Overwatch’s Connection to “Real Life”

Over the last 4 months, I have spent over 100 hours playing the online multiplayer first-person shooter Overwatch. To my non-gaming friends, this might seem like a ridiculous amount, yet I use video games as a total release from stress and the mundane moments of life. Some of my explanation may verge on the technical, so I will try to be as explicit as possible. In the main mode of Overwatch, you and a team of five other players choose from a roster of twenty-five heroes and attempt to complete an objective while opposed by another team of six heroes. There are three modes: escort in which you must stay on a payload until you reach the end of a path while the other team tries to slow and stop your progress until the clock runs out, point control in which both teams compete for control of the same point, and point capture in which one team must capture two points from the other time while they defend.

Twenty-five heroes may sound like a lot, and trust me…it is. They are broken into four groups: offense, defense, tank, and support. Offense heroes do a lot of damage and move quickly, defense heroes tend to be slightly less mobile but can control a specific area quite well, tank heroes have a lot of health and can draw enemy attention and shield their teammates, and support heroes provide healing and other benefits like damage-boosting. Of course on the path to complete the objective of your game play, you have to eliminate your opponents with the goal of progression.

While the “best” strategy is always up for debate, one commonly-held belief is that a balanced team needs 2 support heroes, 2 tank heroes, and 2 heroes who excel in doing damage (either offense or defense heroes depending on the map). Sometimes less tanks or supports are needed; however, as you advance to higher levels of game play and battle skilled teams, this composition is usually the most flexible. Note that there are always exceptions though. If your team composition is not balanced, a skilled team will quickly eliminate all of your heroes over and over again until they complete the objective. If your team is unbalanced but playing against a weak team, then your composition may not be quite as important.

So why does all this matter? People play this game to have fun, and many people believe that offense and defense heroes are the most fun, so they may not ever play as a tank or support. If about a third of the team felt this way, then everyone could get by and still have a good shot at winning the match, yet all too often, four or more players of the team do not want to play as a tank or a healer which leaves a vital component of the team unaccounted for! This can lead to games that are incredibly unsuccessful for the team, and while the game itself is fun, I do not find it fun personally to continually charge into battle only to be eliminated several seconds later over and over and over again. It begets the definition of insanity: to try the same thing repeatedly and expect different results. Why then does a team with poor composition continue to try the same strategy (or lack thereof) for 5 minutes flat without any conversation about changing anything from heroes to map placement? Repetition gives way to frustration, and the game loses its luster.

All of this mirrors the real world in many ways too. We all play roles in our daily lives. Some of those roles are connected to relationships, jobs, or organizations. Many roles are not necessarily as desirable as others; however, some are still quite necessary. If no one is willing to make the tough choices or fill the lacking role, you may be able to get by during easy times, yet once things become difficult, everything will crumble beneath you until someone bends and decides to step up to the plate. Overwatch is nice because the team composition screen suggests which hero types to choose or which ones to cut back on, but the real world does not have this function most of the time. No one is there to tell the summer camp counselors that one of them should actually provide real consequences for campers who act out, no one is there to tell you how to act on a first date (which persona to adapt), no one can force you to be the leader that your life, friends, organization, workplace, or the world needs. These choices must come from knowledge, desire, selflessness, and the ability to see the bigger picture. There comes a time when we cannot only take responsibility for our own performance but start to see how we are connected to everything and everyone around us. We are more than just 7.5 billion individuals inhabiting the Earth; we are the human race, and we must hang together or else we will surely hang alone.


Arguments on Dating Apps

This morning I had the great fortune of setting off someone on Grindr who then went off on me in a grand tirade (I have the screenshots to prove it). While I will not share those screenshots, I will share a bit of my experience of verbal battles on dating apps and on the internet in general.

I begin with the idea that it is extremely challenging to truly know someone until you have spent time with them in person. There is research on this and tons of expert opinions, but my reasoning behind this idea is as follows: people have more time to think/respond online, people can misrepresent themselves online quite easily, people may not feel as responsible for their words online, tone and meaning are easy to misconstrue, etc. Along this vein, even a loving conversation with someone you have never met can be relatively surface-level or insincere when you really think about it. Knowing all of this, why then would you choose to get into an argument with someone about whom you know next to nothing?

Back in high school when I was young and foolish (as if I no longer am), I once came across a page on Facebook whose sole goal was to discredit the Bible and attack religious institutions. I am not a strongly religious person by any means, but I -for whatever reason- decided to like the page and begin discourse with the members. The owner of the page and I got into a heated debate, but the key difference between us was that he got quite angry, and I did not. We were simply discussing concepts, and I felt no need to attack him as a person. My purpose of debate was simply to open anyone who was listening up to the possibility that maybe the Bible can be used in positive ways and that religion has a positive impact regardless of its negative qualities. I believe that very few things are all good or all evil. This experience taught me that arguing that something can only be done or used in one way against someone who is arguing that there is always possibility and creativity will not go well for the first guy.

This morning, I messaged someone on our beloved gay dating app, and he instantly decried the fact that many profiles are fake, and many do not want to engage in intercourse. I said that people use the app for different things, and he sprang on me. He said that I was emasculating myself, that I was not a man since I cannot separate feelings from sex, and a variety of other comments designed to hurt me without any knowledge of who I am as a person or even why I am using the app. My only responses were defense of myself and clarification that he knows very little about me. Eventually, he decided to call me a “f***ing [r-word]” (I hate typing or saying that word EVER). At this, I became indignant because my summer job is working with children who have behavioral challenges and/or disabilities, I have taken a class about teaching students with disabilities, I have taken a class about the philosophy of human ability, and I personally have a label that is often termed a disability. This word has done and continues to do a lot of damage by hurting individuals and communities in a profound way.

I considered walking about but felt I had a responsibility to myself and the world I care about, so I said “As someone who works with children with disabilities, I would request that you never use the r-word again because it is damaging and hurtful”. It turns out that this statement gave my ‘friend’ even more fodder because then he could call me a white knight social justice warrior, a safe zone millennial, and other names. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not either of those things at all. While I care about making this world a better place and learning about worthy issues, I do not actively correct people or advocate for political correctness. I waited to see more messages, then told him that nothing he was saying upset me. He told me that I must be very upset and that his words must be quite hurtful; however, this is not true. I have been through a lot of things more damaging than an online argument with someone who does not know me.

The true thing that upset me about this whole interaction was just that people like him really exist and make the choice to do things like this. Although this was one online example, I know that people out there in the ‘real world’ do some of these same things. People make assumptions about others, people judge others for not doing things the one right way, people say cruel things that have no bearing on the situation at hand, and these people often go about their daily lives stubbornly resistant to change.

I believe in love, compassion, acceptance, forgiveness, kindness, and active listening both online and in person. We are all so lucky to have been given this gift of life, so I personally see no reason to squander it on going out of my way to make someone else feel negatively.

My Dream Superpower

One of people’s favorite icebreaker questions is: “If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?” Typical responses are flight, invisibility, strength, and there are always creative ones too. I decided upon my response a few years ago and have kept it although perhaps it will change again someday. For now, my dream superpower would be to be indestructible as in I cannot be hurt or damaged physically. I am somewhat cautious and safety-oriented in most aspects of my life because danger abounds unfortunately. While most people are safe most of the time, you never know what might happen for the one moment during which you let your guard down. This is why I want this power.

Imagine leaving your house every morning completely confident that you will come home safe that night. Imagine wavering on whether or not you want to participate in activities like skydiving, bungee jumping, and other daredevil stunts but then realizing that you can’t possibly get hurt either way. I think there is something very liberating in all of this. Without extra worry, you can free up some brain space for more worthy thoughts and also be willing to take more chances. Is there something interesting happening in a “rough” neighborhood? No worries since you can’t get hurt. Of course you may need to be careful with your car or any of your possessions since your power will unfortunately not carry over to them.

Another benefit of this power is that people could stop worrying so much about me. Sure, my mental/emotional security and future in life are still up for grabs I suppose, but they can be sure that they won’t get a house call from the cops late one night with bad news or a notification that my Grindr date was actually an ax-wielding murderer (which is a joke I often make). Sometimes I feel a bit suffocated by the concern of others.

While I may only be 22, I am an adult. My brain is reaching its final stage of development, my body is in the best shape it’s ever been in (I work out 5 days/week), I tend to look before I leap, and I was not raised to be an idiot. I know how to handle my emotions, and I have endured some incredible levels of pain. I am thankful that people think about me and want me to live a healthy, happy, safe life, yet I do not need anyone “back-seat driving” when it comes to my decisions. I am content being my own man and dealing with whatever consequences accompany my actions. Isn’t that what adulthood and accountability are all about? I realize that I may not always make the best possible choices, but so long as I am willing to cope with the results (and others aren’t affected), I should be allowed to make those choices. Too bad superpowers aren’t real…

The Blessing and Curse of Possibility

When I was in high school, we brought in a speaker named Benjamin Zander. Mr. Zander is the director of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, and he spoke to all of the music students in the building. Before his talk, we watched his TED Talk in preparation. I highly recommend that you watch the whole thing if you have not seen it because he makes a lot of wonderful points; I even own his book. One of his main arguments is that we ought to live in a world of possibility instead of limiting ourselves with too many specifics and measurements. We should find ways to explore beyond the ordinary and plug into the infinite energy source of the possible.

I have found great solace in this philosophy time and time again, yet I now recognize some of its own limitations. Too many options are frankly overwhelming for the human mind to handle. I read portions of a wonderful book about the human mind and its capacities for attention, memory, and energy. One of its points is that the happiest, most successful people hire other people to make many of their decisions for them. At any given moment, they don’t waste any head space wondering, “am I making the best possible use of my time?” or “am I forgetting something?” since someone else is already being paid to maximize their time and remember everything for them. Humanity offloads many of these things with to-do lists, planners, calendars, labels, and other organizational system, yet we still live in a world full of more decisions than ever before.

Each time we must make a decision (no matter how little or large), our brain is taxed slightly. Think about all the decisions you might make in a 5-minute stretch INCLUDING your “non-decisions”. Let me model… as I sit here writing and listening to the soundtrack from Westworld, here are the decisions I make: “Should I change the song to something I like more? No. Should I check my cell phone? No because I’m in the zone. “My room is messy; when am I going to clean it? I will do it later…or never muahaha. Which thoughts do I pick to make public here and which ones should I withhold?” Within this example alone of roughly 1 minute of time, I had a plethora of thoughts and even one or two that I backspaced because I decided not to include them. These small choices stress us out very slowly to the point that when a big. important decision finally comes along, we are not necessarily in the proper head space to address it well.

I say all of this because I feel crushed under the weight of endless possibility instead of being freed by it. This summer, I have quite a bit of free time. I teach private music lessons on Saturdays and work with kids who have disabilities or challenging behaviors within park district programs throughout the week, yet that does not take up all of my time. I also work out, run errands, read books, play video games, find interesting/entertaining content on the internet (mainly on YouTube or Facebook), watch TV (American Ninja Warrior, Veep, and Arrested Development currently), and hang out with friends. Additionally, I think I am going to start going on some dates with people I have been meeting virtually through the dating apps I mentioned in my previous post. I have a lot going on, and I am still working to find balance. Wish me luck, and I’ll update you as we go.

Dating App Drudgery

I first downloaded Tinder during December of my sophomore year of college. I distinctly remember the day because I painstakingly selected my most attractive photos that showed me in a variety of contexts, and I swiped left and right to the point of fearing that I might have carpal tunnel. That following Spring, I downloaded Grindr. Since then I have tried Jack’d, Plenty of Fish, Bumble, Hornet, Surge, and at least one or two more that I have forgotten. What have these apps taught me? Too many things to share in just one blog post… I’ll try to share though

  1. People will ignore you. A lot. Some people use these apps only when they want a hookup, some people only go on when drunk, and some people download them as a joke and never use them again. Additionally, many of the apps are full of glitches and offer shoddy push notifications at best.
  2. I am apparently more attractive to men than women. Now several other factors could be involved in this one too. Alternative options include: I look gay to women, men have lower standards on dating apps than women, etc.
  3. People really like to have sex. I’m not really about the whole “casual encounter” thing, and I don’t begrudge you if you are, but I’m not. It just is not really something I’m interested in, and that makes it hard to meet someone especially when so many of the people on the apps only want that.
  4. People feel a lot less responsibility for being decent human beings in the cyber world. Would you say incredibly rude or forthright things to someone at a bar or in the park? Maybe you’re in the small minority that would, but a huge number of people are much more candid on dating apps. Many men also send pictures of their genitals, and I doubt that guys are just whipping them out left and right in clubs.
  5. Objectification can affect everyone. We hear a lot about women being objectified in our culture, and it’s truly awful. On dating apps, no one is safe though. As a man who chooses not to label his sexual orientation, I have received a lot of attention from gay or bisexual men. Although much of it is positive, I feel reduced at times to my face or body and receive no validation of my personality or words.
  6. Our society shames people for using them. Is it really acceptable to be seen using a dating app? Most people would probably venture a “no”, and they would be correct. When I casually check my Grindr at the gym or around friends, I always feel the need to turn my phone toward myself in order to hide my activity because I do not want to face the judgment that might ensue. Upon reading this (if they ever do), my family might be surprised to learn more about some of my experiences since I feel slightly ashamed to discuss them at length.
  7. Even though it’s not as “real” as face-to-face communication, it can hurt just as much. When you get ignored enough, objectified, insulted, or find yourself on the other side of things because you realize you might also be a shallow shell of a human being on some level (sarcasm intended), it sucks.

While not an exhaustive list of the lessons I have learned from my time, this is a good start. I have not met anyone from a dating app in approximately 6 months now, and who knows if I ever will again? Maybe I’ll just delete them all and end up back on them again in two weeks when I get bored… It wouldn’t be the first time (sadly).


Greetings and Salutations,

Je suis l’etranger (I am the stranger) and welcome to my blog. Recently I have felt an emptiness in my life, and friend encouraged me to write. When I was nearing the end of my high school career, a similar thing occurred which led to me starting a different blog. I’m all for new beginnings though, so this space is a chance for a fresh start for me to share my perspective on the world as I see it and for you, the reader, to respond however you would like.

Let me take a moment now to explain the title of my blog. I first read The Stranger by Albert Camus during my senior year of high school, and it spoke volumes to me despite its brevity. The main character is a man out of place in our world; he fits in yet never truly belongs. I feel this way at times. Society requests that we conform to its boundaries and niceties in a way which does not always encourage authenticity. Instead of providing support and flexibility for individuals who are termed “outsiders”, we often ask them to change or hide components of their truest self. We label these people “different”, “strange”, “weird”, “disabled”, and a variety of other words and phrases. Perhaps instead of worrying about these individuals so much, we should shine the light of critical examination on our own habits and societal constructs to see if maybe they aren’t in need of some labels of their own.

We live in a world in which it is perfectly acceptable for leaders of nations to hurl petty insults at other human beings, organizations, and countries. People may verbalize their outrage, and protests may occur, but where is the real change? Media outlets are run by executives who want the most viewers, yet we trust these same outlets for our unbiased information and accept it as such? Studies about food and nutrition are conducted so poorly that probably every study you have ever heard cited anywhere would not stand up to actual scientific testing, yet we still sit by and share with our friends that “one glass of red wine will lower your blood pressure” and “honey is just as bad as artificial sweeteners”. Our physical education programs in public schools get kids active but often fail to teach young people how to maintain a life of health and wellness in a way that is doable for them. People are allowed to blatantly discriminate against other people based on their religion, sexual orientation, sex, race, weight, attractiveness, and a myriad of other factors without any (or at least many) repercussions. Where is the justice in that?

Pondering all of those issues and realizing that there are at least a million more like it makes me angry beyond belief. Next time you see that girl wearing an obvious wig at the grocery store, instead of tapping your companion on the shoulder and whispering in their ear, “Hey, look over at the girl in the cereal aisle”, maybe you should say, “Why are the damn name brands so much more expensive?!” and smile at the girl.