Background Noise

On Wednesday, July 5th, I was I diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Most people are familiar with this illness due to some exposure on TV shows. Repetitive motions, obsessions with germs, and extreme organization are the traits that most people are exposed to. However, OCD is far more diverse than that. I want to help people understand how much depth there is in an “OCD” diagnosis because I am frankly tired of people hearing about my diagnosis and saying something like “Oh, that’s why you’re so organized.” Hopefully this video can shed some light and then below I will break down some examples before returning back to my personal story.

How long did I sleep for? I’m feeling lightheaded and my heart feels weird. Do I feel like taking my meds today? Why is my pulse like this?  My _____ hurts, I must have _____. Calm down. No I have _____. I’m going to freak out. I need to calm down but I’m dying. This is the end. My heart is racing and I can’t breathe. I need to leave. I need to go somewhere safe.” – Thoughts I have similar to what’s displayed in this video.

 

Obsessions

Defined as “unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images, or urges that trigger intensely distressing feelings.”

  • Fear of contamination
  • Having “forbidden” thoughts involving sexual or harmful ideas.
  • Feeling that you will be aggressive towards yourself or others.
  • Making sure things are symmetrical or in perfect order.

Compulsions

Defined as “behaviors and individual engages in to attempt to get rid of the obsessions and decrease their distress.”

  • Excessive Cleaning and/or Handwashing
  • Making sure things are ordered in a particular and precise manner
  • Repeatedly checking on things to make sure nothing bad happens, like repetitive phone calls to family or friends to check if they’re “okay” or repeatedly checking your alarm clock.
  • Counting things.

Now, reading these examples you might think “Sure. I do that. Everyone does!” There is a difference with OCD, because those with OCD cannot control these thoughts or behaviors. Sufferers can clearly identify that the thoughts and behaviors are excessive, but regardless of that, they still happen. These repetitive mental rituals and calming behaviors are done in an attempt to relieve the anxiety from the obsessive thoughts, but the relief is often short lived, thus requiring more repetition of them.

For years, I had no idea what these powerful thoughts were in my head. I remember being as young as 4 years old becoming absolutely terrified that my parents were going to die if they left the house, so I would repeatedly ask them if they were okay. In high school, I remember writing my notes down every day in class and mentally checking that they were all written in the same format, with the same ink and same pen, that my binders were organized, and if one mistake happened to them, whether it be a grease stain or a misspelling, I wouldn’t just rip the page out and start over. No – because that would mean the book is uneven and there are paper shreds in the spiral. This book was now uneven and broken so I would throw it away and use a brand new notebook, resulting in me having to rewrite all of my notes.

These obsessive ideas bled out into my entertainment activities. If I was going to read a book series, I needed to make sure I read every single page in every single book in the series because if I didn’t, I felt like I was dishonoring the author and something was “off”. The same thing would happen with video games – if I could not own every game in the series and make sure I completed it to 100%, this made me feel very uncomfortable. The best way I can describe this feeling is that feeling of guilt you get when you do something that offends someone and your whole body gets warm, you start to sweat, and you feel dread in your mind and your heart. 

After my father passed away in 2008, I began obsessing over heart conditions and despite being in decent shape from watching what I ate and running 3-4 times a week, I was absolutely convinced that I was going to die by my heart suddenly exploding. This resulted in me checking my pulse constantly no matter where I was and being unable to sleep some nights because I could feel my pulse beating too hard and thought that was unnatural. This became so bad that my mom took me to our primary care doctor to get my heart checked out via electrocardiogram. Even with everything coming back fine for someone my age, I struggled with this for a few more months.

Moving on to college, I started dating and started having obsessive ideas then as well. I would exhaustively ask “do you love me?” and despite the answer always being yes, it was never enough. I would go crazy over stuff like this and launch into arguments trying to find a crack in that answer, despite knowing that I was happy with them loving me. Another big issue was changing plans. My illness still being unknown, any time someone would suddenly change plans on me or ask me to do something out of the current activity I was already in basically broke my brain, causing me to get snappy and frustrated. A lot of very simple things like “Do you want to run to the store with me?” became heated arguments because my brain was so stuck in this cycle. I also noticed at this time that I do a lot of things in 3s.

One big issue for me is video games. Looking at my website or just knowing me in person, you would easily be able to tell that I love video games. But just because I love them does not mean they do not affect my disorder. There have been many, many nights I have forced myself to stay up late because I had to finish a task. Now, you might think that this is just a way of me justifying enjoying the game, but I assure you at this point it has crossed enjoyment and now become stressful. Seeing a growing list of games shown as incomplete or knowing that I never finished that game from back in 1994 would be thoughts that go through my head regularly. Just the other night I went to bed at my normal time, felt fine, and suddenly at 3:00 AM I jumped up wide awake and thought “I absolutely have to play this game and try to beat it before work because if I don’t something bad is going to happen.” The sad part is I have no idea what this “bad thing” is, but to me it’s very real and very scary…so I got up and played the game, missing out on sleep and impacting my performance at work the next day.

Trying to play online games with friends is a nightmare, because if given the chance, my brain will go into this cycle of trying to figure out what the perfect combination of characters is, how to maximize their synergy, planning out what I will need to do to be the perfect player, seeing other people’s control settings and having the urge to tell them they are wrong because there is only one way to set it up and if they don’t follow that, it’s wrong. I constantly change the type of character I’m playing because I can’t trust other people to do their jobs and without perfect cooperation I won’t make the progress I need to make. Also, if there is an option to do additional specialties like potion crafting or armor making, even if I don’t want to, I feel a need to do that because my character has to be perfect and maximized. If it is not, “someone” will horrifically judge me and do something bad to me.

Imagine sitting in front of your bookshelf, game shelf, or movie collection and thinking “I want to do something tonight.” You begin browsing and after about 10 minutes your brain switches from entertainment mode to thinking “I need to pick the perfect movie to watch because I know I am going to die tonight watching this movie and I want to make sure I die happy instead of dissatisfied. So I can watch movie A that I haven’t seen because it will be a new adventure, but I don’t know if it will be good so maybe I should watch movie B instead, since I’ve seen it so many times. But leaving movie A unseen means that you would go to hell when you die because you wasted money on it by not watching it and didn’t honor the production crew’s work put into the movie, so you should force yourself to watch movie A instead of B.” Then 4-5 hours later you just get up and go to bed exhausted and not having done anything with your evening because you were caught in this loop of continuous disaster thoughts.

This is my life. This is what I go through on a near daily basis. So in order to not have to deal with some of this stuff, I avoid it. I avoid reading books because they stress me out. I avoid watching movies unless I can muster the courage and willpower to sit down and force myself to watch it. With video games, I have to actively and repeatedly tell myself “It is okay not to finish this 100%. You don’t have to push yourself that hard.” I don’t drink often or try drugs because I’m convinced I will die. I even have silly thoughts like driving home from the game store I’ll continuously think “I’m going to die before I get home and not get the chance to play this game.” and that thought can even evolve into “What if I just veered into this pole and smashed my car for the hell of it?”

Now, my point in writing this post is not to make a “boo hoo, woe is me the world is so hard.” attention seeking display. My intent is to educate people. I want the people closest to me to know what I go through on a regular basis. I want people to understand that if I cancel plans or repeatedly ask the same questions over and over, I’m not trying to be annoying or flakey – my brain is literally not making sense and I don’t know what to do about it. I get concerned over tiny details and try to make sure everything is planned and followed, I have an absolute shit sleep schedule and I am usually tired all the time from trying to keep myself calm and “complete” things. I’m indecisive and depending on the day, I just feel like existing is difficult.

On top of allllllll of this, I was also diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, which is another mental illness all on it’s own. Fatigue and loss of energy, feeling worthless or guilty, impaired concentration, insomnia, restlessness, and thoughts of self harm are all things that I experience regularly. But I’m trying. Every day I try to give myself credit for the things I accomplish. I try to keep a regular line of communication open with my closest friends, my mom, my boss, and my therapist so they know where I’m at. I’m taking my medicines every day, I’m trying to practice mindfulness and really be present in the things that I do, and recently I’ve been really trying to focus on things that bring me joy.

In conclusion, I’d like to remind anyone reading this that not all illnesses are visible. Be kind to people and try to understand their point of view. For me, I’m doing the best I can. I don’t want to call in sick or cancel plans, I don’t want to sound like I’m always whining, and I’m not looking for sympathy. I want a distraction from this lingering pain and anxiety, and I just want to be understood and supported.

Thanks for reading.

 

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Being Reminded That You Matter

2016 has been a rough year for me. I told myself I wasn’t going to write about it because I don’t want to keep reliving the events, but I feel like things have gotten better and I can talk about it now without it dragging me back down. Also, this blog post won’t make much sense without some background. If you already know the story, skip to the regular text below.

I met a guy in 2010 and things seemed great. 3 years into this relationship and our personalities divided. We started heading down different paths but we were comfortable with each other and didn’t want to give that up, so we kept trying. Despite our efforts, we were both unhappy and it was very apparent. We had started being mean to each other, being neglectful, and even cheating to try and feel something. This, along with some other unresolved stuff from my past, was creating a darkness inside me. I went and saw a doctor for depression and anxiety in Oct 2015, where they said it was very clear I was depressed and anxious, so they put me on some medication. Around February, I felt that it wasn’t working anymore so I went and made and appointment with a psychiatrist, because I really wanted to get to the bottom of this and feel happier.
She diagnosed me with Bipolar Disorder Type-2, gave me a few medicines to try, and sent me on my way. I expressed this to my ex and told him that with this diagnosis, we’d have to get some stuff in our life situated. He told me he supported me and loved me, so we tried to continue to make this work. It didn’t. So in March, after a series of frustrating events with work, friends, and our relationship, I had a nervous breakdown and ended up in the hospital for 2 weeks to do intensive therapy. During this time, I felt very scared, but I am a strong person so I mostly held it in. I learned during this time that the one person I thought I could rely on, my ex, was not there for me. While I was in the hospital trying to deal with these confusing and powerful emotions, he was angry at me for being “different” and “weird”.
After I was released, we had a long talk about it and he said that he could have done more and that moving forward, he would be way more supportive of me. That was also not true, because two days after my release, he started telling me that I was a burden, bothersome, and that he didn’t want to see me. A week after my release, I was begging him to stop putting me down and try to understand things from my point of view. But he continued to tell me that he was disappointed, that his life wasn’t where he wanted it to be, and that he couldn’t handle “us” anymore. I couldn’t take it anymore and had another nervous breakdown. My mom, concerned for my wellbeing, moved me out of his apartment in less than a day and then stayed with me for a week to make sure I was stable and okay. During this time, he was telling me that he loved me, that he hated me, that we could work through this and he just needed a break, and that he was ready to quit.
In May, I found out that he had been telling his family about parts of my situation, and getting feedback from them. They were telling him that I was a broken person and a burden on him, holding him back from the greatness that he could become. His mom, a nurse, told him that my cross was not his to carry. I felt that was a little much, considering my situation was a medical problem and she is a medical professional, but I guess that says a lot about who she is. Anyway, he let these thoughts creep into his mind and on Mother’s Day, he called it quits for good. 6 years, gone. I asked if we could try to be amicable about it and he said yes at first, but over the next two weeks he proved incapable of that. Before I knew it, he was already shacking up with some other guy, he had changed his phone number and blocked me from texting and calling him, and changed the locks on his apartment so I couldn’t get in. I e-mailed him to call him out on this, and the only reply that I got was “You are an unhealthy person and I do not want to associate with you anymore. Goodbye.”
To summarize my feelings…In 5 months I was diagnosed with depression, upgraded to Bipolar Disorder, hospitalized for self harm and substance abuse, sent to intensive therapy, put on 5 different medications that had intense side effects, and booted out of a 6 year relationship after being told that I’m a burden and unhealthy. I was not in a good place mentally. From May to July, I was experiencing some very rough effects from the events and medication. I was having horrific dreams where my ex and his family were attacking me and telling me my life didn’t matter. I was having flashbacks to arguments we had where he was telling me that I deserved to hurt, that he was better than me, and that he didn’t love me. On top of this, I was losing the ability to sleep because the medicine I was on was jacking me up. I started having muscle ticks, anxiety, and extremely high levels of rage. The lack of sleep was so bad that my mom started watching me to make sure I could get 2-3 hours of sleep without jolting awake.
During this time, I also started losing a lot of friends and pushing people away. I couldn’t trust anyone, nor were many people making any effort to be around me. I started slipping deeper and deeper into depression and told my mom I was back to the point where I wanted to end everything. She convinced me to call my doctor and be taken off the medicines. This helped tremendously, and I started having some sense of normalcy come back to my life.

It was around this time that one of my old friends reached out to my mom with concern regarding some stuff they saw on my facebook. They worked together to surprise me with a reunion over a holiday weekend, which brought a smile to my face. This is where the point of this blog will start to kick in. I promise. ūüôā

The person that reached out to my mom was someone I had grown up with. We met in 5th grade and immediately became best friends. Throughout childhood and adolescence, we saw each other almost every day. Each Tuesday we would go to their parent’s Aikido class and learn martial arts, and then every Friday we would be at one or the other’s house playing video games and having a sleepover. In our Sophomore year of high school, their parents decided to move a few states away, and I was heartbroken. My best friend was leaving me. For the next four years, we barely kept in touch and met up in person twice on vacations to kind of hang out, but I was certain over these years that our friendship was over. I was sad, but I felt that this was part of life and it was just time to move on and find new friends. I spent years trying to find someone that could understand me and tolerate me on their level, but I was continuously disappointed. This, along with a few failed relationships, and I had accepted that I would never find someone like that again in my life. This person and I were separated for 12 years.

Yet, somehow, in my time of need, we were brought back together. A military contract brought my friend back to our hometown and a chance message on facebook reunited us. I had no idea what to expect after 12 years of not seeing each other. But when they walked through the door, my entire family and I felt just like we had before they left. I was certain that things would be awkward and we had grown apart, but I quickly learned that we could easily slide back into the rhythm we had when we were younger. Despite growing up and having our experiences shape us, we still laughed at the same jokes, liked the same things, and understood each other the same way. This reunion happened in about July of this year, and since then we’ve seen each other 6 more times.

A little more history – I’ve been in therapy since May to try and deal with some stuff that happened in my life. I had two of my aunts, an uncle, and my father pass away within 1 year of each other (2006-2009), two bad breakups, and a tiny issue with growing up gay/coming out. The therapist I was seeing from May to July was not doing much for me and I took a break for a while. In October, I started seeing a psychologist who has really been pointing me in the right direction and helping me deal with things in a much more manageable way. A combination of my own willpower, help from the therapist, and the rekindled friendship brought me out of the darkest place I’ve ever been in my entire life.

This past weekend, my friend visited me again and me being a sentimental person, I made a statement regarding how happy I was that we were able to reconnected. They said something about how they had helped me overcome my anxiety and depression and I guess I was embarrassed about that, so I quite harshly shut that down and said I put in a lot of work myself to get over this stuff. It was done in a funny manner, so we laughed and moved on. After they left to go home, I was alone again and I really started thinking about what they said. It was true…they had helped me out of that darkness and I wasn’t accepting that.

What I had needed was for someone to see me, and they did. They knew that I needed someone and they were there. 12 years of distance and what I thought was a forgotten friendship, and they came swooping back in to show me that I mattered and that they love me. There is this scene in the movie Avatar by James Cameron where the characters have to learn the culture of the aliens they’re trying to communicate with, and one thing they struggle with is this bonding the aliens have where they say “I see you”. It doesn’t mean I literally see you with my eyes, but more like “I see through you”, on a spiritual level. They see through all the social constructs, years of built up emotional walls, and stifled pain. They see¬†exactly who you are, and accept it.

My friend achieved this today after I apologized about shutting down their statement of helping me out of my dark place. They said:

I know that you can’t really hide who you are from me. You can mask your pain and anxieties for a time, but I’ve known who you are for nearly as long as you’ve been that person. I have been, and always will be, your friend.

I had no idea how much I needed to hear this, and when I did, I broke down. I had to go hide in the bathroom at work for a bit because I couldn’t keep my emotions together and as I write this, I’m still crying because of the relief I feel. I had spent¬†years trying to find this understanding and comfort in someone and it was there all along in my friend who I thought was gone forever. And now I have it again…and I’m so happy. I feel like I can finally let go of everything that’s happened to me because I know for certain that someone in the world has my back. I’m going to be okay.

Anyway, this is sappy and stuff but I just want to say thank you. I had no idea how much I was missing but I’m so happy we’re back together and kicking ass. I look forward to many more years of happy memories, fun adventures, and total comfort being who we are. You truly are my best friend and I love you.

-Cody

 

Not Everything Has To Be Perfect

As a note, my site is dedicated to gaming, but a lot of what I talk about can be applied to multiple forms of entertainment, or even life in general. So please, if you are not a gamer, do not feel discouraged. There is something here for everyone (I hope)!

Guy A: Ah man, this game is so cool.

Guy B: Hah! It’s not this game and it doesn’t have this feature, so it sucks!

Guy A: But it has this, and I really enjoy that!

Guy B: Doesn’t matter. Not this game. Sucks. Bad game, bro. Play something good.


Ever had this conversation? I have. It drives me f’in nuts. I fully understand that in some cases, the above conversation is playful ribbing between friends or siblings. However, having been on the receiving end of this conversation one too many times, this idea kind of threw me off for a very long time. I used to play whatever games I wanted to, regardless of their score on some review site or how many copies it sold. I played them because I wanted to, and that was a good enough reason. People started commenting on the things I liked though, telling me I should watch something with “quality value” or play something that “actually took skill”. I started noticing that these comments evolved into things like “Well, you’re not really playing the game if you’re not playing on the manual battle system.” Or “If you haven’t earned the platinum trophy, then you haven’t really beaten the game.” Everything culminated about two years ago when I joined an online community to try and pursue my first platinum trophy. One of the first responses to my introduction thread was “Wow. 120 played games and 0 platinum trophies? What do you even do?”

This sent me over the edge.
With the pressure this statement created, along with the extreme criticism I was seeing games receive, and the constant pressure of the online community to “get good” at the various games I played (League of Legends, Final Fantasy XIV), I snapped. I became obsessive about finding the perfect game, getting the perfect score, and being a perfect player. I feverishly purchased as many games as I could afford, trying each one out to see if it lit some kind of spark in me and achieved this title of “the perfect experience.” I pushed myself to marathon 8-10 hour gaming sessions to grind out some stupid trophy that I had no real desire to earn, and I exhausted myself trying to climb up in the most prestigious guilds or increase my global ranking. All to prove that I was, in fact, a gamer, and that I knew what a quality game was, and that I knew how to play “just like everyone else.” Except, I wasn’t like everyone else. I had become an Elitist.

I was oblivious to this. I was badmouthing my closest friends because they were not on the same level as me. I was getting belligerently upset with my (ex) boyfriend because he could not keep the same pace as me or figure things out in games as quickly as I could. I was getting into heated arguments with people when they questioned my methods or tried to call me out for bad mechanics, because god damn it, I had done my research and no one was going to tell me I wasn’t doing something right! Then this path followed the stereotypical story line that you see in movies. I started pushing people away, losing friends, losing my boyfriend, and eventually I was all alone, angry, sad, and wondering why nothing was making me happy anymore. This elitism feeling crossed over to TV, books, hobbies…I became miserable.

This thought process became so overwhelming that I would develop these crazy habits. I would do things like purchase 3-4 movies at a time without any research, go home, then research them to DEATH. I would spoil the entire plot, read review after review after review to see if it was worth watching, and then before I knew it, I had passed out on my living room floor after 4 hours of research. At the end of the day, I never watched any of the movies. 

I started turning down opportunities to socialize because I was extremely critical of the suggested activities. I did not want to commit to anything that I was not convinced would give me some kind of climactic experience. I also started criticizing people on their behavior based on what role they played in my life. My friends weren’t being friendly enough, my boyfriend wasn’t being boyfriend-y enough…I was a miserable person to be around.

This led to a really dark time where I got really lonely and sad, because no one wanted to be around me. Since I was so overly critical, I could not generate my own happiness because everything I did was not good enough. I could find no enjoyment out of consumable entertainment, food did not taste good, even sleep was difficult because I would get overly frustrated over a bad night’s sleep. I was the walking epitome of perfectionism. The funny part about this is that I continuously pushed the idea of accepting people’s flaws and being a “go with the flow” kind of guy, which made me look like a total hypocrite. Then there was a sad part. I knew what I was doing, but I couldn’t stop. I didn’t know how. So I shut down.

I don’t really know what happened to get me out of this mental place, but I had tried to push myself into this new mindset of forcing myself to get into something, even if I didn’t feel like it was worth my time. I wasn’t really sure where to start, so I just chose a game and went with it. The game was Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride. I had purchased this game about a year and a half before I picked it up this time and loaded my save file, which was roughly 2 hours from the final boss. Within minutes, my perfectionism kicked in and I was criticizing it for it’s old school feel, lack of impactful story, and overall just kind of mediocre presentation. But playing this game was all I had to do for the time being, so I kept playing it. As I played, I started realizing the little characteristics about DQ5 that made the game charming. I started appreciating the music, the character design, and the feeling of nostalgia. I was appreciating the game! 

This lead to another game, then another, and I was finally starting to calm down. Taking this new mindset, along with talking to people and seeing them appreciate imperfections, really knocked me down a few notches. I felt some sense of normalcy again. This is when I had a realization – not everything needs to be perfect. Sometimes I feel like we strive to live in this constant state of amazement and overstimulation. But we don’t have to…in fact, I think it’s kind of dangerous. I think when you live in that mindset, you very quickly forget how to value what you are capable of obtaining, as well as what other people can give you. I remember that when I was in that place, I was very internally critical of a family member that got me a game for Christmas one year because “they should know I don’t play 3rd rate shit like this.” How unbelievably horrible of me to think that…especially over something they thought I would like.

Back to my point – not everything needs to be perfect. You can enjoy a game that is not a AAA title. It can be a totally niche rhythm platformer FPS puzzle game in 2D VR and you know what? If that’s your gig, then GO YOU! No seriously – that’s not sarcasm. If you like it, then I whole-heartedly encourage you to enjoy the shit out of that game. I have some advice I’d like to share to anyone who may be suffering from what I went through.

First of all, remove the exposure to the negative thinking. Stop reading forum or social media posts that criticize what you like. You’ll always be upset and probably never be able to claw your way out of this elitism hole. Second, practice mindfulness. Slow down and enjoy the journey of what you’re doing. We remember great times as a kid playing games because games were few and far between (and we didn’t have the money to purchase all the ones we wanted), so we took our time and really savored what we had. Two, three, four playthroughs – whatever you’ve got the patience and time for, go for it! Finally, learn (or remember) who you are and stand firm in that. If you’re not an FPS gamer, stop trying to force yourself to be. If you cannot stand the grind of an MMORPG, delete your characters and go do something you enjoy. Our time on this planet is short, so there is no use in wasting what precious resources we have doing things that we do not like.

Now, if you read this and think “Oh, I’m like Guy B”. Stop. Think about what you are saying and the impact it can have on other people. Besides, why do other people have to think the same way you do? If they like what they like, let them! It adds diversity to your life just by association and you never know what a change in the pattern will lead you to. Life is about owning yourself and empowering others to own themselves as well. Don’t be the guy that shuts everyone down. I speak from experience – it’s not a very happy place.

Thanks for reading!

The Impact of Social Media On Gaming (Pt.1)

I firmly believe that for a while, game development was an art form. However, after gaining popularity and becoming more accessible to the public, I think it has evolved into a cash cow and is losing the artistic value it once had. Additionally, I think the role social media plays in the development process has created this horrific cycle of disappointment that has lowered the quality of gaming in general. That’s not to say that we do not have games today that will hold true through the tests of time. I am coming more from the stance that previously, developers used to have¬†more time to really knead their games into something beautiful, as opposed to the¬†exhaustive release schedule we have in current times.

Continue reading “The Impact of Social Media On Gaming (Pt.1)”

[Review] Suicide Squad (2016)

Written and directed by David Ayer.

I am not a superhero movie fan. I’ve seen a couple of them (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America:Winter Soldier, X-men). I saw the previews for Suicide Squad and Harley Quinn’s character, along with the cool action scenes, is what sold me. I told myself “I have got to see this movie”. My plan was to see it at the midnight viewing, but after talking to my mom and convincing her that it wasn’t a movie about suicide, she said she wanted to see it as well. I put it off for the weekend because I was going to go see her, however the weekend got too busy and we ended up not being able to see it. After I got home on Sunday, I was like “I am going to see this damn movie!”, so I ran out to the theater and got into line to purchase my ticket. Sure enough, with my luck, the person in front of me bought the last ticket and the showing that I arrived for became sold out.
I ended up seeing Nerve instead (more on that later…), but during Nerve I went and bought tickets for the next showing of Suicide Squad on my iPhone. After Nerve, I had about 3 minutes to bust ass to the restroom, pick up my ticket from the automated machine outside, and find my seat in the Suicide Squad theater. Good times…Good times.

Let’s get into what I thought of the movie.

Continue reading “[Review] Suicide Squad (2016)”

The Deeper Meaning in Video Games

I think generally video games are seen as a kid’s hobby. They’ve got bright colors, immature humor, and sometimes simplistic design. Within the past 10 years or so, I think we’ve migrated a bit towards it being a more adult hobby with games like Gears of War or Call of Duty, but I think the idea of being a “gamer” is still widely seen as a childish or teenage thing. What I think people don’t get is that under this childish outward image, games often carry messages meaningful to adults too. A specific series that comes to mind for me is Final Fantasy. The games in this series pretty stereotypical as a Japanese RPG. A¬†certain hero/heroine using some kind of over sized weapon and avant-garde clothing gets thrown into some worldwide fight against a corporation or entity and they use big, flashy magic with lots of fantastical creatures. The small glimpses of the games that are shown in trailers or preview pictures do not even come close to depicting the depth of the stories that lie within.

These stories cross a myriad of themes that reach deep into the hearts of players willing to attempt the journey. Sure, you could argue that the first few games have a very simple plot – four heroes get called on by the crystals of light to save the world from a big baddie. But as the games progressed, their stories became richer and developed much deeper meanings. Final Fantasy IV focused on evolving out of one’s own darkness to pursue a path of righteousness. Final Fantasy VII focused on self actualization and dealing with grief of lost loved ones. Final Fantasy X also focused on grief, as well as challenging the authority of religion, where as it’s sequel, X-2, focused on finding hope and evolving one’s self. Growing up with this series, these characters and stories really resonated with me. I remember being about 9 or 10 years old, alone by myself in our apartment while my parents were on a date, watching my screen in utter disbelief as one of the main protagonists was murdered in Final Fantasy VII. When I was about 13, I remember feeling very empowered playing as Squall Leonhart in Final Fantasy VIII fighting against some crazy bitch that wanted to manipulate Time and take over the world. The story also pulled at my adolescent heart strings because of the hopeless¬†love story between Squall and Rinoa.

—Spoiler Alert—

As I got older, my interest in the series waned a bit and the stories diluted in my mind. Around 2007, I decided to get back into the series and, being 20 years old, the stories started resonating more with me. I started feeling the pain of Zidane in Final Fantasy IX, being different than everyone else but trying his best to fit in and keep a smile on his face. Final Fantasy X is the one that really did me in. The story in Final Fantasy 10 focuses on Yuna, a summoner and priestess of Yevon, the equivalent of God in our world. Her mission is to go on a pilgrimage with her guardians, learn how to summon all of the celestial beings called Aeons, and use them in a battle against a giant beast called Sin, which, surprisingly, is a manifestation of humanity’s sin. On her journey, her innocent heart is exposed to things such as racism, tragedy, lying, and manipulation. She learns that no matter how hard she fights, in the end of our journey she, along with one of her guardians, will perform the Final Summoning and perish before Sin. This act does not even kill Sin, but rather holds it at bay for a few years before it gathers enough strength to come back and create more chaos. Tidus, the other main character, is not from her world (you can look that plot point up) and he challenges the idea of their religion. He encourages her team to change their standards and fight back against this idea, because he believes that this type of fruitless sacrifice is stupid, not noble.

With Tidus’ encouragement, Yuna’s guardians and the Aeons actually challenge Yevon. Take that in for a moment – the game’s final battle is a group of people fighting against¬†God¬†himself. After weakening Sin, Yuna performs the Sending, a ritual dance to send the spirits of the fallen through to the Farplane (Heaven). This Sending, due to it’s size and power, causes¬†a chain reaction, releasing all of the Fayth (spirits) from Spira (Earth). All of these memories of those that have passed from Sin start dissipating and moving on to the Farplane,¬†one of which is clearly depicted as none other than Tidus, Yuna’s guardian and new found love. Up to this point in the game, Tidus has helped Yuna grow¬†so much, he has supported her no matter what the odds were against them, and because of this, the two fell deeply in love with each other. Tidus knew he was going to be sent to the Farplane upon Yuna performing her Final Sending, but in order to keep her vigilance to fight Sin, he kept this to himself. As the team realizes that Tidus is disappearing, Yuna is in total denial. She can do nothing as she watches him turn into energy and embrace his destiny.

The feelings really hit at 1:39 when the piano starts.

 

This is where I find the beauty and meaning in games. I played Final Fantasy X in the summer of 2007 and unfortunately, my father passed away in the spring of 2008. I had just finished my shift at work when I got a call from my mom saying that my dad’s health took a turn for the worst and he wasn’t going to make it through the night. I had my friend drive me to the hospital and my dad had been mostly unresponsive until I got there. My whole family was there trying to talk to him and say their goodbyes, and when I showed up he managed to move his eyes a little bit to show that he felt me hold his hand and heard me say my goodbye to him and that I loved him. That was the last time I saw my dad.¬†He looked nothing like the man who raised me. The man who had a strong will, a deep voice, and a great laugh. He taught me to have a thicker skin, he pushed me to be a better person, and he always wanted the best for me. And here he was, lying in the hospital bed with tubes in his nose and mouth, his face sunken in, his eyes barely open, and ragged breathing. I watched my dad leave this world and all I could think about was this scene from Final Fantasy X. How I was powerless, like Yuna, in the face of destiny to stop him from leaving. How my dad was like Tidus saying “I’m sorry I couldn’t take you to see Zanarkand” (a promise he made to Yuna at the beginning of the game.). Despite his body giving out, I believe that my dad was¬†conscious inside his head, scared…or maybe at peace, and thinking “I’m sorry that I couldn’t show you more of the world, my son.” Then he was gone. He accepted his fate and left us, much like Tidus leaping off of the airship to join the rest of his friends and family in the Farplane.

I must have listened to the song that plays during this scene in the game for at least 3 months after my dad passed because it was so vivid in my heart and mind. All I could do was cry and think about how much I miss him and how powerless I was, because no one can stop death. That’s one downside to being a heavy gamer – sometimes you can get a little delusional about living forever. To this day, this scene makes me cry because it’s so beautiful to me. Beautiful, yet painful because I can’t help but think of the night my dad left us. Hopefully in reading this, you can see why some people have a deeper appreciation for games past the superficial idea of “it’s a time passer!” Games have evolved from bouncing a digital ball between two paddles to deep, involved stories that cross boundaries and push people to think outside of their own worlds. I also hope that if you have a narrow view of what video games are, perhaps this can help you think of them as something else: art.

Thanks for reading!

 

Gaymer.

I ran across a reddit post today where someone called out a Gaymer for calling himself that, and it really didn’t sit well with me. I felt like I had to say something, so I made a video with my perspective of things and hopefully it helps other people see us in a different light. Please share my video with people who you think need to hear this message. I hope it helps some people feel more comfortable in their skin, as well as helps others to have more tolerance and kindness in their hearts. Thanks! smile emoticon

P.S. – I know the audio is crappy. I don’t know what happened. I have a fancy mic and everything. Sorry!