Sunday, June 2, 2013

Vocation and Video Games

I'm currently taking a class called "Leading Productive Lives" wherein we examine the various facets of life and incorporate Jesuit ideals into them. Note: I am not Catholic.This week's was about vocation and choosing your life's work. Mine was about video games, so I thought I'd go ahead and post it here. Also, my Mom's been saying she wants to read one of the essays I have written for this class. Win-win-win. Enjoy.

The evolution of my vocation and work through my life so far has been fairly typical. The first time that I began to think seriously about what I wanted to be when I grew up I obviously wanted to fly fighter jets. I was eight years old at the time and my father taught aircraft maintenance in the Air Force. On weekends we would go to the grocery store on the base and I would get the see planes and jets of all sorts, both in the air and on the ground, and each and every one was fascinating. Then, I learned a little more about the nature of money and that it doesn’t just come out of ATM’s whenever you want to go to Burger King.
            I got over being a pilot quickly when I discovered that doctors made a lot of money. I still wanted to be in the Air Force, of course, as all of the doctors that I knew at the time were in the Air Force. Additionally, I wouldn’t have to pay for my college and I would still get to go on military bases and have a military ID card when I grew up. That seemed important at the time. If I had been about 15 years older the fact that members of the US military had socialized health care and the rest of the population did not would have carried a lot more weight. However, the concept of health insurance and benefit packages are a little beyond 10-year-olds.
            My ideals changed again when I found out that being a dentist is just like being a doctor but a lot easier. You had your own little office. People came at regularly-scheduled intervals. Everything you have to do is fairly simple and you have sweet gadgets to help you do them. Also, one of my first dentists had two arcade games that you didn’t have to put quarters into in his waiting room. Bingo. I had found the ideal career. Additional benefits included that I could still be in the military and that I would for sure get to be “The Boss” at work. I was 14 and had everything figured out.
            Unfortunately, I was yet to consider how much I would actually enjoy any of these careers. Being a dentist would certainly pay well, but is that something I would actually enjoy? My thoughts about vocation began to mature a little when I got into high school: I found out that Orthodontists made even more than Dentists, but I found the work to be less pleasant so I was not interested. This was the first time I had considered something other than income when thinking about my life’s work. I was yet, however, to consider any of my actual interests or things that I enjoyed doing.
            My major interests in high school consisted of playing and talking about video games, programming my (and others’) graphing calculator to do funny things, messing around on my parents’ and school computers to see how they worked, and girls. At no point in my public school experience did I, even once, consider that I could find work related to any of my interests. Granted, I don’t believe there are any honorable professions related to “girls.” But the point of the matter is that that there was most definitely work to be had in my other interests.
            I did not ever perceive of the concept of work/vocation being related to my interests until I read a speech given by Norm Nemrow, an accountant, who created and sold a very successful real estate firm in the 80’s and discovered that simply no longer needed to work in his early 30s. He then struggled to find what he would do with all of his time, as he didn’t have to go work anymore. First he tried golfing full time, but it was not fulfilling. Gradually, he discovered that his real passion lay in teaching. And since he already happened to have a master’s degree in accounting, he became an accounting professor. He found that he was able to pour all of his passion into this new job and found more personal fulfillment in it than anything else he had ever done.
            I was blown away by this revelation. If I played my cards right, and became qualified, I could actually get paid to do something I already enjoyed. This was the Holy Grail. I was then 19 and had it all figured out.
Since then I have had some trial and error with educational and career paths. It took me a while to really give up on the ideal of being wealthy and to not put income as a major factor in my choice of career. There are much more important things in life than money, even with the desire to use it in noble ways. I cannot deny that I still want to “have it all” (2003) in spite of the changes in career and later start date to really landing that career. I have also struggled for some time to really embrace the things that hold my interest and attention the most and in which I feel I can really make a contribution. I’ve always feared that people would find me to be juvenile or just a dork. Personal fulfillment eventually won out.
Bonhoeffer said that “vocation is the place at which one responds to the call of Christ and thus lives responsibly.” (2005) How is making video games for a living responding to a call from the Savior and living responsibly? It is because I have chosen to immerse myself in our society’s fastest growing form of entertainment and do what I can to make its community accountable. I will not be part of projects that I feel are morally reprehensible, but I will challenge prejudice and seek to raise the level of discourse surrounding the new art form.
            I feel this outlook directly correlates with Buechner’s sentiment that “The place God calls you is where your deep gladness and world’s deep hunger meets” (1973). Gaming has taken a role of allowing the player to experience an alternate reality to their own. This can be an uplifting and thought-provoking experience, an experience just for the sake of fun and excitement, or simply an excuse to fantasize about base desires. It is my gladness and, I believe, the world’s need to engage in psychologically and morally stimulating entertainment. This is what I hope to do in my vocation.
This is the reason I am studying Computer Science with an aim to go into the video game industry. I no longer feel that I have everything figured out, but I know this is what I like to do, something I can contribute in, and will at least make enough money to support my family. In truth, I feel like the only thing I have figured out is that if this idea crashes and burns, I will at least have had new learning experiences that I can take with me to the next possible vocation (1990). However, I am optimistic and feel that good things are on a horizon.
Wuthnow, B. (2003). “The Changing Nature of Work in the United States: Implications for Vocation, Ethics, and Faith” In M. R. Schwehn & D. C. Bass (Authors), Leading lives that matter: What we should do and who we should be. (pp. 90-100) Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub.
Bonhoeffer, D. (2005). "The Place of Responsibility" In M. R. Schwehn & D. C. Bass (Authors), Leading lives that matter: What we should do and who we should be. (pp. 107-111) Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub.
Buechner, F. (1973). "Vocation" In M. R. Schwehn & D. C. Bass (Authors), Leading lives that matter: What we should do and who we should be. (pp. 111-112) Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. 

Hardy, L. (1990). "Making the Match: Career Choice" In M. R. Schwehn & D. C. Bass (Authors), Leading lives that matter: What we should do and who we should be. (pp. 90-100) Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub.

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