The Morrowinding

Last week, I recognised the onset of burn-out. I was starting to dread working on all the projects that I normally love working on, I was feeling constantly tired, stressed, grumpy…I was snapping at Sarah Jane, not being particularly productive, and just generally unhappy.

So I gave myself the weekend off. (well, specifically all-day Friday, and half of both Saturday and Sunday.) My housemate surprised me with her delight when I told her I was giving myself a chance to relax, so it's possible that I wasn't hiding my fatigue as well as I'd hoped.

The original plan was to just watch through a heap of movies – I have around 700-odd DVDs, and I keep myself too busy to watch them as often as I'd like.

On Thursday night, while I was cleaning up the lounge-room (partially in preparation for my day of DVDs, partially because it was just messy) I spotted my old Xbox. I made space for it, set it up, and didn't expect to spend the next two days playing through an old favourite.

I've been subscribed to the Morrowind sub-reddit for a while now, and so when I was deciding what film to watch first, I decided to pop it in and take a trip down memory lane.

Over the past 3 days, I've spent upward of 20 hours playing The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, and at least another 10 reading about it. It's been my favourite video game since a few hours after I first touched it – I'd guess that I've sunk more than 500 hours into it – and revisiting the world of Vvardenfell for the first time in 4 years (almost to the day) I was amazed to find the experience exceeded my expectations.

It helps that I no longer have the bizarre compulsion to complete every quest given to me by every stranger (no matter how uninteresting or unrewarding) and it helps even more that I've grown the patience to dive into the rich backstory. I sat down to play it for half an hour before watching a film, and 11 hours later I was shocked by how effectively I'd been completely sucked-in by this 10-year old game.

Morrowind is well-known as a game that will yield new rewards each time you play it – it's so hugely layered and beautifully crafted. My favourite element of Morrowind is the superb world that it offers – I only played a few hours of Oblivion (the next game in the series) but got so bored so quickly by the generic “medieval RPG” look and feel of it, and I've heard Skyrim isn't much better.

One project that I've been working on for almost 7 years now is called “All-That-Is”, a fantasy world that I build and play with on my down-time. While exploring Morrowind, and reading about the history of the world and the characters, my brain started popping with ideas that I wanted to explore, tropes that I wanted to reverse: the inherent racism in “cursed” races always going from light skin to dark skin; the idea of a pacifist race trained in combat, and how they deal with people who refuse to follow their pacifist laws…

In the next few days, don't be surprised if I make some ATI blog-posts. My mind is buzzing, and I'm excited to flesh out the races that I never really had much interest in.

Meanwhile, my weekend off worked – my batteries are recharged, and I've decided to slow down a bit. I'll keep working hard, but at least once a week, I'll give myself a day off.

I think I'll call them “Morrowind days”.

Down-time and stress

It’s funny what relaxes you.

There was a conversation on /r/AskScience about different body shapes Рwhy some people only gain weight around the mid-section, while for others the weight is evenly distributed around the body.

I’m one of those people who only gain weight on my torso – a personal trainer at my gym once told me that it was the worst kind of body-type to have, because the closer your fat is to the heart, the higher your odds of a heart attack. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but it’s handy in inspiring me to attend the gym more often.

(also handy is Gym-Pact, a website that my friend Mike put me onto. Pledge how often you’re going to go to the gym and your credit card details, and it’ll charge you a pre-decided amount every time you fail to go. If you hit your target, you get money from people who didn’t. It’s a clever little site, and I’m planning on signing up later this week.)

My Dad has the same body-shape, and so I had always assumed it was genetic. The comments of the reddit thread I was reading, however, suggested that where you put on weight was determined by hormones, specifically those produced when one was stressed. The more stressed you are, the more the weight focuses around the middle.

Now I haven’t independently verified this, but it doesn’t really matter. The point is, for the first time in my life, I stopped and went “Hang on, am I stressed?”

Turns out that I am! It’s not something that normally bothers me, but having attention drawn to it like that was a bit of a downer. Since then I’ve been thinking about it, and realised that I don’t really remember the last time I wasn’t stressed.

Things seem to feed into one another – this week was meant to be a chilled week for me, but yesterday I spent alternating between a rush editing job that I picked up and a Melbourne International Comedy Festival application for We Should Know Better; today has been a bit better, but I’ve had morning appointments almost every day this week and don’t really have any breathing time until Sunday.

Since learning that I’ve stressed, I’ve been feeling it (which sucks) but I’ve also become more aware of what I do to deal with stress.

I’m not good at time off. I can’t imagine not being run off my feet – as soon as I have time off, I fill it with more things to do. So my method of relaxing is to do something productive.

Sometimes it’s sorting files on my hard-drive: I find this to be very soothing. Often it’s working on All-That-Is, which is a nice form of “creativity without deadlines” that I quite enjoy. Very occasionally it’s playing a computer game, but I rarely find a game that doesn’t make me feel like I’m wasting my time. (puzzle games, that’s the trick. It’s so satisfying, finishing a puzzle.)

Recently, and this brings me back to the start of this post, it’s been organising my Kindle library. I’ve downloaded (one could say “pirated”) a bunch of books that I own in physical form (eBook piracy is surprisingly challenging) and I’ve been adding covers, correcting meta-tag fields…you know, all the stuff that one does on their downtime.

It’s funny what relaxes you.