Gone Portable

In California for the Christmas-New Year’s-Birthday stretch, the Holiday Trifecta that is mine and all the other Capricorns’. It’s been an intermittently fun and stressful trip, but it’s going well these past several days. It’s 2011. Welcome to the future.

Managed to finagle a laptop out of the combined efforts of 3 family members (only 1 of which has a stable income). A cheap little Netbook with no CD drive and temperamental wifi abilities; it’s perfect. While I may use it to occasionally play a game, I’ll probably delete most games after a week or two. It’s not that kind of laptop.

This little monster means I can take OEM’s development out of my bedroom. Working 6 feet from my bed has been hard. Living with artists I get to hear a lot that I’m not crazy and it’s not just me – it can be damn hard to work in your live-space. Especially because my desktop computer is where I surf the ‘net, listen to music, and play video games. I can lose hours to the thing. And on days I’m not working a day job, I barely leave my bedroom save to put food in and, a few hours later, use the bathroom.

The lappy means I can, for one, work in the common area and actually see my housemates. The ability to turn the screen to someone and say “here’s what I just did” is the whole reason game jams exist; too often we don’t get enough of that. But even more importantly is that I can take game dev out into the sunlight! The laptop has internet, Game Maker, and PxTone Collage. That’s it. If I find a spot just far enough from any unrestricted wifi, then, try as I might, there is nothing to do on this laptop other than make games and make music.

That’s the idea.

The Mac back home handles all the big programs – that’s where I can edit videos and record audio and edit podcasts and animate in Flash. (And, of course, building the Mac version of OEM.) The lappy is for jamming. All artists need to sketch, and it’s been getting terribly hard to sketch when, to stretch the metaphor, I’m sitting at my goddamn easel.

It still feels a bit weird having this new hunk of machinery. I’ve spent 1 1/2 years working with youth in poverty, and living only marginally above (or sometimes below) the poverty line myself. Having a second computer, no matter what it provides me, is still redundant, and it’s hard to defend the luxury. It was cheap, relativistically speaking, but more money than I could afford any time soon, and took the collaborative efforts of both parents and my gainfully-employed sister.

I don’t inherently have a problem with luxuries, especially when they’re so few and far between, though the fact that none of the kids I work with come from families that could afford similar treats is sobering. It’s the reason I still don’t have an iPhone; convenience just isn’t defensible when the cost of your phone could feed a small family for a month. When you’re broke, it seems very strange to watch people with money satisfy all their needs and then fritter the rest of their money on trifles. You’d think the wealthiest nation on the planet could find something constructive to do with its wealth, no?

Frankly, computer games themselves are luxuries, as is most art. The point (if I have a point) isn’t that we should never indulge in a luxury, but that maybe we should remember that some luxuries will bring us a real benefit (I will generally be happier if I can take my work out of my bedroom, if I have an iPod with some good albums on it, and possess pair of decent headphones for both). And some luxuries are just a way of pissing our money away. I try to think long and hard about every special thing I can afford and determine if it will actually do me any measurable good.

If it won’t, I feel it could be better spent somewhere else. There’s too much need in the world to satisfy my every want.

Anyway. Another blog follows presently.

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