More than one way to take a vacation

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.

10 thoughts on “More than one way to take a vacation

  1. Kat, I’d hope you get out of the big cities a little bit while you’re there. It’s not exactly the warm travelling season, but you really owe it to yourself to hit the edges (which are dang beautiful and blissfully devoid of people).

  2. I didn’t really poke around the surrounding Tokyo environs myself, so.. I dunno, do they count? ;D I realise now this is a post-Kansai post, not a pre-.. but if head back that way, you should check out some of the little towns around Lake Biwa (Omi-Shiotsu and Yogo, at the north end of Biwa, are a couple of favourites of mine), the Fukui coastline, anywhere on the Kii Peninsula (Wakayama et cetera), and if you get the chance, Wakkanai up at the tip of Hokkaido.

    Travel junkie comments aside!

    I keep my portables for routine commutes and waits at the doctor’s office. Any travel/vacation stuff they get left at home. The games’ll be there when I get back.

  3. The weather on the U of M campus today was cool, rainy, and windy. It sort of reminded me of the weather that was common in China and Japan when I visited a couple years ago.

    I find the same principle–taking a break from your favorite thing for a while so you don’t burn out–to be true with snacks. For most of the summer I had an obsession with Sour Cream & Onion Pringles…but I’ve been taking a break the last month or two. I know they’ll be all the more delicious the next time I have them.

  4. I think what ends up being a big problem for a lot of people is that games require such an enormous investment of time and energy to complete, and either you don’t have the time or if you make the time, you get burned out. Part of if it is that, yeah, 3D is immersive and it’s opened up new possibilities for game design that either aren’t possible in 2D (like a Katamari Damacy) or somehow the radically different perspective challenged designers to break down the conceptual boundaries of how a game can work. But 3D landscapes take forever to navigate, too. And I think maybe it’s just a widespread and deeply ingrained design philosophy to draw a game out as long as possible so the feeling of accomplishment is greater when you actually beat it, or on the other hand maybe it has to do with the economics of game design — but who has the time to play a game like that? Yeah, it takes away from the sweep of the game, but I would sort of like to fire up Ocarina of time and just BE at the Water Temple, or JUST play the hidden bonus areas in Mario Sunshine, and not pay for the rest of the game.

    Well, in truth, I don’t REALLY think they shouldn’t make games like Zelda anymore (I do lurv them), but I think there needs to be a movement toward “condensed” games — games with a great hook, that START you at level 8, and that don’t make you pay for what in most cases amounts to puerile narrative excess.

  5. Back in early ’04, what started as a little test on myself to stay away from games for a week turned into a six month sabatical from them. It was nice.

    Only now, however, am I starting to find the proper niche gaming occupies in my life. I’m starting to focus less on buying as many titles that I’m interested in playing, and more on buying one title I really want to play, finish it, then move on. It spares me a lot of money, time, buyer’s remorse, and I’ve really started to enjoy gaming as the casual hobby it ought to be (for me).

  6. I only seem to break out my GBA when I go on trips. My forthcoming DS might change that scenario.

    Did you take any pictures of the area, Kat?

  7. Yep. Taking a break from anything makes you realize what you appreicate the most, I think.

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