I keep thinking about this analogy. Don’t judge, it’s nerdy, but I still think about this more than you might think. I often think about my stamina for dealing with awkward social situations in Ethiopia as a type of health meter from a video game. Every morning I wake up at 100%, but as soon as I leave my house, my meter begins to drain as I walk around. Then as I go about my day, certain events can increase the bar or other events can make it drain quicker. If the bar reaches zero, then you fail; game over. In reality you will have an emotional breakdown, snap at some innocent kid, or mope around stewing in your own depression for the rest of the day. Therefore you have to play the game well to prevent this meter from ever reaching zero while you are out in public. This is usually not very difficult, but sometimes, the quest of being a Peace Corps volunteer in remote Ethiopia can surprise you.
So this got me started on a whole video game tangent and I made a few mock-up screenshots in Photoshop for my imaginary game.
I grew up playing video games. I never really got into role playing games (RPG)s, but played a few of them over the years. These are games that focus on leading a character, or a team of characters, around a mysterious world battling evil, meeting people, and doing quests. Your goal is to save the princess, world, whatever, and you encounter various characters and puzzles as you progress. You are usually guided by some sort of quest log that is updated as your character finds and completes tasks. As you play the game, your character builds up experience points, hit points (health), magic points, etc. so by the end of the game (if there is one) you are significantly more skilled than when you started. For example you may start the game as a level 1 peasant that can’t cast a single spell, and end up as a level 49 warrior with resurrection magic capabilities. One swing of your level 49 character’s battle axe would pulverize your former self, after all the development your character has undergone throughout the game.
Back to the matter at hand. Every day I get dressed and prepare myself for the day before I leave through the front door. On the way to the office I’ll encounter a variety of people: kids, neighbors, rural farmers coming to town to trade, friends, kids, babies, sheep, kids, café owners, and more kids. A few more babies too. I’ll usually greet some people, ignore others, and go about my business. The meter is slowly draining all the while. Then a particularly nice café owner will go out of her way to greet me and my meter is increased. Then some kids down the street start yelling “give me one birr” at me and the bar goes down. I can choose to confront the kids and tell them not to beg, I can laugh it off, I can shame them and call them rude, or I can avoid the situation and choose another route. Lots of options. How would you play the game?
As I continue to play, my character is become more advanced and more skilled. I’m acquiring knowledge of new routes through town, I’ve made more friends and allies on the street, and I’ve learned some more Tigrigna words to help diffuse situations and create more opportunities. As I keep gaining experience, the meter drains slower and slower. When I first arrived in Abi Adi, I would feel drained after completing an afternoon walk around the neighborhood. The number of new faces, the unknown streets and paths, and the foreign language would wear me out. A few times I literally had to turn around and go home to avoid hitting zero in public. Now it’s easier to meander through town. I have more friends, I know where things are, and most importantly, I’m used to it. It keeps getting easier as my character progresses.
The great thing about most role playing video games is that you usually never finish. You may beat the main storyline and save the princess or the world, but you can continue to go around exploring the world, all the while building more and more experience. So it’s a pretty fair analogy to my reality here. I’ll never be done progressing, but in the end, I’ll have that much more experience from the journey.
See Mom, aren’t you glad you bought me a Nintendo 64 back in the day?