|My dad (and me) at my christening in 1976|
I’m a child of the 80’s, so I remember back when video games were literally black and white (in the case of Pong), or green and lighter green (in the case of type-your-instructions RPGs), depending on your game. Game consoles didn’t come with memory cards, so when you turned your game back on, you had to start from the very beginning, every single time.
Like a lot of kids back then, my first game console was a Mattel Intellivision. We got it for Christmas when I was 6 or 7 and I have one very distinct memory from that time.
The day my father set it up was the day he gave me a lesson in persistence.
I didn’t know it then though. I thought it was a lesson in “adults will always play kids games first” and “little kids just have to wait until the big kids finish” or maybe “men just never grow up”.
Anyway, with that first ever game console, Santa brought us 2 games - Tron Deadly Discs and Checkers Draughts.
That first day, while all of us kids were out playing with our other shiny new toys, my dad set up the Intellivision and stuck the Checkers cartridge in to have play. Nothing unusual about that with my dad really, since he usually got to have first play with our toys so he knew how things worked.
Well, my dad played that thing for hours against the computer. I don’t know how many times I went back inside to see if I could have a turn only to see the screen unchanged and dad working out his next move.
You have to remember, this was before the internet and walk-throughs, so when the computer beat you, you had to work out why yourself and then counteract it the next time you played.
I think it may have been dark outside by the time my father triumphed over the computer, and I don’t know how many times he lost against it to get that one win. I just remember how stubborn and determined he was to not let a stupid machine beat him in a simple game like checkers.
Here’s why I think that lesson is important now.
Today, we have so many options to take the easy way out. We have books and websites and apps that tell us how to do things, the way we should live and how to beat games. Lots of people watch the movie but never read the book.
We have instant gratification. We want things, and very often, we get them now. Our attention spans seem to be on the decline. If it’s not interesting right from the start, we discard it. If we buy something second-hand, we only want it after someone else has spent the time restoring it.
I think the challenge is to remember that the things we tend to appreciate the most come to us from hard work and persistence.
Kind of like my writing.
I’ve been at this gig for nearly 13 years now. A lot of people tell me I’m crazy. Sometimes I think I just might be. How can I keep doing something that hasn’t paid me a cent? How can I keep wanting a career in an industry that is so hard to get into, and then stay in?
Because it’s who I am.
I love writing, even during the times I say I hate it. Why? Because occasionally, I read something back and I can see how good I am. I can see how good I am getting after 13 years, and I can see how much better I can become.
Just like my dad, I’m determined to work on what I’m doing wrong so that I can be better. Instead of competing with a computer, I’m competing with myself, and sometimes others, trying to tell me I’ll never be good enough.
Just like my dad, I’m not going to give up because it gets too hard.
Unlike my dad though, and lucky for me, computers now have memory. Everything I ever write can be saved and re-read. So unlike my dad, learning from my mistakes is a little less frustrating.