It had been two weeks. I'm staring at my monitor, trying to figure out the solution to a problem that's been nagging me for far too long, trying to figure why this collection of config files, server ports, and development environments are shrieking at each other instead of singing together. It had been two weeks of cursing, false hopes and frustration.
Then, inspiration strikes. I realize I've been viewing the problem from the wrong angle the entire time. I tweak a few settings, reset a few processes, upload a few files, then run a test. It fails. I grit my teeth and grind my jaw before I cock my head and spot a typo on a freshly added attribute. I re-upload the files, redeploy the app, and hold my breath as I initiate the tests.
It works. The damn thing works!
I raise my arms above my head in victorious elation and swivel around in my aging (but still sleek) computer chair, a slightly elated rush going to my head as I spin about.
Hey, I work alone in a home office. I can get away with such private, laughable, celebrations, especially when it means figuring out something quite tricky that threatened to derail a deadline. Why, I hadn't felt this accomplished since ...
... since I drummed my way through 'Run to the Hills' on Hard Mode in Rock Band, a track that also took a few weeks of off-and-on practice to finally finish, a song that also had me cursing and gnashing my teeth throughout the completion process. And, like the work-based task, I also performed a very similar in-chair celebratory dance, albeit with drum sticks instead of empty fists.
These sort of displays don't come easily to me, as I rarely spend much time so singularly focused on a sole task. In work, as with games, if a task frustrates me I either find a way around it, or an alternate way of accomplishing it that doesn't entail the hair-tearing bits.
But, occasionally, I'll run into in a task where I can't find a different approach, can't brute force my way through, can't just look up a hint on GameFAQs or the man page is insufferably unhelpful. The way to complete it is through simple doggedness and climbing a steep comprehension or coordinational curve. 90% of the time if I run into a game like that I'll admit defeat and drop it (if I'm lucky, I might pick it up again five years later). The other 10% of the time I barrel through it with grit and determination. And half the time, I still fail and never finish the task. But the other 5%?
I finish the task. Then I revel in the win.
Like I said, it doesn't happen often. I don't dance around in my chair every other hour (and if I did, I doubt the poor thing would last much longer), it's more like every few months. But sometimes the most fulfilling tasks are the ones completed through single-mindedly dragging a solution up to the surface. And, while my job required that I find a solution, triumphing over the Rock Band track brought nothing but another an incremental notch on the song board, so to speak.
While I constantly talk about the power of games, of interactive experiences, to bring forth new worlds and new experiences and to challenge us with foreign rulesets, relationships, and morally trying encounters, I often forget that great games can drive me to want to succeed, to win, for simply no good reason at all. There's nothing in the accomplishment apart from the satisfaction in knowing that I did it, even though it was a challenge knowingly crafted to be conquered, and even though I know that (most of the time) I won't receive any tangible penalty for failing to complete the task (or vice versa, receive a worthwhile reward for completing it), a great game will compel me, practically tempt me, to go ahead and do it just for the hell of it.
And I beat it. Then my chair and I celebrate, our arms raised to the sky.
So what in-game accomplishments have elicited such elation from you? And, dare I ask, just how did you celebrate?
Masthead image courtesy of roujo.