Thoughts On Escapism

Moving is stressful.  House hunting is stressful.  Moving to a location currently undergoing a housing crisis is freakin’ panic inducing.  So yeah, going through some rough times.  And I’ve noticed something.  It’s changed the way I play.

When I get stressed, I often forego the more involved story oriented games or strategic pieces I usually enjoy for either puzzlers or simple hack and slashers.  This is something I’ve known for a long time.  When I’m stressed, I like to concentrate on something else entirely, such as with puzzlers, or just turn it off for some mindless, mechanical fun, as with simple action games.  That works for me.  It helps me manage my stress.

And I’ve been doing that now.  But I’ve also been gravitating towards another type of game.  I didn’t even notice my tastes were swinging in this direction at first, or that there was all that much in common between these games.  After a little while, though, it struck me.

Let’s illustrate what I’ve been going through here.  After a nearly fruitless visit, in which the only place I had scheduled to look at didn’t get taken between the time I set up the appointment and the time I made the visit was the one that was only available for two weeks, I spent the night playing Tropico, where I built lots of housing.  Then I played Civilization, and built many cities full of happy, happy citizens.  I came home and felt the urge to start up Animal Crossing, where you just show up and land yourself a house right away.  Then came SimCity, where I ended up building more residential districts than my city could actually support.

I hadn’t planned out any of that.  I wasn’t trying to play games to feed my fantasy of easy housing.  And yet, that’s apparently where my subconscious led me to.  And you know what?  It did make me feel better.   Perhaps there is something to be said about escapism.

Level Complete! Press Start to Continue

Hey, boys and girls.  It’s been a while.  And I know it’s been hard, having to go without my unique, charming wit for so long.  It’s been hard for me too, having all these great thoughts and being forced to deprive the world of their wonder.  Sometimes, being so awesome is a curse.

I don’t like to fill this blog up with too much of my meatspace issues, but this one is going to affect future posting, so I figured I owed it to any one who cares enough to read this to let you know what’s going on.  Obviously, I hadn’t been posting.  This had been expected.  I’ve had things happen.  Some things good, some bad, but all things that kept me away from the computer, disrupting the whole posting deal.  And unfortunately, it’s looking like that’s going to continue.  Most of the future things are looking positive, though, for those of you that care.  After one of the most dehumanizing experiences I’ve put myself through, a three year long fruitless job search, I’ve finally managed to find a workplace that recognizes my obvious greatness and landed myself a new job.  Halfway across the state.  So I’ve got some major life changes ahead of me, as I spend the next couple weeks finding housing, putting my life into little boxes, and getting myself set up in a whole new community.  It’s not going to be quick, and it’s not going to be easy.  And it’s going to mean I’m not going to have time to create content.  The blog’s not going anywhere, but it’s going to be a little while until I’m able to put anything new up here.  Most likely, at least until the end of the month.  Until then, though, we’re going to be in a bit of stasis here.

So yeah, that’s the scoop.  I’m moving onto bigger and better things in life, and it’s going to take me a little while to get situated.  Until then, I’m not going to be able to publicly compliment myself over the internet.  But rest assured, we will be back, with all the same quality content you know and love.

Lessons Learned: I Rule


Note: This is not my festival. Purely a flavor image.

Last year, I put out a post reflecting on the work I had done for a recently completed film festival.  Then I left the film commission I had been managing.  With that, I thought I was finally out of the game.  Both the festival and the commission were a lot of time, and a lot of stress, and I had never really had the passion for film that’s pretty much required to thrive in the industry.  I had left that behind me, happily so, and moved on with my life.

But just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

I have a hard time saying no to people who need my help.  And the festival it seemed, was not quite ready to stand without me.  Still, I was adamant that I was not going to be as involved as I was last year, basically working another job towards the end of it.  And that was fine.  Last year, we had a problem with having way too few people involved to cover everything, the year before we had way too many to get anything done efficiently, this year, we seemed to hit the sweet spot.  We had few enough people there that we weren’t bogged down in multi-hour long meetings revisiting the same things we did in the last several, but enough of a team that nobody was really overworked.  As opposed to last year, when I managed the money, did most of the fundraising, led the marketing, as well as all the other odd jobs on my plate, this year, I limited my main activities to just handling the finances.  I helped out with other stuff as well, but that was all I was really in charge of, dedicated to.  Everyone else had their own areas, but there were enough people going around, that everything went smoothly.

Until the day before the festival.

And that’s when everything went bottoms up.  First our festival director had a situation suddenly come up, and he couldn’t make it to anything.  Then another member of our committee had an emergency, and she couldn’t make it either.  Leaving our decision-making group cut by half, leaving only myself and our programming director.

But you know what?  We handled it.  We were in a situation where both of us were having to completely adjust what we were doing on the fly, and we made it work.  We had volunteers to help us, some of which were pushed into roles a little bit above their heads, and we both had to take a lot more ownership of the festival and its activities, but we made it work.  I learned things about myself, too.  I learned I do pretty great at quick, casual presentations, given that I had to keep ad-libbing things in introducing or closing out the films, which is one thing I hadn’t been expecting to be charged with.  I learned that I’m able to pretend I know something about a subject matter when talking it over with an expert enough to hold a good public discussion with my only knowledge being the twenty minute film I just finished watching.  And I reaffirmed that people just really enjoy looking at me.  Good times.

I also learned I’m really good at marketing.  Last year, I took over most of our marketing activities.  Our attendance doubled.  I figured I couldn’t claim responsibility for all that at the time.  This year, I left the marketing to others.  Our attendance halved, back down to what it was before I got involved.  It still might be too soon to claim that’s all me, but I think that’s enough evidence to determine that I was at least partially responsible for the boost.

So yeah.  That’s what’s been going on in my life.  Just got through a really rough weekend.  Have a number of strenuous times ahead of me, so posting might be a little slow, by the way.  But still, I learned through it all.  I really need to respect myself more.  So does everyone else.  After all, as this weekend proved, I rule.

Deus Ex Spoke To Me


Stories are subjective.  Sure, a lot of the internet will tell you otherwise.  Spend enough time online, it seems you start thinking that an opinion can only be valid when you get everyone else in the world to hold it.  By force.  I cannot tell you the amount of people I have seen flamed into oblivion because they praised/criticized the story of Final Fantasy VII in the wrong place.  But these people miss out on a whole lot of the good in stories.  They’re subjective.  They speak to different people in different ways.  And that’s awesome.

That does mean that somebody, somewhere, is going to enjoy some bad writing.  Something that may have been slapped together on a napkin that some writer accidentally spilled his eighth drink on could end up truly resonating with a reader.  It gets the fanboys up in arms, that OMG someone enjoys something they don’t, but aside from them, it’s a really beautiful thing.

I had that happen to me recently.  Deus Ex is a game with a lot of strengths.  The plot is not one of them.  Which might be a little unfair; I didn’t get the chance to play this game until the medium had gone through over a decade of advancement since, but still, from my perspective, it was a great game, but the story was pants.  It might be too far to call it bad, but it was lacking.  And, at first, it seemed the part that the writing was sloppiest was in the ending.  Specifically, the way the game handled the choice of three endings.

You see that?  I said ‘endings’.  That means spoilers ahead.

So there I was, hunting down the last of the evil spinoff of the group that would be the evil villains in many other stories, tracking them down because the main baddie kept taunting me even though I already dropped a nuke on them because apparently ruling the world requires a significant lack of judgement.  When all of a sudden, I became Mr. Popular.  Everyone started talking to me, using the communication hubs that had absolutely no reason to be there otherwise, wanting to switch me to their side because all of a sudden this whole peacekeeping mission now had me deciding the fate of the world with absolutely no buildup.  And all the options presented to me?  They came with some pretty serious downsides, and there was no way of blazing your own path through it.  The people who had secretly been running the world in spite of the fact that every single member we saw was completely ineffective and I knew them to be a bunch of clowns because I played Human Revolution first wanted me to create a power vacuum then join them in filling it once more, ruling the earth from the shadows for our own benefit.  The only people I really owed a favor to wanted me to destroy all the earths capabilities for long distance communications and plunge the economy back into the middle ages because obviously people can’t just lay cable for the internet again.  The AI spying on everyone and hacking everything wanted me to merge with it, to create a benevolent ruler with absolute power, because apparently my penchant for cattle prodding people in the genitals until they passed out, trapping people in enclosed spaces and smoking around them until they died, and breaking into every locked door I came across in an attempt to build up the world’s largest candy bar collection makes me the world’s best moral compass.


Anyways, the problem I had here was that the choices seemed unreasonable, the people giving them weren’t exactly nuanced, they didn’t take into account my past actions after a game that had been doing that really beautifully throughout, and the way they were delivered, mostly out of the clear blue, left me a bit bitter about the option.  But then, something miraculous happened.  Turns out, I am really, really bad at health.  Who knew!  A lifetime of being tall and beautiful had trained me to seek out people’s attention, making me really bad at actually avoiding it when I had to.  Is this what it’s like to be normal-looking?  Man, I feel sorry for the rest of the world.  Anyways, this turned out to be a bit of a blessing, as the constant save-scumming I had to go through gave me time to think.  And that time to think ended up making me appreciate the endings a lot more.  By the time I got to the guy who laid all the consequences out for me, I had already started looking at the endings on a whole different level.

What really changes the way I viewed the ending was the time I was given to reflect on the state of the world as it was.  The three options you were given were all ruinous, but set against the backdrop of a world where Soylent Green would be panned for being too realistic, where the government pays people to commit suicide, where the United States walls off its slums and high crime areas, leaving them to devour themselves with no Batman to save them, where corruption exists at literally every level of government we see except for China, of all places, every single one of those options, horrid though they were, were far better than the status quo.  The options themselves, digging past the surface level, asked you to weigh values against each other.  Is it worth it to sacrifice individual freedom the world over if you can keep people safe?  Does it matter that people are being controlled from the shadows, that they are locked into invisible gridlines, if it allows many to prosper?  Is individual freedom valuable enough to set society back decades and replace it with chaos world-wide?

I still don’t appreciate the way they were presented, and the framing around them.  The options did not come about it a well-written manner.  They do really speak to me, though, and caused me to think about the values I held.  In the end, I went for the chaos route, setting my people free at the cost of large government, business, and economy as a whole.  Personal freedom is very important to me, and that feels by far the most right choice.  Others will think differently, and that’s an awesome thing.  In any case, the game, for all the creativity and fun it offers, was not very well-written, but the endings triggered that same part of me that attempts to thematically analyze the Saints Row series, as wild and slapstick as they are.  I don’t believe they’d do the same to everybody.  But the ending choices, and the nuance behind them, rose above the rest and truly spoke to me, transforming them in my eyes into something far greater than anyone else may believe.

Manus can go burn

Last time, on the New Adventures of Old Aether, I said a thing.  Do you remember the thing I said?  I’ll refresh your memory.

“Still, I managed to take off nearly half his health my first time.  For someone with a sobriquet as intimidating as “Father of the Abyss”, this really wasn’t that rough.  At this rate, Dusk, I’ll have you safe in no time!”

So, I think it’s time to confess, because there’s no way I’m going to be able to hide it now.  I am a flawed man.  Pride’s a big one.  I mean, looking as good as I do, it’s hard to avoid that, but as excusable as it is, that’s something I have to face about myself.  And that quote above is full of pride.  I can also be somewhat short-sighted, looking at my goals more than the path I have to take to get there.  The quote is full of that, too.  But that quote has also made me realize something about myself.  Something new.  Something I apparently needed Manus to show me.

I am a blasted idiot.

But before we get into that, allow me to put in a bit of filler here, so I can hide the depths of my stupidity from those that are too lazy to hit the jump.

My path back to Manus’s lair takes me past Marvelous Chester.  He’s got some new things to say now that I’ve met the Father of the Abyss.


Which I already knew, to some degree, thanks to the spells I’ve been finding around.  Chester was happy to fill me in on how exactly that happened.


I’m guessing the primeval man was Manus.  Ornery does seem an apt descriptor for him.  The toothy serpent does interest me.  The Kingseeker Frampt, or another of his kind?  No idea.  And Chester isn’t about to fill me in.


I wonder if Chester can leave this time.  I can head out whenever I want, thanks to the lordvessel and the bonfires being linked.  Does Chester have that ability?  Or is he planning to just hang out here, just on the outside of the borders of Oolacile, waiting for it to fall?  Either way, the man doesn’t seem very proactive about getting back to his hometime.


On my way back, I spy a corpse with some souls near the elevator back down to the chasm of the abyss.  It stands at the head of a path I didn’t notice before, leading down to a river-worn gap between two cliffs.  I take the stairs down, then turn around and check the gap behind me.  It seems to have a treasure-bearing corpse at the end of it.  It also has what looks to be two dogs in the way, with glowing red eyes.  New enemies!

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Dark Lord, Dark Souls

Last time, on the Aether Loses at Dark Souls, we trekked across Oolacile, beat down an invader, and found ourselves at a threshold.  An elevator, looking to descend nowhere but into absolute darkness.  Are we ready to step across, to take it into the unknown, to take the fight to the heart of the Abyss?

Nope.  I decide we’re not.  So I just stand there.


Until oops, I accidentally put on the Covenant of Artorias, just in case, and accidentally step onto the elevator, and accidentally ride it all the way down.


The elevator lets me off at what appears to be a dungeon.  Which makes me wonder what that big combat hallway was all about before.  A former courthouse?  Dunno.  In any case, the area is lined in these slick Abyss remnants, which grows thicker the further down I go.  It ends with a bonfire before a broken wall.  It doesn’t seem that the Abyss is strong enough that I need the Covenant of Artorias to survive here, so I switch it out.


I have the Humanity to spare, for once, so I kindle this bonfire.  Get me those extra estus uses while I can.

I walk out the hole in the wall.  It seems to overlook a great chasm, filled with darkness.  I’m guessing this is where the Abyss first infected the city from.  The path out from the hole leads both directions, but trails off to the right.  So obviously, I head the other way.


Well, that’s the most descriptive name I’ve seen in a long time.  I find a number of messages here, saying there’s a lizard ahead.  I wonder why I should care for a bit, before finally I spot it.  A crystal lizard.  Ok, that’s worth some note.  I rush towards it.  It turns to flee, but I’m on it before it can get too far.  A quick swing lets me harvest its titanite bounty.


With darkness all around me, it’s hard to make out where the path I’m on leads, especially as it opens up.  I spy a light glittering in the distance, and make my way towards it.  A prism stone, I find when I get close.  I don’t think any creature from the Abyss would need any of these.  Which means someone else had gotten here first.  Left behind by Artorias, most likely.  In any case, the prism stone marks the start of a path downwards.  In fact, looking down into the Abyss, I can see another light shining far down below.  I’m not quite ready to make progress yet, though, so I turn around, and explore the top level of the cavern some more.


I spy a blue light in the distance.  Flickering slightly.  Looks to me like some treasure.  And I do love treasure.  So I head towards it.  The blue light grows as I near.  So too do the numerous red lights around it.  Before I know it, I’ve drawn the eye of four bloatheads.  As one fires a Dark Orb at me, the other three rush me down.

I dodge to the side of the bolt, then run down the path I came from towards the bonfire, seeking some cover.  I round a corner, then turn and steel myself.  Of the three bobbleheads chasing me, one’s drawn ahead of the other two, just a bit.  I greet him with my blade when he gets close enough.


This turns out to be a mistake.  I’m not strong enough to kill him in a single blow, and by the time we both recover, the other two are upon me.  With three of them hammering against my shield at once, they quickly overpower my guard, then lay into me with sequential attacks.  It’s more than I can bear, and by the time I get my defenses back up, I’m already dead.

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New Eden, Page 26: Jumpcuts Ahoy!

New Eden Page 26

Looking over this one after some time away, I’m a little worried I didn’t quite carry the sense of activity between panels well.  Any graphic novel is going to have things happen in the space between panels, that’s just how the medium works, but I don’t quite feel like one panel properly flows from the next, here.  That’s something I’m having to work on, through this whole graphic-novel-based-drawing-practice-thing.  Luckily, the next several action scenes have given me plenty of practice.

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