Tag Archives: gaming

Life Unplugged

Broken Controller

Two months ago, I quit playing video games cold turkey.

Someone near and dear to me let me know that my escapism habits had become unhealthy. I was constantly stressed about not having enough time for the things I wanted to do–writing fiction, keeping up with the blog, taking my girls hiking or to the movies–and the things I needed to do–teaching, grading, running a theatre program, and sundry household duties. So in order to “balance” all this and keep up with my gaming habits, which I’ve always viewed as a gateway to inspiration (look at Descarta, for example), I began getting up early in the morning to play games. I then stayed up late gaming after I had accomplished whatever I had managed to that day, which in retrospect, was probably not much.

Two-Extreme-Gamers-Who-Happily-Admit-Playing-485-Hours-Per-Week

This would have been different, mind you, if I had actually been playing new and exciting games instead of replaying Dark Souls for the umpteenth time (my goal was hitting level 712 without cheating!) and trying to stay ahead of teenagers in the Urr Dragon battle in Dragon’s Dogma. Prior to the new DLC, I had done everything there was to do in Skyrim as well.

Hey, I was murdering evil, right? True. But I was also murdering time, my health, and personal relationships. In the meantime, I was writing virtually nothing. My weight was back up to the pregnancy sympathy pounds stage, and I was junking up on energy drinks just to function. I had zero motivation–and this depressed me to no end.

This surprised me. I mean, you’d think with the anthology’s release date nearing and me sitting on Winter Break at the time, I would have been bouncing off the walls. Instead, I was a wreck. Success doth not ensure happiness, especially in the mind of an English major.

This is why I maintain the axiom that all artists–real artists–are either drug addicts or insane. Just like Nicolas Cage.

Nicolas Cage Nuts

This should keep me safe from the bees!

I remember following a much more successful (no hyperbole) blogger/web comic years ago who managed to land a book deal with Harper Collins. After everything seemed like it was going her way, she lapsed into depression. Her last post was about how this had unexpectedly happened to her, and as of this writing, she hasn’t released any new material (other than an interview on reddit explaining her situation to her many fans). I remember being extremely disappointed in her for just falling off the world like that.

Now, to some extent, I understand.

So the games, and indeed my entire outlook, had to go. The trouble is that you can take the gamer out of the game, but you can’t take the game out of the gamer. I’ve been gaming since the Atari 2600, after all. Two of my three books are about gaming in a Sci-Fi sense (the other, perhaps paradoxically, is about technology destroying everything that was once sacred in the world). It took me a few weeks just to stop seeing facets of reality in terms of video game analogies, which I’d found to be comforting in times past. I mean, I was the great knight errant on a quest to redeem the kingdom. An overweight English teacher with a penchant for the dramatic can fall on his face and fail miserably at life, but a knight? Never.

Knight Templar

It’s not that I don’t know the different between reality and fantasy; it’s merely that fantasy–stories, ideas, even romance–help us cope with a reality where things seldom make sense.

What happens when you try to take the game out of the gamer? The gamer will inevitably apply what gaming has taught him/her to reality. Take grinding, for example. Grinding is the practice of leveling up your character before a boss fight to ensure that you survive the encounter. I’ve still been grinding. I’ve just been doing it in a gym. Now that I’ve beaten off the sinus infection that was holding me back, I plan to grind a lot more. I’ve also eliminated my dependency on energy drinks. Taken together, these two changes have helped me cut about 20 pounds so far.

Instead of tailoring a fictional character to my tastes, I’ve been working on myself. After all, this is my story, and I have to deal with all these “cut scenes” of me now. I might as well be a protagonist I can be proud of, right?

I’ve also noticed in the past few weeks that I haven’t been camping my iPhone as much. For awhile, it had become like the One Ring. There was a moment about a month ago when I deliberately tried to walk out the door without it, and the damn thing was already in my coat pocket.

gollum_iphone

My Own! My Apps! My Precious!!!

I believe that, at least in my case, fixating on my spiffy little handheld computer with all its apps and checking my blog stats and Facebook every few minutes is linked to my gamer mentality. I might be more out of touch with the world than I was two months ago, but maybe that’s a good thing for my own sanity. I don’t need to become Gollum to write speculative fiction, after all.

New stories will happen because they must. My old Royal typewriter was recently repaired, and that shall be the mechanism of delivery for the time being. I’m sure I’ll be keeping all kinds of people up at night with its sweet cacophony of keys and bells, but to hell with it. Enough is enough.

What does my current cynical attitude regarding technology mean for this blog? Honestly, I wouldn’t worry too much, dear reader. Sans the video games and with all this energy from running on the treadmill, I’ve realized that I have much, much more of one thing than I had previously thought–and that is time.

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Filed under Family, My Writing, Rants, Reading, Science Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

21st Century Digital Boy…

Image

***Spoilers Abound***

Yesterday, my Digital Self awaked from a coma of productivity that lasted for at least 8 months. I know this because when I logged into Dark Souls (one of my favorite games despite its somewhat absent storyline) to play the new DLC, my created character’s name took me aback.

Sir Balmus. I chuckled and selected that save game.

I had forgotten (how I don’t know) that the handle I had chosen for Dark Souls is the same as Reese’s handle in my Cyberpunk story, “The Wolf of Descarta”.

I had forgotten more than that, honestly. But traipsing about the undead killing fields with my trusty Divine Zweihander (because God gave you two hands for a reason!), slaughtering baddies in PVE and PVP, and teaming up with random gamers to beat down nigh-impossible bosses made me remember why I turned to writing Cyberpunk in the first place.

Reese, my protagonist, lives in a divided society where the lower caste is pacified through simulations, and after so many insertions into the Dream Box, the line between reality and fantasy begins to blur. Extraction becomes a kind of mental whiplash. Time in the mind and clock time become discordant. Identity issues ensue.

And that’s just the first three pages.

I felt like Reese going up against Artorias the Abysswalker as Balmus, who–like Artorias–bears the title Wolf Knight. (And no, I didn’t jack this. Descarta has been around in novel form since my college days, whereas Dark Souls was released in 2011.) The bosses in the DLC are, of course, insanely difficult, so after soloing the fallen knight and beating him down to an inch of his life, then getting screwed by a hit box issue (and cursing his mother, brother, offspring, and pets), I decided to summon some assistance.

I’d like to say the blue phantoms and I made short work of Artorias right then and there, but the truth is he beat the snot out of us seven or eight times. Imagine an anime-inspired, basically airborne, possessed shell of blue armor oozing darkness whilst deftly whipping around a great sword with all the force and celerity of a jet propeller blade, and you’ll have some idea what we were up against. It was like Final Fantasy VII’s Cloud Strife and Soul Calibur’s Nightmare had a really, really ugly baby.

In short, the help wasn’t much help. I kept wasting my Estus flasks on healing the party, who died anyway, and then there were none left for me.

So after slaughtering my well intended PCs for what seemed like the umpteenth time, it came down to a battle of flippy-flippy slashy-slashy between the Artorias and I, and I was just a little bit more stubborn than the AI. Now I have his armor and his new sword and his new shield along with his wolf ring and old sword and… The list goes on. You get the idea.

So you’d think that would be enough, right? Hell no. I was determined to finish the DLC in one sitting, and I basically did just that. The only reason I’m not still slaying undead and casting Abyss spawn back into the Abyss is that I ran out of new things to kill, and the new PVP servers that came along with the DLC weren’t working for me this morning.

I even wasted some time phantoming in other people’s games, helping them kill the new bosses despite already having every upgrade I could possibly get for my covenant (an online group of gamers with likeminded values, at least within the framework of Dark Souls).

When it was finally time to unplug, I had to take four Advil and a hot shower. (My head is still pounding harder than these keys.) There was also that weird moment of confusion when I looked in the mirror, as if I was expecting to see someone else. So Descarta. The idea that these virtual warriors who risked their lives with me online this weekend are people I will probably never meet is well represented in my fiction as well. In Descarta, the law forces a separation between Reese’s waking world of disappointments and his digital dream.

Some people (like that Slushmaster weirdo featured in Rejection: Greatest Hits) don’t understand the appeal of Cyberpunk as a genre. They claim that suspending disbelief and attaching themselves to a simulation is difficult because said simulations have no bearing on reality. Of course, I could make an argument that GOOD cyberpunk finds a way to make the virtual affect the corporeal, but one could also make the argument for a good book or movie as a form of simulation.

I mean, if none of it touches reality in any way, where does the time go? Into the Abyss?

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Filed under Fantasy, My Writing, Publishing, Rants, Reading, Science Fiction, Writing