“So you can kill a man and take a machete like a champ. A concrete block can do that. But you can’t kick one out of the back of a moving truck and call that a character arc.”
– Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, The Escapist (website), Zero Punctuation (regular feature), “Tomb Raider”, March 20 2013 (site last accessed for this post on March 20 2013). Links at the end of this post.
It is difficult to come up with a short pithy saying about living life that hasn’t already been overused.
“Life is for the living.” — You don’t say? And given the current popularity of vampires and zombies in films, books and the internet, I’m just bound to have someone clever make an undead joke.
“Live life to the fullest.” — I can’t use that one either, I sound like a self-help guru that’s about 30 years late jumping onto this particular trend.
So here’s what I’m trying to say: your life is meant to be lived by you.
As Yahtzee is explaining the things he doesn’t like in the current video game he’s playing (as he does almost every week), his biggest overall complaint about this week’s game was the main character was essentially passive.Her character arc contains a lot of pain and abuse dumped onto her, but very few meaningful choices.
Yes, perhaps there is a fair amount of stoicism, anger, resentment, and jaded apathy that come from a person (real or fictional) being regularly beat up.
But actual character development? That comes from having to make difficult choices and then having to live with the consequences of those difficult choices. And looking back at the consequences of your past difficult choices, both the ones that worked out and the ones that failed, having to then look forward at your future difficult choices and make those choices as well.
I meet an astounding number of people who are almost incomprehensibly passive in their lives. Real people, real lives, and from their actions you think the biggest choice facing them is “How can I come up with a reason explaining why I am not responsible for anything I do or say?” They stubbornly insist that no matter what, they can’t be expected to actually make a choice or even admit a choice exists.
For those of you who are religious, this is like saying God gave us free will, memory, empathy, and a sense of morality all for the singular purpose of finding reasons to stand before Him and wail “It wasn’t my fault, I didn’t have a choice!”
But regardless of whether you are religious (or not) or interested in philosophy (or not) or interested in literary character arc (or not), your life consists of choices.
Even if you choose to put off a choice, or not make a choice, that in and of itself is a choice you’ve made. You can consciously decide to delay or avoid a choice, but that’s still a choice, just a different one.
I could go on with specific examples, but I’m choosing not to do so.
Instead, I’ll state what are often my own silent thoughts when I find myself dealing with someone who only talks about all the reasons they’re not responsible for anything they do.
“Somebody somewhere has to be responsible for something. If that person isn’t responsible for a single thing they say or do, and this other person isn’t responsible for anything they say or do, and they all insist nobody else in a 50-mile radius can possibly be responsible for anything they say or do — then I guess I’m responsible for deciding whether I want to be around this!”
To be honest, by the time my internal thoughts turn onto that particular road, there’s about a 90% chance that in 2-4 weeks I’ll decide to start spending time around other people.
Yes, I do try very hard to point out to people the choices they are making, and to suggest alternatives.
For any situation where two people disagree, there’s a thousand ways to meet somewhere in the middle.
But if one person is adamant that they can’t compromise or change one bit, then they have left the other person with only two choices: Take It, or Leave It.
And insisting nothing can ever change because there’s no choice is saying that there’s no compromise or change possible.
And that leaves the other person back at Take It or Leave It.
I love Zero Punctuation. But Yahtzee is as foul-mouthed and foul-minded as almost anything you’ll find on the internet.
So, here are the links for his videos (foul and completely not safe for work, not safe to watch with your parents or kids around, and maybe not even safe to watch with your friends or significant other around) and his regular text column (very thoughtful and interesting, not nearly as foul but still pretty blunt).