I love video games in which you explore, gather materials and build things, so I snapped up "Feel the Snow" when it went on sale this week. This gem of an indie game by developer Owlet has soothing music, old-school graphics and delightful lollipop carp you can catch while ice fishing.
After spending several hours chopping wood and planting gardens and building cabins, I found my tiny snowman character beset by a horde of goblins. When the "You have died" screen appeared, I began sobbing.
I don't enjoy fighting, in games or real life, but these tears weren't shed for the death of a pixel-art person. Nor were they in frustration over my sloppy sword skills. I know I'm a filthy casual, and I'm OK with that.
If you read the Colorado Daily as religiously as I do, you may already suspect the real culprit.
When I was a student at CU, I read the Daily regularly but never every day, even though I was earning a degree in journalism. Textbooks, papers and a part-time job made too many demands on my time. It wasn't until I got an internship that I experienced what it's like to become a vessel for a never-ending river of news.
The adjective "crusty" likes to tag along with nouns like reporter, editor, photojournalist. When your job involves constant attacks on your empathy, you tend to grow calluses. You deploy a wide range of defense mechanisms that might include things like carbo loading, frequent breaks to play with the newsroom puppy, wildly inappropriate jokes and sinking hundreds of hours into escapist video games.
But the crust behaves in mysterious ways. Sometimes, it keeps you numb as you write a headline for a story about a mass shooting or Rohingya villages burnt to the ground. Sometimes it cracks under the pressure of reading about a single hurricane survivor. And once that crack appears, it can split wide to let everything else pour through.
If you don't work at a newspaper yet find yourself nodding along to all this, congratulations. You're officially part of the second-hand trauma club. We have a secret handshake (wrap your arms around your knees and rock back and forth) and a mascot (walking box of tissues with googly eyes).
Right now, you may be looking for ways to rebuild that crust, preferably something that doesn't involve guzzling red wine until you look like a Mentat. Here are a few suggestions: Take a break from the news. Hug someone you love. Throw some cash at a highly rated charity. Make an appointment to donate blood. Have a long cry in the shower. Remember that research shows we're living in the most peaceful time in human history. Mainline "Feel the Snow."
Then, get your shit together. Get it all together and put it in a backpack. All your shit. So it's together. You're going to need that crust back, because the dumpster fire isn't going away and we need everyone working the bucket brigade.