Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Mundane Voyage of Self-Discovery

So about a month ago, I realized something about myself. Let me set the scene:

A friend in my graduate program was considering constructing a reading course for herself on the subject of games and feminism, and asked if I could suggest anything. I could. In fact, I pretty much stopped what I was doing, and spent the next hour or two developing a list. And it was after I sent it to her and felt a mild ping of satisfaction that I came to my self-realization.

I really like making lists.

Cross-checking databases, compiling information, gathering sources--this is my wheelhouse. I don't mean to say that any of these activities are fun. Because they're not, not really. It's not about fun--it's about doing something that I find personally satisfying. Why, I'm not sure. It may be the sense of mild accomplishment, or the pleasure of organizing something. And again, "the pleasure of organizing" sounds weird, until you stop and think that cleaning a room or cooking can both be loosely referred to in those terms. I've heard it said that the chief pleasure of many videogames, from Tetris to DOOM, is that they're all games about cleaning things up, whether it's errant tetrads of demon-spawned monsters. So even my videogame passion can be explained in terms of this satisfaction.

The weird thing is, this preference came like a huge shock to me, when it's a pattern I've preferred my whole life. Two years ago, I took it upon myself to set up a catalog of the department library's books. Whenever I get ready to write a paper, the first thing I do is read all the relevant research, summarize it, summarize the summary, summarize the summary of the summary, and collate it into my summary database. (Ok, I'll admit--that one's insane.) I've got a database filled with game blog criticism that runs over 600 entries, each typed by yours truly. Hell, this blog can be seen as one very long example of the tendency, especially the Bibliophile posts which are basically a never-ending task of combing databases and typing out commentary.

Psychologically speaking, a quick google search on this sort of tunnel-vission-esque obsessive working pulls up Asperger's Syndrome, specifically the part that references "an intense focus on topics of special interest" as a symptom. I don't think that's quite what's going on with me; for one thing, that description covers 90% of everyone who had a hobby, most Canadians during the Olympic hockey games, and everyone who ever went to grad school. For another, the same document says that another major symptom is being frustrated with having to do mundane and boring tasks, and this *is* a mundane and boring task.

So I don't know exactly what my list-like (can't think of a good word for it--database drive? search pleasure?) means in terms of the big book of What's Wrong With the Modern Human. But since I'm now aware of it, it means I can use it. Maybe not get rid of it, per se, but be aware of how it affects my actions. If I'm spending too long on the research phase of a project, it's time to reign it in. Counterwise, if I'm looking for what I can add a group project, I can push it in a useful direction. That, I think, is the real benefit to knowing yourself. Not necessarily trying to change towards something you're not, or something you can't do (though incremental change in a direction is usually possible), but knowing your strengths and how to shape events around yourself to best utilize those strengths.

Or maybe I should stick to talking about videogames.

Later Days.

No comments: