How Big Lizards and Bald Assassins Rekindled My Love of Learning

Monster Hunter and Hitman might seem like very different experiences. Where one has you swordfighting with dinosaurs so that you can turn them into a pair of chaps, the other’s an exercise in hurling cans of pasta sauce at the kinds of people whose deaths we’re told not to celebrate in polite society. But whether hunting monsters literal or metaphorical, both games are, together, a reminder that learning doesn’t just have to be in service of the standards defined for us.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

This one really hit home, especially this bit:

With the help of what’s been diagnosed as a nebulous cocktail of depression, anxiety disorder, and ADHD, I’d made the same calculus that many are pressured into: I couldn’t learn as much as I wanted. I only had so much time, energy, and attention to work with, however many Wikipedia articles about Greek mythology or space propulsion I wanted to explore (I was very cool, and popular). Even topics I enjoyed in class couldn’t be engaged with as deeply as I’d like. There were tests to pass and metrics to meet.

Another one for the “you definitely have undiagnosed ADD” pile, I guess, because that’s exactly my teens and twenties right there, extending all the way to taking electives in college that didn’t “count” toward my degree because I liked the subject while failing classes that were required but boring.


This is maybe not the best place for this comment and it’s generally more negative than I’d like, but I’m getting a little tired of this kind of article if I’m honest. Like, I get it, the world is fundamentally meaningless except for the meaning we put in, and if you feel good about beating a dark souls boss or demonstrating mastery over a hitman level in increasingly elaborate forms then fuck yeah, good for you Sisyphus I’m glad you’ve learned to like rolling the boulder, but it feels like a weird attempt at cultural legitimacy that belongs in the 2010s (dw I feel as old writing that as you do reading it).

The blend of personal essay and games writing is pretty well established at this point, but there’s this kind of three-point relationship specifically between the idea of gameplay as metaphor (a lot of the time in dark souls), mental illness, and a certain kind of sanitized writer-ly voice that seems to spawn a new example every few months and I’m at a point where I just feel bad every time I see one because I already know I’m going to check out a paragraph in no matter how good it is.

1 Like