"You ever played Mass Effect?"
"I haven't. Any good?"
"Oh yeah. Oh yeah. The graphics... out of this world. Great shooting, great to play, you get these great powers, you get to make these choices that affect the ending... man, just a great game."
We were sitting in the apartment of the Head of Marketing and Entertainment at a local top hotel. We're working with him. Awesome guy, I haven't met anyone I enjoyed just hanging out with doing nothing in particular so much in a long time.
He studied IT before getting into business, and he had a really cool setup. He plugged his laptop's HDMI output into his nice big flatscreen plasma TV. Then he took two knockoff Playstation controllers and plugged them into the USB ports.
He had a Mortal Kombat anthology on there, so there we were throwing around uppercuts and roundhouses, combos and grenades and "Get Over Here!" and ice blasts and whatever. I used to play MKII and MK3 back in the day, so after getting back on the controls I held my own. Still got whupped, but good memories.
And it's like... you know, this ain't so bad. He bought his own apartment, great view of Ulaanbaatar below. Nice furniture, did his wallpaper up somewhat like a nightclub. A real bachelor's place. Nice kitchen with good food, snacks and drinks, great entertainment and sound system.
And the lifestyle? Long hours, but working with interesting and cool people to Ulaanbaatar. Extremely connected among the local bands, entertainmeners, and nightclubs in Ulaanbaatar.
Later in the night, walking home (I checked out first, had planned on doing work in the morning), I got soaked head to toe when a car hit a huge puddle at full steam. My iPhone and headset got wet, so I turned them off, leaving myself with just the silence and myself, clomp-chomping my wet leather boots and socks, the t-shirt and light cloth pants clinging wetly to my frame.
And I think, "There's really some good alternatives to adventuring."
If you wanted to do an equation of strictly, "Pleasure Minus Pain = What I Want"... well, you'd never choose an adventuring and expansion path.
Because you know, a great place to live, great friends in the local area, solid job, decent entertainment...
...and you know, my man isn't satisfied. Head of Marketing and Entertainment at an awesome hotel, a position usually held by someone 10-15 years older. But it's not enough for him, he ran his own company a few years back and he's going to get back into the entrepreneurship game in a couple years.
And why? The world is his, pain is low, pleasure is high. Pleasure really doesn't get much higher than sitting around with friends, laughing, playing some Playstation. We went to the grocery store before to get drinks and snacks. ("Want to get some beers?" "Nah, I don't drink." "I shouldn't either! Ok, soft drinks!") So having some soft drinks and popcorn, dumplings, and some entertainment -- or some beers and vodka and electronic music -- can there really be much more raw satisfaction than that?
The sun rising over Ankor Wat? The feeling of achievement or writing a great piece? Taking a great photograph?
It fades, it fades... if anything, every time you push the bar, you see the higher height. The driven artist or entrepreneur doesn't do it for the satisfaction, but to push his or her potential... and once you've pushed it, it's harder to push it again. The pleasure and true pride of achievement builds your character permanently, but doesn't soothe the restless man's soul the way a warm hearth and home does.
You can't fail, not really, when you don't try. And the artist, entrepreneur, builder is certain to fail. And painfully so. Destiny is never written beforehand, there's no guarantee of success even if it seemed foreordained to bystanders with 20/20 hindsight.
My man charges up his super-fist and pounds the enemy soldier. He falls over with a satisfying thump. He runs, and his teammates provide covering fire. The digital character hacks the computer system. A robotic female computer voice chirps:
"Mission... Accomplished, Commander."
A wonderful graphic, a big congratulations, all from the satisfaction o fa comfortable couch in a comfortable apartment with an amazing view on a sharp and crisp HDTV display. Pleasure. No pain. There's a strong case to be made that's the sane way. And perhaps us soaking wet would-be adventurers, builders, and artists aren't the rational ones.