January 1, 2017

Here Are The Video Games I Loved in 2016

Hi, everyone!
Oh geez, have I really not posted over here since LAST new years? Oh well. I’ve been posting lots of words over at poetfox.com, so, you know, I think I’m good.
BUT VIDEO GAMES! 2016 had some of them, in theory. Let me talk a bit about what I think about them. BUT FIRST:

Evergreen Games I Cannot Stop Playing
1. Granblue Fantasy – Granblue continues to thrill me with it’s fairly friendly F2P model (it’s still energy-based, but I’ve never felt like I had to spend money, just that it would be a nice bonus), it’s wonderful, cute characters, and it’s well-written storylines that are focused purely on fun. Every month there are new stories to read, new characters to recruit and fall in love with, and more loot to find. This year I recruited two trans characters in the game. Two! And both have been treated with respect! Can you even imagine? I’m at the point of the game where it’s getting really grindy, and I don’t play it constantly like I did when I started. But that’s okay. I come back for every event, and I always love booting the game up. Granblue Fantasy is AMAZING. If you can stand phone game mechanics at all, and love anime and Final Fantasy, you are doing yourself a disservice by not playing Granblue.

2. Hearthstone – At least once a week I try to clear out my Hearthstone quest queue. I don’t really care about being good at Hearthstone? I make decks I think are neat and then lose with them all the time. But playing the game is very relaxing to me. I just put on a podcast and sling cards without thinking too hard about strategy, and I have a great time. I have problems with the game, mostly just because man, Warcraft’s humor kind of sucks sometimes, huh? But I keep coming back. Hearthstone is really, really good.

Those games would have been at the top of the list just from pure playtime. They’re fantastic! But it felt like I should separate them. So there, I did. I’m sure I’ll keep playing those two forever, too. Fun times.

But now, let’s do a top 10 or something.

10. Stories: Path of Destinies – This is a game where you play a fox swordsman named Reynardo and Batman fight ravens. The combat and gameplay in the game is fine. But what’s been done here is just an impressive amount of storytelling. You have a narrator who is reading you a story, essentially. They do silly voices for all the characters. They crack dad jokes all the time that make you groan, and insert things into the canon that are obviously bad ad-libs, like “They, uh, met at Sword-Fu School”. It’s like you’re reading a story with someone, and the story itself is interesting! There are only like 4 characters, but they are very well fleshed out. As you see all the bad endings, you really get to know them all, and start to root for them (or against them, for the assholes). And Stories has done something no video game has ever done before: had enough joke lines. The game will make a joke when you do things like open a chest. I played this game a lot, and it probably played a joke when I got a chest 50 times at least. I cannot remember one repeated line. It was amazing. This game has an awful title, but it’s actually pretty fun. A good weekend game.

9. Overwatch – Can I nominate a game based on fanart? I probably spent way more time looking at cute Overwatch art than actually playing the game. I’m just not a competitive sort, and when the playerbase started getting good, I started having less fun. But that’s fine. The game is really, really good! And the characters are super good, for the most part! I really love them all, and I had a really fun few weeks with it, for sure.

8. Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright – In this game I married a silly kitsune and had two perfect children. I also learned the lesson that if you get really mad, you turn into a dragon. I should be more angry more often, I guess? But yeah, Fates takes what I liked about Awakening and then makes it way more accessible through the Phoenix mode. I really do not care about difficult fights? I just wanna make the animes kiss. It made me happy that it rewarded me with a super casual difficulty so I could enjoy that part. I meant to play the other two versions as well, but I never got back to them, which is fine. I don’t play a lot of games anymore. But I really enjoyed Birthright. It was quite fun.

7. Hustle Cat – I really like Visual Novels and “dating sims” but let’s face it: a lot of them are kind of too long? There’s too much of them. Hustle Cat is short, and sweet, and very very gay. It is a fun delight, and I truly, truly love every single one of the characters. Some more than others, obviously, but they are all wonderful. Usually in a visual novel, I hate at least one of them! What a wonderful surprise. I wrote about Hustle Cat here, if you want to read more about it. But I love it so much.

6. Picross 3D Round 2 – Picross is the best. After the disappointing kind of bad free to play Pokemon Picross, it was refreshing for Nintendo to just randomly dump Round 2 on the states and get to play through the whole dang thing. It is the most relaxing way to spend your time. The only thing I was disappointed about was amiibo support, of all things. It felt like it would be obscenely easy to make a puzzle for every amiibo. But other than that, the game is just a delight. I mean, you know if you like Picross. If you like Picross and haven’t bought this yet, go get it right now.

5. Kirby: Planet Robobot – This is maybe the best Kirby game since Super Star? Maybe? Robobot takes everything that was fun about Triple Deluxe and then just flat-out improves all of it. The Robot riding mechanic is actually super cool, and gives you lots of good new powers to use. It makes you feel way more powerful, but not in a way that makes it less fun to play normal Kirby. The story is just perfect. It loves Kirby’s weird lore so much, and you can just feel it oozing from every bit of it. I loved every moment of Robobot!

4. Pokemon Sun – It was so refreshing to play a Pokemon game that felt like they had a vision for it instead of “just another one of those.” Sun (and Moon, I would assume, but I only played Sun) is Pokemon, of course, but with a fun, light storyline and a sense of playfulness in the very fights you do that pushes you along. The Trials have so much more personality than gyms ever had, and you get to know the Trial Captains as characters and actually like them! This was the first Pokemon story where I was actually really invested in it as well, which was kind of strange. I have always considered Pokemon stories to be “the thing I do to meet more cute Pokemon,” but I really cared about Lillie and Hau in a way that I can’t remember having ever done with a companion in a previous game. Anyway, Sun is delightful.

3. Stardew Valley – I remember when I first played Harvest Moon on an emulator and my mind was blown. Such a relaxing game of controlling your life and constantly improving, I really loved it. Occasionally I will play another Harvest Moon or a spinoff, and it’ll be fine, but they always feel very stuck in the past in some ways, too clunky to fully enjoy. Stardew Valley, though, takes everything I like about those games and brings them into the present day. It has that exact joy that Harvest Moon gives in working on crops and things, but on a massive scale. There are so many people to meet, and you can date most of them, and there are so many different ways you can build your farm, and so many other tasks you can dig into if you want to take a break from farming. Perhaps some people would find all those things to do overwhelming. But I found it as me never lacking for something new to dive into when I got tired. If I wanted a break from tending crops, I’d go dungeon crawling, or work on mastering the fishing minigame. I played so many hours of this game, and never tried to romance a single character! I skipped that whole part! And it was magnificent, all the way through.

2. Doom – Doom is an acceptable masculinity. It takes all these macho man tropes and then puts them into this ridiculous world where, instead of being horrific or bad, they are hilarious and perfect. I am not an old school Doom fan. I played it, of course, and I recognize how it was revolutionary. But this game transcends nostalgia. It is a game that constantly asks “can we make this more ridiculous? Can we make this more fun?” and then makes it happen. The game makes you feel like a elemental of pure death and then gives you lore files where demons literally describe you that way. It made me care about the story! I want to punch that robot! Oh my goodness, I do. That’s the depth of the story, figuring out who you want to punch, but it’s told so well, that’s just fine. If you have ever enjoyed a gunshoots game, even if you’re tired of them by now like me, you have to, have to play Doom. You will have a blast for like 6 to 8 hours. Trust me.

1. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE – I had to steal a console from my brother to play this game, and I don’t regret it. Tokyo Mirage Sessions is so polished and so smart, and so fun. It’s not serious, but avoids some of the grosser “not serious” anime things. It has a clear theme, and everything in the game is built around that theme. I ranted about all that over on OnTheStick, so take a look if you want? But I really think it is a shame this game is going to be lost to obscurity on the WiiU. It is probably better than Persona 4. I love it to death. If you like jRPGs and you haven’t played it, please, give it a try. Liking Fire Emblem helps, but is not necessary to love this game, so don’t hold back.

And that’s 2016 in games, I guess! Not a bad year at all. In games, I mean. Otherwise, it was a very bad year. But the games? They were pretty good.

December 1, 2015

A Reverse Correlation

I’ve been thinking about doing a No Mercy run.

When I was younger, I would write a lot of self-insert Mary Sue kinda stories. I don’t think that’s particularly weird? I’m sure all writers start there. All characters are your weird little children born of bits and pieces of you. But I can remember, in late grade school and junior high just filling notebooks with these probably awful stories about me. I would go on scout trips and everyone else would be doing manly man stuff and I’d be sitting there writing about kissing in this notebook I wouldn’t let anyone see.

The thing about these stories, though, was that I was always the villain. Or if I wasn’t the villain, there was someone who was “me” with a different name, and the person with my name was the villain. I would cast my friends as heroes, fighting against all odds, and myself being those odds. I’d create little versions of myself that might be a hero, but pit them against me. I was normally a very reluctant villain at least? I’d apologize for what I was going to do before I’d try to kill people, or kill people. But I was always bad. I was the problem.

I guess it’s not really that surprising, given where I was as myself. I was deep in depression (it got worse, but it was there) and couldn’t help but think of myself, my real self, as anything but a problem. The idea of me existing was one that my parents and even my best friend at the time pushed back extremely hard against. I was a problem, a roadblock, to their happiness. I was a villain, or so my depression told me.

I remember in high school having this revelation where, if I was always going to be awful, a problem, a villain, I could at least raise people up while I crashed down. If I was doomed, and at that point I thought about killing myself basically constantly so it seemed likely, I could at least help others not be doomed, and be better. I could be a catalyst for raising people up. So I started to approach personal interactions this way. I put others before myself not in a “how nice, how helpful” way but in a self destructive way, most of the time. I made myself miserable doing it. I made a lot of mistakes. But just like in those stories I wrote, where I was the evil in the world, I could make others shine. There’s no light without dark, right? I did evil in those stories to make those important to me look better, looking back on them. And I did the same thing here.

Ironicus, on a podcast, talked about the No Mercy run of UNDERTALE as interesting because it lets you see the same characters in a different situation. It lets you be the villain, and see how everyone else would stand up to be heroes. I’m not doing too well mentally recently, and I find myself once again brushing up against these “anyone else but me” self-destructive tendencies, as I often fall back on when I’m not doing well. And I put on the UNDERTALE soundtrack, and I hear all the songs I didn’t hear because they’re not for Mercy. And I think about the tidbits I’ve picked up about all the fights, and all the things that happen in a No Mercy run. And I find myself thinking, what IF they were the heroes? What if all these wonderful characters I really, truly love didn’t need me, because who am I? Why do I get to help SAVE the world? What makes me so special? Wouldn’t it be better if I helped prop them up, and saw them shine?

It’s an appealing thought.

The problem is, of course, if I played No Mercy, I’d have to win, on character after character. I’d have to kill. I don’t want to do that, and I don’t want to put Frisk through that. I don’t want to put anyone through that. But it’s necessary, to be the villain. To see a True Hero. Isn’t it?

It’s a silly thought, and I know I won’t do it. But I keep thinking about it.

I worked really hard to see myself as the hero in my own story. I still work on it, every day, this idea that I am worth having a story. I am worth being something. That I’m interesting, and capable. It’s really important to do, and I wonder how much other people struggle with that feeling. Or if they do at all. I’m going to keep working on it, and be the hero, don’t worry. I mean, it’s a real fucking weird story I’m the hero of, but I’m going to keep on it. I can be the hero, AND help my friends. I can have a good life.

But I don’t know if I’m ever going to shake that feeling of being the villain.

I don’t know.

March 24, 2015

Some Honesty About My Issues


This is hard to write, and a part of me doesn’t want to. I spend a lot of effort on the illusion that everything is okay, and that I am happy, and when I pull that mask off, I tend to fall apart in spectacular ways. It’s scary, to be honest. But all this building up a facade is not solving the problem. Another year has passed, and I still struggle with all this garbage, again and again. I should face it head on, and I should be honest. And if you’re reading this, you’re almost certainly my friend, and I owe it to you to be honest.

When I say that, I don’t mean I’ve been lying, exactly. You’re my friends. I’m not lying to you. It’s not a lie, the things I talk about and do and care about and get excited about. I am all those things, no doubt. But I am often throwing them up in front of you as a distraction, making them more public than I perhaps should, and praying that you don’t see the depressed ball behind the curtain. If I do lie, it’s only by omission, and it’s only about this stuff, really. I’m sorry if that’s painful to hear.

So last night, for hours, I basically argued with my boyfriend. I was going to kill myself, and he needed to promise me he’d take care of Mr. Q. He wouldn’t promise that, of course. Not while I was like that. But we talked and fought and finally I tired myself out and went to sleep. I woke up today not much better, though I’m getting stuff done, I suppose. I think back on last night and it is just… I am horrible for doing those things. For thinking them, and saying them out loud, and making them real. I shouldn’t have. But there it is.

I wish I could say that was uncommon, but honestly, it’s really not. Last night was especially bad, yes. Normally I have suicidal thoughts, but I am not motivated to go through with them. Last night I had nothing like that holding me back. But I have these sorts of nights, moments, periods, or what have you, fairly regularly. I often call them panic attacks, or just attacks, but I don’t know what they are, perse. Maybe there’s a specific name for them. I don’t know. They’re often triggered by my anxiety (I’m always anxious about everything) getting out of control, often because a plan or a schedule I have set up doesn’t work out or is otherwise changed. I know it’s going to happen before it does, usually. I can feel myself start to fall apart. There’s a pressure in the back of my head a lot of the time, or I just get really tense. If I can, I go to bed when this happens, to quarantine myself, and because when I sleep it’s normally gone after. That’s not always an option. Sometimes I try to read, to refocus. This doesn’t always work, but sometimes it helps me hold off until I can go to sleep.

When it happens, I lose a lot of control. I shiver and shake. I often can’t talk. I repeat words and phrases over and over again when I try. Some common ones are “I’m sorry,” or “I’m awful,” or “No,” or “I can’t.” I can sing though, and I often sing songs about how happy everyone will be when I’m dead and how much I deserve it. If I can talk, I am normally constantly mumbling about my many imagined slights against the world and my own uselessness. I twitch my hands constantly, contort them hard, kind of painfully, because it makes me feel like I have some control. If I’m hiding a hand behind my back, I am probably doing this. I cry over nothing, so hard that I can’t breathe, and panic even more. I often try to bash my head against the wall out of some strange belief that this will make me calm down. I succeed more than I should, especially when I think I won’t get caught. It doesn’t normally calm me down for more than a few seconds. I’m kind of glad that’s all I do, because I’m sure if I didn’t have a fear of knives I’d probably do worse.

My life is a lot better than it used to be. This used to happen almost nightly, and I’d lock myself in my room and just shiver and cry. Nowadays, I’d put it at maybe once every two weeks? But sometimes I have little chain combos of several nights in a row, when life is hard, and I’ll often have close calls, where I feel it happening, but manage to calm down in time.

There’s not a lot my boyfriend can do when this is going on. He tries. He puts up with a lot, and I owe him a lot. I do a lot better because he is there, and I have something to focus on, and he has basically figured out when I am going to have problems and will just tell me I should go to bed before things happen. He’s often notices me mumbling, or my breathing messing up, before I do. I can’t believe he puts up with this, but he does. It means more to me than I know.

When I’m around people, I hide this. Even if I am having a bad day, I bury it, most of the time. I can’t let myself be seen out of it. I want to be someone who is not a burden. This stuff will make my friends sad. It will make them upset. I have to keep it together around them, so they don’t know. I have no problem acting. I will be panicking, be around someone and seem perfectly fine for hours, but the moment I’m alone again, I will go right back to panic. I don’t know what that says about me. Maybe that’s a really bad sign that I can do that, and hide everything so easily.

But I need to be honest. I need to be honest about my problems.

I’m not really okay. Not as often as I should be. It’s not all the time, and I stopped it from controlling all of my life a long time ago, and that’s why I’m here today. But I’m not okay a lot of the time. I wanted you to know. You’re my friends. I love you.

I’m not going to give up, and I have wonderful people here in person to support me. You don’t need to worry about me, I promise. But I just wanted to remove one more mask that I used to need to survive, but does me no good now. One more coping mechanism that has persisted, but probably has no place in the life I’m trying to build. I hope that’s okay.

Again, I love you. Thanks for listening and caring about me. It means more to me than I can say.

December 28, 2014

Here’s Some Other 2014 Games I Wanted To Talk About.

When I make a top ten list, I feel like it should be things I finished and came out this year or whatever? And it’s hard to make a list.

Anyway, here’s some other games from this year (or that I played this year, anyway) that I felt I needed to say a thing about.

South Park: The Stick of Truth
Can I just say that I don’t like that this is here, really? Like, South Park has done some REALLY GROSS SHIT. The game itself does some things that I don’t appreciate as well. Thanks for bringing up that dolphin episode in a throwaway joke, assholes. Yet at the same time, Kenny gets to be a Princess and everyone just kind of… goes with it? It’s a really confusing thing. I have confusing feelings about the game.
But let’s just be clear: the game is REALLY FUNNY when it isn’t trying to shock you. The combat is a fantastic version of Mario RPG and a lot of fun to play. And also you eventually get to the point where your character (who has to be male for like… absolutely no reason) can crossdress and fire pink heart arrows and nobody cares, and it’s kind of great. It’s great, and it’s awful. I had a really good time with it.

Mario Golf: World Tour
This is a really solid Mario Golf release. I love Mario Golf a lot. But man, the lack of a compelling single player RPG mode just really drains a lot of the fun out of the game, you know? The online tournaments are really welcome, but that just doesn’t do much for me. I’m not one for a lot of competition with others. Solid, but just… thinking of what could be, it’s sort of sad.

Murdered: Soul Suspect
This game is better than it probably should be. It’s charming, and though the hide and run gameplay is often kind of annoying, the mystery and elements like that are top notch and fun. It’s almost a shame there won’t be some sort of sequel, because I bet they’d nail it with another go around. Still, totally worth playing if you like mysteries. Pick it up on a sale.

Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F
Originally I was all like “Ha ha, Hatsune Miku, how silly, how can people be obsessed with her and all this stuff!” and then I kept kind of digging into it to try to find the appeal and at some point this kind of spiteful research turned into a respect and a like, and then I got this game for cheap and played it, and OH MAN. It’s honestly a lot of fun playing dressup with the vocaloids and the songs are really charming! It’s really cute! I… quite like Hatsune Miku. Gotta play the second one. It’s on it’s way, actually.

Divinity: Dragon Commander
This isn’t from this year, but OH MAN did I love this game. Like, it would have been very high on my list if it was from this year. There’s some RTS stuff? Just put it on easy, that stuff is pointless. The real fun is that it’s this ruler simulator where you have to make all these political decisions that connect to the world today. It makes you kind of understand why it is not so easy to enact those things you want to enact. I really liked all the characters, and all the diplomacy. It was SO AWESOME. Get this for like 5 bucks.

Marvel Puzzle Quest

I am so addicted to this because the gameplay is so casual and fun and well-put together and I play it EVERY SINGLE DAY since I put it on my phone and I really wish it wasn’t so GROSS with how it treats real money transactions so I could recommend it. Don’t play Marvel Puzzle Quest. But if you do, let me know, because I’ll talk your ear off about it.

Broken Age (Part 1)
REALLY WANT PART 2. Part 1 is really charming and a really fun time and all the quality one would expect from Double Fine in their element. It’s really good stuff. But I mean, I want to see it all pay off, so I hesitate to toot its horn too much. Part 2 could fall apart. I sure hope not, though.

The Fall
GREAT STORYTELLING and a fun little time. It’s short. It’s clearly not complete. But what’s there sure makes one want to keep going. I sure as heck going to buy the sequels and whatnot.

Okay, there, that’s that. I’m sure I’ll copy over my book list sometime near the beginning of the year? So maybe look forward to that. But yeah, overall, 2014 sucked, good riddance, let’s hope 2015 is better, yeah?

December 27, 2014

Can I Make a Top Ten List for 2014? Apparently So.

Hi poor, neglected blog. I thought I’d try to make a top ten games of 2014.
Can I name 10 games that came out this year that I liked and finished? Apparently I can name 16. So let’s try to make a list, I guess. I’ll do it like I used to. I’ll do some runners up tomorrow, and a top ten today. How about that?

Okay, here’s my top 10 games of 2014 then, I guess.

1. Dangan Ronpa 2: Goodbye Despair
The first one was awesome too, but had… problems. Which I’ll talk about later. But man, the whole series is just MADE for me. Seriously. Completely. Dangan Ronpa 2 had some of the best characters I’ve interacted with in a video game in a long time, and I just love the detective gameplay. I really, truly do. The game also does its best to subvert and play with all the expectations you had from playing the first game, and does so masterfully. Just… a game people should play. Yeah.

2. Nidhogg
I didn’t play as much of this as I wanted, but every time I boot it up to fence someone, I’m blown away, again, by how fantastic of a game it is. It’s so well balanced and so well put together. It’s tense, it’s fast-paced, and it honestly isn’t that hard to get the hang of on a basic level. But it has depth, that depth that comes from needing to parry and fake out your opponent, that keeps one coming back again and again. I will play someone in Nidhogg ANY TIME. It is SUPER GREAT.

3. Freedom Planet
Sometimes I back “furry” kickstarters on a whim, because I want to, I dunno, support my sort of animal people? I don’t know. I can’t remember why I backed Freedom Planet, but I remember looking at some of the updates, and asking myself why I did, and feeling embarrassed.
Then it came out, and I couldn’t stop playing it.
Freedom Planet is not perfect, but it nails that sense of speed that Sonic tries for, and often fails at, and unlike Sonic, I always felt like I was in control. The game is just FUN, and I actually attempted a speedrun at it because I wanted an excuse to keep playing. Let me repeat that. I practiced a little at speedrunning this game because I liked it so much. I’m not much for the story, perse, though I appreciate it’s GAY AS HECK, but even if you skip all the story, it oozes charm, and it’s something I feel like you really should play if you have even the vaguest fondness for Sonic, or just want a good platformer.

4. Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

A way better Ace Attorney game than Dual Destinies, it was saddled with a lot of the Layton series’ ridiculousness in a bad way with a twist that kind of undermines a lot. But man, the witch trials are SO MUCH FUN in this. It’s great taking what you know from Phoenix Wright games and suddenly being without common tools, where you have to prove something without basic forensic information like fingerprinting. It wasn’t really more of a challenge, but it felt like it. There is some gender ick in here, but I feel like it’s extremely minor, as unlike a lot of these sorts of situations, the logic the game gives you makes PERFECT sense in the world of the story without being gross. But it would still be better if it weren’t there at all, you know? In any case, I really enjoyed it.

5. Transistor
What a beautiful game, from the gameplay to the story. I feel like I’m in the minority, but I really like the story elements of the game. I like the mystery, and how everyone in the game KNOWS what’s going on, so they don’t pointlessly spew exposition. That made my writer brain happy. I liked that to understand things, I had to connect more with the mechanics. And boy, what mechanics they were. Much like Bastion before it, there are so many ways to fight in Transistor, and you’ll find a combo that feels broken, and be shocked when you move to another combination that feels equally broken. AND THE SOUNDTRACK. Oh man.

6. Shovel Knight

As I’ve already said earlier, the best “retro” or “callback” games feel like it used to, but are actually way better, and smooth the issues your nostalgia forgot about. Shovel Knight does this perfectly. The difficulty is really well balanced, with the items you can use or not, and the checkpoints you can destroy or not, and it just has a lot of charm without being “meme-y” or something of that nature. The enemy knights you fight, like Mega Man bosses, just ooze charm. It’s a really fun time.

7. Jackbox Party Pack
IT’S MORE YOU DON’T KNOW JACK. And more fun games! What is there not to like! This isn’t higher, because I just don’t play this kind of stuff as much as I used to. It’s sad. But this is a REALLY quality release, and something everyone can enjoy. Using the phones is just a genius way to let many, many people play, too. It is very much worth your money.

8. Dangan Ronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
I really do love this game, but a lot of the second class trial just leaves a lot of bad taste in one’s mouth. It’s not SUPER bad? It’s not Dual Destinies bad. But it’s still not handled super well. That said, though, it’s a great game, just like the sequel. It’s so good, and it is worth playing. The characters are still fun (though 2 really tops all of them, I think) and it’s just quite a mystery. Also, it’s really necessary to play 2, and 2 is REALLY GOOD. So.

9. Kirby Triple Deluxe
You know what still fills me with joy? A Kirby game. I never finished Return to Dreamland. I wanted to co-op it, but people get busy, and it didn’t really drag me in. This, as a single player thing, using some of the stuff in Return to Dreamland and cutting what didn’t work, was a joy. Hypernova made for much more fun scenarios and puzzles than anything I saw from the “Supercharged” weapons in Return to Dreamland. It was also fun to see the developers really playing with perspective and stuff, since they could. It’s a Kirby game. You know what you’re getting. I love Kirby. It’s all I wanted.

10. Dominique Pamplemousse in “It’s All Over Once The Fat Lady Sings!”
Look, okay, there is just so much LOVE put into this game. SO MUCH LOVE. It just oozes love, and fun, and happiness, and it makes me very happy to play. Someone set out to make this thing alone, a musical adventure game, and it’s just… it’s really charming. The singing could perhaps use a little coaching. But that’s kind of why it’s so charming to me.

Yeah, so… I guess I played a lot of stuff this year? I didn’t really think I had, but I showed me.

October 13, 2014

Here Is Why Bayonetta, As A Character, Rules.

In order to get it out of my head, I would like to tell you why I love Bayonetta as a character.

In video games, sexualization often exists without a story purpose. It is a marketing tool. It’s designed to draw you in and make you interested in someone who, perhaps, is not a deep enough character to deserve it. It’s a way to put some cheesecake on a game box and drag in just one more lusty teen.

I don’t personally believe that Bayonetta’s design is about that. Most sexualization for it’s own sake dis-empowers. It turns people into objects. But Bayonetta would not be herself without it. And that is why, at least in some ways, Bayonetta makes me jealous. I want to be like her. And in the game, I get to be here, and it feels fantastic.

In society, flaunting your sexuality as a woman is a dangerous move. It draws unwanted attention. There are leers and catcalls and who knows what else. Most female characters who wield their sexuality openly are eventually punished for it. The femme fatale’s wiles fail at an important moment, requiring a rescue. Or, perhaps, the heroine is targeted purely because of their sex appeal, more than anything else. Consider the controversy around the attempted rape in Tomb Raider for example. Lara was obviously a threat. She’d killed tons of people by that point. But no, it was her sexuality that was her weak point. There’s where she got in trouble.

At the same time, it is AWESOME to feel sexy. It’s great. Your self-confidence skyrockets. You can take on the world when you feel like you’re looking fantastic and everyone knows it. We’ve all felt that. We want to feel that regularly. The problem is, in reality, that sometimes comes with drawbacks.

Bayonetta has those drawbacks, but she could not even care. She does not have a love interest. (You could argue Luka, but no. He’s just fun to toy with.) There is no target for her sexuality. She looks hot as hell and she’s doing it because of the confidence that gives her. And as a witch, she can back that confidence up. She can summon demons. She can ice skate pirouette angels into a pile of goo. Every action she takes is full of strength, and power, and no fear. She has no fear. She is feminine and sexy and she has no fears because of it. And that makes me jealous.

An argument could be made that, because the camera shows her off so much, and because she often does things towards the camera, that her sexuality is for the player. She is seducing someone, and that is you, with the controller. I understand that, and you could probably make a good case for it. Personally, I think she’s doing that to make the player uncomfortable.

You see, the male gaze assumes a woman is for the viewer. That’s how male gaze works. But Bayonetta is over the top. She’s constantly losing clothing and poledancing and tying angels up and making them cum until they explode. This is not how someone designed to be lusted after acts, because one moment she’s enticing you, and the next she’s making it clear that you could never, ever be enough for her, and she is not interested. Or if she is, she’s going to destroy you and toss you away after that. Most guys I have talked about this game with, even if they like it, were, at the very least, borderline uncomfortable watching all this. That’s the point. You want sexy? Here’s so much it turns the mirror around on you, and makes you wonder why that’s what you were expecting. That’s what the game says. And by making it clear that Bayonetta does not need your approval or your lust, she breaks through that male gaze, at least for a moment.

The plot of the first game backs this up to some extent, as well. While most of the plot deals with Bayonetta’s past, a lot of it is her trying to learn to accept help, and accepting the idea that she can have friends. She wants to push people away, for the majority of the story. Isn’t how she’s dressing designed to do that?

In any case, there are many readings, of course. But I love Bayonetta as a character. Every new torture move in the first game had me cheering. Hell, I started wearing glasses again, because I say Bayonetta, and I wanted to be like that, a little bit. I love her as a character. I can’t wait to play the second game.

October 6, 2013

Monogamy, Polyamory, but Mostly, Love.

I love you.

Well, okay, sure, I MAY not, but let’s just be honest. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance I do, since you give enough of a shit about me to check this out. So there, take that as you will.

I’ve been struggling a lot lately with what the hell love means and where it fits into my life nowadays. As I’m sure I mentioned at some point, I’m kinda in a situation I have never been in ever before. The concept of monogamy was shockingly foreign to me until recently, even though I was in such a relationship. I found myself starting to freak out because I honestly didn’t know how to handle it, and I didn’t know why.

I mean, let’s be honest, Ceton is not getting away. I am fucking keeping him. We are a permanent thing. As I told him the other day, there is basically nobody in the world I can be around constantly and not feel socially drained, at least a little, except him. I honestly never experienced it before he came into my life. So yeah, he’s mine, and I’m glad I’m his, and that’s that. This monogamy thing is something I do want. I know me being with others would bother him, and my life stress has honestly gone down a ton once I gave all that stuff up (though perhaps you couldn’t notice, since I am so good at panicking). It’s all exactly what I want.

But here’s why it was making me freak out: I didn’t know how to love otherwise. Like, the main reason I never considered anything but being poly was the whole idea of passing up on love. I couldn’t handle it. I fucking LOVE too much. Once I started being honest with myself, and who I was, I started realizing I felt deeply for a ton of people! Not all of those feelings were romantic, of course, though some were, and the idea of trying to squash those feelings because I was just being told I was “supposed” to was a distressing idea. I had been told the feelings I had were wrong for years, and I was supposed to feel this way, and that was so fucking wrong and toxic for me it’s hilarious to look back on. So surely turning away love because I was “supposed” to was just as bad, surely. Trying to do so felt like I was devaluing people who were extremely important to me. I couldn’t imagine doing it. I also, just because of where I was in my life, couldn’t imagine expressing love in any way other than a physical way. It just all kinda made sense. It was the only way things could work, really. It was the only way to really and truly be close to a person. Sex terrified me, and still does in a lot of ways, and revealing those sorts of weaknesses is a real expression of love. It broke down so many barriers in a torrent of fear and emotion, and those barriers had to be gone to bed close.

Over time, though, I found myself just kinda cooling it on the physical love, though, on those who weren’t my partner, even without being asked. I wouldn’t admit it to myself, because I couldn’t, but I didn’t really want to. I felt it, in a lot of ways, HAD to be part of these relationships, but I wanted to share that part of me only with this lovely jackal I shared a bed with, who made me feel right and helped me when I didn’t. The problem was, as I said, I didn’t know any other way to show love. Because all my partners from all these years, well, I’m still close to a whole lot of them, and I mean, I call them by names that are sexually charged most of the time in some way, because that’s just what we did. Bedroom nicknames. Fuck, one of my best friends I exclusively call Master, for the exact dom/sub reasons you are thinking. So, you know, how could I still show them I loved them, if I didn’t want that? I didn’t know.

But that was stupid.

Affection isn’t an all or nothing thing. Closeness is not created by genitals touching exclusively. I freaked out about this for weeks, and spent an hour literally flailing around in my psychologist’s office, trying to figure this shit out. And then I did what I should always do, from the very start. I talked to everyone. I explained what I was feeling and how scared I was of hurting them just because I had to be true to my partner. And every single fucking one of them gave me a hug, told me they understood and it was no big deal, and that they’d still be there for me. And in that moment, THAT was love. THAT was love, right there. Hell, the fact that several of them admitted to ALREADY KNOWING, that is love.

It’s not an issue to love. It is NEVER an issue to love. Love everyone, in whatever ways you are comfortable. Love!


Just love.

September 23, 2013

After Dark, And A Sense Of Belonging

A thing I have started doing is following After Dark accounts on twitter. This has mostly gained me access to a lot of tweets full of pornography, random horny musings and cravings, and pictures of the genitals of people I vaguely know from the internet.

I’m pretty okay with this. I don’t really need to see said pictures of people’s equipment, though I’m glad they’re proud of it and will gladly cheer them on in their endeavors to use it, and most of the porn really isn’t my thing, though quite nice, for what it is. But I mostly haven’t undone this thing I’ve done and gotten it out of my feed because, oddly, it really makes me feel connected to something I kinda felt like I lost.

I talked awhile ago about how I kinda feel like I’m not part of the furry community any more, and it kinda bums me out. It does, too. It’s a weird thing. But a lot of that furry camaraderie is coming back to me as I read these accounts from furs I kinda know in passing and am now learning tons of super-detailed risque info about. It just kinda affirms me. It makes me feel like part of the group again.

Outside of furry culture (which I was really tempted just to call human culture but goddamn that kinda makes me feel a little insane to say, so I’ll write it out the long way (even though, in my heart, that’s probably what I would call it, I am that crazy, oh no)) things are just so goddamn taboo. It’s kinda unhealthy and stupid, seriously. Like, I showed a video to a class today where a middle-aged lady cracks jokes about how insane sex research has been in the past, and everyone was SUPER uncomfortable. It wasn’t that graphic. No naughty language was used. It was just kinda the idea that someone might think and study things like how different the semen of young men smells to that of old men. That’s just weird, right? But it’s one of those things, in a weird moment, you might wonder, and these scientists just fucking WENT for it, and that’s awesome and funny. We laugh because it’s weird, but we get uncomfortable because it reminds us of the things we wonder about, and we think about, and we want to try but never do. It reminds us of things we are supposed to be embarrassed about. And at the same time, these people just out there tweeting their most fucked up fantasies and talking to others about how to make them weirder or hotter or just flirting with them. They don’t care. They crave what they crave and they celebrate it. That just seems way healthier to me in general. A world in which I can tell my mother “Mom, I need this expensive surgery so I can have tons of hot sloppy sex with the guy I’m in love with without sobbing constantly” is a way better world than the one where I had to try to express that without breaking these taboos, and having the whole talk go badly. A world in which I didn’t nearly have a panic attack wondering if I should share experiences with my ex-girlfriend to make a point to my students because that would mark me as gay or bi seems way better. It’s way better to just be honest with these wants, isn’t it? Furries think so. I’m one of them. It’s super-refreshing to be, at least a little, indulged in that general mentality around me again very blatantly. (I mean, most of my good friends share this view, though they probably wouldn’t explain it this way, but instead in a much less dumb way. This is one of many reasons why I love them.)

It’s also just really refreshing to see someone’s personality on their sleeve like that. When you know someone’s desires, it’s really easy to get a good mental picture of them and know if they’re someone you want to deal with. People’s priorities are outlined or hinted at, seriously, by what they crave. I always felt like I had no problem judging people online, something people always thought was weird and hard to do, and I’ve since realized it’s because I was mostly involved with furs, who just put this stuff out there, and we could part ways amicably, most of the time, before any sort of issue erupted because we just knew. We knew what was up.

But mostly I guess it’s kinda one of those “relive your glory days” things, as lame as that sounds. I love love love love love where my life is now, but it’s very different than the polyamorous life of exploration I used to lead. It was honestly pretty fun, as far as things go. Every day lead to new potential partners and new potential experiences and things to enjoy, which I never would have even imagined without all that. Many of those partners are some of my best friends now. And since I basically figured out what I wanted out of romance and love (which is what I have now, minus some stupid intimacy issues on my part that will get dealt with eventually) and I stopped doing all that, I do have a little bit of loss, as you do with any freedom, even if given up willingly in exchange for something worth so fucking much more. It’s still opportunity gone. It’s sad to close a door, even one that needs to be closed. But seeing these other furs still in that phase, and exploring and loving and doing without restraint to figure it all out (or maybe they have figured it all out, and that’s what they need in life, that’s cool too) is just… it’s awesome. I’m happy for them. I love rooting for them from the sidelines, because I know how well it can all work out, and I want it to work out as well for them as it did for me. It’s the same kinda feeling I get when I see a student really start to click with writing and dive in and really enjoy it. It’s just so awesome! I mean, I’m not going to interfere or anything in anyone’s journey. I’ll help if asked. But it’s just nice to know that some things still work in the world, and that your joys, and the ways you found them, are shared by more. That the things you value are kinda universally good. I dunno, maybe getting enjoyment out of seeing that sort of thing happen makes me old. I’m probably old now. Oh well.

Anyway, I’ll probably keep these accounts on there, and slowly add new ones I find interesting, because of these things. Sure, it now makes checking my phone at work REALLY AWKWARD or whatever, but it’s nice. It’s really nice. Maybe I’m odd for seeing it that way, but fuck, that’s how I see it. No reason to be ashamed.

August 14, 2013

Amusement Park Polish

As someone who has a sticker of the EPCOT Center symbol on her car, and is slowly filling up her walls with more and more EPCOT stuff, I think we can agree that I am not unbiased in what I am about to write, so we’ll just get that out of the way. But I feel I am that way for a reason, and I want to talk about said reason.

Yesterday, I went to Six Flags St. Louis. I hadn’t been there in years, and it was an interesting and fun time. I rode roller coasters and water slides. What more can you ask for, you know? But man, the whole time I was there, I just felt this feeling of desperation from the park. Like, it didn’t know what it was doing and was just throwing everything at the wall to try to make an extra buck. Ads were literally everywhere, and not for like… things happening in the park, but for candy, movies, hair products, electronic cigarettes… literally anything, posted all over the place. Every ride was plastered with advertisements for The Flash Pass, which was something else you could buy that was AS MUCH AS OR MORE THAN YOUR TICKET that could let you skip lines. It was just kind of gross. I mean, I rode a roller coaster in a coaster car covered in ads for hair gel. It was on the coaster “American Thunder.” I guess the ads are pretty American.

On top of that, the park was split into thematic areas. Well, it was in theory. Very few of the attractions had to do with the thematic areas at all. What does the previously-named “Tony Hawk’s Big Spin” and now “Pandemonium” have to do with Britannia, a Robin-Hood Themed Area? At least the big coaster in that area, The Boss, has some attempt to make it blend in to those surroundings, with a big archway that kinda fits the era it’s trying to put you in, but The Boss still doesn’t fit the theme as a title, and the coaster goes over a go-kart track. You know, like the go-karts Robin Hood and his merry men rode around on. The Studio Backlot area was all Tim Burton Batman themed (but nowhere near the DC Superhero area, starring Scooby Doo, your favorite DC Superhero, of course) except for The Ninja, and Panda Express, and things that have little to do with being a WB Studio Backlot. The music all over the park was this really crazy collection of hits a little out of date, really old songs, and strange selections from the 90’s.

The only area that really had a theme was Hurricane Harbor, which actually did a fairly good job. There were plaques telling the history of the harbor, and everything had fairly thematic names. But, of course, you could see Batman: The Ride from anywhere in Hurricane Harbor, looming over the whole thing, or the parking lot it was next to, so you could never really get too immersed.

Disney spoils me, I guess. Even when they go and build a “thrill ride” because something needs a thrill ride, they think hard about where it’s going to go and how it’s going to fit in there. They build an impressive mountain landscape and surrounding features for Expedition: Everest. They come up with the idea of teaching about aerodynamics and other vehicle-related science by letting you make your own car in Test Track. They build a gigantic mountain mine surrounded by all kinds of neat things in New Fantasyland. The most “just thrown in there” ride I experienced at Disney World during my last trip was the Primeval Whirl, but that was 100% by design, since it is placed inside of the thrown-together amusement park area of Dino-Rama. It was evoking that kind of feel.

Similarly, all the “ads” in Disney World are classy. They’re simply sponsorships. Sure, you exit Spaceship Earth into basically an advertisement for Siemens nowadays, but it’s done in a smart way, with games explaining how communication technology will continue to advance society in the future. It ties in to Spaceship Earth. It doesn’t feel out of place or gross.

It really just seems like Six Flags should stop half-assing it, I guess. If you aren’t going to go all the way to immerse me, it really just ends up being more terrible than if you hadn’t tried at all. Not trying to would be preferable. I went to Cedar Point a long time ago, and that is a place full of coasters. It has no themeing and no pretense. It’s just coasters. And it doesn’t invoke the same “this place is a mess” feelings because of it, you know? Six Flags should just tear down the rest of their themeing and just have a coaster park. Sure, still have the Looney Tunes and DC heroes and all that, but just get rid of the premise, you know? It would probably serve them well.

July 24, 2013

Transitioning is Power

My friend Aaron linked to this thing on the internets, written by one Samantha Allen. (What is up with Thought Catalog becoming a thing recently, by the way? Random thought.) 7 Ways to be a Trans Ally, it says. It’s a solid article. If it’s the sort of thing you’re wondering about, or just trying to wrap your head around, by all means read it! It’s good!

It struck me weird, and it took me awhile to figure out why.

Number 6 on the list just… bothers me. It’s a bad metaphor, at least in my case. I don’t think it works, and I think it paints a negative picture to some extent, by accident, by trying to explain things in an easy to grok way. Allow me to quote so we’re all on the same page.

Before my transition, I felt like Superman. Because the world perceived me as a white man, I could go anywhere and do anything. No catcalls, no harassment, no awkwardness. I could move through my day like a knife cutting through butter. But now it feels like I’m taking daily doses of kryptonite alongside my regimen of estrogen. Tasks that were once effortless now feel like immovable boulders blocking my path.

“What’s happening to me?” I’ll ask myself and, if I’m feeling playful, I’ll stare down at my hands in disbelief to more fully embody the pathos of the freshly powerless superhero. “I used to be able to buy groceries without needing a pep talk!”

While I might have fallen from grace, you, my cisgender ally, can still be my superhero in so many situations. While I work on my female voice, you can manage difficult customer service interactions for me. You can prepare a server to use appropriate pronouns by saying, “I’ll have a beer and she’ll have a…” See how that works? Clever, right?

Take me to the bathroom with you. Please. It’s scary alone. Shield me from stares. Yell at people who are rude and correct people who use the wrong words. Realize that you’re like a god to me and use your powers for good.

Personal story time.
I remember the first time I saw myself in a mirror.
For years and years and years, I had avoided looking in mirrors. You would not believe the extent to which I dodged looking in mirrors. I would unlock my car strictly by feel so I would not accidentally see my reflection in the car window. I would literally run past the mirrored pillars at the store where I was working, so I wouldn’t catch a glance at myself, or walk backwards into position to do my job. I just had to kinda trust that my hair and stuff looked alright. I pretty sure it didn’t, most of the time, and that’s saying something, seeing as I still have wild crazy lady hair.
But on that faithful day, I dressed up as myself, for the first time. I had to look in a mirror. And I looked. And I didn’t cringe. I didn’t immediately turn away. I didn’t cry. I honestly didn’t look all that different. But suddenly, that thing in the mirror was me. It was me. It was a miracle in my eyes. I could see myself in the mirror.
I knew two things in that moment. The first was that I was doing the right thing, transitioning. Any lingering doubts? Immediately gone. The second was that I realized I no longer felt trapped, for the first time in my life.
My entire life, I felt powerless. I was on a train track, a theme park ride, that I did not want to be on. There was a destination I was going to that I hated. I did not want to be that man. I knew I was not that or any other man. But I could do nothing about it. I did the things I was told I was supposed to, for the most part. The little things I did to try to not feel so trapped, so on rails, I was constantly hassled about. I had no power in my life. I starved myself for a year, basically, to try to assert some sort of power. But even that wasn’t working. I felt doomed. Even the accomplishments I managed to make during that time, like my first college degree, were meaningless to me. They were things I did because I had to, not because I owned them. To this day, I don’t feel like that first degree was any kind of accomplishment.
In that moment, looking in that mirror, I stopped that ride, and got off, and I could, for the first time, do anything. ANYTHING. I had never done things like think about the future before, or think about what I wanted to do for a living, or who I wanted to spend my life with, really. Not seriously. I had no choice in those matters until that point. But now I could make those decisions. Now I had all the power. I had the power, not anyone else.

When Allen compares transitioning to changing from a superhero to someone who needs saving, I just can’t disagree enough. I have the power now to live my life, and to stand up for myself, that I honestly never had before. I never had more power than until I started transitioning, and to paint transitioning as something that weakens you just seems wrong, both for that reason, and for the precedent that sets. It reminds me of conversations I had with internet creeps back in the day who, when I told them I was going to transition, gave me shit about the idea that I would give up male privilege (not in those words, of course, but that was basically the short version of those awkward conversations). They said I was crazy to make myself weak like that.
Don’t get me wrong, I am often extremely nervous about the things she talks about being nervous about. These situations can be super scary, though over time, it’s stopped being quite as constant a source of fear, though it does pop up once and awhile. I’ve also been in many situations where someone has “saved” me like she talks about. The first time I really truly went out in public dressed, I remember the huge relief I felt when my sister-in-law dropped the proper pronoun immediately to the waitress so I would not be nervous. I could not thank her enough for that. But just because I appreciate help does not make me weak. I would have ordered my burger and lemonade just fine without her help. Maybe I would have gotten a little frustrated, or a little more nervous, but I would have had and enjoyed my burger out with my sister-in-law and brother. In the end, I have to navigate these situations. I mean, it’s my life. And if you want to help me, you know I’m going to thank you for it. But if I’m alone, I’m not going to sit there and tremble and wish someone would come in and save me. I did that for years, and only by breaking myself of that habit did I turn my life around. No, I’m not going to sit there. I’m going to get stuff done. I’m going to correct people, I’m going to get out of situations that upset me, and I’m going to live my life no matter how people might react. I have the power to do that now. I didn’t before.

Allen did great with her article. As Aaron said, it’s super hard to be a spokesperson for a huge, crazy diverse group, and I think she did a fine job. The metaphor I have issue with really does hammer home to those who may not understand quite how much it is appreciated how much it is appreciated. Because it really, really, really, really is, especially to someone just starting out. It can make an awful time better and keep a great time from getting a little less great. But man, where is that new-found confidence and happiness she talks about earlier in that paragraph? It just kinda disappears. And that’s a shame.

There are tons of problems in the world that trans* people have to deal with. Goodness yes, there are. But we face them because we’re willing to in return for that strength we gain from actually being ourselves, strength everyone gets from being willing to accept themselves, good and bad. Maybe being trans* is a bigger thing to accept than most. I don’t know. But doing that is where the strength to make life awesome comes from.
There’s this movie, Mumford. I watched it at random once when it was airing on Comedy Central or something, and I don’t remember much, but one thing really stuck in my brain about it. In it, the main character is pretending to be a psychologist, but still trying to help people. And one of his patients is just super unhappy with his life, and he describes his fantasies, and he is not in them. A stand-in for him is there, who is nothing like himself. The fake psychologist, talking about him, says, “I just want to make him the star of his own fantasies, you know?” That was me, before. The true me was in my head, but that wasn’t who I was. Now it is. Now I star in my own fantasies. Now I make them come true. That’s power.