PatchWork, or, An Update Is Available!

My therapy practice is located midway between Harvard and MIT, and this is deliberate:  There is a high-density population of neurotics, including yours truly. 🙂  And the past two weeks, pivoting on Labor Day, have brought the changes that come with a community so academic.  The curmudgeon in me notices that parking spaces have vanished, the lines at Starbucks have grown longer, and there are more disoriented people walking around asking for directions.

But on a good day I can notice something different, the excitement and exploration as new students from around the world begin a new year and perhaps a new phase of their lives.  There is an eagerness and optimism and curiosity that I see in the nonvirtual world that reminds me that it’s about time, and actually the perfect time to talk about patches.

Most Massively Multiplayer Online games are initially released with all the content a player needs to get started and have hours of enjoyment playing the game.  But like other art forms, the audience of video games enjoy continuity and variety.  Many art forms account for this:  Books and Movies have sequels, music has follow-up albums, and video games have patches.

Patches are downloaded from the internet by the user and patched into the existing game content.  They are used by the game developers to add or change existing content.  Originally used mainly to fix bugs, they have since evolved to include downloading large amounts of new content for the video game.  They can change the entire landscape of the game world, like WoW’s recent Cataclysm did (gamers bear with me, I know that Cata is technically an expansion pack) add abilities or game modes (cooperative play) for players.

Patches (and expansion packs) are a big deal in the gamer community.  The release dates are sometimes announced, often rumored, and always anticipated.  Discussion abounds about what new things are coming:  Will we now be able to fly?  What kind of new instances are going to be in the game?  Did you hear that the entire region of Thousand Needles is going to be flooded?  The night of releases the servers are taxed with people that are updating their versions of the game.  And when it hits, people spend hours exploring and enjoying the game with renewed interest in vigor.

Back to School, Back to Work

Did your heart fall a little reading that phrase?  Back to school has a very depressing air about it, back as if we’re backsliding, going back to something we were trying to escape.  Back to work, too, has the sour taste of ended vacations to it, picking up where we left of in our daily chores. Therapists ruefully notice this as a bit of job security:  The phone suddenly starts ringing again as our business swells from the misery and dissatisfaction of others.  Here in New England, back to school/work dovetails perfectly with the weather and our Puritan heritage:  Work, for the night is coming, work for the end draws nigh.

But what if we took a page from the gamers’ book here?  What if it wasn’t “back to work/school,” but instead the release of a new patch?  How much more exciting and interesting would that be, if we had just finished downloading Patch version 9.10.11?  We might be more like those students in my neighborhood:  Not disoriented but exploring, not clueless but curious, not in the way but blazing trails, not taking up space but staking new territory?

I often write about why therapists should learn more about video games for the sake of providing better treatment to their patients who game.  But this post is specifically for everyone to learn from gamers.  Educators, why not think of this as a new patch release rather than “another” year.  What if we viewed education through that game lens?  New content has been released in the world, how can you patch it into your classroom or lecture?  Therapists, rather than look at this as the time of year where business picks up, why not look for the new content that has been released in your field? (Ok, that’s too good an opportunity for me to pass up: For only $2.99 you can buy my book and integrate gamer-affirmative concepts into your treatment.  🙂 )  And if you’re not a therapist or an educator, how can you shift your mindset from “back to work” to “new patch is out!”

Remember how I mentioned that one of the early and primary roles of a game patch was to fix bugs?  Well, what kind of glitches does your life or work have?  Have you spent sometime thinking about what could fix it?  Why wait until New Years to change something?  You will enjoy the content of your life more if you take some time to fix X rather than working around it for another year or decade?

And what new content do you want in your life?  There’s a lot you can add.  There’s a lot you can remove too.  This year I removed the content of teaching one class because I wasn’t enjoying teaching it.  I added the content of writing a couple of books and doing out-of-state speaking, because I like traveling and love talking about video games and therapy.  Do you want to grow your practice, start a blog, tweak your website, or present?  Write that down in your practice patch notes.

Look, I know it’s tempting to do nothing but sigh with relief that your kids are out of the house, or mourn the passing of summer, or grit your teeth and get back to the grind (and getting TMJ!)  But how about doing it differently this time?  How about opting for an attitude of curiosity and eagerness  instead?

One thing most patches come with is “patch notes” which tell the gamer what’s new, fixed or changed.  It can be the mechanics of a certain class (Mages now have improved Scorch) or new loot that drops.  Why not take 20 minutes and write your own patch notes?  What about your class (career) mechanics do you want changed?  Do you want imroved EMDR skills?  Write that down, and enroll in a course.  Do you want to fix that rug in your living room that you always trip over?  Write that fix down?  Do you want new content in your job?  Write that down, and ask your boss for something new to try out?  Do you want new content in your life at home?  Write down what kind it is (I suggest getting a new dog from Petfinder.)

If you are in a relationship, write note with your partner(s) about what needs fixing, what new content you want.  Families can use this as an opportunity to meet and write down some patch notes for their family.  This is especially useful if you have gamers in your family! Who wants to go over house rules whne you can discuss the latest patch release of Family version 9.10.11?

If you don’t want to write stuff down, no worries, you can try the idea out anyway.  Are you willing to try for one day, one hour, to look at your life as if it was a new release rather than the same old content?

In Buddhism, one of the “Three Jewels” of Buddha is the Dharma.  One way of understanding the Dharma is the enlightened state of realizing the teachings of Buddha.  When you have the dharma, you are “awake.”  This very moment, you are mindful and aware. You may not have been the last moment, and you may not be the next moment, but right now you are awake, and that means everything.  So if you read this post, right now, for just this moment, you are aware that you have a choice:  You can see the next days of your life as being stuck in the same old routine of back to work; or the moment Patch Version 9.10.11 comes out.  Not wouldn’t that be interesting?  New content, new fixes to old problems.

This post is done, I wonder what you’ll do?


Like this post?  There’s more where that came from, for only $2.99 you can buy my book.


  1. Epic Mike,

    You have done it again! I really like the re-frame on going back to work, patch with the family rules, and back to school. This concept is going to be useful as I work with kids within the framework of family therapy.

    Thanks for the tip.


Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.