Beacons on the Critical Path

I started an exercise program today. There are two guys in Germany, Alex (aka El Eggs) and Sven, who run an outfit called Calisthenic Movement. Here’s the video that blew my mind and made me a fan of bodyweight exercise. There’s flash a plenty in this — all those flips, come on! — but what I like about these guys is they aren’t promoting the flash, but a focus on form and quality of movement over reps and speed and the idea that the world is your gym and playground. As a level designer, I already view the world this way. These guys make that a reality. Really, though, it’s this video (and this) that made me fans of Sven and Alex themselves. They do what they do with a sense of fun. I appreciate that. It resonates.

Creative * Strong * Healthy

I don’t have any illusions about getting to that level — it’s not really a goal — right now I’m focused on just doing it at all. Something. Anything. It’s been twenty years since I did anything resembling regular exercise.

Isn’t this supposed to be about game development? Ostensibly. Today’s post is about balance. And finding a path. A critical path, if you will. 🙂

I’ve had a bit of a wakeup call. Usually that’s in the form of some sort of cardiac episode. Not for me, thankfully. Mine was less immediately terrifying, but chilling all the same.

Let’s back up a bit.

My father is a strange man.

Not ‘eccentric’ charming strange. It’s not that. He’s not good with people particularly. Not a lot of empathy. I think that’s what attracted him to computers long ago. He got involved with them through the military in the mid-seventies and after that we always had one in our home. As of this writing, I’m 40 years old. I’m probably one of the oldest people that you know that doesn’t remember not having a computer in the house.

When I was growing up, my father was always tickled and delighted that I enjoyed using the computer. Regaling people with my typing tutor prowess: ‘She doesn’t know what a semi-colon is, but she knows where it is.’ It was one of his favorite old saws to trot out. Proud Papa. So, this man who didn’t really connect well with people shared his love of computers with his children. My brother and I spent many an hour bonding over text adventures where I served the function of Map and Journal (my function now obsolete with all of those actions ably handled by games themselves these days — get off my lawn you kids!), gunner in space combat, hitting the spacebar at the command to ‘fire!’, talking about games, thinking about games. Good times.

(SIDE NOTE) I never once — ever — remember either one of my parents suggesting to me in any way that these endeavors and interests were not appropriate for me because of my gender. If it entered their thoughts, it never left their mouths. And so it never entered my mind either. So, thanks Mom and Dad. <3

I shared my father’s passion for these magical devices that allowed me to do wondrous things. I didn’t really get into coding as many now-game-developers did in this era (the 80’s). My interest in that would come much later. My game development was focused largely on analog games (READ: D&D). Creating worlds and telling stories with my friends.

Also in this time, one of my favorite birthday traditions was trekking to the computer store and picking out a game. I’m not sure how it started. But I distinctly recall the anxious trips to the store. The choosing. OH, THE CHOOSING. The trip home, carefully unboxing the game and reading the manual though I always got carsick. I did it anyway. The stacks of floppy disks I had to format as a ‘chore’ before I would be allowed to install the game. OH, THE ANTICIPATION!

A stand out game in this tradition was “Sid Meier’s Pirates!” If you showed me a quarter of a treasure map from that game today, I’d probably still be able to tell you where to dig. Many hours of bonding over this game too, with dear friends who became even more so over our shared enjoyment. Thanks for “Pirates!,” Sid Meier.

How many times was I in this position? Lots.

All this, these wonderful experiences, lead directly to me becoming a game developer when the opportunity presented itself in 1999. I got introduced to Sid Meier at my first E3 the following year. I shook his hand and thanked him. Tried not to babble. Probably did. Totally star struck.

So, thanks again, Dad (and Mom!). I have a career that I love in no small part because of the passion you shared and the support all through the years.

Back to the exercise program. How is this related? It’s not a happy thing.

In his advancing years, my father has become very feeble. He can barely get up without assistance. I wish I could say his mind is bright and vibrant. It is not. He is withdrawn into a very small world limited by his mobility and a small experiential world limited by his declining mentation and inability to connect meaningfully with people. It is painful to see. My mother is an angel. His personal angel. And while this is very sad, he does seem content.

And this… this is the wakeup call. At 40, my father was still fit. Running and exercising. Running circles around me. My 40 is not even close to that. I’m already feeble. Stiff. Feeling my age. Already entering a stage of sad calculus where if I need to do something that puts me on the ground, I give it thought. It’s not good. And if I want something more for myself than that very real, very sad decline my father has shown me, I have to do something about it.

So. He shared his passion for computers that lead me to a career that I love. And now, his beacon is fading, but it can still show me the path. This time… it is the way not to go. That’s valuable too. Thanks, Dad. And thanks, Mom.

Today’s workout was simple. Thirty minutes. About 10 minutes of warmup. And then 20 minutes of exercises. As predicted, the warm up was what really took it out of me. I’m looking forward to improvement there. Alex had some suggestions for how to make the program I got from them even more basic. For a few weeks, I’ll do a fixed number of reps (rather than as many as I can do), to build up some fundamental strength. I hemmed and hawed over what sort of gear to get… install bars? What bars? Parallel bars? Could I build some? I know people who could knock that out in an afternoon. I spent (wasted) two weeks ‘shopping.’ Eventually I got fed up with myself and wrote the CM guys. El Eggs suggested adjustable rings as the most versatile single bit of gear, so I went with that. They’re on the way. In the meantime…

The workout:

* 10 minute warm up that included knee lifts, jumping jacks, a variety of plank arm switches and more. [EDIT: I’m adding putting on a sports bra as one of the warm up exercises… jeezaloo]

* Very Inclined Pushups. VIPs. 😀 Even so modified, when I got my elbows tucked and pointing back, wow. I could really feel the difference. (I started out pretty sloppy)

* Arch Up. Though I didn’t do a fixed number, these seemed easy, which makes me feel like I must be doing them improperly.

* Squats. I banged out 10 of these. Feet flat. Back (mostly) straight. I did not anticipate that holding my arms out would be the most taxing bit of this exercise. Again, perhaps I’m doing it improperly? Also… hubris. Squats 10-15 were harder. 16-20 were very hard.

* Plank. Target duration: 30s. <– AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA. My best time was 12s. Holy smokes, I did not anticipate this being the hardest of the exercises. AT ALL.

I can feel the efforts now. Soreness. I’m not totally wiped, which is good. I have 6 hours of class to kick off in … a little over an hour. It already feels like progress. We’ll see how things feel tomorrow. I bet it will be difficult. I decided, a bit on my own, to do two days of this light program, a rest day and two more days on. It is probably too often as out of shape as I am, but I want to get into the rhythm of getting up and doing something healthy every day. If it becomes taxing, I can scale it back even more or take a walk up the hill to the pond. I don’t want to overdo, so I’m on the alert. Injury is not an option.


Step 1: Start — COMPLETE.

Author: Karen M

Game designer and instructor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *