Tag Archives: Existential Crisis

Fear and Loathing on my 34th Birthday Sucks

Well, today is sadly June 22 and I’m officially thirty-four years old. I suppose this isn’t quite true until 9:50 a.m. but still, close enough. I’m thirty-four, and what does all of this even mean?

Probably nothing but I still can’t shake the dirty feeling that overtakes you when turning a year older, especially while in your thirties. It’s a mix of emotions that is hard to really process and make sense of. I feel old, but in a strange and unclear way. Not like old-old where I’m going to die soon and not old where I know it’s well past time to work on my goals and dreams. No, it’s like an intermediate old where you know time is running out and it’s about time to get working on your dreams and goals because it’s about past time when you can actually do these things. Over this time it’s time to settle down and find comfort in your life, relax, and reap the seeds you’ve sowed in your teens and twenties. But what if, like me, you haven’t sown any seeds? What if you’re still cruising through life at the ripe age in the mid-thirties still not knowing what you want to actually do in life? What if you’re so misguided that you still feel mentally like a damn teenager where the world still doesn’t make sense? At the cusp of my thirty-fourth birthday this is how I feel: like someone who should have everything figured out but who feels as dumb and clueless as they did nearly twenty years ago.

It’s hard to not shit all over yourself during times of reflection like these. They naturally led your mind to the thought of, “What have I accomplished? What does my life mean?” and I regretfully come up with nothing notable to mention. Thirty-four. Say it again. I’ve had thirty-four years to figure out what the hell my life means, what I want to do, and haven’t came to anything notable. Halfway to thirty-four? Seventeen. Still as clueless as I am now, but still somehow younger, naive, and more full of potential that I still haven’t realized. Fuck, halfway during my current life I was seventeen: Fuck. I don’t know how to even process that. It seems so long ago but yet still so familiar because I’m still the same person really. I feel just as I did halfway through my life years ago: still clueless, still lost, but with some hope that the future might clear something up for me. Protip: It Didn’t. I won’t. Time doesn’t clear shit up for anyone. If you’re in your teens and twenties and vibing with what I’m writing, you’re in for some shit. You’re just like me. You’ll never figure it out, you’ll never know what you want to do. And you better find solace in this fact wherever you can.

I project forward to when sixty-eight years old: the point that I’m halfway towards. I remember being twenty and projecting forwards to forty. There was still plenty of time between forty and the probable end of my life so it wasn’t a big deal. But now being halfway to sixty-eight? Doesn’t the average American male die at seventy-four? Seriously, I’m likely halfway through my life and haven’t accomplished a damn thing really. Fuck. This is scary. Halfway. I’m here. This is it. Time to clear shit up and get my stuff in order. Finish the race on a strong note.

Let’s also not forget that my lifestyle will probably kill me well before I reach seventy, and sometimes I’m worried I’ll die before I’m fifty or fourty. And how do you deal with that fact that you could be 80% finished with your life at thirty-four years old?

As much as I love self-hatred, I still can’t get over some aspect of loving myself. I still think I have something to offer the world — that I’m special in some way — and that I haven’t realized how to channel it yet. It’s a struggle of how to view yourself that I can’t fully explain. I just can’t get over the fact that, yes, I might have something special and meaningful to offer the world and I just can’t seem to realize it and capitalize on it. Like I have all the talents needed to make something of my life but just can’t seem to put it all together into something useful. Like I’ve squandered any gifts that have been given to me and after thirty-four years I still can’t realize how to use the gifts that are somehow inherently what makes me, Jeremy, unique and special.

It leads to a feeling of uselessness: if I haven’t discovered this in thirty-four years, why would I learn it in the next year? The next five? The next ten? Or even the next thirty-four years when I’m likely to be near the end of my life? My life seems to be a mess of squandering anything good given to me in some twisted form of self-destruction. I could’ve been an airline pilot by now had I made the right choices. Hell, I could’ve been anything by now had I made the right choices. But what am I? Some blogger dude who works at UPS, still struggling and floundering to do something notable in the face of total failure that can’t seem to be proud of anything he has accomplished. Today is my thirty-fourth birthday, and it’s going to be a bland day indeed. Another day, another orbit around the sun, and another year of not doing a goddamn thing to further myself. Another day and year to squander my gifts. So, cheers, here’s to another year on the planet Earth…

Video Game Endings Suck: The In-Game Existential Crisis

I can think of three general ways to end a video game. Firstly, there are games that don’t have a plot or a story to even end: think of multiplayer first-person shooter/battle royale games like Fortnite, Apex, or Black Ops IV. You can probably toss simulation and puzzle games into this category too; Microsoft Flight Simulator doesn’t have a plot or an ending. You just fly around and when you’re done you’re done. The same is true for Tetris. The second way to end a game is to, well, end it. These games have a plot and story and obviously the developers have to wrap it up somehow. There are a few ways to do this as well. They can end the game in a “harsh” where you can no longer play the game. Think of Dark Souls or Bioshock Infinite. When the game is over, the game’s over. There’s also the “open-ended” endings in this category where despite beating the main quest you are still able to play the game. Skyrim is a great example here. You kill Alduin, save the world, yet you can still wander around and do shit afterwards. These games have a clear ending to the main quest. There is a point where you’ve clearly beaten the game.

By far the worst way to end a game is to have no ending. I’m not talking about the plotless multiplayer games from above either: I’m talking narrative and story-driven open world games that are so open ended there is no ending. The Sims, Kerbal Space Program, Minecraft, and Stardew Valley are all great examples of games with no endings.

On the surface this all sounds like a great idea: with a game that is open and neverending you can play forever, right? No. These games do have endings even if they’re not explicitly stated; their endings are much more depressing when you think about them too much. These games end in the in-game equivalent of existential depression: the eventual realization that there is nothing else to do in the game. After the challenge is over, you have everything you could ever want or need, accomplished everything you’ve wanted to do, what option do you have besides giving up?

Not that these games lack story or gameplay progression which is usually in the form of crafting progression and/or unlocking items. The whole point of Minecraft survival mode seems to be unlocking items and finding materials. A good example are nether portals. To create these you usually need to craft a diamond pickaxe and diamond is one of the rarest things to find in the game. You need to bury deep within the ground to even find diamond, so unlocking a nether portal (to unlock all of the nether-unique items) takes some work. It gives you something to progress towards. Even if there is no actual narrative story, you have something to drive you further into the game.

Stardew Valley — the main inspiration of this post because it depicts a relatively believable story, farming — uses items to drive progression. The requirement to water your crops everyday adds a huge incentive to upgrade the watering can, which costs money and ores, which in turn requires a large farm, which itself requires an upgraded watering can, which requires exploring the mines, which requires the item to smelt ore. This singular goal — upgrade the watering can — is one of the primary struggles in Stardew Valley. As I hope you can understand now, upgrading the watering can involves hours of gameplay and progression. Carrying the watering mechanic to its limit are the sprinklers; items that automatically water crops daily without you doing a damn thing. Obviously they are a massively sought after item. The best sprinkler requires iridum, a ridiculously rare crafting ingredient that is most easily found in the Skull Cavern. Stardew Valley is fantastic by giving you natural gameplay incentive to progress throughout the game. Most items you unlock make the game easier or your farm more efficient. Progressing through the game is just a struggle to make your life easier!

These games work amazingly well until you run out of incentives to progress. Minecraft is especially terrible because once you’ve built yourself three golden castles towering into the sky, then what? You literally have everything you can even need or want in the game, so what do you do? The same is true in Stardew Valley as it’s another one of the “endless games” that you can play for literal years in-game with no completion. Once you’ve developed the community center and have millions of dollars, then what? When you have a massive farm that prints money all by itself with minimal effort and input from you, then what? After you’re married and had a few kids, then what? Eventually Stardew, and all games like this, reach a point where there is no incentive to play anymore. You’re bored with your in-game life and there isn’t anything else to drive you forward. Your in-game life literally becomes pointless and eventually you simply stop playing. It’s an in-game existential crisis. You question your purpose and what the meaning of all your progress even was. Sure you had fun playing the game, but now what?

It isn’t difficult to allow this dreaded outlook to bleed into your view of life in general. Usually success IRL is a lot more difficult than success in Stardew Valley (imagine trying to have a successful farm on your own IRL), Minecraft (imagine trying to live in the woods and survive for years with absolutely nothing except what you can personally create), or in any other “neverending” game, but the slight and ever-present sense of nihilism depicted in the end of these games always seems to underscore life itself. I just don’t think we ever get to that point in life where you can ask yourself “now what?” Life is so difficult, complicated, and multifaceted that I don’t think anyone can ever feel like they’ve “beaten life” like you can in a video game. There’s always something else to challenge you. But still, some part of me imagines this happening someday especially to certain people. Those who have a nice house, so much money that they don’t know what else to spend it on, and where life appears to have been beaten. I’m imagining this is how Olympic athletes and sports stars feel: their lives are so one-dimensional and filled with a singular goal that once it’s achieved — they win the gold medal or the Superbowl or whatever — that they might feel this crushing and final question of “now what?” that I always feel at the end of certain video games. I feel really sorry for these people and I don’t know if I’m lucky or not by thinking that I’ll never reach the end of what I want to accomplish in life. I don’t think I’ll ever be asking myself “now what,” but what if that means I never reached the end of the game? Like I hadn’t properly beaten it? What if that means I’ve failed?