More Dark Souls, and Anxiety

I played more Dark Souls III today. I did better, I think. Beat the second boss on my second try. Made some progress. Helped out Siegward and we killed a demon together. It was a nice moment. Siegward might be my favorite NPC.

Tomorrow I will return to work after having essentially a month on Leave of Absence for my depression which had gotten unmanageable. I am nervous. I don’t feel the desire to hurt myself, which is good, because I was struggling pretty hard with that before, but my anxiety is winding itself up pretty hard.

Part of me is expecting resentment from my co-workers. And there will probably be some of that. But I can’t let it stop me from living my life, and to live I have to make money, and to make money I have to go to work.

I guess all I can do is spend my free time trying to bolster my skills so that I can write a novel and sell a billion copies and never have to go to work again.

I’m trying to do an art thing, a writing thing, and an exercise thing every day. The first two are easier than the last. But I’m going to keep picking myself up and taking a run at it.

I am so scared, I’m shaking, light-headed. But I can do this. I’ve done it before. I can do it again.

Fuck, if I can play Dark Souls…

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Dark Souls III for Valentine’s Day

I took my SO out for sushi yesterday for V-Day and while we were eating I asked, “If you could pick one game that you want me to play, what would it be?”

“Dark Souls III,” he immediately replied, causing me to win the internal bet with myself.

So after we got home and I spent some time decompressing and drawing, I did the thing.

I made a Knight because I like to be beefy and able to take hits and also because I am so fuckin afraid of Souls games. It took me a while to start to get a feel for the controls – I am constantly wanting to hit square to attack, for instance, which results in hilarious instances of me walking up to an enemy and drinking Estus right in their face. Jumping is pretty awkward, although the mechanic isn’t used too often, and I don’t keep track of my stamina like I ought to. I’ve played too much Dynasty Warriors, I guess.

Despite a rough start (“You have to do the thing.” “I’M TRYING TO DO THE THING”)  I got through the tutorial boss and chugged my way through. I beat the first boss, who honestly felt kind of easy once I had a run without making a stupid mistake. I farmed up some souls on knights – at one point I got two consecutive backstabs, yelling “SUCK IT” at the television. Grinding a bit helped me get more of a handle on the mechanics, probably. I took an elevator down and a doggo followed me and pushed me off the elevator. A bunch of skinny ladies flew me over to the Undead Settlement, where I tried to save the caravan from the doggos and had the gate close on me as a result (I saved one of them).

Once I learned to leave my pity behind like a shed skin and let the caravaners get doggo’ed, I got into the Settlement. My first encounter with the Big Fiery Hugging Aunt was super easy but I decided to go back, level up, show Greirat Loretta’s Bone, and then come back. Then I got hugged to death. So I came back. And got hugged to death. And got hugged to death. Finally I grabbed my souls and ran back, leveled up, came back… and got hugged to death. So that was where I stopped for the night.

Honestly it was more entertaining than I expected. It’s definitely frustrating, but that isn’t news. I mash too much and I have to get out of that habit,  but when I can keep my cool the movement is pretty satisfying. It’s easier to get used to than Bloodborne, which murders you straight out of the cradle. Maybe I’ll be able to develop the muscle memory with DSIII and then go back to BB and play it better, cause I’d love to play more of it, but I’m real bad.

tl;dr: Are you intimidated by Dark Souls? Give it a try, and give yourself some time to get used to the mechanics. It’s actually… enjoyable?

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Drakengard 3 = Madoka but more gross

A long, long time ago I played Drakengard for the PS2. As a dragon enthusiast and a long-time lover of storylines with bad endings for everyone, I loved it. The gameplay was Real Bad and I didn’t even care. I kept playing, determined to achieve every fucked-up ending. The game did not disappoint.

When Drakengard 2 came out, disappointment was rampant. Apparently there was a decision to make Drakengard 2 the opposite of its predecessor in tone, so it was brightly colored, and while the stories do end up with some pretty bummer endings, it’s not immediately apparent right off the bat that the world is Fucked Up. So I tried a little bit of it and, disappointed, left it where it lay. I never went back to the Drakengard series (or Nier) because of the disappointment of the second installment.

A few months ago I watched Super Best Friends play through Nier, because I’d always been kind of curious about it, and laying in bed eating food and watching other people play games is Kind Of My Jam. It was a fun playthrough to watch (although the gameplay convinced me that I would probably never play it myself – I’m bad at bullet hell) and I enjoyed the experience. I noticed that they also had a video of Drakengard 3, so I checked it out.

Drakengard 3 was not a long-form Let’s Play, just an hourish of footage from the beginning of the game, but it was enough to have me Totally Intrigued, so I looked up a YouTube video with all the FMV/story segments (because let’s be real am I going to put in the hours for all those endings probably not), and lay in bed transfixed, watching it for five hours (minus the nap I had to have in the middle because of Brain Problems).

It’s a bummer. It’s a Huge Bummer. It’s uncomfortable. They talk about sex. There is talk of sex with a boy who appears very underage although (SPOILERS) he turns out to be a magically transformed dove, so I’m actually not sure about the legality and/or morality here. The Wikipedia article mentioned that Drakengard 3 is influenced by Puella Magi Madoka Magica and it shows in the weird juxtaposition of Cute Anime Girl Tropes and Psycho Anime Girl Tropes. Yandere isn’t quite the word, but it’s close. Anyway it captivated me and despite the fact that I just spent FIVE HOURS watching the story elements I’m thinking real hard about actually picking it up and playing it, because I’m kind of in love with it. It is the for-real Waifu Wars of my dreams.

God, I am such a fuckin’ weeb.

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Depression and Politics

Well hello there, long-neglected blog.

Lots of people on the internet have lots to say about politics, particularly now. For myself, it came as a shock when 45 won. I realize that this is a symptom of my own privilege, and how good I have it up here in my comfortable Blue State (Washington). I’m trying to branch out, to understand why and how this happened, to figure out what I can do about it.

I also have a long history of depression and anxiety (two great tastes that taste great together). I had a major episode with anxiety back in October and my life was just starting to get settled again when the election happened.

I couldn’t go to work on the day after. I couldn’t go to work on Inauguration Day. I went to the Seattle Womxn’s March, and that helped some. But once the dopamine wore off I found myself slipping further and further into the dark areas of my mind that I had hoped never to see again.

I’ve had four doctor’s visits and two medication changes in the last few weeks. I’ve been on LOA, because every single day, when I tried to do anything, my brain would hijack my train of thought and drive it directly into Suicidal Ideation Station. I live with a low level of this pretty much every single day, but it was like someone cranking up the volume on a channel of just static. If it’s quiet you can ignore it, get used to it. Then someone turns it up to 11 and it’s all you can hear. You can’t have conversations. You can’t focus on tasks or do anything because it’s always in the way. It’s crippling at best and life-threatening at worst.

The day after the election I bleached my hair and dyed it blue. I felt out of control. I needed to feel in control. I needed something to enjoy, something to like about myself. I don’t know. But it helped, so I kept doing it, until last week I went and had it done by someone who knows what they’re doing. It’s brighter and I’m a little afraid I’ll get in trouble at work, but I need it. It sounds so stupid in the light of what other people are going through.

I’m feeling less like hurting myself lately, but every loss seems to erode the mental health I’ve managed to build back up. And there are so many amazing people who are out there, they are fighting to keep checks and balances in place, and I try to take heart from that but it just doesn’t seem to work very well.

I tried tuning it out entirely, and found myself unable to do so without cutting off all social interaction completely, which would be more harm than good. I feel like I have a responsibility to call shit out when I see it or hear it, but then I get trapped between feeling the need to say something and the need to be liked.

I guess I need to stop caring about whether or not people like me. Or at least start caring more about everything else that’s happening. I don’t know. All I can do is keep trying, I guess. It would be incredibly freeing if I felt like I was able to tell people what I really thought, without trying to spoon-feed it or get them to come around on an issue, but that feels so counterproductive that I don’t want to do that, either.

I wonder if I would care so much about what other people thought of me if I were male?

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Twitch Plays Pokémon, and Twitch Plays Pokémon Plays Tetris

TPPPT

Twitch Plays Pokémon stream: http://www.twitch.tv/twitchplayspokemon

Twitch Plays Pokémon Plays Tetris stream: http://www.twitch.tv/xkeeper_

This is the most hilarious shit.

So some enterprising cool person set up a Twitch stream that plays Pokémon using the commands from the chat as the input for the game. They have a script that parses the inputs from the Twitch IRC chat channel, and feeds it to a GameBoy emulator as input.

At the time of this writing, the collaborative effort of 20,000+ people has gotten us:

  • Three Gym Badges
  • Replaced Charmander’s Ember with Bide (but then we got some clutch fucking Bides)
  • Bubblebeam on one Ratatta
  • Dig and Thunderbolt on the second Ratatta
  • Cut on both Charmander and Drowzee
  • Moonstone and Nugget in the garbage
  • A Helix Fossil worshipping cult

There’s a nice Google Doc with lots of information and fun graphics here: tinyurl.com/pokemonprogress

If you need an entertaining way to waste time on the internet, look no further than Twitch Plays Pokémon. It is stunning to see how quickly some tasks get done, and how seemingly endless others are to perform (LEDGE ZONE!). If the statistics on this ever come out, they’ll be very interesting.

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Games and Relative Value

I was reading the Gone Home thread on SA and I noticed that a lot of the complaints about the game are “it’s not worth $20.” My initial reaction to that statement was: fuck you, people worked on that game who need to fucking EAT, god damn the crumbling standards of the game industry and these fucking newbs who play games on iOS and expect everything to be 0.99, get the fuck off my lawn! but then I calmed down and started thinking about it a bit differently.

I am thirty years old (fuck). When I was a wee sprout, my mother bought my father a NES for Christmas one year and we decided to play it while he was at work to get better than him at the games. That was my introduction to video games and I haven’t really put them down since. But back in the before time, when digital downloads weren’t a thing and game distribution was far more expensive, if not impossible, for independent developers than it is now, a video game cost about sixty dollars, which is probably more in today-dollars. Games were not cheap. If you were poor, like me, you rented a lot. Also if you were lucky, like me, you knew a guy up the street whose parents owned a rental place and he could just grab you a game to play for a few days, fuck yeah. NES games were, for the most part, not very long – hardware constraints seriously limited the length of gameplay – and the time involved was usually directly correlated to the difficulty of the game, which itself was probably related to how janky the controls were and/or being Ninja Gaiden III. Fuck birds.

But people still paid sixty dollars for their games. I remember getting The Little Mermaid on NES for my birthday and beating it the same day. The game was not particularly long or particularly challenging. The main thing that I liked about it was the licensed characters from my beloved Disney movie. Was it worth sixty dollars? It’s hard to answer that question about something someone else bought for you. At the time I enjoyed the game quite a bit, but did I play it again after beating it? I sure didn’t. Would I buy that same game now, today, for sixty dollars? Fuck no. Even if it was a high-definition remake with added content? Still no.

The expected value of games has changed so much in the last twenty-five years. Digital distribution has made it easier for even one-man game studios to create a little time-waster (not meant as a pejorative) and put it on Steam or iOS or Android, or even just sell it through a website, for a few bucks. In many cases, because the individual creating the game just wants people to play it, to be noticed, they charge a dollar or five dollars or ten dollars. Sometimes an indie game comes out for fifteen bucks, and people still wait for the Steam sale to get it for seven-fifty. Sometimes it feels like “indie game” has become the “we can’t pay you, but think of the exposure!” of video games.

I almost never buy a title at launch anymore. Mostly because I’m poor. Partly because I have an enormous backlog of unplayed games and the guilt that I feel paying fifty to sixty dollars for a new game when those are all still unfinished is sufficient to keep me from clicking that “buy” button. But there are plenty of folks out there who will eagerly dish out their money to get day 1 AAA releases. Even folks who don’t have a lot of money.

Part of the problem in trying to measure the worth of a game in dollars is that dollar-value is relative to everyone. Yes, the dollar has an agreed-upon monetary value – fucking literalist – my point is that to a person who has a 400 dollar paycheck, ten bucks is worth more than it is to the person with a 2000 dollar paycheck. And it’s not as cut and dried as that, either; someone who is passionately in love with a particular franchise or genre and has a 400 dollar paycheck will be more willing to spend their money on the thing they love and eat ramen noodles for a month or two than the person with the 400 dollar paycheck who isn’t super into that same franchise or genre.

What this means is, it’s difficult if not totally unrealistic to factor a game’s price into an objective value assessment, which game reviews theoretically are (but they’re not). Entertainment itself, in any form, is difficult, if not impossible, to evaluate objectively. Craftsmanship can be objectively evaluated, but the final impact of that craft really can’t. Its value will be different for almost everyone who experiences it – and the stated opinions of the people experiencing it may be influenced by other factors: concern about the way others perceive their evaluation, rewards offered for positive feedback, disincentives for negative feedback.

Gone Home is an interestingly polarizing game. I haven’t played it yet – I would like to, at some point, but the aforementioned money and backlog issues are keeping me from doing so. But everything I’ve read about it seems to stick people pretty firmly on one side or the other – I don’t see a lot of “eh, it was alright” reactions. I suppose that could be because the “alright” folks don’t feel the need to talk about it on the internet. It is interesting, though, that most of the negative reviews I see specifically mention that the game isn’t worth twenty dollars. As if the problems that people have with the game would be less problematic if the game was five dollars instead. I feel that it is not relevant to include price in the assessment of a game. If the game has flaws, those flaws remain the same whether you pay five or fifty dollars for the game. If a game has merits, the same applies. When reviewing a game, I think maybe a better way to go about it is simply to showcase the merits and flaws that attracted your notice, and allow the buyer to decide, based on those flaws and merits, whether the price point is appropriate for them to purchase the game.

did you notice that i love commas and run-on sentences because i do

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