Intense Interests

How Stardew Valley Ruined My Life

And Oblivion, and Animal Crossing (two different versions), and Lord of the Rings: Online, and The Sims (1,2,3), and Skyrim, and…

I spent about 60 hours last week playing Stardew Valley. I have periods of obsession with video games, particularly ones with collective objectives. Kill all the dragon priests. Ship 15 of each crop. Pay off your mortgage with Tom Nook. They appeal to the obsessive, collector side of me without costing much in terms of money or time (although, I’ve spent stupid amounts of money on free-to-play, in-game purchase games in pursuit of meaningless coloured pixels to add to my collection. Still, probably pales in comparison to other collector hobbies I’ve obsessed over then completely lost interest in). The ease of them appeals to me. Not to say that computer games aren’t challenging, but I can sit in a chair for hours and be entertained, rather than have to exert any kind of creative or physical effort to stave off boredom.

While New Year’s resolutions are so passé now, there is something alluring about the concept of a new year, a fresh slate. I make goals constantly, and I make them again now – I have so many creative projects bouncing around my brain, maybe this year I will finally see some of them to fruition. Or maybe I will just spend 60 hours a week playing video games.

2017, I aimed to start blogging more regularly, here. Once a week was an achievable aim. But I spent all New Year’s day playing Stardew Valley, and every time I said to myself “I’m going to stop now and write a post” there was just one more fish to catch before I did. It’s that focused interest typical of autism, but rather than being productive in a way that I want to be, I’m doing something I really don’t like. It’s like I’m viewing myself from outside myself and I have no control over doing the thing I am doing, even though I want to. Maybe there is an element of ADHD there, and scattered focus – while I have been tentatively diagnosed, I am starting the process of official diagnosis next week. It’s terrible, I know, but I am desperately pinning my hopes on being diagnosed and being able to go on medication. I feel that if I just had a little more focus, maybe I could achieve the things I want to achieve. I feel like I should be able to manage that myself, without the aid of medication, but I have felt that should pull all my life, and it is seductive and dangerous and quite frankly, wrong. It leads to me feeling terrible about myself because I should be able to do all these things other people are capable of doing. I need to accept that I am not able, in many ways, and to capitalise on what I am able to do. And to accept help, whether that be in the form of medication or therapy, when I need it.

I’ve told myself that not achieving my creative goals over the past two years has been somewhat understandable. I have been working full-time and studying part-time, which is stressful and time-consuming… but I know that really, I spent an awful lot of time playing games or watching TV in a mindless time-filling/wasting exercise. I can’t use study as an excuse for not writing that story or sewing that dress, because I kept putting off study by playing silly games on my phone. Once I finished my study in December, I realised how much stress I had put myself under. So high-stress, to relax I couldn’t indulge in anything vaguely effortful, only mindless. Unnecessary stress.

I will start the study/work cycle again in March. While I have many goals, I know I have to focus on just a few to have a hope of achieving anything. While playing video games is not wrong or bad, (not at all!!!) it is for me because it is not what I really want to be doing. So one goal is: to learn how to reduce study anxiety, so I have the energy to unwind by doing some creative project or other I have been meaning to do for years. Another goal is: to blog more. I have blogged in the past, somewhat erratically, and apart from the pressure I put on myself to come up with interesting and witty things, I enjoyed it. For years, though, I have felt mute, unable to of things to post that are worthwhile or interesting. But to get past that muteness, I think, I just need to do, whatever it is. I need to get into the habit. I don’t think I will be an “autism” blogger, as I am not really interested in engaging regularly with autism issues to the critical depth that other people do so well. Perhaps this will be more an exploration of coming to terms with who I am, and re-learning my identity. Perhaps this will reference autism (and ADHD, if it comes to that), and perhaps it won’t. Hopefully it will feature creative projects I am working on, and finishing. Maybe I will just be shouting into the grand abyss, but anything, for me, is better than hours and hours of flashing coloured lights and intangible “achievements”.

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