Last night I attended the Marjane Satrapi talk in Pittsburgh and was moved and entertained by Marjane's presence: her sense of groundedness, her sense of humor, her pragmatism and honesty. I saw in her some qualities that I sometimes find in myself when I'm at my best, and seeing her on the stage gave me a renewed sense of of self in an odd way. Her discussion about comic books reminded me a bit of video games. In the same way people want to call a comic book a "graphic novel" because they're embarrassed to be caught reading comic books, so are academic types often embarrassed to admit they play video games, although both comic books and video games are simply new forms to deliver both information and stories.
I was also interested in a stray comment she made about what she is writing about now. She talked about working on a movie and said something like, "It's about Iran because that's what I know, it's what I am, what I know best." She doesn't seem to feel like she has to move on to something else, that, for better or worse this is her subject. I have felt that way about my family, about Louisiana, that this is what I know best, but have also felt the need to break away from that, and this experiment with writing about WoW is one attempt to do just that. As much as I have enjoyed the freedom to think and write about playing this game, and as much as I do believe I'll generate some interesting essays about it, writing about the game feels a bit empty somehow not thick enough, not layered enough, because of course, no matter how much you bring to it, it's not reality. There's no blood when you kill in WoW, and if there were I probably wouldn't play it. I know lots of games where there's lot of fake blood when you kill, but it's fake and you know it. There are no smells, no real animals, no real land, no real water, no real food, and even the colors and impressive landscapes seem one-dimensional. What I've learned is that there are real relationships that can develop between people in these games, though, and perhaps that's one of the attractions of the online games.
I've recently had an awful thing happen, so awful I can't even write about it in this blog (although I will, in time). It involved a betrayal on the part of a colleague and friend, a betrayal that also damaged someone for whom I have responsibility. I've spent the weekend depressed and sad and knowing that I can never count on this person again, and that my own work for the next year will be in some sense doubled because of this betrayal. An ending.
Although I'm sad about the betrayal and a little sad that I'm moving into a new stage of the video game writing project, both are endings that imply a new start, the excitement of new essays possibly published in print form (I still get excited, after all these years, by the prospect of publication), and a new shape to my own work because of this betrayal. I remember that when the winds of Katrina knocked down the huge oaks I loved in a forest in Algiers, the space in the forest canopy allowed some of the stunted oaks and other saplings that were hanging out in the dark, to shoot up into the light, double their size and girth in less than a year. Something lost, something gained, my mother used to say.
A death, a birth. A loss, a rich soil for planting new seeds whose hulls will break open in the dark, their green fingers clutch through dirt, reaching for sun.