My mother told me early when I was young that what’s most meaningful in life are the relations you have with other people. In this book, what I really wanted to explore was the part of life we have — the part of life we live — when we’re not with other people. The part when we’re alone.There’s the cliche that we’re born and we die alone, and I take that quite seriously, and I believe that our most powerful and profound experiences in many ways are solitary experiences, and I believe that computer games, like literature and like some other devices in my life, were a means of training me for that kind of solitude.Though I did play videogames as a child, it wasn’t a large part of my life. Solitude, however, was. And just as Clune said, it was suggested to me that solitude was a negative thing. Though my parents and teachers praised me for reading and writing, I was also made to believe that I was abnormal for indulging those pleasures at the expense of playing outdoors with other children.
My brother could probably play video games before he could walk. He recently told me about a book he was reading about a woman from the same tech sphere as him. Big sister as I am, I naturally clicked on an article a video-game inspired book when I saw it in case it might be something to pass along to my brother. What I discovered was an interview that resonated with my own life and work.
In an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered, author Michael W. Clune talked about Gamelife, his memoir about growing up playing video games that speaks to the idea of solitude. He says:
Even as an adult, as I’ve struggled through writing my memoir, I’ve heard mentors and instructors say again and again that protagonists have to be decisive, goal achievers at odds with outside forces. They can’t be writers. They can’t be people who just sit around and think.
They can’t be me?
I feel a little vindicated when Clune says, “I believe that our most powerful and profound experiences in many ways are solitary experiences.” Maybe he doesn’t mean this literally. Maybe he means that even when we’re in relationship with people who love us dearly and whom we love, our experiences, even when shared are, at their core, are so highly individualized that they are solitary.
Relationships—family relationships, friendships, romantic relationships, literary camaraderie—are relevant, important. But so are times of solitude. We need quiet, private moments to ourselves to know ourselves, to be ourselves, to reflect, to dream, to pray, to read, to write, to rest, to imagine.