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Self-reflection after "Man vs Snake"

A few weeks ago I watched Man vs Snake, a documentary about marathon gamers who were (still are?) competing for the highest score on Nibbler, an arcade game from the 1980s that can essentially run for infinite time.

Overall I'd recommend giving it a shot, though it's not an unqualified recommendation.  The biggest challenge to a viewer is simultaneously the movie's greatest strength: the subject matter at hand is absolutely inconsequential.

Notice that I don't say "unimpressive."  The main player, improbably named Timothy McVey, is in his forties and is trying to best a record he set when he was sixteen years old and played the game for 30+ hours.  Completing the challenge requires endurance to tolerate sleep deprivation, prolonged discomfort, repetitive wrist motions, and extreme levels of bladder and hunger control.  Add to all that the fact that McVey is not in particularly great shape and you have an ordeal with very real physical requirements, to say nothing of the mental.  With only a few minor modifications, a Nibbler marathon is not that far off from torture.

And what is the prize at the end of the tunnel?  Nothing more than bragging rights.  McVey wants to get his name on the top of the Twin Galaxies list of top Nibbler scores of all time... and that's about it. You get the impression after awhile that having that score may be the only claim to fame McVey expects he'll ever have in life.  It's a paltry goal, but damn if he doesn't want it.

Now, if you're a cynical prick, you might watch a documentary like this and find yourself alternately mocking McVey or pitying him.  And I won't lie; part of me has the urge to do exactly that.  But the truth is, everything I'm trying to do with my life is pretty much on the same level.

It's hard to pretend my books are some loftier ambition.  I mean, sure, I might argue that my books might stick around longer or maybe have more artistic weight, but let's face it - I don't have an audience.

More people have watched the various live streams of McVey's record attempts than have read any of my books.  Or than have even attempted to read my books. More people in Iowa alone care about the top Nibbler score than the number of people worldwide who care about my books.

When you put it in perspective, how strange is it really that somebody would obsess over such a seemingly inconsequential goal?  And isn't that obsession with a dream admirable, especially in the face of overwhelming odds and societal pressure to give up?

Hell, I punch away at my stories week after week and then blog about it here to an audience that's usually only in the double digits each day.  I've been doing this for three and a half years now.  Surely there are folks on the outside looking in who must think I'm delusional and wasting my time.  It would be outright stupid of me to come to my blog and throw stones.

Man vs Snake has as happy an ending as you can reasonably expect.  I don't know that there's a happy ending in my future.  For all I know, I'll be twenty-eight self-published novels deep into my career before I get anything remotely approaching a hit, and even that may only be modest.  I can only hope that I have McVey's tenacity to make it that far.  Who knew that the top score on Nibbler would be the perfect metaphor for artistic pursuit?