Homecoming: Why are video games so hard to come back to?

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A long time ago (2014), in a living room far far away, I asked Wyatt to help me create my Dragon Age: Inquisition character.

Me on my throne.

We created a:

  • Scrawny Elf
  • With a facial tattoo that covers his entire face
  • Who carries a two-handed sword
  • And has a deep voice

I loved playing as him.

I sunk hours into Dragon Age: Inquisition until I hit the wall and got stuck in the game. At this point, I am sure, a new game entered my orbit, and I blasted away from my elf and the inquisition.

My throne room.

I loaded Dragon Age: Inquisition once more last night. Combat/gameplay rhythms were unfamiliar after being away from the game for so long. My elf had not changed… but I have.

Unlike reading multiple books at the same time, I think video games are harder not to play fully invested in. With big AAA games, I tend to forget about the:

  • Controls (muscle memory does help with skill-based games)
  • Story (I’m thankful for the games that feature a story recap)
  • How much I cared/was invested in characters

So I wanted to ask you:

  1. How long is too long to come back to a game?
  2. At what point do you give up/delete/move on because you simply do not care anymore?

Let me know in the comments below!

Revisited – Christ, the Coliseum, and Violence

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This is one of the first pieces I ever wrote for another site (back in 2013). Still love this scenario. The Assassin’s Creed series is often the Adventures in Odyssey equivalent of the Imagination Station

I left Christ in the Roman Coliseum; I left him to die.

Carefully scaling the Coliseum walls, I slowly made my way towards my first targets: three would-be snipers. Quietly, in succession, I stealthily stabbed each in the back. Not one of the snipers knew of my existence. I am the wind, the shadows, the reaper of death. I am justice incarnate.

My second target: saving the actor playing Jesus Christ in a play. The irony of a Passion Play in the Roman Coliseum does not escape me. Who knows how many Christians fought for their very lives within these walls? Some believers even torn to shreds by lions for the amusement of Nero and the people. I shudder in disgust and then slip on the disguise of a Roman soldier. Christ awaits my saving grace.

Events quickly unfold in a way I could not foretell. The actor playing Christ has been drugged! I effortlessly scoop him up as Borgia men flood in from all sides of the Coliseum. My mission: get Christ to a doctor. Holding him, I can clearly see his crown of thorns and the fake blood smeared on him. I know his only hope is a cure beyond the battle ensuing around me. Suddenly, the world grinds to a stop.

– Reality Confronted –

If you haven’t guessed, my PS3 locked up as I was escorting the drugged actor to a doctor. I was frustrated. A day has since gone by and I have yet to try again. My wife reminds me that it took Christ three days to resurrect, so why not give the game a rest? My conscience is restless. Nine hours of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood has left me with questions. I find myself questioning the digital bodies I have left de-rezzed; I find myself questioning what I am learning about life, beyond the fact that assassinations from the air look awesome. Perspective is everything.

I know that at the end of the day I will return and continue my “historical” Roman adventure. But I want to keep in mind that violence is reality based. Violence is also something that is worshiped within American cinema and culture. I believe that the reason on-screen violence resonates with people so much is due to the fact that it is usually carried out in the pursuit of justice. The Bible says this though:

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. – Romans 12:19 (NIV)

and this:

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him! – Isaiah 30:18 (NLT)

I realize that Ezio’s actions in Brotherhood are simply a part of a fantasy world. I also realize that God is an avenger and a dealer of justice. Though I know that the worlds of fantasy and reality can sometimes blend, I want to be mindful of who and what I am allowing to shape my soul. So God help me.

Too Much Blood For My Six Year Old

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Wyatt and I watched Naruto for the first time. Let us just say that will also be the last time the orange jump suited ninja will be allowed in our home for awhile.

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The line between fantasy and reality is a thin one when you are a kid. Our imaginations go wild in youth. Dreaming big dreams, playing on playgrounds of fantasy. Reality, physical consequence, stalking at the unseen edges ready to pounce.

In one of the Naruto episodes Wyatt and I watched, Naruto accidentally gets clawed by a weapon in battle. The weapon’s tips laced in poison. Naruto decides to act. To get rid of the poison, he jams a knife into his hand. Blood shoots out. At this point, I’m blocking my son’s eyes. I wasn’t quick enough.

Sometime later:

“Daddy, do you remember that ninja guy who shoved a knife into his hand?”

“Yes. You know that wasn’t real but was fiction, right?”

Silence.

As much as my preferences for story surge against the dam of sanity, I made a mistake. Not only that, but that I failed in my role as a guide for my son.

I have to remember, I am the gatekeeper. Not only controlling what walks in past the gate but also for taking my son in hand and beyond the gate. His mom and I are tasked with explaining life to him. Helping him navigate between what is real and what is fantastical.

One of my greatest faults, as a father, that I’m sure I share, is that I am always in a hurry for my child to grow up. I want to share much cooler worlds than those that Garfield inhibits. Age, individual maturity, and even family rules dictate that Naruto stay beyond the gate. For now.

The last thing I want is for him to think that the mature violence depicted is somehow okay to carry out in real life.

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I apologized to Wyatt. Told him that Naruto can’t come over and play for a bit. He wasn’t thrilled, cliffhanger episode, but maybe with time he’ll understand.

Being a dad is hard. The mistakes I make are often centered around me wanting to fast forward time. Contentment, meanwhile, calls.

Life After 9/11: The Avengers

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Living in a post-9/11 world, I view the world through a different lens. This past weekend I finally had a chance to sit down and watch The Avengers with my wife. As the movie raced towards its world-ending conclusion, with a portal opening above New York City, I found myself drawn out of the movie’s fantasy and into reality.

Helpless bystanders were running through the city streets, trying to evade the destruction going on around them. New York City was in havoc.  As taxi cabs were blasted through the air and skyscrapers were torn asunder, I became uncomfortable. I remembered scenes of people fleeing the dust cloud on 9/11; I remembered the repeated video footage of the planes that flew into the twin towers.

I don’t think I’ve ever realized just how much my perception of life has changed since 9/11. Even the movies that I used to think were fun, big budget action films, are tainted in messy reality.

Side Note: With all of the above being said, did anyone else notice that despite the falling debris from the skyscrapers, there was no dust in the air? The end scenes from The Avengers would have been almost unviewable had reality ruled. Hurray for viewable fantasy!

Papo & Yo

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From Minority Media’s site:

Papo & Yo is the story of a young boy, Quico, and his best friend, Monster. Monster is a huge beast with razor-sharp teeth, but that doesn’t scare Quico away from playing with him. That said, Monster does have a very dangerous problem: an addiction to poisonous frogs. The minute he sees one hop by, he’ll scarf it down and fly into a violent, frog-induced rage where no one, including Quico, is safe. And yet, Quico loves his Monster and wants to save him.

Last night I downloaded the demo for Papo & Yo on the PS3. I had read a fair amount about how the game was based on the developer’s abusive childhood, at the hands of an alcoholic father, and I wanted to see how that translated into the game.

While the game featured an interesting aesthetic and puzzles that made me grin, I was bothered by the shoddy controls and poor level design. Not to give anything away but the demo ends on a tense note. I literally found myself wanting to buy the game despite my thoughts on its overall design. After going online and reading some reviews, which sadly turned me away from the game, I decided not to take the abusive journey with Quico.

For some reason, perhaps it was the sparseness of the level design, Papo & Yo reminded me of Ico. Ico was a game that I didn’t necessarily love but appreciated. This reminder then got me thinking about how I had never played Team Ico’s other game, Shadow of the Colossus. So, on a spur of the moment purchase, I bought Shadow of the Colossus off of PSN. Hours later, I was playing the game.

Shadow of the Colossus has a NeverEnding Story feel to it. I love it! Will write more soon.

Kickstarter: For God Took Him

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Back in 2004, I had the privilege of working for The Walt Disney Travel Company. During our 5 weeks of training, I quickly became good friends with my one of my co-workers, a guy named Steve. Fast forward to 2012, Steve and I have managed to keep up through the glorious power of the Internets.

Now, a few years back, I remember him mentioning to me that he wanted to write a book. Recently, Steve told me that he was opening a Kickstarter page to help with funding for completing said book (he has finished 11 chapters so far).

I have to admit that at first I wasn’t sold on it after looking at some of the concept art on his Kickstarter page (not saying that the art is bad by any means). Just didn’t look like something I’d be into. Today, he sent me a link to an actual excerpt from the book. I have to say I am impressed! Reminds me a bit of David Gemmell. So, if you want to help out a friend of mine, I highly suggest checking out his written work here and visiting his Kickstarter page to help him reach his goal of $3,500.

NaNoWriMo: Day 1 – Oseania

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Oh come with me now children to a land not so far away, where a kingdom of old dwells amongst the seas frothy spray. The islands of Oseania, nestled by the sea, are but a page away, make haste now, and turn there with me.

So It Begins –

The night was black and the seas were churning as Henry Von Denton struggled to escape the pounding surf. To and fro the waves battered him, threatening to take him into their depths. Henry’s strength was quickly failing him. He knew that he had to reach the shore or else death would soon come. As he was about to give up hope, Henry suddenly felt earth beneath his feet. Adrenaline coursed through his body, he was going to make it. From the sound of the waves crashing onto the beach, Henry knew that the shoreline couldn’t be far off. He pressed on until he finally collapsed from exhaustion on the beach.

The storm ended sometime the next day but Henry did not awake. Two more days passed and yet he did not stir. Henry Von Denton was not dead, however, but lost in a fevered dream. Time no longer had meaning.

–  –  –

“Henry?”

The voice that called to him sounded familiar. The light warm winds that blew against his face reminded him of another time and place.

“Henry, are you okay?”

Henry opened his eyes and was instantly blinded by the glaring sun. Above him stood a man that looked a lot like him. Built like a Viking of old, Eric Von Denton, his father, looked at him with some concern.

“That was some hit to the head you just took. You alright?”

Henry slowly reached for his head and winced over the lump he felt on his right temple. He could feel his heart beat within it.

“What happened?”

“Well, you just got smacked in the head with a falling sail.”

What had happened to the rough sea and the slave ship, Henry thought. Hadn’t he just made the swim of his life? Henry stood up and instantly felt the ship’s sway beneath him. Of course, he was on his father’s ship The Ottoman.

Eric continued to look at his son with great concern, ”You sure you’re okay? You seem a bit out of sorts.”

Henry decided in this moment to just embrace whatever was going on. The nightmare of his time in the mines on Breakwater and his subsequent escape from the slave ship were experiences he was glad to let go.

“Yes father, I’m fine.”

“Well good,” Eric said not believing. “Why don’t you go below and lay down. Captain Tiberius and I have things under control.”

Henry smiled reassuringly and headed below deck. Perhaps his year of living in a nightmare was but a dream? Settling into his hammock, he was soon lulled to sleep by the ships gentle rocking.

–  –  –

When Henry awoke, he no longer felt the ship moving. Instead he felt cold, wet, and feverish. His nightmare had been real.

“Please, do not move,” a deep voice said out of the darkness.

Startled, Henry opened his salt encrusted eyes and found that he was lying upon a hard surface. The room was dimly lit, and he could barely make out the figure of the man who had just spoken.

“Give me just one moment to get this fire going.”

The Stranger’s voice echoed off the walls. Where ever Henry was, the place was cavernous.

“Where am I?”

The Stranger cursed, ”Stupid matches… ah yes,  you are… give me just a moment and the light will answer your questions.”

An unnatural fire suddenly sprang to life in what was a very large fire place. The sparse room was now illuminated in dark blues and sparks of orange. The Stranger moved across the room and placed his hand upon Henry’s forehead.

“You are burning up.”

Henry began to shiver violently as if on cue. The Stranger skillfully helped him remove his wet clothing and wrapped him in a blanket. Sitting now by the fire, dry, Henry asked once again, “Where am I? The last thing I remember was being on my father’s ship.”

“Henry Von Denton, where you are is not important. What is important is where you are going from here.”

“What does that mean and how do you know my name,” Henry asked questioningly. As warmth from the blanket and fireplace enveloped his body, he began to stare at the Stranger, “Who are you?”

“So many questions…so many questions… my name is Christopherson, I am a monk and the last of the Order of Aletheia.”

Henry looked at him in disbelief, “You’re a monk? You look so young.”

Christopherson chuckled, “I thank you for your compliment but assure you I am quite old.”

The crackle of the fire and the smell of pine permeated the room. The monastery was silent, seemingly empty.

“Where are we?”

“The island of Grace.”

–  –  –

Author’s Note: Didn’t write as much today as I would have liked (about 889 words). But I do think I am off to a good start. Drop me a comment and give me some feedback. Thanks.

Brisingr

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Thoughts on Christopher Paolini's epic

Over the past few months I have been slowly reading through Christopher Paolini’s Brisingr, the 3rd book in his Inheritance cycle. The book so far has shown a remarkable improvement in both Paolini’s writing style and growth as a writer. That said, I have enjoyed what I have read until this point (about a quarter of the book left). The other night I came across a scene in the story that I felt was out of place in this epic tale of dragons, dwarves, and elves.

The scene in question involved the title character, Eragon, going to visit the mother of a dwarf who had died protecting Eragon’s life. As this dwarf mother mourned for her son, she prayed to the dwarf gods. This lead Eragon to contemplate a bit of theology. Take a look at the quoted section below and then we’ll continue.

She said, “Tonight Kvistor will dine in Morgothal’s hall. That I know.” She kissed her amulet again. “I wish I might break bread with him, along with mine husband, Bauden, but it is not mine time to sleep in the catacombs of Tronjheim, and Morgothal refuses entry to his hall to those who quicken their arrival. But in time, our family shall be reunited, including all of our ancestors since Guntera created the world from darkness. That I know.”

Eragon knelt next to her, and in a hoarse voice, he asked, “How do you know this?”

“I know because it is so.” Her movements slow and respectful, Glumra touched the chiseled fee of each of the gods with the tips of her fingers. “How could it not be otherwise? Since the world could not have created itself any more than a sword or a helm might, and since the only beings with the wherewithal to forge the earth and the heavens into shape are those with divine power, it is to the gods we must look for our answers. Them I trust to ensure the rightness of the world, and by mine trust, I free myself of the burdens of mine flesh.”

She spoke with such conviction, Eragon felt a sudden desire to share in her belief. He longed to toss aside his doubts and fears and to know that, however horrible the world might seem at times, life was not mere confusion. He wished to know for certain that who he was would not end if a sword should shear off his head and that one day he would meet again with Brom, Garrow, and everyone else he had cared for and lost. A desperate yearning for hope and comfort filled him, confused him, left him unsteady upon the face of the earth.

And yet.

Part of himself held back and would not allow him to commit to the dwarf gods and bind his identity and his sense of well-being to something he did not understand. He also had difficulty accepting that if gods did exist, the dwarf gods were the only ones. Eragon was certain that if he asked Nar Garzhvog or a member of the nomad tribes, or even the black priests of Helgrind, if their gods were real, they would uphold the supremacy of their deities just as vigorously as Glumra would uphold hers. How am I supposed to know which religion is the true religion? he wondered. Just because someone follows a certain faith does not necessarily mean it is the right path. . . . Perhaps no one religion contains all the truth of the world. Perhaps ever religion contains fragments of the truth and it is our responsibility to identify those fragments and piece them together. Or perhaps the elves are right and there are no gods. But how can I know for sure? – Brisingr, p477-479

Notice several things here:

  • Talk of grief and assurance of something beyond ourselves.
  • The worldview that suicide denies entry into Heaven or the beyond.
  • The longing for assurance that there is something bigger/ beyond ourselves.
  • Human nature – to not want to relinquish control.
  • Questions of where we come from/ who created us.
  • Doubt – perhaps there are gods? perhaps there is not?
  • Universalism – all religions have pieces of truth that eventually form Voltron and end up in the same destination.
  • Athiesm -the elves. What is interesting about this is that the elves, in the world of Eragon, practice a sort of nature magic.
  • Lack of absolutes – there is no absolute truth. What is true for me is not necessarily true for you.

I write all of this not to say that theology has no place in a tale of fantasy. (The Narnian Chronicles are a fantastic example of theology being weaved into a story in an indirect way.) I believe that discussions of such are good as long as they do not draw the reader out of the main story. In regards to this scene in Brisingr, I felt that Paolini dealing with Eragon’s struggle with faith, a struggle not let onto until this very moment in this 1000+ page series, was forced. Sure one could argue that Eragon is contemplating faith and the afterlife due to the death of his guardsmen. If this was true though, why didn’t Eragon go through a similar crisis when his mentor Brom died in the first book? Perhaps this theme of faith struggle is echoed in future pages of the series? Time and the speed of my own personal reading will soon answer that question in regards to Brisingr.

While I applaud Christopher Paolini’s efforts in exploring themes of doubt and faith, I also feel like I have been duped. As asked above, why suddenly have a conversation that hasn’t been apart of Eragon’s life or has been explored earlier in the series? The author’s worldview is unknown to me.  I would love to know where he is coming from and if this specific faith conversation reflects questioning going on in his own personal life. For now I proceed with caution…there could be dragons about.

What do you think?