This American Life, Ira Glass’ impeccable radio show, always urbane and humane in equal measure, opened the year by re-broadcasting one of its classic episodes, Numbers. Catching up, it introduced me to the story of Andrea, who as a young temp more than a decade ago taught herself Microsoft Excel by making a spreadsheet called My Love Life: A Ten Year Span.
The years were plotted along the bottom, and the Y-axis recorded the number of people Andrea had got lucky with each year – hitting a total of seven in her luckiest of years. Seeing her life laid out in stark statistics like this was somehow reassuring, she confided: “It is just numbers. Looking at it this way, the people totally go away… So many of these things on their own I would normally classify as failures, they were were rejections or something painful, but when I look at it in the context of all this, these are all my scores, my successes.”
Scores! That simple piece of abstractional magic that can turn failure into success, that assigns you a clear place in a world which can otherwise seem oblivious to your efforts. Life is full of unquantifiable mysteries – rewards you don’t quite feel you’ve earned, punishments you know for sure you haven’t, equations that can’t be solved about whether people who are richer, fitter and prettier, but also ruder, stupider and lonelier are actually better than you or not.
It is from these pains that I take refuge in Disgaea.This time it’s the DS version, but I’ve retreated to the the first two often enough, as well as to stable-mates La Pucelle and Phantom Brave over the years. They’re all made by Nippon Ichi, a company who specialise in producing games for people who like numbers, grids and jokes. Or, to put it another way, me. (more…)