Video Games

I’ve had this metaphor in my mind for a while now, so I think I’m gonna write it down to make sense of it in a space that’s not my mind. I think it’s a cool one.

I was never allowed to play video games as a child. As with most things fun, my parents were strongly against video games. They thought they were a waste of time and there was nothing valuable I could abstract from them. Of course, this changed dramatically when I turned ten and we bought an iPad. Then, I was allowed to get one game: you were given the name of a country and you had to identify it’s flag from a panel of twelve. It was my first foray into hedonism.

Okay, now I’m just being unnecessarily petty and going off topic. My point is that I have zero knowledge of video games and it’s not really my fault. So, if there’s holes in this metaphor, you know who to blame.

As all people do, I have many versions of myself. As fewer people do, I like to structinise these different versions.

I could delve into how I go through this, but you don’t care enough about that. You’re here for the video games metaphor. Be patient.

In all my studies of myself, I break down different versions of myself by place. I’ve got a Bombay, Bangalore and Boston version of myself: the three places I call home for one reason or another. And that makes sense, right? Three places, three different purposes, three different experiences, three different people.

I grew up in Bombay; I lived there for the first 18 years of my life. This version of myself is greatly shaped by the people I grew up around. There’s a very social, external factor to this place and this person. You’re not really a person as a child; you extract things from the world around you and imbibe it into the person you’re becoming. I grew up around people. The Bombay version of myself is very much an extension and reflection of the people I was surrounded by.

Then, the location of my home moved to Bangalore. Here, I had nobody but my parents and their empty house. A lot of myself here is just angst caused by my parents, binging on ships and streaming a soapy show. Very graceful, I know. Annoyingly enough, this last time I was in Bangalore, I may or may not have fallen in love, and now there’s a lovesick and heartbroken element to this person too. But that’s a part that we’re going to ignore for a while.

Finally, the location of my home came to Boston. Here, it was just me: standing alone in the snow and gazing at the moon through branches of leaf-less trees. No friends, no family, no lover – just me. A lot lonely Saturday nights spent in front of my notebook; a lot of elevating walks by the river. This version of myself, I describe as scared but strong, silent, selfless and sinister. When everything else was stripped away, I was just left with the core of the person that I was. I discovered that I actually liked this person.

But because I keep moving between these places, I keep moving between these versions of myself. Here’s where the I name-check the title. Because I’m so aware of these different versions of myself, but also because there are so intrinsic now, I feel as if I’m switching between characters in a video game.

You’re disappointed. I can tell. It’s not as grand as I made it out to be, but I think it’s a neat little way of thinking about this.

It’s like I pick between these different characters in my mind. Of course, it’s not as quick and easy, but it’s like a drop-down bar and I pick the weapons I want.

Because of the Covid-19 Pandemic, the game only let me play as Bombay and Bangalore. I was denied Boston. But right now, I’m in Boston. I’m wearing this costume again for the first time in a long time. It fits right, but it doesn’t feel right.

I lived a whole year since I flew across the Atlantic back to Asia. I have seen, heard and done many things and my heart has gotten a little battered. I read a bunch of books, heard a bunch of music and stared a whole lot at the moon. I’m not the same person as I left.

Switching between Bombay and Bangalore is never too hard because in their essences, they’re still not all that different. The people that I surround with myself don’t change. They are rarely ever different. But Boston was always different. And now it’s even more complex.

I don’t really see this as a problem though. Boston was always the hardest character to play – even in the beginning. I think I am still figuring out all the kinks: adjusting the brown leather jacket, sharpening the knife in my boots, and I think this will always be the hardest character to play. But this is that character that always wins the game.

Bombay and Bangalore are the characters you play to pass the time and feel better. You don’t want to think or try to hard. You want an easy game. There’s an infinite number of lives. But if you really want that intensity, to be reminded what being alive is like, to feel every nerve and the cells it reaches out to, Boston is the character to play.

Boston is the hardest character to play, but she wins the video game.

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