Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Survey I Filled Out Today

Every now and then I get e-mailed a random survey to fill out, which usually takes only a few minutes. The one I got today wanted me to actually write something down in answer to almost every question, which I thought was annoying. I was having a bad day at work too. So here's what they got:

We are interested in your feedback on an innovative new product.

Introducing PERFECT MEATLOAF - Tender, Juicy, Pefect Meatloaf!


Stop letting your meatloaf soaking in fat and getting mushy!

Introducing PERFECT MEATLOAF, the specially designed pan includes an air bake lifting tray that allows for fat to drain to the bottom of the pan.

Not just for meatloaf, the pan is great for roasted pork, stuffed peppers, and so much more!

Take The Below Survey:

1. Would you personally BUY the PERFECT MEATLOAF PAN?
Please explain why below:
I don't often prepare meatloaf, though in general I do enjoy a good meatloaf despite the fact that my mother, bless her heart, rarely made it when I was young and when she did it tasted like chalk and, as a result of this, I've only had really good meatloaf maybe a handful of times. Perhaps this is why I don't include meatloaf in my regular diet, and should I ever have the urge to have some I can't imagine endeavoring to make it myself.

2. On a scale of 1 to 5, how different is this product from what you've seen before?
MY RESPONSE: 5 (never saw anything like it before)
Please provide additional feedback on your choice:
It's certainly an original idea, though I wonder why it took so long for somebody to come up with this device. As a boy, I imagined 2011 would bring us flying cars, regular trips to the moon, and the cure for cancer. Instead, we have finally perfected the preparation of meatloaf. It is hard not to be cynical.

3. On a scale of 1 to 5, how big of a problem does this solve for you? 1 = (small/no problem), 5 = (huge problem).
MY RESPONSE: 1 (small/no problem)
Please provide additional feedback on your choice:
Cooking meatloaf well is not a challenge with which I am routinely presented, and even if it were I doubt I would think it a very large inconvenience if it didn't turn out all that great. I'm certain this invention will make many people's lives slightly less difficult, but I worry about the mindset of anybody who would mark down "huge problem" on this question. They are really missing the big picture or are very fragile people who need a hug.

4. If you saw this product advertised as an As Seen On TV product on television demonstrating how it worked would this make you (complete the sentence with the choices below):
MY RESPONSE: Less Likely to Purchase This Product
Please explain why below:
Typically I find infomercials and their ilk to be unconvincing and, if anything, they are more likely to convince me never to purchase the product in question. If you do run an advertisement for the meatloaf thing, please don't have a frantic, energetic salesman with an accent demonstrating the product to a middle-aged actress who is supposed to convince us she is a skeptical housewife who slowly comes around to believing the product will change her life. Avoid cliche! At least spruce up the formula. How about a drama? Did the salesman and the housewife once have an affair? Do they share a terrible secret? Give us back story and we'll keep tuning in!

5. Please tell us what you like most about the product:

MY RESPONSE: I enjoy the hand models in the advertising photos, shown holding up the perfect meatloaf triumphantly. You depict a large range of hands, and each one of them communicates just the right amount of pride and affection - and I bet its difficult to communicate anything when all that is shown are your hands holding a meatloaf. I wonder how one becomes a hand model. Do you submit handshots instead of headshots? Are there famous and iconic sets of hands within the hand model community that young models look at with envy? Is posing for a new meatloaf product a good job for hand models, are do they consider it a practical gig that pays the bills and wish they were pursuing hand photography of a more artistic nature? The mind boggles at the possibilities.

6. Please tell us what you do NOT like or what concerns you most about the product:

MY RESPONSE: I do have a concern about this product. Have you considered the ramifications of what you have created? I feel the single greatest objection to the meatloaf is not actually its taste, which in general is fine, but it's very shape. Let's face it: meat is not meant to exist the shape of a loaf of bread. It's unnatural. And here you have created a device that allows the meatloaf to keep its loaf-shape with perfect precision! You may in fact be making life easier for housewives everywhere, but at what cost? Millions of children scared away from the dish forever because they cannot wrap their little heads around the fact that dinner is a block of meat in the shape of bread. You are on dangerous territory.

7. Our product is not yet available in retail stores. Which of the following best describes how you would purchase the product if you saw our TV commercial:

MY RESPONSE: I would NOT buy the product.
Please explain why:
As I've said, I'd have very little personal use for this product. In addition, I never ever make purchases via phone because I have a terrible phobia of speaking to strangers on the phone. I'm sure your sales representatives are very friendly, but in my anxiety I would think they were judging me for buying a trivial product and would hang up out of mortification before the transaction was completed. In a store I would be much more likely to make the purchase, if only because of the attractive hand models displayed on the packaging.

8. Would you personally BUY the PERFECT MEATLOAF PAN for $14.99?
Please explain your answer:
This thing is $14.99? Wow. Got to pay those hand models somehow, I suppose. They probably have a union. No, I would not personally or impersonally purchase this pan. It's not you, its me. I'm just not the perfect meatloaf pan type.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

No Games For Matt: Day Twenty-Five

So I'm nearing the end of this little experiment and I have learned a few things!

First, quitting video games was surprisingly easy. I always used to say "I can quit any time I want!" which sounded hauntingly like an addict's cliche. But it turned out to be true. Perhaps my addiction was not as bad as I feared - and learning that, if nothing else, was a great result from this experiment!

Second, video games are not the problem in and of themselves - I mean, I never thought they were, I just have more proof now that they are not. I quickly found that, without games, I was no more motivated or productive than before. I just found other ways to burn through my free time instead. If my next goal becomes "to get more stuff done" then giving up video games alone will not be enough - I need to set up a schedule and routine that encourages productivity. So I get distracted easily and have a hard time being productive - this is the problem so many of us are facing now in the internet age and I'm hardly some kind of freak.

Third, video games are a go-to form of pseudo-meditation for me, a way I could escape from feelings I didn't want to feel. Again, games themselves aren't to blame, since once I gave them up I found myself looking for other things to hide in. Knowing this, now, I can keep my eyes on it and maybe force myself to be honest about things rather than just allowing myself to hide from them.

Fourth, I've decided that when my month is over and video games re-enter my life, I'm going to put a reasonable limit on the amount of time that I play. I'm also going to be more selective about the games I commit to, rather than just grab whatever I can get my hands on like before.

Finally, I've discovered that playing games ALL THE TIME turned them into something like a chore so that they weren't even fun anymore. You can have too much of a good thing. My month ends soon, and while I don't particularly feel in a rush to jump right back into gaming, the thought of firing up a new game for the first time in weeks puts a smile on my face that it NEVER did back when I was playing all the damn time.

Playing games less will give me more time for other things, and make me like games more. Win win!

Monday, June 06, 2011

No Games For Matt: Day Twelve

It's been a week fraught with emotions. I've felt like an unhinged person, all over the place. One minute I'm happier than I've ever been before, and the next I'm full of angst and crying over nothing.

It took a while before I connected this behavior to my lack of video games this month. It's almost like playing games was the thing that allowed me to hide from stuff, to self-medicate into a state of equilibrium where I was distracted enough for all unpleasantness to be pushed aside. Without that crutch, I'm finding I don't have other strong coping mechanisms for things I've been holding back all this time.

This is a problem, but an exciting one. I get a chance to really face anything that's been bothering me and develop new, healthier habits for coping with stress and anxiety. It's been eye opening to see how I've used games a cork in my emotional bottle, so to speak.

Again, this doesn't make games intrinsically bad. What was bad was the way I was using them and the attitude I'd built up around them. Dismantling the negative stuff about my gaming habit will hopefully make playing them when I do go back much more fun and positive.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

No Games For Matt: Day Six

I had my first dream about video games last night.

Quite revealingly, in the dream I had a vague sense of uneasiness and guilt about playing and kept saying "Just a few more minutes!" to some companion whose face I do not now remember. I woke up and laughed, but felt a little uneasy. My resolve has still been strong, but there has been some temptation, usually in a quiet moment when I'm not sure what else to do.

It's been an amazing experience having to choose how to spend my free time, rather than defaulting to habitual behavior. Even if I just end up watching some dumb TV show (Babylon 5 is surprisingly fun!) it's out of a choice and for just a small increment of time. By and large, though, I've been more productive in one weekend without video games then I was in the previous month!

I've written a bunch and, most impressively, suddenly found myself with a stronger urge to be social. I actually went dancing all night with a group of friends and not ONCE found myself wishing I was somewhere else by myself doing you-know-what. That's amazing. Generally social group events make me melancholy and withdrawn, but I found myself eager to reach out to people to fill the void the games have left behind.

To sum up, I'm actually happier than I have been in a long, long time.

I'm now beginning to think that when this month is over I need to create a structured way to introduce games back into my life, specifically deciding when I can play and for how long. I don't want to spiral back into the same problem as before, particularly when this experiment has already proved so successful.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

No Games For Matt: Days One through Three

My name is Matt. I am thirty years old, and I am a video game addict.

To be fair, I doubt I currently play games more often than the average American watches TV and movies, and certainly there have been many times in my life when I was playing even more than I am now. But that doesn't change the fact that what I always thought of as an entertaining pastime and a fun hobby has actually been dominating my life for the better part of twenty years now.

Playing video games is my default behavior - that is, it is what I will almost certainly be doing with every moment of my time in which I don't have to do something else. On my days off, during my free time, if I'm not at home playing games I start to get a slight itch that slowly grows into a low-level panic, feelings that invariable distract or ruin whatever else I happen to be doing. During intense gaming weeks I can clock up to 20 hours playing games, and the only reason it's not more is because of a full-time job and a long commute. 20 hours! And then I have the audacity to complain there's never enough time to do the productive things I've always been meaning to do, like writing a novel or practicing the piano.

So I had the idea to give up games for a while, and my first reactionary thought was (no lie): "No games!? What would be the point of living??" That's when I became certain that I have a problem.

Whenever I feel uncomfortable, anxious, depressed, uncertain, scared, or general dissatisfied, video games have become my easy go-to form of self-medication, a pattern which I can see in myself looking back to the very beginning when video games and I first met. While playing, I enter a state of no-mind, rather like a crude and less-wholesome form of meditation, in which the rest of the world disappears and I can forget about my problems. This is the behavior of an addict. I know people who have buried themselves in other habits that we more clearly recognize as addictions: alcohol, food, sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Because those things are the most commonly discussed types of addictions and they were never a problem for me, I assumed I was above getting an addiction myself. And all along I was logging hours and hours and hours in front of the computer screen, oblivious.

The funny thing is I've actually met people with severe video game addiction, the kind that kept them from going outside, caused them to flunk out of classes and alienate all their friends, but I never thought to compare or relate myself to them. If anything, meeting them only further convinced me that that I didn't have a problem. I believed that because my gaming habit wasn't causing the same level of complications in my life, I must not be addicted. I know better now. I happen to have a strong support network and other commitments like my relationship, my friends, and my work that keep me somewhat balanced -- without these things, I have little doubt I'd easily become like the gaming addicts I've known.

Inspired by friends who were also trying to give up their "security blanket" addictions, I have decided to eliminate games from my life for one month. It's an experiment in self-control, but more than that I suddenly wondered what my life would be like if I no longer devoted so much time to this habit. I literally have no clue how else I will spend my time, but I am excited to find out.

I began on Friday, and already I have been amazed at how my resolution as affected my attitude. Instead of getting upset at being deprived, I have felt almost relieved as though a great weight has been taken off my shoulders. There's a sense of freedom, and I'm only now beginning to understand how an addiction can feel like a prison. Now, this feeling may not last. There will probably be feelings of withdrawal, moments of weakness and temptation, frustration and anger. That's why I decided to blog about it, to catalog my experience, to hold myself accountable, and to elicit support from friends and loved ones.

June is a no-games month! End of story! Oh boy.... here we go!