Stability

So Lulu Blue, a friend and game dev I truly admire, made this post today about their relationship with games and mental illness, particularly borderline personality disorder. It’s an illness I share with them, and I found myself deeply relating to a lot of what they wrote. So I wanted to share some of my own experiences.

I deal with depression and anxiety, physical disability due to chronic pain, all on top of borderline (hereafter referred to at BPD). My BPD makes my relationships and sense of self really unstable, with horrid bouts of paranoia, sudden mood swings, and no idea of who or where I am or how I relate to others.

Critically, a lot of things that I would normally detest in video games offer me a sense of comfort, control, and most importantly–stability. In Mass Effect or Dragon Age, I can pretend that I have choices, some modicum of agency, that what I do matters in this world and deeply impacts others. I can build relationships with these characters that are predictable and don’t feed into my paranoia. I can form a sense of self through Shepard, through the Inquisitor, even if only a temporary one.

One thing especially that I wanted to emphasize is the difference between embodying someone in the first-person as opposed to third-person. I find myself more grounded in the latter. Perhaps first-person is still too close, or the odd perspective, the ‘floatyness’ of these abstract bodies resembles too much the feelings of disassociation. I get overwhelmed, I fling the camera around, often get lost in my environment in ways I never do when playing a third-person game such as, say, Tomb Raider.

The kineaesthetics (er, ‘game feel’) of these games, which have solid shooting or a pleasant, ‘real’ weight to their motion and pacing offer a point in time and space that I can attach myself to and stay grounded within. I have a defined body I can place relative to an environment, and the importance of that can’t be understated. Saints Row 4 is a game I adore simply for its character customization. It’s a silly game, but it’s all about embodiment and power in a relatively safe arena of exploration.

And look, sorry, I can’t not bring up Fallout: New Vegas and Fallout 4 and their intense levels of micromanagement. It’s a magical, beautiful thing for a messy, erratic brain like my own. Lulu brings up ‘identityless’ games, those that focus more on management and abstract ideas. These are fantastic, and while Fallout is very much not one of them, the series ends up producing the same results for me.

Immersion, a trance state, the zone, whatever you wish to call it–losing yourself positively rather than negatively like in an episode of mania or disassociation is some great self-care. Similarly to ASMR, these kinds of games are repetitive, but ask enough engagement that they end up being therapeutic. It’s in this context that, while traditional Gamers might praise FO4’s ‘hardcore’ness, I instead indulge its gentle qualities, its quieter moments of exploration and settlement building.

These are all singular experiences, which is crucial for a person with BPD–at least for me. I’m pretty isolated, my need for attention and approval require some kind of fulfillment, but online interaction, counterintuively to what many other people experience, only stresses me out and worsens my anxiety. So having these worlds to myself, that I can express myself in at my own pace, are critical. I have to echo Lulu in saying I couldn’t survive without these works, however clumsy they may be.

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WURRWALF.NET RELAUNCH | REVIEW – MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

Yo, okay, so I’ve been pretty absent because I experienced some serious burnout when it came to writing about games and such. My heart wasn’t in it–the atmosphere around the games writing community at the time was something akin to inhaling secondhand smoke.

Anyway, I’ve decided to relaunch my site with some thoughts on the movie Mad Max: Fury Road.

I should clarify that I haven’t seen the previous three (though I’m gettin’ right on that). But holy hell was Fury Road a good movie. Frustratingly good, in the best and worst ways. See, it’s with a dash of cynicism that I have to say there probably won’t be anything that comes close to Fury Road in terms of execution for a while.

It’s stylish, vibrant, unreal to emphasize depravity and survival. For once, the boatloads of blues and oranges actually function–most stuff today will use these colour filters and pretty much ruin a movie visually. Every film now looks like the godawful low-budget horror flicks you find while trawling through Netflix. Oh boy, another zombie/vampire/whatever movie awash in in grey blues, sickly greens, and acid oranges that only work to make this the most boring thing to have to look at with my poor, abused eyes.

But colour is used in Mad Max skillfully, to set tone and atmosphere, and there ends my spiel about something really basic that I’m super sick of.

Also: great practical effects make for the best two hour car chase in movies. Old ladies doing their own stunts! Explosions that are actually cool! Downright amazing costume design! It’s all so ridiculous, but measured, the work of veterans, and it’s so much fun.

Mad Max remembers what makes action movies great, and that’s not action all the time, never ending, never giving you a moment to breath to actually absorb what the heck just occurred, to really chew the cud of that fight or car crash or whatnot. Rather, it builds tension, anticipation, it gives the characters and audience the space to explore themselves, and there might not be MUCH there, but there’s something, and it holds emotional weight–its substantive when it could’ve very easily been empty calories.

It’s just really satisfying, being able to sit for two hours watching a car chase and somehow be totally enthralled. Like, is this for real? Am I doing this and loving it? These are the same things I asked myself while playing Wolfenstein: The New Order. How did I manage fifteen some-odd hours killing Nazis and not be bored out of my skull? Did I forget how Liking Things felt?

Maybe it’s because for once, characters felt like people, women were treated as people (honestly, the bare minimum, so applauding anything that achieves this is a double-edged sword), and waves of lore obviously waiting for you to construct a whole wikia subdomain out of them are nowhere to be seen.

Don’t misunderstand, there’s a huge world under the hood there. There’s tons to see in the wasteland. The worldbuilding is respectable and impressive. But Mad Max gives you only what you need, enough to make its premise work, and a respect for audience that gives us room to figure the pieces together to our satisfaction and on our terms.

And this is what makes Fury Road frustrating in a way, because hey, it is good. It’s excellent even. Yet it’s even moreso in light of how bad so much stuff is. Marvel’s dumbfuck superheroes are the biggest movie franchises right now and I’m still like, crying a bit inside with amazement that I was able to actually sit through the entirety of Guardians of the Galaxy, let alone like it.

Mad Max: Fury Road should be a lesson to filmmakers and movie studios, and even with Jurassic World on the horizon, I’ll probably go back to ignoring basically every movie that comes out for the rest of the year because I’m too busy fuming at how good this one is.

Start Off The Year Right: Games Of 2015

I hate endings. They’re mostly never good. So, you know, forget about that. Instead of doing a list of games to signal the end of this pretty awful year, I’m going to take those same games and say, hey, if you haven’t gotten around to playing these, maybe you should try ’em out in the new year. They’re kinda neat.

Continue reading Start Off The Year Right: Games Of 2015

Transdigital: A Personal Transgender History/Analysis

I’ve been wanting to write something like this for a while, and actually did for a project that unfortunately fell through.  Well, I still feel it’s important and I’m not going to wait around for another initiative to do so. As always, I must make clear that I only speak for myself. I speak for no other transgender person, I speak not for their journey nor exploration. Of course we’ll have experiences in common, that’s what brings us together as a community. But too often cisgender people take what one trans person has said and use it across the board to speak for an entire group of people. I must also emphasize that, obviously enough, this takes place over a decade, and there are flawed ideas in here, but nonetheless they play an integral part of my personal history and development of my identity.

But anyway.

Continue reading Transdigital: A Personal Transgender History/Analysis

Why the Wii U Presents the Perfect Opportunity for a New Pokemon Snap

Pokemon Snap was released back in 1999 for the Nintendo 64 here in the U.S. It was quite a unique little game. At it’s core a rail shooter, you played as Todd Snap, a photographer called by Professor Oak to a remote island to visually catalogue all the Pokemon that lived there. While on rails, you traveled to several geographically diverse locations on the island, photographing various Pokemon (sometimes displaying amazing or humorous behaviours triggered by certain player actions). Back in 1999, when Blockbuster was doing a lot better, you could go to stations set up in the stores around the country and print out the pictures you took in the game as real stickers. It was a great little cross-promotion. I still have a sticker on an old CD player featuring a couple Growlithes.

Pokemon Snap is one of my all-time favourite games. Every few months I stick my old cartridge in, power up my N64, and spend all day taking pictures of all those dumb little critters. The game featured some truly challenging photo opportunities—to this day I still have trouble getting a certain picture that involves Pikachu riding on Articuno’s back. So now, with more than 600 Pocket Monsters (and even more on the way!), and the Wii U’s Gamepad and improved online capabilities, I think Nintendo has on its hand the absolute perfect opportunity to revive a great spin-off. Below are the reasons why:

Continue reading Why the Wii U Presents the Perfect Opportunity for a New Pokemon Snap