatings that are sure to follow.