Escaping The Current

Or, why I'm enjoying games again.

By: Rich Shivener

Filed Under: Life Reflections


It’s a blistering Saturday in July and I’m standing on the edge of a boat. The water surrounds our little vessel. It calls to me with its infinite waves.

“Jump,” someone says.

It’s a Saturday and I’m sending an email to an editor. My first pitch to a video game outlet, a blog. I check my proposal, and with a sweaty finger I click my mouse. The air is heavy with anxiety. I know so little about video game journalism. Yet it seems so inviting.


I splash into Lake Erie, its saltless water consuming me until I rise for air. I sigh, and I hold onto the lifejacket floating before me. The waves are high. Cooling my skin. Carrying me.

I open my fourth package from my editor. Inside I find a first-person shooter and some toy soldiers. There’s a candy bar. Excitement courses through my body and resolves in my brain. I’m a game reviewer. This is real. This is my job. I slide the game into my system.

And then I notice something. I haven’t touched my own games in months. I glance at Mirror’s Edge, Army of Two, The Orange Box, Assassin’s Creed II, and several others sealed in plastic. Worry creeps in. I try to ignore it, but it’s there, telling me that I’ve drifted too far from home – that I’ve ditched the pleasure of gaming for the business of gaming. The latter has its unpredictable waters, too. They can lead to happiness and despair, or somewhere in between, and sometimes you won’t know until you’ve swam in them for hours.

I’m attracted to that sort of risk.

“You OK, man?” My friend smiles me, then tries to paddle once again toward the boat, or home. We’re more than a quarter mile away from it. He only has a floating tube; me, the lifejacket, still in my hands.

“I can’t move forward,” I manage. Another mouthful of water. Another wave. I can’t understand why the waves flowing toward the boat are pulling me away. It’s like swimming in a paradox. So I wave toward the boat. “Help.” My friends wave back.

“Why don’t you play your games?”

“I do. I’m reviewing.”

“But they’re not yours.”

I could tell my girlfriend that I’m drowning in waves of words that lead to polished reviews – that I’ve often spent too much in the waves, in an attempt to find perfect words and deeper meaning about games, and thus I’ve lost sight of home. I feel miles away from my systems and my impressive stack of dust-covered, unopened games. Catherine. Dark Souls. Uncharted 3. So many more. And I feel the deadlines pulling me under.

Now my arms are dead weights, and I’m winded, to the point that I feel like I can just … let go … let the waves consume me.

Now my eyelids are heavy, and I can’t make sense of the game burning my TV screen. I could sink into a dream, or a nightmare, with sentences and fragments in tow. I might find something down there.

In a watery haze, I see the boat curling toward us. I see smiles. Friends. I hear music; I feel the air again, and the sun burning my arms. Then, a hand reaching toward me.

And I wake up the next morning, rubbing my eyes so that I can read an email. The blog has faded away into the horizon. Bit Creature has arrived. Someone has extended a hand. His name is James.

I see this as my chance to start over, to reconsider the waves of words that surround me, and to dive in with care, lest I drift too far from home again.

So far, I’m still breathing.

[art credit]

Filed Under: Life Reflections

About the Author:
Rich Shivener is the Lead Editor of Bit Creature. He is also a writer, instructor and iPad whisperer from the shores of Northern Kentucky. You can find him in Publishers Weekly and Writer's Digest, among other places.

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