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Sunday, 30 August 2015

Running Without A Rulebook

Anyone else remember the days when video games came with a manual that you kind of had to read?

Stay with me here. This isn't just an exploration of how much of my life I've utilised playing games.

Way back when, if you wanted to know the controls and thematics behind a game - you needed to look in the manual. They'd contain tips and tricks as well as the straight-up controls. They were damn near essential, in a lot of ways.

These days in-game tutorials replace manuals almost entirely - and wiki pages cover the rest. Which is fine. I mean I don't mind, it's a lot more fun to actually be taught through play than just have an info dump.

With that as background, we're going to shift tack a little.

In terms of social interaction, and the general day-to-day life of human beings, I sometimes feel like the game came with a manual but I never read it.

Which sounds weird, I know, but - it's like...there's so many bits of life that everyone else seems to have a hang on that I find a bit puzzling. How do you know when you are at a certain level of social closeness with someone? How do you express that, make sure it is reciprocal? Does it even matter? What are the precise right things to say in any given situation? Who decided that? How much leeway is there, if any?

These things have confused me in the past, whereas everyone else seems to have read up on the topic and worked out what is going on.

This probably contributes to my introversion. I'll play logic puzzles all day and all night but when it comes to working out people and talking and other such, I'm performing mental cardio every moment I'm talking or listening.

There's probably a known medical condition related to that. How the fuck do you google it though? Can you get mental health stuff for it? It's not social anxiety - though it could probably aggravate it.

That doesn't mean to say that one can't work out how to play a game by doing, mind. You might even work out how to do things a little easier, here and there. Little ways of thinking about the "game" that haven't been informed by the manual. Exploits, console commands, that kind of thing. Still, it's not the same as actually knowing how to play the game.

I came across this particular description of how my brain works while talking to a good friend of mine. I'm very lucky that I have aforementioned good friends; because honestly, at times, I'm a fucking nightmare to deal with. I know it's taxing but they put up with me anyway. How lucky am I?

Just a thought.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Theirs And Ours

[This blog is not available in your region.]

...the above sentence is an obvious fallacy. After all, this is posted online, where anyone with a browser or similar can access it. So it would be stupid to prevent something being seen due to redundant physical geography...


And yet I bet all my readers will have found at least one video on YouTube that they wanted to watch, that they couldn't, because of the patch of dirt their broadband is plugged into is HERE rather than THERE.

I hope I'm not the only one that is vexed by this state of affairs, too.

There's reasons, I'm sure. Copyright reasons. Political reasons. Censorship reasons. I have issues with all of them, that much should be obvious. What it means, though, is that there can be a certain amount of exclusivity - and that word, exclusive, has taken a very odd meaning in the modern era.

It is the opposite of inclusive, and inclusive is a good thing. Inclusive means that you don't get left out. Everyone can access the article in question - whatever it is, anyone on earth can experience what the creator has made.

What exclusivity says is that no, only SOME people can experience and enjoy this.

The medium of the article provides some of that exclusivity. Unless you have a specific kind of synaesthesia or someone very good at description, you can't hear a painting, or grasp an untranslated piece of Russian literature unless you can read Russian. What happens in these circumstances? Well, there are workarounds. That's expected, that's accepted. War And Peace, for example. (Yes it's cliche, yes I've read it.) Nobody bats an eyelid when a piece of literature is translated into another language, thus defeating an exclusivity barrier.

One of the most "pirated" pieces of media in history is Game Of Thrones.

There's a bunch of reasons for this, of course. A lot of them could be seen as issues of exclusivity. If one doesn't have HBO in the US, then - until the simulcast of 12th April this year - one had to wait. And wait. And wait. While all those WITH HBO and a Facebook account spoilered the entire thing for you.

Which is why they probably attempted the simulcast at all, in fairness.

Without getting into the debate as to whether or not the cost of subscribing to HBO/Sky/Whatever or buying DVDs is actually another "exclusivity wall", there's the boundary of location there, again. Any anime/manga fans reading this will probably know what I am talking about. Sometimes actually obtaining or viewing something legally is a Sisyphean task in and of itself.

Want to reduce piracy? Make things available. Bring down the exclusivity barriers. Sure, some people will buy a console or a subscription in order to enjoy that single item (or selection of items) that has been released only on Xbox One or HBO or whatever. Some other people, though? They're going to miss out - and those who create the things we love so much...well, are those creators satisfied with large percentages of the populace being unable to access their work?

As nice as it can feel to be one of the priviledged few who has access to something that others don't, I get far more of a buzz knowing that I've shared the experience with others.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

So Nine Worlds was my first ever convention, and I loved it.

That isn't to say it didn't have problems, or that it was easy. One of the major problems was actually one of the reasons I wanted to go - the like-minded folks I'd be surrounded by. There were freakouts, I won't lie. More than once I totally bailed on a situation because I couldn't handle it, and I spent a lot of time in the hotel room that I didn't necessarily need to, if only because there weren't any people there.

That said...the people I talked to? The people I spent any time around? They were all absolutely wonderful.

The cosplay game was strong; there was Fiona the Human, Thor, two Captain Hammers, five Doctor Horribles (one of whom was also a Giles), one Buffy Summers, one Dawn Summers and one Spike - and that was just at the Whedon singalong. (ALL OF YOU ARE AWESOME.) I saw Loki (Awesome), Cloud Strife (Awesome), multiple Ghostbusters and Mega-City judges (Awesome), Princess Bubblegum (Awesome - and knows about booze so DOUBLE AWESOME), Tiny Tina (Awesome), Baymax (Awesome), a gentleman spider (Awesome), several characters from The Wicked + The Divine (Awesome now that I recognise you) and countless other wonderful folks all over the place...

The atmosphere was so welcoming, too. To me, it was simply a regret that I hadn't worked out how to Con properly until the Sunday morning. I'd not WASTED two days there, but I'd certainly not really got my oar in. I know I didn't need to do ALL the panels, play ALL the games, see ALL the shows - but next year, I will do more.

My health didn't help, of course. The joint pain and the breathing issues weren't my friend. The social anxiety doubly so. My social batteries were flagging by the end of the first day I was in the hotel. I probably kind of scared the folks I went with on occasion, I got a little twitchy...but you know. It's only to be expected.

Ah yes. Next year. I did mention that.

I am going next year. Next year I will cosplay. Next year I will bring food with me (HUGE MISTAKE THIS YEAR). Next year I will throw caution a little closer to the wind, maybe attend the rave on the Friday or the cabaret or anything, really. Just more things. Get more involved. Be less afraid of well shit I don't know just the entire world around me.

I met some really cool people there. I learned some very interesting lessons. I picked up injokes. ("The smores! The tragic tragic smores!") I learned how to play Pandemic, and that where we go from here is we actually keep singing.

Con Crash is real; I didn't experience Con Flu, but the moment I had to shlep back into the real world, I felt dragged down by it. The people around me didn't have the same frame of reference as those I had left behind. I'm on a bus, but nobody is there out of the same love of things that I am there for. They're there because we all just happen to be travelling in the same direction.

Back to earth with a bump. I kind of hated it.

You know what, though? For the depth of the was so worth it, just for the peak of the mountain that preceded it.

Now if only I could get it on prescription to cure depression, that would be great...

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Just Passing Through

I'm on my way to Nine Worlds for the first time. I'm on a coach, and I am doing just fine.

I have found that laziness and efficiency are comfortable bedfellows. When arranging the travel, as my fellow adventurers kindly allowed me, I wanted as few transfers as possible and reasonable lead times between stops. It's all about minimising stress.

Yes, I'd rather wait for 40 minutes for a train than run for an earlier departure. Pain does that. Perhaps being portly doesn't help either.

I am perhaps a bit of a stickler for a plan, though. Bus at this time, boat at this time, train at this time. I'm probably hard to travel with because I get a bit inflexible.

That's another boon for anxiety: it can channel into planning. Google Maps is a godsend. You don't just have directions, you know what the terminals all look like. You know what happens if you miss any of your connections. You have to, or you worry yourself sick over it.

So yes, I do think this is the best way, because in my head I've done this trip four times already.

Anyway...enough of that...

Bring on the Con.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Replace Them With Our Own Words

Quite often I am struck by songwriting - a certain lyric or turn of phrase just catches me, and I start to listen to the song on repeat. Drilling it into my skull. It's like discovering your favourite poem, but set to music.

There's a lot of bands that tend to do this, and a lot of singular moments of wonderful lyricism in songs I wouldn't expect to contain them.

One band in particular that repeats this trick over and again is Rise Against.

If you're not familiar with their ouvre, you will be the moment you hear a song. Tim McIlrath's voice isn't one you forget, and their musical style is very distinctive.

What gets me, though? ...what gets me is the lyrics.

Below are several of my favourite Rise Against lyrics, with links to the songs they are taken from, and names of the albums.

"Is this the life that you lead, or the life that's led for you?
Will you take the road that's been laid out before you?"
     - Paper Wings (Siren Song Of The Counter Culture)

"A lesson to learn at a crucial point in time:
What's mine was always yours, and yours is mine."
     - Chamber The Cartridge (The Sufferer And The Witness)

"There will be a time to crack another smile
Maybe not today, or for a while
But we're holding out to laugh again someday."
     - Tragedy + Time (The Black Market)

"We're all okay - until the day we're not
The surface shines, while the inside rots."
     - Audience Of One (Appeal To Reason)

"Do you still believe in all the things that you stood by before?
Are you out there on the front lines, or at home keeping score?"
     - Architects (Endgame)

"And there, amidst the waves and the cloudless skies
That blanket the year before - I watch my life wash ashore."
     - Everchanging (The Unraveling)

"And still we give ourselves to this
We can't spend our lives waiting to live."
     - The Dirt Whispered (Appeal To Reason)

"Because I found God in the sound
Of your factories burning down
Now I sleep so sound."
     - The Eco-Terrorist In Me (The Black Market)

"Somewhere between happy, and total fucking wreck
Feet sometimes on solid ground, sometimes at the edge."
     - Survive (The Sufferer And The Witness)

"I'll show you mine if you show me yours first
Let's compare scars, I'll tell you whose is worse."
     - Swing Life Away (Siren Song Of The Counter Culture)

"Lipstick track marks bleeding wet
Like Montagues and Capulets
For us, child - the stars refuse to shine."
     - Methadone (The Black Market)

"My bones all resonate a burning lullaby
You can't take that from me - just go ahead and try."
     - Help Is On The Way (Endgame)

"All because of you I believe in angels.
Not the kind with wings, no, not the kind with halos
The kind that bring you home when home becomes a strange place.
I'll follow your voice - all you have to do is shout it out."
     - The Good Left Undone (Appeal To Reason)

"'Cause when we're all just ghosts and the madness overtakes us
We will look at the ashes and say: People lived here."
     - People Live Here (The Black Market) 

...and that's why I love this band.

Check them out if you don't know them. If you do - give them another look.