I grew up losing myself in books and video games, yet somehow I never quite felt like I belonged in the communities that sprung up around these interests. I could talk for days with fellow fans of The Dresden Files or World of Warcraft about the content itself, but when it came to anything else, anything in the domain of “real life”, the connection just wasn’t there. I never understood what was going on until I read an unassuming essay by Luke Cuddy, a professor of philosophy at Southwestern College.
The essay appeared in World of Warcraft and Philosophy, a book that I picked up expecting an entertaining read more than any actual life-changing content. For the most part I was right, save for Cuddy’s essay: A Meaningless World…of Warcraft. I highly recommend anyone interested in the subjects of Warcraft or philosophy pick up the book and check out the essay for themselves, but I will summarize the main points here.
The essay uses Warcraft and gaming in general to lay out a CliffsNotes version of Friedrich Nietzsche’s general philosophy. Longtime gamers eventually reach a point where they start to ask themselves whether there is a “point” to the rules and objectives of any given game. Those that fail to come up with a satisfying answer are faced with nihilism, or the idea that things are inherently pointless. Many gamers, however, will respond by making up their own rules or objectives, playing games differently than they were intended to be played but still having fun and creating meaningful experiences on their own terms.
Some rare gamers will then extrapolate this philosophy to the real world. What is life if not its own kind of game, inherently pointless in its own way? This general nihilism is one reason people start playing games in the first place: life is pointless, but at least in Warcraft your actions feel like they matter. If life is a game, though, a jaded player can still reinvent their own life, finding meaning according to their own personal rules, their own unique objectives. A gamer who comes to this conclusion, whether they have even heard the name Nietzsche before, has transformed into the self-actualized, fully-realized being that Nietzsche called the Ubermensch, or Overman.
When I finished the essay, I put down the book and just sat there in silence for a long, long time. I finally understood why books and games meant something different to me than to everybody else.
People turn to fantasy when they find something lacking in their own lives. This is called escapism, and I am not pretending to be above it. I was one of the weird kids, scrawny and unpopular and lacking in basic social functionality. I spent my time reading The Dresden Files and playing World of Warcraft because it was easier for me than participating in real life.
But doing it made me unhappy. I was reading about or role-playing as heroes, larger-than-life figures who put themselves out there and changed the world. I didn’t want to fantasize about that, I wanted to do that. While my friends saw escapism as an end in itself, I saw it as inspiration. I wanted access to strange and arcane knowledge like Harry Dresden, so I studied hard and learned to travel and investigate. I wanted to be in peak physical condition like my Blood Elf Hunter in Warcraft, so I joined a gym and started running. More than anything, I wanted to have adventures, so I left my books and computer at home and went to live in the real world.
That’s how I found Venezia, my other half, and discovered that there are other people out there who think like I do. People who turn to fantasy for inspiration, and for whom the goal is not escapism, but self-actualization. I want to meet these people, so we can share experiences and have adventures together.
This whole idea is still in its genesis. We’re still figuring out where we want to go with it, and we’re very open to feedback and suggestions. For now, we have a vague plan to produce three distinct kinds of content:
- A video series chronicling our attempts to introduce each other to our respective worlds. Venezia, a native Mexican, will help me (Evaric), a hopeless gringo, explore and adapt to life in my new country. Meanwhile, I will introduce her to the strange and terrible world of video games. Between my childlike attempts to speak Spanish and her unfamiliarity with gaming, I expect the result to be somewhere between hilarious and unbearably embarrassing.
- This blog, where we’ll write more generally about books, games, Mexican culture, self-improvement, and whatever else strikes our fancy.
- A more traditional gaming-focused Twitch stream, where I’ll play competitive Hearthstone and just generally attempt to drag down my much more skilled brother who, if it weren’t for my meddling, would probably have gone pro years ago.
Any feedback would be highly appreciated! Let us know what you think, what you’d like to see going forward, or what ways to creatively embarrass ourselves we’ve overlooked. This project is about building a community of like-minded individuals, which is a fancy way of saying that this project is about you. Tell us what gets you excited, what inspires you, and what you want the adventure of your life to look like, and we’ll do our best to deliver!