rambling

On Simplicity and Monotony: Fine Lines and my Gaming Dilemma

Hey folks, I’ve been having some trouble maintaining interest in any one game for longer than an hour or so at a time. There are some gamers out there who are convinced that it’s part of a cycle for certain gamers, and I’m inclined to agree: every so often, it’s good to remove yourself from the gaming world for a while to let your batteries recharge. No, not just the batteries in your handheld device or your controller – your personal batteries.

When I’m not doing homework or reading for funzies (yeah I used “funzies,” what of it?), I’m playing a game of some kind. I shop at GameStop every now and then, and every time I try to fill out that post-transaction survey that’s linked to my receipt. Near the end of the survey, there’s a question about how many hours I typically spend in one week playing video games. If I recall correctly, the highest option available is something like “Greater than twenty hours.” I pick that one every time. It’s true. I spend a lot of time playing games, and I’m certain that’s why I’m at the point I’m at – games can barely hold my attention for more than an hour now before I turn them off and jump to a different one. I’m restless. I’m confused. I just want to play something, damn it.

So I look back at my gaming habits. I’ve always been something of a collector, and I’m assuming it may have something to do with the way a lot of adventure and/or role-playing games handle items: you get a big damn bag and you fill it up with cool stuff. It’s always useful to stock up on potions, and despite most of the key items sounding/looking huge, the protagonist can carry like a hundred of those suckers. At least. In short, games require collection more often than not, and I’ve amassed a pretty tidy collection of games throughout my life thus far. It’s not like I’m checking eBay or Amazon for rare games, it’s just that I’ve held onto all my games.

Sadly, I think that policy needs to change. I’m trying to simplify my life: own fewer things, be more efficient. There are games I’ve had on my shelves for almost twenty years and damn it, I haven’t played them since I first completed them. Wouldn’t these games be better off with people who will play them?

My answer is yes, so I’m slowly picking out the games with which I can bear to part. Being the collect-a-thon loving pack rat that I am, it’s more difficult than I’d like to admit. And yet I can’t help but feel that once I shed some of this unnecessary pixelated baggage, I’ll feel pretty good – like I’ve taken some kind of step toward the future.

I ain’t quitting games altogether – I’m just altering the way I interact with them. I need a change and this could be it; here’s to saying goodbye to the games I won’t play again, and hello to a more self-aware consumption of my beloved pixels.

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Three Years is Way Shorter Than I Remember

This is what I picked up at a midnight release three years ago:

As cold and compelling as ever, old friend.

As cold and compelling as ever, old friend.

I have a fond relationship with Skyrim. Three years ago, I was at a pretty low point in my life: I’d been out of work for a little more than a year, I had almost no money, and my final semester at the local community college offered little in the way of hope for the future. Oh, an Associate’s Degree in English? I’m afraid that won’t help you get the edge over this applicant who actually has, you know, experience. Anyway, bitter recollections and cynical snarky crap aside, Skyrim gave me something I desperately wanted back then: escape.

Yeah, I’m an escapist. I’m never quite sure how to handle my real-world problems, so I find the easily-managed, endlessly predictable virtual worlds of video games immensely comforting. Skyrim was released at the best and worst time for me: it was the best because I was in sore need of some good pixelated entertainment but it was also the worst because I become obsessed with other worlds. Obsessed. It could be a crappy-but-honest name for a cologne; you want other people to be obsessed with you? So do we, buy our product!

Anyway, I played Skyrim for what felt like a good half a year straight, booting it up every day and exploring the seemingly endless caves, crypts, and cities, taking in every detail like a piranha takes in unwary swimmers. I was voracious. It didn’t take long for my family to realize I was in love with the game; my sister got my mom to buy me the following gift for Christmas in 2011:

Not that I was gonna use this thing, anyway. I was a real explorer, man. I walked everywhere. What is fast-travel, anyway?

Not that I was gonna use this thing. I was a real explorer, man. I walked everywhere. What is fast-travel, anyway?

Of course, I didn’t really use the guide for anything in-game, but man, the pictures are real pretty, and I’m a word junkie so having a veritable tome filled with Skyrim knowledge just sits right with me. I had to haul it off my shelf so I could get a good look at it again; it really is beautiful. Too bad it’s out of date now, what with all the add-ons – d’oh!

As you can see, Skyrim was a big part of my recent life. Did I play it every day for three years? Well, no. Hell no, actually. There are other games, after all. I don’t even play Animal Crossing every day – I go through phases, playing every day for months on end then dropping the game completely for a while. Same thing with Skyrim: six or so straight months of playing, then whoosh, I hardly even remember it. A guy I met right around the time I put Skyrim away for a while started asking me questions about the game and I heard the machinery in my head whirring, trying to get the relevant information to my conscious mind so my mouth could put it in the air. About a year and a half ago, when I started at my most recent ill-fated job, I dropped random tidbits of Skyrim knowledge to the one “nerdy” co-worker I had just so we could have good conversations about the game. Skyrim is like that: it ebbs and flows, kissing the shore of one’s consciousness before retreating and playing coy. So what do I want to do with it now, three years after it first graced my sad, tired brain with its presence and pleasant distractions?

I'm gonna go with "Yes" and press A.

I’m gonna go with “Yes” and press A.

Yeah, I’m gonna continue from my last saved game. I’m in the midst of one of those flowing Skyrim phases, and the cold crisp air of the November nights meshes with the cold crisp air I imagine blowing through Skyrim while I run from town to town, hunting vampires and gathering ingredients for my mercantile alchemical endeavors. There’s always something to do in Skyrim; it’s an Elder Scrolls game, after all! Here’s to the past three years, and probably the next three as we await word on Fallout 4 and pray that The Elder Scrolls VI comes around before too long.

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It’s Wednesday Night

Yep, and that means a few things. First, the radio is on so I may listen to The Music of America, a local program that focuses on “big bands, blues, ballads, and Broadway,” as the tagline goes. I love everything having to do with jazzy older songs so I do my best to tune into this program when it airs on Wednesday and Sunday nights.

I hear more than Radio Gaga. Phew, my ears still work!

I hear more than Radio Gaga. Phew, my ears still work!

Of course, there’s more to do than enjoy the fine musical styles of yesteryear; I’ve also got some homework I should be doing, but, y’know, this blog calls to me. I swear, I was getting prepared to read a bit before I decided to update this site. The proof is in the picture:

It's a pretty good book so far. Compelling and thought-provoking. I dig it.

It’s a pretty good book so far. Compelling and thought-provoking. I dig it.

Of course, the way I’ve been operating, I start four tasks at once and dash about madly trying to finish them; for the past two hours I’ve been juggling my daily Animal Crossing routine, the urge to blog, a need to finish my homework, and a strong desire to play Skyrim. Oh, Skyrim. Lovely cold lands of strong people and steady adventures. I’m in the midst of trying to put the finishing touches on my in-game house, because I finally decided to embrace the customizable manors offered by the Hearthfire DLC. Yeah, that’s the fun thing about big open games like Skyrim: I can play the damn thing for going on three years (November 11th, here I come!) and still boot it up every now and again and find something to do. I have to question myself though: do I boot it up because it’s fun or do I boot it up because I’m obsessed with crossing things off lists?

Witness the face and the name of compulsion. Menial tasks, ahoy!

Witness the face and the name of compulsion. Menial tasks, ahoy!

See how I’ve only got one sabre cat tooth? I need three more to complete the decoration/furnishing of my sweet new house. Every time I manage to track down a sabre cat and slay it, I find no teeth to harvest. I’m starting to sound like a creepy poacher but I promise, I earned those spoils fair and square! Now, this is the age of fast computers: I’ve looked into this issue on the good ol’ interweb. Apparently, I’ve been a fool because I’ve neglected to save my game before each sabre cat encounter, for if I don’t find a much needed tooth I can just reload that save and kill the creature again. Save scumming … it looks like I may need to resort to it. I can also check out various shops to see if some sabre cat teeth are available to purchase, but I don’t think very many merchants are going out of their ways to grapple with a ferocious killer feline. So I’ve got a weird path ahead of me, replete with saving and reloading and reloading and reloading some more. Yay modernity?

On another note, I may have to go back on something I said in my previous post: I mentioned that with the end of October, I am ready to put creepiness behind me. Well, that’s a lie in a few ways, the first of which is this: I read “creepy” literature whenever I get a chance. That book sitting atop my radio in the picture above is a compendium of strange tales and scary stories, and I’m still slogging through it. School makes it hard to read for pleasure, but I take my fun reading opportunities when I can. The second way I lied is that, well, school also makes it hard to afford certain pleasures. However, a good friend of mine lent me this beauty last night:

Oh boy. It looks like I'll be scaring piss into my pants yet again.

Oh boy. It looks like I’ll be scaring piss into my pants yet again.

My friend bought this game right around Halloween time and he finished it last night. Being the nice guy he is, he brought it over so I can experience the horror for myself. As a huge fan of Resident Evil 4, and hearing that The Evil Within is like a revamped modern iteration of RE4 gameplay-wise, I’m pretty damn excited. Yet I still booted up Skyrim; I’ve got this compulsion to finish up my decorating, and after that I’ll want to transfer all my important stuff into my new abode. It’s like real life, except I’ve got gnarly armor and a big-ass sword with which I defend my possessions! Once the move in Skyrim is complete, however, I will delve into The Evil Within. I promise you that.

If I make it out with my sanity, I’ll see you folks on the other side.

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I Got Good News and Bad News

The good news may be summed up by the following photograph:

I did it! I finished something!

I did it! I finished something!

I upheld my Halloween tradition by playing a Castlevania game to completion, but the bad news is that it wasn’t Super Castlevania IV: it was Aria of Sorrow. Since I bought the game and showed it to you fine folks I’ve been playing it whenever I get some free minutes, and it just so happens that I reached the endgame stretch the night before October 31st. I booted the game up yesterday and gave the harbingers of chaos and evil what-for; I’d fulfilled my promise, to myself and to whomever is reading this bloggy mish-mash of my thoughts, to finish a Castlevania game before the end of October. Praise the Sun!

Dark Souls reference aside, I do feel a little guilty for neglecting to complete my single-sitting play-through of Super Castlevania IV; long story short, last year I almost beat the game in one sitting before I had to set off for work. I figured I’d pull out all the stops this year and really dedicate myself to the task, but man, sometimes life throws a lot of tasks at you at once. Here’s the list: my brother needed help filming a six-second video for a contest, my girlfriend and I wanted to watch Nosferatu for the first time, and finally we had a Halloween shindig to attend, replete with complicated corset and white makeup for ghoulish appearances, and, well, Super Castlevania IV just takes longer to finish than I remember. Remember what I said about me having a tough time keeping time? Yeah, those few tasks on my list yesterday made it hard to focus on Super Castlevania IV. I started the game, though! Honest, I did!

See? Lookit that awesome gravestone!

See? Lookit that awesome gravestone!

Oh my, now a bat's flying out of it! That's not ominous.

Oh my, now a bat’s flying out of it! That’s not ominous.

For the coup de grace, some creepy mist. Like I said, totally not ominous.

For the coup de grace, some creepy mist. Like I said, totally not ominous.

Take your whips in hand and have at the night, hunters of darkness!

Take your whips in hand and have at the night, hunters of darkness!

If only my flair for the dramatic translated into game-defeating energy, I may have finished Super Castlevania IV yesterday, but alas, time and tasks compounded to draw me away from Dracula’s foreboding castle. Still, I won’t be too hard on myself, since I vanquished the horrible night in Aria of Sorrow and sent the forces of darkness back to their dank hidey-holes. It was a good day, and a good night, all things told.

And yet, I’m ready to put the creepy goodness of October behind me and take in the chill November air with open arms. You know, open, sweater-sleeved arms, maybe with a jacket to boot, because it does get mighty cold down in my neck of the woods. Er, my neck of the neighborhood. The woods are closer to the mountains. Anyway, as I was saying, I’m ready for November. That single-night shift from the haunting Halloween shadows to the creeping November nights is almost a magical thing, where wind changes from macabre whispers to inviting murmurs and every cold front smiles and says “Come on out, you’ve got a nice sweater on.” I love it. The holidays are fast approaching but they’re not the only reason to love the somber steps toward winter; every warm cup of coffee, every minute spent alone with a book, every slow jazz song and every smooth sonata seem perfect in the frigid grip of changing seasons. Yeah, it’s getting colder and I’m getting older, but I still have my books, my blankets, my notebooks, my games – I have a lot of things to enjoy and in the still November nights, I have a lot of time to enjoy my things. Here’s to hobbies, folks, and the greatest times to pursue them.

So come walking on your slow icy feet, winter, and bring some snowflakes along, please. Nothing’s better than bundling up and relaxing with a good book as snow falls to cover the industrial wounds and asphalt iniquities of man.

P.S. The week preceding this entry was a little crazy, by the way; I read for class, as usual, found out my brother and I need to attend an exhausting morning class every session now or we fail, wrote a nine page paper, performed one more presentation for a different class, talked to an adviser and changed my major (while adding another one so I can double-major), registered my car the day before the registration expired, and just damn, man, it felt like a whole lot of crap. Important crap, but crap nonetheless. I hardly had time for the few friends I have, but as I wrote earlier, it’s time to say goodbye to October, and that means waving “So long” to most of the busy work. Things should be simpler now, until the end of the semester brings finals, more essays, and stress before that sweet release into free time and freedom.

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