Not interested

“It’s a narrative theory. For video games. If you treat the game as a ‘reading’ experience, you can –”

“Yes, yes. I got that. What I can’t figure out though is why you are working on it.”

“What do you mean? This is important. By understanding how we interact with rule sets, we can gain a better understanding of narrative construction –”

“Through… video games.”


“Okay, I believe you. But I’m not interested. Sorry.”

You may have noticed that I have not been writing much lately, not writing as often as I normally would. There is a simple reason for that: school. I said before, in a post nearly a week ago today, that I often have to choose between my writing here and my school work over there. If I want to write about video games and narrative theory, I have to do it on my own time (i.e. late at night) and by myself. Few seem interested, at my current university, in helping me. Those that are willing to initially help — and to whom I have thanked for their time and patience regardless afterward  — do not know video games or, as soon as I reveal what I am working on, suggest I work in another field.

I don’t mean to insult my university — I’m not even going to name it here in order to protect it. I have had some wonderful times here. I have had classes that have inspired me and challenged me both as a student and person. However, as is currently the case with this semester, I have begun to question fundamental pedagogical practices of several professors and very nearly have written about them personally in blog posts. (I’m not generally mean enough to do that, but one action a couple weeks ago brought me dangerously close — and I just stopped myself from writing about it… again.)

I’m a Computer Science student, a programmer by trade and talent. That may not mean much to those outside such training but, as a writer, I am practically an outcast to the community, especially here. Writing, if it’s not done with at least three letters from other languages in various superscripts (e.g. math), is frowned upon and pushed to the side. A programmer write!? No, no… no. Say they: “If we were meant to write, we would have a program for that. Look at how much we can get done with bytes. Why would we ever need to use words?”

I’m exaggerating. Although, the truth is not far from that. I have heard, from those who did not know I was a writer, that making programmers take classes on writing, English classes, is a waste of time. That the money spent on teaching coders to write essays could be better spent on more technology and allowing them to take more Math classes. I obviously disagree, but am such a minor voice that I am rarely listened to — I was actually shouted down once for suggesting that CS students take more writing classes at a forum on the subject.

Of course, it is not as if the other side, the English department, is much better. I have learned very quickly to suppress the fact that I am a Computer Science major in English classes, my minor. I am a decent writer — I freely admit that — but, on every occasion when writing and literature professors have learned of my major, they have treated me with either suspicion or are outright shocked at such an admission. They cannot seem to fathom why a student would want to work with code. In fact, one of my favorite writing professors once declared to us that he “was at war with [the campus tech. support department].” (I explained to him after class that I had worked for that department in the past and that they are often staffed understaffed, underpaid and overworked. His “war”, the last I talked to him, is more of a “police action” now.)

I had hoped to escape from all this at the end of this year. I was on track to finish my CS degree and start sending my material to MA (and MFA) programs nationally. That won’t happen now. That class I mentioned earlier? I dropped it and will have to take it again in the Spring now. Me, along with 16 other students, dropped the class — it went from 22 people at the beginning to 5 just after the midterm. Since I was dropping that class, I went ahead and dropped another class too. If I was going to stick around for another semester, I might as well get a fresh start on two subjects.

This means though that I will miss the February admission window for most universities. I have already been an undergrad now for more years than I care to admit (mostly as a part-time student) and was aiming to start deeper studies, ones closer to my own interests. I wanted to get away from the “not interested” and find a place where, as both writer and programmer, I might fit into the curriculum and be around people who knew, if I were to bring up the term ludonarrative dissonance for example, what I was talking about.

Instead, now I might very well be fulfilling that line in my About of pursuing “a second [degree] in Creative Writing.” If I am going to miss the window next February, I might as well aim for the one after that, February 2013. And, if I am going to stick around for another semester anyway, why not just shoot for a second degree in the process? It’s only seven more classes. What is two or even three more semesters (basically another year) before starting several more years of study?

“Does it dry up / like a raisin in the sun?”

5 thoughts on “Not interested

    1. Dan Cox

      I’m sorry. I generally dislike my experiences here. And if mine have been anything like yours, I completely understand. I also hear that it is harder to switch research areas once you have settled on one.

      Are you… an English MA? I don’t mean to be nosy, I was just wondering about your experiences with it. One of my current professors wants me to stay here… at my current university and work with performativity in pursuing a MA — minus using it with video games. I’ve been thinking about it — not completely seriously but as a backup option in case other things do not work out.

  1. As someone who’s spent her life drifting from one major/research area to another, you have my sympathies. I don’t have much experience with the particular path you’re pursuing, but my advice, for what it’s worth: get out of undergrad with the CS degree and worry about the rest after. There are lots of master’s and PhD programs out there these days that take an interdisciplinary approach to CS, and would probably be excited to get a student like you. Many of them might see a humanities minor or double major as a plus. I might even be able to recommend some schools, if you’re willing to put up with the generally glacial pace of my email response.

    1. Dan Cox

      In an ironic twist, the very thing that is driving me away — the neglect of writing in CS — is the one thing this school really needs right now. I was asked the other day to consider, since I’ll be around for another semester at a minimum, being a grader for those classes in which writing essays is required in CS. The professors do not want to read freshmen essays and many of the grad students are those that came up through the undergrad program ignoring English classes. They are in need of people with a solid grammar understanding and can’t seem to find them.

      I will take you up on the recommendations. I have already missed this upcoming admission window because of being short two classes anyway. I haven’t quite decided to try the extra seven classes route or try to get a job for a year before the next window.

  2. aristolar

    I share your sense of infuriating frustration: programmers learning to write is a waste of time, they say? Ha! You’re a student: learning anything is never a waste of time if you can find a way to apply your knowledge in your chosen field. And you never know when what you learn will come in handy, so you might as well know a little of everything (more so for someone like me, since I aspire to become a game designer).

    Math classes are all well and good when you’re a programmer, but thinking outside of your field of specialty can only broaden your horizons, help you think in new ways about the problems in your field. I’m sure you’ve heard that one of the major recurring complaints from the player community is how derivative games are, how they’re just about the same things over and over again. While I’d argue that that’s mostly a problem with publishers, not developers, I hope it shows the importance of stepping out of your regular routine to get a fresh look at things. I, for one, applaud your efforts at expanding your educational pursuits, and I wish you the best of luck in finding a career that will value your talents.

    Like me, you seem to be someone who knows what they want to do in life, but isn’t quite yet sure how to do it. There is no set path for people like us: we just have to find our own way. I suppose I find it easy to talk, since I already have 2 college degrees (a B.A. in Creative Writing and a B.S. in Game Art & Design). While I haven’t been able to do much with them yet, I remain hopeful, and I advise you to do the same.

Comments are closed.