Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day- I don't care, I want my Xbox....

First of all, let me just say that I know I need to post more. I will be doing a better job of posting in April. I also know that I have yet to make something with wood or do anything manly. Short comings acknowledged. I could easily go through a string of compelling excuses, all of which I would have made up right before posting them, but I am not going to.

There is a more important thing to address.

I want to play video games, no wait, I NEED to play video games. My desire for gaming actually makes me excited to watch other people play video games, or even have them tell me about a time when they did play a video game. Even if it's absolutely ridiculous.

"Oh awesome, you played what again? Man, that sounds great. Tell me about it. You don't want to? Ha ha ha, I don't think you get it. You WILL tell me how cute the little digital dogs were and you WILL explain how fluffy the graphics made their coats look. Did you give them wet food or dry food? Did you enter them into the game's best in show? Don't hold out on me! I need details!!!!!"
Yeah, good times.
 The other day, I saw a documentary on British Royalty, and after seeing it, I wanted to play my Civilizations revolution game so bad that I almost threw out this entire project, just so I could play for a few minutes. But no worries, I didn't go through with it. I am still resolved to make it the entire year.
It remains that I have not played any video games, in any capacity what so ever, for an entire month.
And it sucks.
Or blows?
I can't decide which is more horrible.

P.S  My brother-in-law is still doing a great job of letting me know about all of the great games I am missing out on...awesome... 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Day 20 - Still Sane

So, it has been a while since I have posted. School and life tend to gum up project details. If anyone is wondering, no, I have not played any video games. I have been mainly writing papers and studying for tests, but I do plan to get back into my monthly projects shortly. Unfortunately, wood working was probably a bad choice for my first project. I am by no means abandoning my woodly aspirations, but getting started has been slower than I anticipated.

Sorry this post is short. More lengthy ones are soon to follow.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Day 9 The Itch Begins

(This blog post is dedicated to my younger brother, who has been doing a fine job of sending me passive aggressive text messages regarding my lack of blog posting.)

So it's day 9 and I can officially say I have started to feel itchy. Much like a crack addict with no crack, or a politician with no bribe offers. My brain is starting to get all guilty-conscience on me: "Hey, you know what would be good right now? Your Xbox, which by the way you've been neglecting. 9 days? How many more to go? Oh well, its not like you paid a lot of money for the thing." I think it is working against me, trying to trick me.... "Look in the box!!! It's your old game boy! Don't you remember how fun it was? If a game is 10 years old it doesn't count right? You still own pokemon... pokemon... POKEMON!!!!"

Needless to say, I want to play video games really bad. But oh well, the project goes on.

So quick update. I went to the library and paid my substantial fees. I needed a new card, which would have cost me two dollars, but the fee was waved since I was handing over a fist full of dollars anyway.
And here is what I got....
.... just enough knowledge to bring on the startling realization that I am in way over my head. You could say I am a bit... lost in the woods...

I believe I have settled on a fairly easy first project. I am going to build boxes. They will be wooden boxes, of course, in which I will put dirt. Lots of dirt.

I have begun to purchase some of my needed tools.

These gloves are awesome and I will be using them a lot. Remember those sweaty hands I mentioned? They will be stylishly covered in these durable, yet breathable, work gloves. Thank you, Lowe's.

Here will be my main weapon, my Excalibur if you will. With it I will maim and destroy wood-kind, breaking both its will and its spirit, in order to bend its body to my desires. Sound devious? Yes, yes it is, thus is the feeling you get when you hold a saw of this awesome magnitude. Also, it has interchangeable blades. It takes care of both my need for deviousness and my lack of decisiveness.

The last tool I will show is this handy dandy coping saw. As you can tell, it is not as destructive as the prior saw. This one is used for more delicate maneuvers.

I was hoping that it had the dual purpose of helping one cope with issues. But this is not so. No matter how long I hold it, I still hear, "Pokemon?"

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Day 2 – The calm before the storm?

It is day two of my little experiment. Things aren’t too bad, but it is still too soon for me to experience any real emotional distress. Despite what my wife thinks, I am quite capable of going a few days without video games, thank you very much.
This would be a good time for me explain my experiment in detail.
I will start with the rules:
Rule One: NO VIDEO GAMES. I know this seems redundant, but my whole project hinges on this first rule. I am not allowed to play any video games, ever, until March 1st 2012. This includes computer games, console games, web site games, IPhone games, hand held device games, etc. I am not even allowed to play Pong.  I can play ping-pong, but I may have to change that since it is basically an analogue of Pong.
Rule Two: Instead of playing video games, I will spend my extra time working on special skills or hobbies. These activities will grouped together by category and each category will be assigned its own month. I am allowed to do other activities besides the specified category, but my main focus for that month must be within the chosen topic.  Each month will also have some sort of end goal, something about which I can say, “Hey, look what I did!” These goals will be set once I am actually in each month, doing the activities.
Rule Three: My wife loves this one. I am only allowed to watch T.V. when my wife does.  Yes, I am sure this is every girl’s dream. This rule is to make sure that I actually work on my special projects, instead of transferring my gaming time into T.V. time. It is at this moment that I am glad I married a woman as nerdy as I am. My wife likes to both beam up and wield the force, which makes this rule easier to bear.
Rule Four: This rule is more of a commitment to my readers. I will commit to blogging at least once or twice a week, if not more, for the duration of the project.

Next is the tentative month-by-month schedule.

March — Handyman Month
Yes, that’s right, gamer to handy man! Being a gamer, I am apparently lacking in manliness. You would think that me being able gun down other gamers in Call of Duty: Black Ops would transfer into manliness points once I stopped playing, but I have since found out that there is no exchange rate for thumbs to biceps.
March’s main focus will actually be woodworking, since that was the manliest thing I can really think of. I ask you, what’s more manly then hairy dudes wielding axes and carving up slain trees? Slaying dragons, that’s what. But since dragons don’t exist, I will have to settle with carving up the pre-slain trees found at my local Lowe’s.

April — Gardening Month
This month I will be gardening… yay, plants. I’ll be putting my newly acquired woodworking skills to use to create above ground “gardening troughs” in which to plant nature’s bounty. My wife and I currently rent a house, and our land lord would probably not like me tilling his front lawn. So garden troughs it is! April’s activities will actually lead into August’s; August is going to be cooking month (more on that later), and I plan to use some of things I grow in the recipes I learn.

May — Outdoor Adventure Month
Can you hear it? I know I can! It is the baritone bellowing of adventure. After I attain maximum manliness in March, and get in touch with Mother Earth in April, I will be thrusting myself into the adventures of the outdoors.  Being a gamer, I have had most of my adventures while air conditioned and glued to a couch. Not this month. It will be time to get sweaty, and to be in the woods while I do it.  Or maybe a field? I don’t have anything really planned for this. Maybe I’ll spend three nights alone in a lean-to, or go backpacking, or maybe I’ll even oil wrestle a bear! Whatever I do, I am sure to be very uncomfortable and surrounded by predators.

June — Music Month
In my previous post, I talked about how my brothers learned how to play music while I played video games. That much is true, but the main reason I never learned music is not because I preferred video games. I actually have a really annoying condition. My hands kind of sweat…a lot. Yeah, yeah, whatever, I’m a big sweaty nerd, I know the cliché. My moist demeanor is unfortunately coupled with the skin condition of eczema on my hands. These two problems combine to make playing most instruments impossible. I could have learned the drums, but my younger brother inherited all the rhythm. 
You may be asking, “Hey sweaty guy, how are you going to pull off music month?” I will ignore your insult and go on to answering your question. To my delight, I have discovered the perfect blend between drums and string instruments. You may have heard of it: the hammered dulcimer! This thing is basically a trapezoidal piece of wood with strings across it. You hold a wooden hammer in each hand and strike the strings to play notes. It actually sounds pretty cool. The hammered dulcimer also compliments my nerdiness, since it is often used to play medieval music at renaissance festivals.

July — Physical Fitness Month
So as a gamer I am not the most physically fit individual. I am not some acne-ridden ogre, but I may be a bit…uh…soft. So that’s why July will be the time to get in shape! I am already trying to eat better and take regular walks, and who knows how Outdoor Adventure month will tone me up. But July will be a special focus on fitness. I am not just going to be lifting weights. I will be learning about more subtle arts, such as yoga or maybe Tai Chi. I have also agreed to do Pilates with my wife. I will probably also do some kick boxing so I can hold on to my perceived manliness. I will be balancing my downward dog with a punch to the gut. Fun.

August — Cooking Month
I love food, but I don’t really know how to make it. That’s why I am going to be in the kitchen in August. At this point, the stuff I will have been growing in my garden will be ready for preparation and consumption. I will probably feel really accomplished when I eat my garden produce, but may also feel devastated if I come to think of them as my pets.  My wife, mom and mother-in-law are all phenomenal cooks, so I am sure they will want to see what I can do.
I actually already know the goal for this month. It is both brilliant and terrifying. At the end of the month I will be cooking a full meal for my in-laws. That’s intimidating enough, but also throw in the fact that my mother-in-law is a food critic and Editor in Chief of — talk about pressure! But if I fail, it won’t be too bad… I’ll make sure to have her teach me some stuff, that way, if I fail, I can just blame her faulty teaching.
Also, is a great site where you can find all of the latest food trends and information. This site is actually going to be my main resource during the month of August and I suggest that everyone check it out!

September — Tactile Art Month
This month will signal my immersion into the arts. Gamer to Renaissance man, I say! By tactile arts I mean things like sculpting, pottery or stained glass. I remember enjoying pottery class when I was a kid, so this one should fun. My main focus is going to be sculpting. This has been something I have wanted to for a while but never really made time for.

October — Stereotypical Women’s Hobbies Month
I know how that sounds, but hear me out. My oh-so-wonderful-brother-in-law brought to my attention that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month; he further suggested that I should do women’s hobbies as a show of support. I have added the word “stereotypical” because I know that both women and men have a variety of hobbies and skills and are not necessarily confined to their stereotypes.  These are merely activities that are, historically, more often associated with women than with men.   
(Note:  When I told some of my friends about this month some of them got up in arms and said that it was demeaning to women. I want to make it abundantly clear that I respect women and their abilities and am in no way a bigot.)
That being said, some of chosen activities will be things like, sewing, knitting and maybe needlepoint. My mom is also a master seamstress and will probably be my advisor during this month. I know a lot of women who like to knit, my wife being one of them, but I actually have never met a man who knits or who has knit before. (I once saw a man crocheting a pink heart, but that was a very uncomfortable experience as he stared and winked at me, so I won’t count it.) Believe it or not, I am looking forward to this experience.

November — Culture Month
“To sleep, perchance to dream” – Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”
November, a month of refinement. This month will be solely dedicated to the activities of culture — and not pop culture, mind you. This month is probably the one my wife looks forward to the most. It is going to be filled with plays, operas and concerts. I will probably be picking up some Shakespeare or Sophocles to read. November could be very interesting, as I feel it may turn out to be a grab bag of various topics, philosophy, poetry, theatre, etc. I may also try to write my own short theatrical piece. To wear a beret or not to wear a beret? That will be the question… and maybe to also grow a curly mustache.

December — Free Month
At this point in my journey, I will have learned a lot of stuff. December will be for me to focus on some of my favorites and try to improve my proficiency. Who knows, maybe I’ll knit an afghan.

January — Paper Arts
It’s going to be cold, so I plan to be inside a lot. This month is going to be the perfect time to work on painting and drawing. This is another set of activities I am really looking forward to. Painting and drawing can be so beautiful and I have always wanted to become good at them. My doodles are pretty good, but nothing that can be considered art. My mom is a really good painter and my friend Collin can do it all. They will both be a great help during this month.  I may also attend some formal classes instead of just being locked up in my house day after day, continuing to doodle.

February — Writing Month
The last month! I am actually an aspiring writer. If this experiment works out really well, I may try and turn it into a book. February will a great time to sit down and compile all of my experiences. I also plan to work on a lot of short stories, many of which I will probably post. Thinking about it, I already feel kind of sad. February will be the end of the adventure. I will most likely be spending a lot of time thinking and reflecting on how the experience has changed me. What better to do than write about it?  

So there you have it, my year planned out to the knit-one purl-two. It’s going to be a crazy experience and I hope you join me for the ride.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March 1st, A new beginning?

Welcome to the Unplugged Project. I have something to ask you. What could you accomplish if you didn’t play video games? If you really don’t play many games, then this question will mean nothing to you. But if you’re like me, then you’ve probably already asked yourself the same thing. I have asked myself many times what I could accomplish if I gave up the one thing I enjoyed the most. After years and years of playing videogames, I have decided to try it. This project is my answer to that question.
            Before I go into the details of the project, let me give you a background of myself. I am recently married, 23 year old white male who plays an inordinate amount of video games, and is unfortunately still in college. I am pretty much the standard when it comes to gamers, except for the fact that I am in a relationship with an actual woman, of course. I have played video games since I was literally in diapers, age 2 to be precise.
(As I typed that, I immediately googled “What age do you potty train” and found that age two is considered a normal age to still be in diapers, so I have no shame in admitting on the internet that I was in diapers at age two.)
In the middle of the night, I would make frequent prison breaks from my crib and escape to the sweet freedom of Super Mario Bros. This resulted in my dad waking up to go to work and finding my two year old self asleep on the floor still clutching the Nintendo controller. Needless to say, I became obsessed immediately.
The subsequent years are a blur; it was just me in my basement conquering world after digital world. To this day, I have never gone more than a few days without playing video games, (this amazing feat was aided by my late grandma, who had bought me my first game boy.) and I have to say it felt great. I love video games; I think they are the most fun that anyone can really experience. What is better than being a hero in a world that is carefully crafted to make you feel awesome?
But as I sat in my basement, people around me started to learn pretty incredible skills. My older brother learned to play the guitar and eventually started playing in church, along with my younger brother, who started performing with the drums. My oldest childhood friend mastered the game of golf and was constantly tanner than me. Several of my other friends learned how speak different languages.
And what could I do? Well, I could beat most video games in less than three days, was the king and champion of every multiplayer game I was challenged to and had the ability to stay in my basement for a whole day surviving on nothing but a single bag of Cheetos. While my friends travelled to Germany, I stayed in Hyrule. And for a while, it was good.
But then that nagging question started to pop up. What could I accomplish if I didn’t play video games? As I got older I heard it repeated by many of my gamer peers. We would joke about it and laugh about how much time we waste day after day, but whenever our wives, parents, or girlfriends actually asked us to try it, our reply is that we would rather die. I heard it again when my wife and I were at a Christmas party; a fellow gamer shot off the question and then immediately laughed as his wife shot him a dirty look. I laughed too, we all did, but the question started to buzz in my head yet again. The next day it was still there, and the next, and then the next. After a week I was consumed by it. It seemed like an endless possibility to me. For all I knew, I could have been a guitar playing ambassador to China by now!
I made a decision and committed to finally answering that question. I decided that I would not play video games for an entire year. In that year I would work on special skills and projects that followed a theme for each month, one month would be music, another cooking, etc. All the while I would be recording my experiences in a blog, cataloguing all the pain and horror I was sure to experience, but also the new skills and insights I had hoped to gain.
And so here I am. It is March 1st and the first day of my project. Being the last day to play videos games for a whole year, I made sure to go on a gaming bender last night. But this morning I stuck to my commitment and ceremonially unplugged my Xbox. 21 years of gaming. I have played video games longer than some young adults have been alive. This year will be first break in that chain. My brother-in-law asked me today how I felt. All I can say is, I feel like I should have played more video games.