In massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), time sinks are a method of increasing the time needed by players to do certain tasks, hopefully causing them to subscribe for longer periods of time. Players may use the term disparagingly to describe a simplistic and time-consuming aspect of gameplay, possibly designed to keep players playing longer without significant benefit. Time sinks can also be used for other gameplay reasons, such as to help regenerate resources or monsters in the game world. – Wikipedia

I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘time sinks’ lately. The definition above in relation to gaming is increasingly being expanded into the domain of reality, it’s a small splinter within modernity and complacence that allows one – if they so wish – to aim themselves at something of a greater horizon. Let me expand on a few common time-sinks. Gaming of course is one, binging a TV series, binging-consumption in general etc., but what makes these activities time-sinks as opposed to a way to spend time. Well, with gaming it’s fairly simple, the mechanics – as previously defined – are built in, there to hold you for the sake of holding you. Yet it is TV series where the time-sink really shows itself, if you allow it to. See, there’s little wrong with watching a series or show or presentation. That is of course if the choice was yours, you were indifferent to the rest and actively allowed a piece of media to traverse the drawbridge and be allowed reflection. The time-sink on the other hand is watching a TV series again and again for the sake of watching it again.

“I’ve seen [insert popular TV series here] at least 10 times!”

The problem is that you only really ever experience it once, and any repetitive viewing, gaming or reading is usually a melancholy attempt at retaining that initial escape and connection. Behind the time-sink is a mode of being wherein you begin to find other-things, other-experiences. Behind the useless thresher of empty-consumption, of controlled-time and rhythmically calculated frying of your amygdala is the lure of Outside. An Outside over nihilism, something more, perhaps not ever tenable in-itself, nor fully agreeable to oneself, but a mode outside of the thresher all the same. But how does this strangeness come about, wherein is it experienced?

You go to your box, your TV, your controller, your piece or thing or object or desire or lust or supposed lack, and you do what you do because you’ve always done this. You don’t understand why nor ever think of if there is such a why, you don’t question, you do…you are utility in spirit. You understand little but how to act in relation to a minor form of production, you are a combination of parts which all revolve around utilizing things with regard to larger combinations of things, you do do do all the live long day. Perhaps you should head behind, I shall write in a future post of ditching your smartphone, not as an anti-modernist feat, but simply because it is a time-sink. And so,

You lay down your phone, you turn off the TV and finally turn of the PC. Outside of these 3 things the majority of people no longer have any life. Bar their work and survival functions they have nothing else. They’re consumed by a feedback loop of regurgitated dopamine producing micro-stuffs. You turn these off, think for yourself, without these what do you have, what happens to the very concept of doing once common notions of ‘to do’ are removed? Most wont know, and I’m not saying I have any answers, but if there are any they most likely are within that odd space of nothingness which makes you feel nauseous at its very reality.

Maybe you’d get around to reading that lengthy book you’ve been meaning to start, or begin learning some hobby, go see an old friend, go…I dunno, wait, what do I want to do? Huh, not sure. So you keep thinking about various things and come to no conclusions. It’s all very strange in here you say.

You’re sitting on the sofa now, staring ahead. You don’t seem to want those things you got rid of months ago. Phone, TV, games, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, arguments…all gone. And you sit and be for a bit, for a while each day you just be, and it’s quite nice, your mind dissolves out from the mud into a clearance, just for a moment. And the more you reduce everything the more it all makes sense, some days it makes more sense, others less. Those things you don’t miss added nothing, your indifference is peaking constantly.

The beauty here is that you no longer rush, because the more you reduce the less you rush. Humans have no teleology that isn’t created from a spook of the mind. You used to subconsciously rush home, didn’t you? Speeding in traffic, looking at the clock every minute at work, why? Because there was a new TV show out, or you wanted to continue playing that game, or finish some oddity of production and consumption…“If I could just finish all media then I would be complete.” These things used to give you just enough self-satisfaction regarding completion that you felt accomplished almost every minute. “Yes, 5 episodes tonight.” “Yes, 2 mission complete tonight.” “Yes, X amount of finite Y tonight.”.

And so you remove these things, these nothings and what’s left, no urges, no strange compulsions or rushes to get from A to B. You’re-being-in-traffic, being-cooking-food, being-eating etc. there’s no where you need to be because you already are.

2 thoughts on “Time-sink

  1. Have you ever read Yukai Cho? He has a book on a gamification framework, his site tracks papers and retrospectives on successes and failures. It doesn’t really have anything to do with zen, the word count is a little inflated, but the first few chapters of the book are a quick overview and the other chapters go in depth, the later ones especially, on what amounts to extortion and tricks to violate the afterglow of achievement, not exclusively video games.

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