Dead Trees are Superior to Virtual Ones

12 Jul

“#(%$& You!” I screamed at the screen, loud enough to echo into my neighbor’s homes, furious at the legal outrage that had been done to me. That was impossible, I knew, I should have been able to block that! Their *$&#*% programming is @#*$! Yet there I was, my temper raging, furious at a black screen. I had lost another game of Magic: The Gathering.

As my wife has taught me well, the second I start yelling at the screen, it’s time to stop playing the game. So that’s what I did. This never happens in person. I never go to the game store, play a round of Magic: The Gathering, and start yelling loudly at my opponent when I lose. Yet it happens on a regular basis in the virtual version. So much so, in fact, I frequently stop playing it for months at a time because I realize it’s not entertainment… it’s punishment.

So this got me thinking, why does it bug me so much in virtual space when it doesn’t bug me at all in real space? My cards are better in Arena, I win at least half the time there, as compared to real space where I never win. I realized that the difference is simple. In real life, I can face my opponent, I realize he’s not out to get me, he’s just trying to have fun. When you don’t have those non-verbal cues, all you’re thinking is negative, and that reinforces negative feedback. This is why MTG Arena is programmed to only allow the players to type five things to their opponent and none of them are negative.

Mentally, I know this. So when my opponent smacks me down with a power combo, my mouth says “#*&$ You!”, but I’ve learned to just click “Nice!” on the screen. It’s my way of saying the same thing, but politely. 🙂

Now let’s extend this to other forms of virtual space. I love having the Kindle app on my phone, it’s great to read a lot of books, and it also means I don’t have carry my bulky dead tree versions with me. On the other hand, I have emotional connections with my library. I know exactly when and where I’ve read all these books in the past. On the Kindle… I have no connection. I connect with the authors who wrote them, but the actual eBook itself, nothing.

I’ve realized that although my job (instructional designer) is completely on the computer, eight hours a day, I’d probably be happier if I had a job that didn’t require one. As much as I try to expand my social media presence, I hate the fact that I have to do it, wishing I could slough it off on a publisher’s PR department.

So how do I find a balance? The same way with the video games. When it gets too much, simply step away from it, and no one gets hurt. I’ll have to come back after a while, especially for my job, but distance from the screens helps. I try to seek out human interaction, even in the Age of Coronavirus, but I really have to fight against my isolationist tendencies. It doesn’t have to be much, but it has to be enough.

What’s your strategies for interacting with people in person in our days of shutdown? What novel ways have you freaked out at a screen? Put them in the comments below!

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