For a blog with “midlife crisis” in the title, it may seem odd that I don’t discuss the concept much. Other than the casual references in my About page, my only direct treatment of the subject was in an entry from MCC’s first month, before I had readers or any clear idea where this site would be going.
The short version of that old entry: I think I’m okay on the midlife crisis front. So far, no urge to go splurge on a flashy sports car whose insurance payments, speeding tickets, and designer gas requirements would devastate me. No desire to go prowling for an under-25 replacement wife that I’d disappoint on multiple levels. No fleeting whims to quit the day job that makes this entire long-term experiment possible. No chance of drastic fashion overhaul, hair implants, or radical blubberectomy. And, thankfully, no therapy sessions scheduled to scrutinize a burdensome lack of Happy.
But there was one item I picked up on Black Friday 2014 that I’m hoping will be the one big unplanned expenditure to fully sublimate any such lingering, as-yet-imperceptible, subconscious urges to escape reality or to revisit those bygone days of youthful vim and vigor: a used PS3.
When my son moved up to college last year, he took all his consoles with him, leaving me only with our PC and my old Nintendo I’ve had since my high-school senior year. My current PC has issues that make gaming infeasible, and my nostalgia for ye olde 8-bit games is well below the Generation X median average. For months I’d been talking to anyone who’d listen about the possibility of picking up a system for myself eventually, so this was hardly a left-field impulse that took us all by surprise. As a gesture of fiscal responsibility, I waited a good fifteen months before succumbing to the temptation of a Game Stop sale. By the same token, I settled for a used PS3 rather than a new PS4 because I do impose budgetary limits on such rare indulgences.
Consider the potential benefits of the PS3:
1. Exploration of an artform with numerous differences from my usual input sources.
2. Provides exercises to sharpen reflexes, reaction times, attention to detail, problem-solving skills, and inurement to jump-scares. All of these are qualities I’d like to retain for as many decades as possible before I’m officially relabeled Elderly.
3. Convention research so I can learn about new characters and recognize more cosplayers on the go, rather than relying on other fans to identify them for me after the fact.
4. Recapturing of a pastime I’ve enjoyed at numerous times in my life — as a child who frequented video arcades, as a teen who loved and beat the original NES Final Fantasy, and as a father who spent a decade-plus enjoying them as a father/son quality-time vehicle.
5. Maybe now the cool kids will like me!
(Fortunately this past week’s massive PlayStation Network outage was useless against me. I was signed up and on my way before it happened, I have hard-copy games on hand now, and I have no current interest in multiplayer, co-op, or exploring online gaming communities. I’ve been following that infamously deplorable online war over the past four months and it’s reminded me too sourly of all the comics message boards I’ve been avoiding for years on similar if comparatively less destructive grounds. Thanks, no.)
Ever since I hooked the PS3 up, I’ve approached it gingerly so as not to lose myself in it altogether. I refuse to spend 6-20 hours a day on it, shirk my adult responsibilities for it, avoid my amazingly awesome wife in favor of it, or overspend on new releases for it. So far I’ve been limiting my gaming sessions to just two or three per week, and facilitating those by deducting time increments from other activities — e.g., cutting down my comics collecting, scaling back on Wednesday movie night, hitting “Refresh” less often during my internet time, eliminating weekend naps whenever possible, etc.
Gaming has affected my writing to a limited extent. For a number of reasons I’d already been taking two nights off from MCC each week long before the PS3 entered the picture. I’ll admit a couple of those bonus off-nights were spent on Bioshock instead, but only a couple. I’m not expecting any further tilting of the pastime balance, though. I’d prefer to let writing trump gaming as long as I keep thinking I have anything to contribute to the internet chatter pool, until or unless: (a) MCC somehow becomes a magic stepping stone to greater creative opportunities; (b) I cut off all communications to become a misanthropic hermit, though this would be a detriment to my beliefs in general and the Great Commission in particular; or (c) my writings sufficiently devalue the entire online writing market and ruin it as a full-time career track for millions of hopeful peers out there who’d been counting on it to fund their midlife crises, and who mutually decide to join forces and destroy me for my sins against the unspoken union.
Until and unless one of those timelines comes to pass, my optimistic hope is that when the Spirit of Midlife Crises comes to haunt my house and threatens to rearrange my brain cells, I can point to the PS3 and convince him that it totally counts as my official midlife crisis because I spent a chunk of money on it and sometimes it kindasorta makes me feel young, except when my finger joints creak and make me miss a shot, so his work here is already technically done and he can go convince some other fortysomething guy down the street to throw away his life instead of me tossing mine.
On second thought, now I feel ashamed for wishing that kind of ill upon anyone else. Dear hypothetical guy: Before you do anything rash that you’ll rue in your sixties, please think twice about your craving for hot cars and trophy wives, and maybe go consult your local electronics stores instead.