Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Two months now? Seems like the time's gone by too fast and not too fast enough. Things are different now.

I'm still standing on the edge of an expanse. The setting is different, but the emptiness is the same. I'm trying to fill it with what I can. I haven't had this much room to fill in...a long time. I'm not used to having to fill this space on my own. The possibilities should be exciting, but I'm finding them paralyzing. Too much choice can be a bad thing.

The new place is set up, and amazingly, does feel like a place I could stay for a while. That's good, and I like it there, I just wish I had someone to show it to and share it with. A victory that isn't shared isn't really a victory at all, at least in my head.

I want to fill that space with music. I'll be borrowing a friend's guitar in a few weeks, and hopefully that will give me something to do. My attention span has been almost nonexistent for the last few months, which does tend to put a crimp in filling time. I can't sit and read a book for the entire evening because I lose interest after a half hour. Same with movies, but at least with those I can let them run while my mind wanders, but even my interest in movies is pretty thin right now.

I want to make something. I want to create. I just don't have anything to say right now, which makes no sense.

I wonder why I don't take pictures. Some people take pictures all the time. I don't. At the time, I think "I'd rather just experience this than take pictures." Then I forget the experience and I'm left with nothing.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The great expanse

Here comes a post by one morose motherfucker. Feel free to eject now if you'd rather avoid that sort of thing.
Sometimes, things change slowly. One bit of the riverbank is washed away, one snowflake shifts out of position. Slowly, over weeks, months, and years, things change. Sometimes, they never stop changing, and you only notice years later that the course of the river is different. But sometimes, the small changes add up, and the whole thing comes crashing down, altering everything in its path. The river overflows its banks, the snow comes down in an avalanche, and nothing can stop the rushing tide of change.

Sometimes, this happens in life. The rushing change may or may not be in our direct control, but sometimes they happen. I suppose the inevitability of change happening, of life happening, means that we have to be prepared when it happens.

After the flood, the landscape is different. Places that you used to know, paths you walked daily and thoughtlessly, are forever different, and some are unrecognizable. Things that you thought would always be there vanish in an instant, never to come back. The only certainty left is that you're not certain of anything any more.

I'm standing in the middle of a receding flood now. The reality of everything is still sinking in, even though the waters are still flowing. I'm not sure where to go or what to do when they're gone. There's a whole new expanse to explore. I'm human. I should want to go and explore, meet and experience. I don't though. Not yet. I want to find those old paths I used to walk, those places I loved, and stay there. I know that they're gone, washed away by the rushing waters, but my feet and my heart still look for them, because they can't do otherwise.

In time, I may convince them to stop, to finally accept, and go in search of new paths and new places. But, they tell me, we might find what we're looking for. So I'll let them look. Because part of me wants to believe that they may be right. So while I know that someday I'll stop looking, that day isn't here now. For now, I stand in this ruined place, waiting for the waters to recede, part of me clinging to a futile hope, knowing and embracing that even if I find those paths, it will take untold effort to clear and walk them again. The rest of me knows that the place I knew is gone, and that I can't stay here.

But all of me knows that during those weeks, months, and years that the river was carrying its bank away bit by bit, I sat. And watched it. And did nothing to stop it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Captive Audiences, and the Things They Read

That thing I was working on? That thing that contributed to me assessing myself as "physically and emotionally shattered"? That thing? Yeah, that thing wrapped up last week. There was much rejoicing. The rejoicing looked and sounded very much like sleep.

Since I haven't had much time or energy to do anything since my last post, here goes a bunch of random thoughts. You, dear reader, get to deal with it. Ah, the power of the writer over his captive audience. You are captive, right? Not going anywhere?

Singing solos be hard. I'm still working on convincing myself that yeah, I really do know my part, and I should damn well sing it right, cuz nobody else is going to. I think it'll all work out in the end. Also, high E flats can go die. Everything should be at least an octave lower than that.

Which reminds me, why are there so few baritone or bass rock singers? Hell, outside of classical or theater, there just aren't that many. The only bands I can think of with singers in my range are Type O Negative, Crash Test Dummies, Stone Temple Pilots, and Great Big Sea. Everyone else is a tenor. I can't sing along with that. I need to start my own band, or at least figure out how to play guitar and start transposing stuff down a few keys.

I finally got around to listening to Arcade Fire. I should've done this before. I also started re-listening to Great Big Sea and Counting Crows. Now I remember why they're two of my favorite bands. August and Everything After was also one of my very first CDs ever.

Chasing Amy is still a really good movie, but it shouldn't be. Back then, Kevin Smith would just set up a camera, put an actor in front of it, and have said actor rattle off this long soliloquy that no actual person would ever really say. Yet, once they get into the actual relationship between Holden and Alyssa, those soliloquies somehow manage to totally work. It's still a really good portrait of how humans being human will consistently manage to take something beautiful, and only figure out what they did wrong after they've already broken it. Silent Bob's speech is still one of the best scenes in anything, ever.

It's amazing how you can have so much stuff, think for years that you need it all to be complete somehow, and suddenly realize how little of it is really worth having. I guess the trick is to remember that when you see something new and shiny that you think you want to take home with you.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

When games are art

This is one of those debates that's been running around in industry circles for a few years now. It was recently given a shot in the arm by Roger Ebert weighing in on the subject, first by flatly declaring they weren't, then eventually admitting that he didn't know (or care to know) enough about them to have an informed opinion. That's a extremely reasonable response, and one I can absolutely respect. I myself may not particularly enjoy Swedish Death Metal, but I also know that I know squat about it, so who the hell am I to go on about its merits as a medium.

Of course, the argument itself is a pretty defensive one from both sides. On the one side are game fans who passionately want their "new kid" artistic medium to be given the same weighty respect as visual art and literature. On the other side are the anti-gamers who see this new thing as loud, vulgar, and crass, and flatly deny that there's any way good can come of this. The people involved are fighting to keep control of their own little moral islands while taking over the other side's island.

The brilliant bit about the whole thing is that this has all happened before, and will all happen again. Let's make a non-comprehensive and thoroughly un-researched list:

-live theater
-rock and roll

Both sides are acting as though this fight is utterly unique, when it's really almost identical what happened to all the other mediums on that list. New medium shows up, spends ~30 years developing, many people during that time have this argument, and eventually it settles comfortably into the general cultural psyche until we get to the point that it feels like it's always been there in the form it's in now.

So do I think games art? Of course I do. Are all games art? Absolutely not. Neither are all films, all paintings, all TV shows, or all books. Do I really give a rat's ass if people like Ebert agree with me? Nope. What I do care about is that enough people think games are worth making that eventually we don't have to have this debate at all. What's great is that I think that'll be happening within the next ten years or so.

Now the whole reason that I started writing this post: why I think games are art. If pressed to give a single response to "what makes something art", it would be that something intentionally created is memorable. Plenty of things are memorable, like seeing a guy get hit in the nuts with a football, but that's not art, it's just funny. In order to be art, someone has to consciously create something that has such an impact on another human that it's remembered many years later.

Here's an example from my memory: the game Mafia. This game came out in 2002. It's, unsurprisingly, a game about a guy who accidentally finds himself wrapped up in the mob. In the game, you first see him as a cab driver who gets drafted as the getaway driver for two made men. After impressing them with your driving skill, you get "invited" into the family. The rest of the game charts your rise through the ranks as you kill and steal your way through a '30s era not-Chicago. Along the way, you fall for a girl, and eventually decide to get out by turning snitch on the mob. Miraculously, this works, and you escape with your family into the arms of suburban American to start your new life.

Here's where most games, and movies for that matter, would end. Mafia doesn't, and that's the vital bit. In the epilogue, you see your character as an old man. He seems happy, having made it out of the mob to live a good and happy life. He goes to the diner, and sits down for a meal. A man walks up to you, says "Salieri sends his regards", and shoots you in the head. But rather than being a cheap "oh, your character dies, ha HA" ending, it's actually bittersweet. Yes, you died. But from the moment you joined the mob, that was likely. You got a full life. You raised a family outside of the chaos they would have been in. Yes, the mob caught up to you, but did they win, or did you? It's bittersweet and complex in the way that great art is. And most importantly, I remember it eight years later. That's what art does.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The surfeit of options

You know what sucks about having unexpected time off? Too many damn options. Yup, I'm about to whine about something I shouldn't. Feel free to eject now if this sort of things gets your undies in a bunch.

I suck at decisions. I do much better if I get to choose between A and B rather than having to choose one letter from the entire Scrabble bag. In a way, working so much is good for that. If you know you've only got an hour to do something that doesn't make you want to blow your brains out, it focuses your options a bit. Exhaustion notwithstanding.

Give me an entire extra day though, and I'm just fucking lost. I've got a bunch of chores I should do. I've got a bunch of games I want to play. I've got a bunch of books I want to read. I've got a bunch of movies I want to watch. Enter the analysis paralysis. The stupid part? I usually wind up just dicking around on the internet. It's easier to do that than make a decision.

I think I don't like to pick one thing because when I pick something, my brain tells me "No, no, no, you're not choosing THAT thing, you're NOT choosing all those OTHER things! Think of all the missed opportunities!" So, in a beautifully-executed logical backflip, it decides that the more noble thing is to just not choose anything. That way, none of the inanimate objects feel offended. Huh?

So today, I made myself a list of chores. Then, I did them. Woah. This apparently was too much for me, so my stupid self decided to get really tired. So I had coffee. I might have more later and stay up til 4am. You know what I'm going to do tomorrow? Probably less than I could. Because I'm dumb.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Too drunk to fish...

Okay, so it's really more like too tired to _______ . Let me tell you, working 50-60 hour weeks is draining. I've been at this off and on, mostly on, since May. Now, this ain't my first time around this particular block, but it's hitting me pretty hard. When I get nights off, I have all these grand plans of "holy crap, I've got three hours to rub together, I'm gonna do all this stuff."

Then I get home, and all that stuff feels like a ton of work. I wind up watching whatever stupid movie I asked Netflix to send me, or worse, poking at the shit on the internet. By the way, resist the urge to watch Open Water. There's promises of folk getting eaten by sharks, but it takes 45 minutes to get there, and then the shark eating is incredibly underwhelming. Plus, all the pre-eating bits are poorly shot and even more poorly acted. Though I'm pretty sure Lou Ferrigno has an uncredited role as "annoying hairy diver guy", so there's that.

The upshot is that I'm apparently not too tired to blog. Go figure. I guess sitting here and typing stuff is less work than moving pixel dudes around the screen. Whoda thunk that'd be the case?

And just to provide some continuity, by the end of Bioshock, I was more than capable of exploding heads. Though I usually just caved them in with my Monkey Wrench of Doom. I'm not even kidding. Though I may have taken some license by adding caps. Maybe.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

More evidence that I'm old

I'm not as young as I once was. My rapidly-aging self has a hard time keeping up with action games these days. Not that I've ever been really good at games. In the old days, I used to have to pull my younger brother in to get past particularly tricky parts of games. Of course, that never worked out that well, because the parts that followed were usually harder, but no matter.

Basically, I suck at aiming. I can really only do it semi-well with a mouse. Since the things they have you aim at are usually shooting back at you, shooters can be pretty stressful for me.

I just finished playing the excellent Mass Effect 2. That game sort of plays like a shooter, except for the vital ability to pause the game mid-fight to assess the situation and set up your powers to fire off when you unpause. The fights are still action-y, but they were much more laid back because you can always stop and figure out what all is going on. Fallout 3 had a really similar system, except that after you queued up your shots, you got to watch your character make heads explode in sweet slow motion.

I just got done replaying the first hour or so of Bioshock. This one's also a shooter, but no pausing and heavy on the atmosphere. Way, way more stressful. I don't think I've really come close to dying yet, and even if you do die, there's handy resurrection stations set up all over, so you just pop up again like a Buddhist on speed (with guns). So death, not so much something to worry about, yet not being able to stop and look around during fights makes all the difference.

I could play Mass Effect for hours at a time and end up pretty relaxed. Bioshock, I find myself feeling pretty tense after I'm done. I think I need to figure out that getting killed ain't so bad. Also need more ways to make heads explode.