Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Go With the Flow

So, after taking care of my daily personal habits upon my arrival home last night, I decided to peruse the internet for a bit. Realizing that I hadn't blasphemed the front page of Bonez in awhile, I decided to see what was happening over there. Lo and behold, I found the posting declaring that Bonez himself has now become a Guitar Hero addict. Of course, the mere act of reading about the damn game brewed within me an irresistible urge to play it. So, not being the type to deny myself whatever it is I'm craving, I loaded up the Playstation 2 and began playing. I decided to warm up with 'La Grange' by ZZ Top. I've never been a big fan of their work, but I like the rhythm of that particular song a lot. I had been playing for about a minute when the realization hit me...I was 'in the zone'.

As a gamer, I am accustomed to that feeling, also known as 'flow'. It's that moment where the world fades away and complete focus and concentration become the only reality. It can be felt by athletes, by musicians, by gamers...hell, I tend to find my 'flow' when I sit down to write. But last night really made me reflect on how much I enjoy the zone.

From what I've read on the topic, you are likely to reach the zone when you are focused on a task that is not so easy that it's mindless, but no so difficult that it's outside of your ability. You find the zone when you find the perfect balance.

For me, finding that place is very akin to being inebriated. I feel light-headed and lack the ability to think of anything except the task at hand. My whole body feels hollow and I become a creature of reflex and impulse. It's quite interesting to exist outside of your humanity while your eyes, fingers and brain become one united organ.

When I was younger, I was heavily into vertical shoot em up style games, my favorite at the time being Sky Shark. The joy of that kind of game came from the fact that I reached that same point of nirvana, that same awareness of the lack of self. I could play 30-40 minutes without dying, doing nothing but focusing, moving and shooting.

Gaming is very much a spiritual activity for me, being a stress reliever, a mental workout, a means of relaxation and a social activity. I've been an avid and active gamer since I was a wee lad. Heck, I remember fussing about with our Fairchild Channel F when I was 4. As a result, I got to grow up alongside the industry, watching from the very dawn of gaming where a white box was the ultimate in graphics to the modern day games that approach photo-realism.

Through the years that I've gamed, I have always sought the zone. I've found it in many, many games over the years. Sky Shark. Rygar. Lode Runner. Pinball Fantasies. Guitar Hero. The list goes on and on. Although the outer appearance of these games may be different, they all offer the same thing, a pure gaming experience. And it is via this experience that I can enter the zone.

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